Saul Bass: Design is Thinking Made Visible

photo credit: The Saul Bass Poster Archive

photo credit: The Saul Bass Poster Archive

“I saw the title as a way of conditioning the audience, so that when the film actually began, viewers would already have an emotional resonance with it.” (Haskins, Pamela "Saul, Can You Make Me a Title? Interview with Saul Bass". Film Quarterly Autumn 1996 pp. 12–13.)

A visionary credited with changing film title sequences forever, Saul Bass trained as a graphic designer, hailing from the east coast before making the move to the heart of the film industry in Hollywood, and making California his home.

During his groundbreaking 40 year career, Bass worked for directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick on legendary films including Psycho and Spartacus, and later, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese.

Bass was instrumental in realising the creative potential of title sequences and credits to help introduce the story and set the scene of the film, cleverly expressing the visual style of the movie with a graphic understanding.

Contemporary designers have continued to be inspired by his legacy and pay homage to his work, as seen in examples such as the opening to the television series Mad Men.

Bass followed up his extraordinary film career with a return to his graphic designer roots and the creation of seriously iconic corporate logos for clients such as United Airlines and Minolta, still in use today.

And one cannot look at the life and work of Bass without also remarking on the talent of his life and working partner, collaborator and wife, Elaine.

Inspired by A Handbook of California Design, 1930-1965 - Craftspeople, Designers, Manufacturers, edited by Bobbye Tigerman, Los Angeles County Museum of Art 2013

credit: Wikipedia,, Section D: On Design episode 23 by Ben Rylan on Monocle radio

title quote credit; Kirkham, Pat & Jennifer Bass (2011) Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design. London: Laurence King

Ruth Asawa: A Line Can Go Anywhere

image credit: Imogen Cunningham Trust

image credit: Imogen Cunningham Trust

"I was interested in...the economy of a line, making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out...I realised that if I was going to make these forms, which interlock and weave, it can only be done with a line because a line can go anywhere." (Wikipedia)

image credit:

image credit:

If you have seen the work of Ruth Asawa, then you will recognise it instantly. Best known for her looped wire pieces which are unique in their exaltation of lightness and transparency.

image credit: Nat Farbman/TIme & Life PIctures, via Getty Images

image credit: Nat Farbman/TIme & Life PIctures, via Getty Images

In suspending her crocheted mesh forms, Asawa invites the work to be viewed from all angles, while the elements of light and movement play a part in the sensory experience of her installations.

image credit:

image credit:

Asawa led a truly fascinating life - interned in a Japanese American camp, then a student of the progressive Black Mountain College, a liberal arts school conceived by Albert Einstein and Carl Jung, among others. Here she was taught by Bauhaus artist Josef Albers and developed her interest in arts education which would see her establish what is now the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.

image credit: Imogen Cunningham Trust

image credit: Imogen Cunningham Trust

Her work is held in many collections such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim and Whitney Museums.

image credit: Allen Nomura

image credit: Allen Nomura

Inspired by A Handbook of California Design, 1930-1965 - Craftspeople, Designers, Manufacturers, edited by Bobbye Tigerman, Los Angeles County Museum of Art 2013

credit: Wikipedia


California: Mojave Desert Shadow of Dryness

The Mojave Desert takes its name from ‘Hamakhaave’, meaning ‘beside the water’ in the language of the native Mohave people.

This high-desert area takes up a significant part of the state of California.

It’s boundaries are defined by the presence of Yucca brevifolia - Joshua trees.

Rain-producing weather is prevented from reaching the Mojave due to wind directions and mountain formations, thus casting what is called a rain-shadow - a “shadow of dryness”.


Death Valley is both the lowest and hottest place in North America.

The desert is home to an incredible estimated 2,000 species of plants.

Reference: Wikipedia

P.F. Candle Co.: Small batch candle-making in the heart of Los Angeles

Run by husband and wife team Kristen Pumphrey and Thomas Neuberger, all P.F. Candle Co. candles are made using domestically grown soy wax, cotton core wicks, fine fragrance oils and apothecary-inspired packaging.

Each candle is hand poured in their Los Angeles studio, a fun and light-filled environment.

Kristen first poured her first candle at the tender age of 12, and then founded the company in 2008. They are now stocked all over the world. 

Assembly of Objects are delighted to feature P.F. Candle Co. in our current range of California-inspired limited edition gift boxes.

For our limited edition Her box, we feature the Mojave candle, inspired by the famous desert, with its golden sand dunes, multicoloured canyons and jagged Joshua Trees.

This fragrance captures so much of what we love about the California desert: a base of cedar wood and white musk, with notes of dry desert air, chaparral, creosote and desert sage.

A heart of golden poppy and white lavender is revealed on the burn. Infused with essential oils of rose, sandalwood, vetiver and sage.

California: Big Sur Redwoods and Whales

Big Sur is defined by a stretch of magnificent coast and the California State Route 1, between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The name derived from the Spanish 'el sur grande' meaning 'the big south', referring to its location south of Monterey.

Three tribes of Native Americans - the Ohlone, Esselen and Salinan - are believed to have been the first inhabitants of the region.

Before the construction of the highway, Big Sur was a nearly inaccessible wilderness, rivaling almost any other region in the Unites States for its difficult access.

This remoteness attracted many writers and artists to find inspiration here, followed by musicians and filmmakers.

The California Gray Whales are currently on their migration back up to Alaska with their newborn babies by their side. As they swim quite slowly and close to the shore, this is the perfect time for a spectacular sighting.

Reference: Wikipedia

Lookout & Wonderland: A fiber art project encompassing creativity through textiles

Niki Livingston created Lookout & Wonderland as an inspiration center, providing a nesting place for artistic collaboration, brand development, creative direction and the making of hand crafted goods. The original mission of the initiative was as a resist and natural dye research project with a concentrated focus on the exploration of the sociological aspects of colour, alchemy and surface design. Her studio creates a range of multi-use textiles that allow the viewer to become an active participant in the form and function of the artwork.

A true artist, Niki is also a skilled weaver, amongst other things. Her light-filled studio is always an inspiring place to visit - busy with a never-ending procession of work in various stages of completion, yet also filled with a calmness in its creative hum.

Niki uses an indigo called indigofera tinctoria, derived from an organic farm in India. Proceeds help support local women’s groups and small scale farming in the area.

Two different types of indigo vats are used. The traditional fermentation technique is made from organic lime, madder root, organic wheat bran and organic indigo. This process, which can take a few weeks to ferment, sees the indigo reduced to a water soluble form, with the oxygen being removed from the water so the extraordinary colour is produced.

What is known as a sugar vat is a faster method of naturally reducing the indigo to a soluble form without chemicals. For this, Niki uses organic lime, organic indigo and some sort of organic fruit sugar - typically banana. 

Using numerous different shibori techniques, Niki can command a variety of results and outcomes. For geometric resists she uses itajime shibori, while for more linear designs she employs a combination of kanoko shibori and a Yoruban technique called adire. A deconstructed version of miura shibori gives another look again.

The dye process itself is very specific. Unlike synthetic dyeing, where the fabric is simply left in the dye for a specific amount of time, indigo dyeing takes multiple dips over many days to build the colour. Niki is skilled at working the fabric in the vat in a way so as not to introduce oxygen.

Then follows a lengthy finishing process of rinsing and drying to create the authentic pieces you see in these images. This is a labour-intensive, lengthy process, with each piece taking at least seven days to create and finish properly.

Assembly of Objects are delighted to feature Lookout & Wonderland in our current range of California-inspired limited edition gift boxes.

For our limited edition Her box, Niki has designed and hand-dyed a range of exclusive silk twill scarves. Of a most versatile size, these indigo beauties lend themselves to an infinite number of uses both decoratively and sartorially. Each scarf is unique, and each impossibly beautiful.

California: Palm Springs New Year Escape

Palm Springs is the ultimate desert oasis.

The perfect sun trap in the search for some winter warmth.

A pilgrimage destination for admirers of mid century modern architecture.

Uniquely positioned between the San Jacinto, Santa Rosa and San Bernardino mountain ranges in the Coachella Valley.

A few days under these big skies is the perfect start to the new year.

Irving Place Studio: Six Decades of Studio Pottery in Los Angeles

Renowned artists Dora De Larios and Ellice Johnston founded Irving Place Studio in 1968, bringing their unique skills and backgrounds to the burgeoning Los Angeles Studio Pottery Movement. They employed traditional methods and unique glazes to carry on the tradition of hand thrown pottery in California. Work created by hand has always been the mission of the studio. Each piece is thrown on a potter's wheel and worked on twelve times by hand, giving that rustic, earthy feeling and making every bowl unique. 

Commissions come from everywhere, from the White House in the 1970’s to the beloved Venice restaurant Axe, to a current local kitchen renovation. The studio’s contemporary production of hand made tableware designed for everyday use has that rare combination of elegance and functionality that make it suit today’s lifestyle, and means their wares are constantly being discovered by new audiences. 

The unstoppable Dora is still at the helm of the studio, today joined by her daughter Sabrina Judge and son-in-law Aaron Glascock, in a strong family-run collaborative business.

Dora was recently celebrated with a fifty year retrospective at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles in 2009, curated by Elaine Levin. In 2011, Dora’s work was part of the exhibition Art Along the Hyphen: The Mexican-American Generation at the Autry National Center, and Common Ground at the American Museum of Ceramic Art, both part of the J. Paul Getty Pacific Standard Time exhibitions on LA art from 1945-1980.

Assembly of Objects are delighted to feature Irving Place Studio in our current range of California-inspired limited edition gift boxes.

Presented in our limited-edition Her box is the covered jar in their hot chocolate series - speckled white glaze interior, rim and lid with unglazed dark brown hand sanded stoneware exterior. Approximately 2.5 inches high by 4.75 inches wide, yet the size, shape and finish will vary slightly - the beauty of unique objects. This lidded bowl is both dishwasher and microwave safe and has endless uses in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, office….. 

Reference: “At 81, ceramic artist Dora De Larios still creates for new audiences” by Emily Young, LA Times, January 2, 2015

GOLDA by Studio Cue LA: The home of Aomori Hiba in Topanga Canyon, California

Studio Cue LA was envisioned by Keiko Matsuo, a Japanese holistic qi therapist for over thirty years. Together with Tsugu Wada, they have created a peaceful daytime retreat high up in Topanga Canyon, California. GOLDA is their own line of handmade, personal products, featuring a very special ingredient: Aomori Hiba. 

Aomori Hiba is a Japanese conifer tree, revered for its unique antimicrobial, germicidal, insect repellant and deodorant qualities. Grown in the very north of Japan, the tree does not reach full maturity until it is 200-300 years old. It is at this point that the valuable Hinokitiol can be extracted. 

GOLDA use only Hiba oil pressed from trees that are protected by the state of Aomori. This strict selection process, managed by the Japanese government, helps manage the reforestation of such a slow growth tree.

Interestingly, the presence of Hinokitiol, found in only three tree types worldwide, also protects the wood against mildew and termites. As a result Hiba was used to build important shrines and temples, some of which are approaching 900 years old, such as Chuson-ji Temple and Hirosaki Castle.

Assembly of Objects are delighted to feature three GOLDA Hiba products in our current range of California-inspired limited edition gift boxes.

Presented in our limited-edition Her box, the Hiba sphere soap also contains jojoba, avocado and lemongrass, coconut, palm and olive oils. This tactile soap has a unique citrusy, cedar-like fragrance that is purifying, uplifting and stimulating. And feels simply wonderful in the hand.

For our limited-edition Him box, the Hiba wood atmosphere incense shares that unique citrusy, cedar-like fragrance that is purifying, uplifting and stimulating. Each box contains thirty slow-burning incense sticks and is accompanied by a spherical brass incense holder with base. This combination makes for a very elegant desktop addition.

From our limited-edition New box, the Hiba wood atmosphere mist shares this relaxing, uplifting and fresh mountain smell, stimulating feelings of joy, creativity, clarity and cleanliness. It can be used to help with depression, and has a wide spectrum action against many different families of bacteria. Perfect for the nursery, and when new mums need a lift.

images credit Tsugu Wada

The Californian Flag: A Symbol of this Golden State

This bold and distinctive flag is seen today in various guises and locations, from official town hall flagpoles to local businesses, tourist merchandise and the odd tattoo.

Featuring a Californian grizzly bear, named Monarch, a horizontal red stripe and a revolutionary red star, the origins of the flag are based around a revolution against Mexican. California, having been part of Mexico since Mexican independence in 1821, was declared a free and sovereign state by rebels who captured the northern coastal town of Monterey in 1846. Although this mini revolt failed in its attempts to create an independent California, it did result in the creation of this now iconic flag.

The design, attributed to William Todd, the nephew of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln, features the bear as a symbol of “strength and unyielding resistance.”* While the star, as an imitation of the lone star of Texas, a fellow state of Mexico fighting for independence, represents sovereignty. The red colour stands for courage and the white background represents purity.

The republic lasted only for about twenty four days, replaced by the American flag once the knowledge that the United States and Mexico were already at war reached the revolutionaries. Yet its spirit lives on, often politically divisive. But as a piece of design, it’s embraced by many, and has become an iconic representation of much of this great state.

The first official version of the ‘Bear Flag’ was adopted as the official state flag in 1911. During periods of crises, such as the American Civil War, the Bear Flag was flown as a banner of revolt.** The flag has gone through numerous incarnations since the initial hastily created version, using blackberry juice and an old petticoat.*** And in recent times it has become more of a branding tool as well as a recognisable image to be altered for various causes, both political and otherwise.

Today it sums up a spirited state with a rather dramatic history, all of which informs the place we call home. For some of the makers in this first edition, these elements of history inspired their choice to make California the place where they established themselves, and informs the work they create in this most Golden State.

We’ll be bringing you more of their stories in the near future.


Quote references:

* “Flags Over California: A History Guide” California State Military Museum. State of California, Military Department. 2002. Retrieved 22 July 2012.

** George Henry Tinkham, California men and events: time 1769–1890, 2nd, revised ed., Record Publishing Company, 1915. pp.194–195

*** “William Todd and the construction of the bear flag” Sonoma State Historic Park. Retrieved 2007–06–26.