XX factor: meet the designers reclaiming the curve
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When Sandro Botticelli’s voluptuous Venus drifted to the shores of Cyprus on a scallop shell in the mid-1480s, she epitomised a male interpretation of beauty that persisted for centuries. But recent decades have welcomed a shift towards both more representative portrayals and female perspectives – and lately, this has been picking up pace across the design world.
Lara Bohinc’s Peaches collection is nothing short of curvaceous, and features two wool armchairs (from €14,571) – Big Girl and Derrière – and a pouffe (from €6,963), all in punchy red and powder pink. “The collection is reminiscent of all the gorgeous shapes of a woman’s body, down to every fold and fleshy detail,” she says. “There isn’t a straight line or sharp angle in sight.” It’s a theme that’s echoed in the full shapes of New York-based ceramic artist Whitney Bender’s one-of-a-kind stoneware vases; constructed from rolled coils of clay, they resemble female figures, some alone, others intertwined.
Bohinc, who describes her pieces as “huggable”, believes we crave the comfort of curves in this angst-ridden climate. Amalia Schtakleff, head of marketing at design brand Sé Collections, agrees. “The tactile, sculptural shapes that have become our signature combine both a boldness and a sense of serenity.”
Lighting design is one of the ways in which artist Laxmi Hussain explores the journey of motherhood; the latest in her series of striking cobalt-blue lamps, painted with free-flowing female forms, is titled Your Blue Flows Through Me. “Our bodies not only become the vessels that bring a baby into the world but they continue to change, evolve, nurture and work tirelessly to care, and I feel that’s important to document,” she says. Hussain sources wooden lamp bases on eBay and other marketplaces, and rewires them before using them as a canvas to explore her experience of being a mother.
Freestyle, inky blue bodies are a similar theme for Athens- and London-based artist Alexandria Coe. Her acrylic and charcoal triptych canvas A Fresco of a Woman (2) currently hangs at MAH Gallery and she’s just launched her second collection of handmade tiles that feature a modern-day Eve (€95).
Soft and vibrant throws (from $150) and pillows ($90) have become a canvas for Mexican-American visual artist Lilian Martinez, founder of the art brand BFGF. Tired of non-inclusive narratives, Martinez began weaving women of colour into the centre of her soft furnishings – pairing classical references with pop culture iconography, and combining art with functionality and a touch of humour.
Sé Athena Sconce by Ini Archibong, £1,310
Anissa Kermiche gold Pornament Boobles, £95
Such playfulness can help to break down associations between nakedness and shame, as French-Algerian jewellery and ceramics designer Anissa Kermiche is all too aware. Her cheeky “Popotin” and “Love Handles” vases have become cult items, and the range is always expanding, from earthenware torso bookends (£170 each) to a set of gold Christmas decorations (£95) titled Pornament Boobles.
Ceramicists, illustrators and identical twins Liv & Dom pick up this thread, producing small batches of homeware painted with mythical female figures. Incense burners (from £80), for example, have a provocatively placed hole for the stick. “We hope that our relaxed, fun attitude to nudity can help people feel less uncomfortable and serious,” say the designers. “When you spend so much time drawing nudes, you start thinking, ‘What is all the fuss about?!’”