Double Pom Pom Hats, Coke & Phone Cases: Mass Produced Marvels

Fashion has created some strange things over the years.

Have you ever had a clear out of your room and been baffled by an accessory or item buried beneath your things?

In the 21st century we are surrounded by more mass produced goods than ever before. Every where you look you’ll see items that, instead of being lovingly created by a person, has in fact been assembled by the cool, inefficient arms of a robot. So much of what we use today has been made by machines it really does beg the question as to how long it will be until we’re even needed. Spooky.

This is beside the point I’m trying to make though. Despite the fact that we might well be living in a world that is slowly drowning in plastic and fumes, there is still beauty and meaning to be derived from even the most common place of mass produced items.

It might seem silly or unnecessary to ogle, dote upon and obsess over such simple items, but the truth is that, as many museums of design prove, within each and every one of these items is a vision that has been created by a human. Therefore, regardless of what item you are looking at, it is in some way a human creation that has been crafted in the same way that a sculpture or piece of pottery would have been.

We’re going to take a look at a few of common place, mass produced items and decide if they’re worth the materials they’ve been made of and, if so, what they mean:

Double Pom Pom Hat

The pom pom hat has been around for a long time, ever since the advent of hats, in fact. At its most basic it must be a woollen garment that can be stretched over the wearer’s head with a completely unnecessary decorative pom pom on top. By itself it’s a useful object that arguably needs no adornment, but you have to admit that they look pretty cool! There are probably more pom pom hats in the world than people, but these double pom pom hats have taken the concept and pushed into the realms of high-end fashion.


More than 1.9 billlion Coke drinks are consumed every day. That’s a heck of a lot of sugar and a lot of rotten teeth for sure, but have you every considered how many cans and bottles of the stuff must exist on a day-to-day basis? If you think about Coke that lies in storage, that is being delivered and that’s sitting in supermarkets the physical amount of individual cans/bottles/crates is truly mind boggling. The iconic red and white imagery, despite its age, has not grown to actually mean anything else though, other than big brand money and the power of corporations.

Rubberised phone cases

Those of you who are old enough to remember a time where not every single person owned an iPhone, when mobile phones were simply things we used to call or text each other and nothing else. In those halcyon days, teenagers set themselves apart from their mates by buying fascias for their Nokia 3310s. For a long time, with the proliferation of iPhones and other standard design smart phones, it seemed the day of the novelty phone case that is until the Moschino fries case and Luis Vuitton Eye-Trunk hit the market in 2017 – since then the phone has become front and centre in the world of accessorising. After all, if it’s in your hands all day it may as well look good!…

Print Design & Mental Health

There are many people who overlook the role of the print designer.

Our work might not be seen as ‘therapeutic’ or as liberating as traditional art, but it nonetheless serves an important purpose in delivering a message to those who need it.

My work as a print designer in the heart of London has led me to come into contact with plenty of different kinds of people, it’s part of the joy of working in the capital in an industry that demands perfection in an ultra-competitive time-frame. To say that my work isn’t stressful would be a lie, yet there are always enough intriguing ideas that I’m presented with on a day-to-day basis that make me stop and appreciate how lucky I am to work in such a creative, yet demanding industry.

The print shop that I work in is a product of the 21st century city, it opens for 24 hours a day during the week, as well as during the weekend. We have several massive industrial printers that are capable of printing on all kinds of materials. On any given day we could be printing off huge vinyl stickers to plaster on a shopping centre, then laser printing a memorial note onto a park bench in the afternoon, followed by a last-minute order of a dozen step-and-repeat press boards for a movie premiere or awards show.

Dealing in such short time-frames can often induce micro-moments of stress which can stop you in your tracks, but these are only felt for a short time before the head-rush of work continues once more. There are rarely any moments to take a rest when you’re in the print-design business and in some ways that’s a good thing. Our business is very much dictated by time; whether it’s the limited time that we have to produce a certain piece of work before getting it out to the client, or the short spaces of time that we are given between each job to reset the machines and ensure that we can run them for the next job in the day.

Short time-frames often mean late nights and early morning, and the high demands of the industries that we work with often means that we’re forced into working through weekends, making mental well-being an important factor to keep in mind. Just like the machines that we work with, we all have the capacity to break down, especially if we’re pushed hard for a long time without a chance to take time for a break. This is why having a rotating team of staff is imperative in our case.

Having a large pool of highly trained staff is imperative when dealing with the gruelling work hours and attention to detail that is expected of our industry, but there are also other benefits to having a team behind our company. More people means that we’re able to diversify the company’s skill-set to the max, whilst we are all trained in the requisite skills to use all of our machines, we ensure that we’re all given the chance to specialise within our industry, so that we can grow progress ourselves whilst we’re also running break-neck into tomorrow’s job.…

Today’s Art: February 2nd 2019

For this month’s post we’ve decided to shine a light on the art, both mainstream and niche, that has influenced and inspired us.

Every piece of art, whether it’s music, film, TV, sculpture or a book is an opportunity for us to learn more about ourselves. It can be so easy to take art at face value, after all it’s common for us in the 21st century to do this instead of taking the time to peek under the surface and question the intent and purpose of a piece of art.

In this age of short-form video content (Snapchat/Instagram/YouTube) it can be so easy to simply watch or observe a piece of art and judge it upon its aesthetic merit, but there’s so much more to appreciating and creating art than simply making something beautiful. Take, for example, the work of Picasso:

Picasso was an artist, unlike like many others, who was rewarded greatly for his artistic skills during his lifetime. This piece, known as ‘Girl Before a Mirror‘ is abstract, disjointed and confusing. Despite his huge fame in the art community and the widespread cultural impact that his work has had, many ordinary folks found it difficult connecting with these paintings due to how different they initially appeared.

However, to pick apart what Picasso is attempting to achieve with this painting involves the same analytical skills that it takes to pick apart a modern day music video. Let’s have a look at Childish Gambino’s massive hit video/single ‘This Is America’:

There’s a lot to take in with this video. Music videos, by their nature can pack in far more information than a painting, this is because the viewer not only has to pay attention to the nuances in the music: instrumentation, rhythm, structure, lyrics and melody; but they are also forced to watch and analyse the moving images as if it were a film. This involves assessing the performance of the artist, the framing the director uses, narrative, costumes, dance choreography, special effects – and any other device the artist chooses to employ to present their music.

Once we’ve got our head round the concepts involved in the music and the video, we also have to decide if and how the concepts fit together or clash, as that too contributes to the overall reading of the music video as a piece of art.

The irony here is that, although there is a great deal more information to attempt to decipher in Childish Gambino’s video than there is in Picasso’s ‘Girl Before A Mirror’, the delivery of the video and clarity of his message makes it far easier to understand as a concept. He repeats the phrase ‘This is America’, so we can understand that everything in the video is his presentation of the country America, giving us a contextual backbone by which to draw the links between the images that are presented to us (a gospel choir, mass shootings, abandoned cars) with the content of his lyrics (satirical takes on black people pursuing money and fame through criminal or morally questionable means).

At first glance, ‘Girl Before A Mirror’ does not offer as much literal information for us to work with, but the information is there if we choose to pry under the surface as we’ve done with ‘This Is America’. The image we see is a woman gazing at her reflection in the mirror, so we could instantly suggest that artwork is concerned with ‘the self’ or even vanity. Oddly, we see three sides to the woman’s face, two on the non-reflected side and only one in the reflection. Is Picasso trying to tell us that the real reflection of ourselves lies within, rather than in the physical world?

As you can see, all it takes to understand and analyse a piece of art, whether its an abstract painting from the 30s or a music video from 2018 is the agency and capacity ask questions.

Private Scans and Our Mental Health

Diagnoses of conditions can often lead to Mental Health issues – is there a solution to the problem?

Our NHS is one of the biggest employers in the world, rivalling the likes of McDonald’s and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Employing over 1.5 million people in the UK, the statistics on the sheer scale of the operation is enough to boggle the mind. Despite hiring over 150,000 doctors and over 300,000 nurses, the NHS still manages to deal with over a million patients in a 36 hour period – a truly staggering number that only belies how hard these men and women work every single day of the year.

In recent years though, the NHS has come under criticism for not dealing with its patients thoroughly enough. One of the most common complaints that are levelled at the system is a lack of engagement with the mental effects of a diagnosis. Each person is different, with varying emotions and memory associations with illnesses – as a result, it is virtually impossible to plan for every mental outcome. Regardless of the number of Mental Health workers that we have at our disposal, helping those who have been psychologically affected by a diagnosis can often be difficult due to their own social anxieties or misgivings about the intentions of others.

A diagnosis of any illness, from a harmless mole to a more serious condition such as cancer, can lead to the patient developing mental health issues. In the case of the more severe diagnoses, those suffering may well feel incapable of sharing the news of their new condition with others. Life-threatening illnesses can be especially difficult to communicate with others as patients can often feel that they will be drawing unnecessary attention to themselves, this can often lead to cases of isolation and depression.

It may be that those who pay for private treatment are offered a more comprehensive form of after-care, which helps to cover any physical or psychological affects that a diagnosis, test or operation can have on a patient. For example, patients who undergo private MRI scans in Manchester or Liverpool might well benefit from a more in-depth discussion of their health options and mental stability than a patient who is admitted into a busy, publicly funded institution, such as the Royal London Hospital.

Despite the discrepancies that currently divide those with either the insurance or the money to fund their own healthcare and those who must wait in the NHS, it’s more than likely that thousands of individuals are diagnosed each year and struggle afterwards with some form of Mental Health issue. So how do we move forward and find a way to reach out to these people, from vastly different social backgrounds, who have become isolated by their health conditions?

We at Open-Art believe that clear and open communication is one of the most important components to good Mental Health, but often it can be hard for people to achieve this. Through the use of group-based arts activities, we hope to give our clients the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings – giving them an avenue of expression that should act as a gateway to a more transparent discussion of their diagnoses.

With some more help from volunteer practitioners, we hope to engage more isolated individuals in arts based group activities.

3 Creative Charities You Should Pay Attention To

In 19th Century England, the nature of philanthropy was very different to how we understand it today.

Famed writer Charles Dickens was known for depicting philanthropists in many of his most celebrated novels.

Living in a time when poverty in England was at it’s worst, Dickens witnessed the rise of philanthrocapitalism, a trend which took polite Victorian society by storm and led to the creation of such diverse characters as the generous Mr. Brownlow from Oliver Twist and the rather selfish Mrs. Pardiggle and Mrs. Jellyby from Bleak House.

Since the pride fuelled days of the Victorian age, the way that we view charitable works has changed. Charity has become less about elevating our own standards in society and more focused on inclusivity and open communication – two tenets that we take very seriously here at Open-Art.

These three revolutionary charities are putting creativity at their core to amazing results:

Hospital Rooms

Co-founded by London based artist, Tim A Shaw and arts curator, Niamh White, Hospital Rooms is a mental health charity that believes in the considerable strength of the arts to instil people with a sense of dignity and wellbeing. Their aim is remove the barriers between culture and art for people who are using mental health services.

Using their contacts with ‘museum quality’ artists in London, the charity collaborates with users of mental services, psychiatrists, health professionals and researchers to create environments that inspire the people within them, encourage discussion and improve self-esteem. Their work so far includes a complete redesign and renovation of a Recovery College at Springfield University College – a project that has helped students deal with issues such as dementia, eating disorders and schizophrenia.

Creativity Works

Based in Bath, Creativity Works’ role in the local community is really all in it’s name. They believe, similarly to us, that the process of taking part in creative activities is key in helping people to develop, explore and grow as people. In addition to offering training courses for established, socially engaged artists, they also offer opportunities for residents residing within the local area to get involved with diverse corners of the art world, including textiles, photography and writing.

Creativity Works are unparalleled in their approach to inclusivity. They seek to work with people experiencing a vast range of mental health problems, families with complex needs, elderly people who are in care, as well those that are isolated from their communities. By bringing these people together in a safe space with an activity that they can all take part in, they hope to bridge the gaps between these disparate groups.

Plymouth Music Zone

There are few Music based UK charities that are as well respected as Plymouth Music Zone. Thanks to years of support from the local council, as well as many kind donations, their practitioners now deliver up to 60 music activities in the Plymouth area a week, reaching as many as 1000 people. Targeting marginalised individuals and those living in isolated social conditions, the charity aims to reduce loneliness by connecting people through regular music sessions.

One of their most successful projects is the ‘Keep Singin, Keepsake Project’ a multi-generational program aimed at supporting older people who are at risk of loneliness. Between 2012 and 2015, a pilot study was completed on the project, revealing an improvement in mental well being as a result of regular collaborative music sessions and socialising.

Open-Art hopes to create similar opportunities, allowing those with artistic ambitions to pursue their goals, regardless of their social situations or mental health status.