When a Visit to Japan Inspired Some New Work - The Horizon Collection.

If you have travelled to Japan, you will know what I mean when I say stepping off the plane not only takes you to a new country but it feels like you are walking into a new universe - and there's nothing more invigorating and inspiring than that kind of feeling. 

Zebra Crossings in Tokyo. Photo by Niki Fulton

You don't realise how accustomed you become of every day things at home - the shape and the colours of cars, the street furniture, the style of architecture, just normal things you pass on your daily commute...until it all looks different.

I could show you an endless stream of beautiful temples and exquisite gardens but you've probably seen these already. Personally, I found it so refreshing seeing ordinary things look so different that I ended up taking loads of photos of things like cars and buses - the locals must have wondered what on earth I was doing :/

graphics on a Japanese lorry Photo by Niki Fulton

This school bus had tiny bench seats inside and extra big windows for the kindergarten pupils to see out. Very cute indeed.

School bus in Tokyo. Photos by Niki Fulton

I loved the brightly coloured boxy taxis and the bolt upright smart drivers wearing their clean white gloves.

Taxi outside Cartier, Tokyo. Photo by Niki Fulton

and the petrol stations with space saving ceiling mounted pumps...

Petrol station in Tokyo. Photo by Niki Fulton

And some of the extraordinary buildings in Tokyo

Flats in Tokyo. Photo by Niki Fulton

and some bizarre buildings in Kyoto

House in Kyoto. Photo by Niki Fulton.

and the omnipresent Kyoto power cables.

Electricity wires in a street in Kyoto. Photo by Niki Fulton

So my mind was awakened by all these visual changes and I suddenly felt that familiar sensation... an over powering need to create.

Having just spent some time walking in Harris & Lewis in the Scottish Outer Hebrides (a place I go to as often as I can), absorbing the stunning, rugged and remote landscape, I already had a powerful colour palette charging around in my head. Deep purple heathers, rich peaty tones, sea greens, sandy camels - colours I would use in the next collection. 

And once I got used to the different 'ordinary' things in Japan, I noticed something else. Everywhere I looked I saw that space was given priority. Paintings, graphics, architecture, they all had space/room to breath built into their design. A pause, space for reflection. 

Zen garden Kyoto

Space in artwork given over to abstract blue shapes representing sea and clouds giving the image bold, flat space.

Temple doors Kyoto

The rock island 'floating' in the Zen garden seemed to have all the space in the world. 

Zen garden Kyoto. Photo by Niki Fulton

And once you start noticing the space, you start seeing it in the every day.

Pine tree Tokyo

Tree over a river in Kyoto. Photo by Niki Fulton

Autumnal Tree over river in Kyoto

An ikebana exhibition was being held in one of the temples I visited. What amazed me more than anything was the level of understanding around the various principles and different schools of ikebana that ordinary Japanese people had. I watched countless people stopping in their tracks, mesmerised by the power of the arrangements.  A gentleman who spoke excellent english explained the basics to me and I later read more on the subject...and became hooked. And very interested in negative space or 'ma'

An ikebana flower arrangement, Kyoto. Photo by Niki Fulton.

I was now totally committed and clear about my next project. I would take the colours of the Outer Hebrides - whose landscape looks very Zen when you look properly - and give the colours some space.

Images of Harris. Photographed by Niki Fulton

In fact the collection would be a colour journey through the Hebridean landscape, fused with the Japanese principles of ikebana. It would allow colours to float on the horizon, give a pause for reflection within a structured space (of a tie and scarf). The new Horizon Collection was born. Peat, Salt, Rock and Moss. 

And I will tell you a little more about another design detail of the Horizon Collection in my next post.