Collecting Collapsibles

Hans Wegner Folding Chair

I have always taken an interest in the particular characteristics of objects, centred around methods of manufacture and the ways that things are put together. As a collector of objects, I often value insubstantial things that show their age and that come to acquire a certain provenance over time. Deconstructing what I might perceive about an object begins with looking, only through observing with both the eye and the mind can I begin to highlight what is overlooked in the everyday.

I normally switch off to the familiar and only when I become prompted by a break in my routine does my observational ability really kick in and I begin to notice even the smallest details. I can begin to consider the parts of an object, the forces acting upon them and how they join and support one another. I can come to understand the material properties and qualities. This activity is not neutral as the knowledge becomes transferred to memory and becomes a useful resource for the imagination that will influence the way that I design as my senses become attuned to a sense of ‘rightness’ when making decisions related to proportion, visual weight and the way that objects wear and give a desirable appearance through age.

Sherry Turkle, editor of Evocative Objects,  is quoted as saying ‘We think with the objects we love, we love the objects we think with’ revealing the power that objects hold to become emotional and intellectual companions, that anchor memory and provoke new ideas. Collecting objects offers me the opportunity for liberation in the ways that I think about them and enables me to form my own narrative around their use and effect. The act of collecting itself allows me to see where objects end up in reality as opposed to the messages that we all consume about them through our capitalist culture and it reveals what objects actually mean to people.

The bug of collecting becomes infectious and intriguing, with each object offering it’s own peculiar insight in aspects of contemporary culture. Popular among designers is the notion of collecting a singular typology of objects, such as Jasper Morrison and his anthropological study of Spoons. Collecting objects is for me a passion that is both reassuring and delightful and allowing stories about them to be constructed through viewing, valuing and selecting. A particular interest of mine lies in collecting ‘collapsible’ objects, building a snapshot of the many ways that transforming objects can be determined. Experiencing this broad spectrum of everyday things within the context of the classification of ‘collapsibility’ gives a clear means to understand this sphere of objects and how they work, how they make us think and behave, giving a certain perspective on how we interact with the world and how we understand the world. Continue reading

Are you a Nomad?



Introducing Fortuitous Novelties handmade folding furniture. Remarkably simple pieces to neatly fulfil the need for elegant solutions that enhance life on the move.
As all of us become more nomadic in our daily lives, our inventive furniture responds to this need to continuously adapt ourselves and our belongings to our changing surroundings. Space saving and portability is the key to this lightweight and transportable furniture that provides a comfortable place to sit and rest, work and play, but then usefully folds flat for storage, – growing and shrinking on demand. Continue reading

Know your Limitations

John Clappison

“Today, as design becomes increasingly concerned with competitiveness and quality of life, innovation must again facilitate a creative response to change. John Clappison’s team at Hornsea in the 1960s churned out winning designs year on year, developing and colluding craft techniques, to a classic standard with a trend awareness and clear passion for the market”Wayne Hemingway at the 2002 Ceramic Forum, as reported by Marcus Holmes for the Ceramic Review, June 2002.

Although not as familiar as many of his ‘name’ contemporaries, to us John Clappison was a prolific and innovative designer at the forefront of British pottery and his work was highly reminiscent of the most advanced in studio ceramics. Throughout his career Clappison wanted to improve the quality of design for the mass market, and at Hornsea Pottery he created some of the most popular ranges available in the UK from the 1950s through to the 80s. Working in the Yorkshire coastal town of Hornsea, whilst the mainstream pottery industry was firmly centred on Stoke-on-Trent, helped him to develop a unique response to contemporary design. Continue reading



In the link below Clive Parkinson shares some of his thoughts in a conference OWN NOW: Arts and Dementia Symposium in Skipton on 3rd April 2014.

His film is a combination of images that relate to Kitwood’s Malignant Social Psychology and of course, the seaside town of Morecambe albeit interspersed with Maya Deren, World in Action, Leni Riefenstahl and of course Norman McLaren. The music is by the sublime Jokia Timabil and is called Lichens, and generously features the Fortuitous Novelties Seedpod Project, in collaboration with Arts for Health at MMU.


Fortuitous Novelties in Print


Very pleased to divulge Fortuitous Novelties have been prominently featured in The Handbook of Interior Architecture and Design in a piece by Clive Parkinson, Director of Arts for Health at Manchester Metropolitan University, as part of a compelling collection of original essays that seek to examine the shifting role of interior architecture and interior design, and their importance and meaning within the contemporary world. 


The Handbook of Interior Architecture and Design, edited by Graeme Brooker and Lois Weinthal provides a pioneering overview of the ideas and arrangements within the two disciplines that make them such important platforms from which to study the way humans interact with the space around them. Covering a wide range of thought and research, the book enables the reader to investigate fully the changing face of interior architecture and interior design, while offering questions about their future trajectory.

The Handbook of Interior Architecture and Design is published by Bloomsbury Academic.

  • ISBN-10: 1847887457
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847887450

A Bird in a Gilded Cage

fortuitous novelties (Seed Pods) 2

Fortuitous Novelties have been published online on ixia – art in the public realm. 

Darren Browett is the only named designer in the paper entitled A Bird in a Gilded Cage by Clive Parkinson that is very much of the moment, post Francis Enquiry.

Clive Parkinson is the director of Arts for Health at Manchester Metropolitan University and chair of the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing. An advocate for the field, he is also currently engaged in strategic development in the field in Lithuania, Italy and Turkey and is embarking on a 3-year AHRC funded research project exploring the place of the visual arts in creating dementia-friendly communities. He is co-curating an exhibition at Manchester’s Holden Gallery this summer. Mortality: Death and the Imagination will explore the relationship between contemporary visual art and how we live and die. He regularly blogs at:

In a post-Francis world where institutional neglect and cruelty towards some of our most vulnerable citizens has been exposed, A Bird in a Gilded Cage suggests that the arts might offer something of an antidote to the way we support people affected by memory loss. A gentle polemic that sweetly kicks the ankles of those obsessed with understanding the impact of the arts on human wellbeing through crude pseudo-scientific measurements, placing creativity, culture and the arts at the heart of a conversation about quality of life.

Click here to view the black and white easy read version.

Click here to view the full colour emotive version.

The Origin of Species


“Are God and Nature then in strife, That nature lends such evil dreams?

So careful of the type she seems, So careless with the single life.

So careful of the type? But no, From Scarped Cliff and quarried stone,

She cries a thousand types are gone, I care for nothing all shall go.”


The poet Lord Alfred Tennyson in this passage from the poem ‘In memoriam’  expressed fears, anxiety and cosmic despair, when confronted with the idea that life on earth is the outcome of an unsupervised process of change and necessity. For him evolution was a troubling idea, for if the earth could be seen to exhibit continual change, then it was entirely possible that some day man would disappear from the face of the earth, and if man disappeared then love, art, religion and everything else that man alone shares would disappear likewise.

To this day Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution continues to challenge the old conventions of the meaning of life. God made us the story goes, and put us here for a special reason. Humans are not just animals, humans have spirits or souls and only humans can survive death. The theory of evolution does away with all these ideas, undermining the claims of many religions. It leaves no room for god, the soul or life after death. Therefore, it could be argued our lives are in fact a mixture of life choices, free will, pre-destiny and determinism that drive us towards our inevitable end.

Taking inspiration from this philosophical approach, I became engaged with the central argument of Darwin’s theory that suggests the sheer fertility of nature creates a struggle for existence. In any such struggle those lucky enough to survive must have profitable peculiarities, that Darwin described as  Fortuitous Novelties. Continue reading

We think with the objects we love, we love the objects we think with…

When designing I have always taken an interest in the particular characteristics of objects, and as a collector of objects, I often value unremarkable things that despite this, come to acquire a certain mysterious provenance over time. The collections held in grand cultural establishments are celebrated in society as symbolic references and indicators of our culture, but I would argue, that it is ephemera that truly indicates our collective lives and speak of our times.


Fortuitous Novleties by Darren Browett

Image: Michael Hughes Souvenirs.

My interest in celebrating things that may initially appear mundane, lies in the power of everyday objects and to the importance of design in manipulating and changing our perceptions. I believe the character of these objects of no particular parentage is often more appealing than the character of more pedigree objects, where the ego of the designer has replaced some of the usefulness and the ability to fit into everyday surroundings. The value of the banal object is to remind us that in the real world an object relies on its long-term usefulness for survival. Continue reading

Why are things the way they are – and could they change?

Fortuitous Novelties Seedpods Dementia Project

Fortuitous Novelties Seedpods

A little about Darren Browett, this blog and my work Fortuitous Novelties…

My professional background as a Technical Tutor in Three Dimensional Design at Loughborough University and previously at Staffordshire University, is concerned with the specialisms of working with Wood and Plastics materials, this has been the basis of my career for 16 years since my graduation.

Additionally, I  completed a Masters in Three Dimensional Design at Manchester Metropolitan University in September 2010.

Continue reading

Fortuitous Novelties Seedpods Project

Fortuitous Novelties Seedpods designed by Darren Browett

“The effect was a revelation. It was literally like turning on a lightbulb”.

Through the passage of time, life becomes history, stories fade and become forgotten and objects represent a tangible means to fix memory onto history and speak of lives lived, with familiar things offering potent reminders. Such memories make us who we are and give us a sense of our time and place.

But crucially, for us all memory can prove to be elusive, confuse facts and shift with time. Cultural pressures to remember have given us unrealistic expectations as to how memory should work, we tax our memories to the limit at a time when we are living longer and anxiety about our overworked memories leads us to fear the loss of our memory. Memory loss is one of the most terrifying aspects of a for an individual diagnosed with dementia, and the fear, stereotypes and stigma surrounding dementia make the experience of the disease worse than it needs to be.

Dementia has always been and may always be a frightening experience for those who experience the disease and their families who care for them. Medical science may provide the prospect of a cure, but meanwhile dementia is a growing issue for our aging society. Culturally our fear of dementia leads us to see it as a death sentence and the dread and stigma surrounding Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in its most prominent form, contribute significantly to the difficult conditions of living with it. Through changes to our attitudes we can reduce this fear and find meaning within the disease experience.

This project has intended to connect with people who are experiencing dementia, and to create tools to be used to improve their lives and all of those who care for them. The focus is to create objects that promote interaction; a creative, in the moment engagement, that looks past an individuals memory loss and develops and connects with their remaining skills. The aim is to provide a model for people experiencing dementia, for their loved ones who may struggle to find ways to be in their company, and additionally to professional caregivers. A model that gives rise to the opportunity for all to express themselves and to promote these relationships, that assume their ability to grow and respond in ways that move through fear. This programme based upon a collaborative enterprise with Arts for Health at MMU has provided the opportunity to work with people who are at quite advanced stages of the journey of dementia and to design experiences for them that create meaning in their lives and promote openings for facilitating communication and interaction in new and innovative ways.

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