Tents seem an unlikely vehicle for artistic endeavour, yet John Harris and his partner, Rhona Carr, saw them as ripe for reinvention. “We wanted to start a new business and went to an outdoors exhibition in Germany where we saw long rows of tents, all in shades of blue and green – nothing else. We immediately thought that we could do something different and make them much more interesting.”
And so they hit on the idea of designer tents, intending to inject some fun, wit and, yes, beauty into a very traditional object. Not that reinventing a classic is easy, as they fully admit.
Having formed a company called FieldCandy, they started by making a sturdy, easy-to-assemble (in less than five minutes, they say) A-frame expedition tent, slightly larger than the standard model for two people, with an inner tent made of good old-fashioned cotton.
Same old, same old, you might say. But here’s the difference: FieldCandy invited a number of acclaimed artists and designers, such as Terry Pastor, famous for his David Bowie album covers, print pioneers Basso & Brooke, and Jackie Spurrier, a West Country artist known for her cow paintings, to come up with a design for the tent’s waterproof flysheet. There are currently 52 designs, including Emily Golden Twomey’s ravishingly pretty Social Butterfly (first picture, £495), which looks as if a kaleidoscope of butterflies has landed on the tent and comes in a limited edition of 195, and Luke Bonner’s What a Melon (£495), which resembles a giant slice of watermelon – it too in a limited edition of 195. Meanwhile, the pastoral Animal Farm (third picture, £495) and circus-themed Big Top (second picture, £445) designs come in slightly larger editions of 295. Some have been bought as works of art, for private collections or for museums and galleries, while others are used for proper camping or as an outdoor bedroom come the summer. Next up will be a design from tattoo artist Saira Hunjan.
More outdoor charm is provided by Enchanted Trees – elaborate garden lighting in the form of artificial trees powered by as many as 3,000 LED lights, each one nestled inside a cherry blossom. They could transform an otherwise prosaic urban patio, adding instant magic to any external space (though, in fact, there’s nothing to stop you putting them up inside your home). They look just like the real thing and come with either white or pink lights. There are two sizes – 2m (£950) or 3m high (£1,450).
For a smaller and simpler bit of night enchantment, John Cullen has come up with Starliters (£50 each) – perforated metal tubes, lit from inside, that can be hung from branches to make them twinkle.