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Test Drive: 2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster

Power, maneuverability and style all packed into a surprisingly compact body, the British automaker delivers on all fronts

by CH Contributor in Design on 22 October 2014

Cars, Aston Martin, Automotive, Test Drive, Vantage S, Engines, England, Test Drives, UK, V12

by James Willard

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The V12 Vantage was originally created as a love letter to 12-cylinder motoring. When the beloved British brand squeezed its most potent V12 engine between the frame rails of its smallest model, Aston Martin wasn’t aiming for success, but rather to prove its engineering prowess and the brand’s love and respect for driving.

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Embracing a run of unanticipated success, Aston created from the bones of that happy accident something perhaps even more wondrous: the V12 Vantage S Roadster, which combines all the cogency of the carbon fiber chassis and 12-cylinder engine with the face-warming delight of a convertible. And there was no better place for us to put this stunningly compact high-powered machine—and its cooling capabilities—to the test than the blistering desert roads outside Palm Springs, CA.

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Before we hit the road, however, Aston’s designers explained to us the Roadster’s significance. To create the sporty yet refined V12 Vantage S Roadster, along with replacing the hardtop with a folding soft-top, Aston Martin designers added a few more distinguishing features. First they did away with the aluminum veins in the grille, replacing them with carbon fiber, which can be highlighted by an optional lipstick body color accent. Then on the hood, pronounced louvers were added, which help cool the 565-horsepower 6.0-liter V12. The flared wheel arches finish off the look, giving ample room for the lightweight forged alloy ten-spoke wheels.

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It’s a good thing engineers blessed the V12 Vantage S Roadster with increased cooling capabilities. On that blistering early fall day in Palm Springs—with temperatures in fahrenheit topping out in the hundreds—it was essential. As we climbed the hills outside the desert city, hitting 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds, we echoed the dynamite-carved stone walls with the sounds of a new, bellowing exhaust system borrowed from the One-77 hypercar. These kinds of harsh, high-heat and full-throttle conditions are how most automakers torture-test their vehicles. For Aston Martin however, this outing was simply how it imagined owners enjoying their cars.

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Although its roof was removed, the V12 Vantage S Roadster seemed to lose no lateral rigidity and handled high-speed cornering with aplomb. The Roadster’s steering is incredibly communicative and direct—proving the car is more than a style accessory; it’s still a pulse-heightening driving machine.

Impressively, the V12 Vantage S Roadster is as enjoyable flat-out as it was on a comfortable cruise. When reverted from Sport—or, even more riotous, Track mode—back into normal Drive mode, the car was as quiet and comfortable as any luxury grand tourer. Even above 70 mph, wind and road noise were negligible, which allows occupants to sit back and enjoy the wind in their hair and sun on their faces.

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That’s what impressed most about the 2015 Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Roadster; its ability to live in so many realms at once. At a standstill, it looks as gentlemanly as James Bond in a neatly pressed tuxedo. At full throttle, it’s as menacing and heart-racing as an Italian supercar. However, when allowed to relax, it embraces its character shift and cruises calmly. All of this demonstrates that the V12 Vantage S Roadster isn’t just for driving purists—it’s for pleasure seekers with an eye for style as well.

Currently hitting dealerships across the world, the V12 Vantage S Roadster starts around $195,000.

Images courtesy of Aston Martin

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Caicifang: A New Life for Ancient Porcelain

Salvaging precious shards of history to bring a taste of tradition to contemporary design

by Alessandro De Toni in Design on 22 October 2014

Beijing, Antiques, China, Home Decor, Jewelry, Porcelain, History, Preservation, Upcycling

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Since the beginning of last century, when the Qing dynasty was in its final years, China had a tradition of recovering old fragments of precious ceramic. In 1902, in the bustling commercial area south of Beijing's Forbidden City, several workshops were already giving a new life to broken vases by assembling little fragments into new pieces of jewelry.

Wang Jing, owner and designer of Caicifang, is the authority on this traditional craft. Jing inherited the nearly lost art from her grandparents who made their living in ancient ceramics. They had a small workshop on the old street of Zhushikou, where they sold antiquities and restored ancient chinaware. "My parents continued the tradition, and since I was a kid in the early '80s I remember my parents collecting chinaware from old demolished houses. They were spending a huge amount of time studying every piece, tracking the origin and production technique used," Jing tells CH.

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Inspired by her family, Jing felt the call of this ancient tradition and left her career in information technology. After an informal yet continuous training with her family, she registered the brand Caicifang in 2007 and started collaborating with several museums producing gifts and souvenirs from historical archives. "Museums are an important source of knowledge about chinaware," she explains. "We keep a close relationship with porcelain experts and scholars—it’s a small circle of around 30 people —and we often debate about the pieces we use and consult them to define the historical period precisely." Jing also attends regular workshops and training sessions organized by China’s most prestigious museums. She also makes regular pilgrimages to Jingdezhen, home of the finest china in Jiangsu province, to gain deeper insight into ancient production processes.

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In her small new shop in Yangmeizhu Xiejie, a narrow alley in the old city, Jing showcases a wide selection of jewelry made of ancient porcelain crafted by a small network of independent artisans. The work includes pendants, necklaces, cufflinks, and decorative objects like lamps, bags and traditional Mandarin gowns. The pieces are largely sourced from the intensive demolition the city has been undergoing for the last 30 years. Jing relies on a network of independent collectors who carefully comb any torn down old neighborhood in search of the precious items.

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Showing us a jar of porcelain shards, Jing explains that, "80% of the pieces used are from the Qing and Ming dynasties, when the production of chinaware reached a peak. While Song and Yuan dynasties account for 20%, they’re rarer and more valuable. Everything here comes from blue bloods and families of officials of the past. Common people were using white china, while decorations were meant to meet the taste of a more sophisticated audience."

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Every shard features a piece of history. For example, the five-legged dragon is a symbol of high ranking officials from the mid-Qing dynasty. Meanwhile specific techniques and color shades, like the distinctive red-azure glaze, embody Jun porcelain from Northern China. The ivory white of Ting ware is the trademark of Dingzhou and the characteristic uneven dark glaze of rare Jianyao porcelain can be traced to the Fujian province. The most unique pieces are Caicifang's bags, which are made of pieces from all the twelve emperors of Qing dynasty, decorated with an original ancient coin.

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Despite the humble appearance of Jing’s shop, Caicifang is a mine of hidden gems which has become a hotspot for porcelain connoisseurs. "In the last years I’ve noticed a renovated interest toward porcelain and Chinese tradition in general, especially among the local upper class, but we also count many expats from the US and the UK embassy who became regular customers of Caicifang," explains Jing. "Many of our clients have a strong knowledge of chinaware and its history. They can easily understand the value of our products and sometimes come with their own old fragments to ask us to craft customized pieces of jewelry," she says.

Caicifang is available through online retailer Taobao and at the Caicifang boutique in Beijing's Xicheng District.

Images by Alessandro De Toni

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What I Love About Movies

Film magazine Little White Lies surveys 50 notable industry people, from the Coen Brothers to Philip Seymour Hoffman, on their motivations in this new book

by Nara Shin in Culture on 22 October 2014

Actors, Books, Film, Film Directors, Interviews, Quotes, Alfonso Cuarón, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Movies

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Since 2005, Little White Lies has been a unique creative read for film buffs seeking something besides hype. Dedicating each issue largely to a single film, the bi-monthly indie publication broadens the conversation beyond just reviews and interviews by initiating discussions on gender politics, history, technology and more—and strengthening the connection between fans, films and today's culture. LWLies' newly published first book, "What I Love About Movies," digs deeper into what movies, on a personal and cultural level, mean to the people who are making them.

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Over the past nine years of interviewing industry heavyweights for the magazine, LWLies has collected words from the likes of Wes Anderson, the Coen Brothers, Darren Aronofsky, Helen Mirren, Park Chan-wook, Alfonso Cuarón and more. Every one of the 50 names is recognizable, and each piece is accompanied by a carefully written biography and newly commissioned portrait from a different illustrator. In fact, most of the illustrators had the quotes beforehand to incorporate the ideas into their artwork.

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"The concept for the book actually arose from a LWLies tradition of routinely asking the question 'What do you love about movies?' at the end of interviews," deputy editor Adam Woodward tells CH. "In nine years of making the magazine, we've amassed a vast number of quotes from a diverse mix of actors, directors and film industry figures, and it was quite a task to whittle it down to 50 for the book. Many of the quotes in the book are previously unpublished, so it's been an amazing opportunity to share these impassioned insights from just some of the people who inspire us in what we do."

"We are essentially asking these people, why did you dedicate your life to the creation of transitory entertainments which drift through the public consciousness like so many scattered autumn leaves?" writes editor David Jenkins in the amusing introduction, before answering the looming question himself and posing the same to the reader. The answers throughout the book are equally personal and unique, but share one common theme: they deepen the reader's appreciation for film.

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The book is dedicated to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is also featured inside. He describes the mysterious, subconscious-reaching event that takes place inside a dark room: "It's indelible. It stays with you for a long time. I think that's why when you go back and watch a film that you loved from when you were younger it's never quite the same experience. Even though it's the exact same film." Overall, the book is an eye-opening survey into the motivations that each person has for dedicating their life to this medium.

"What I Love About Movies" is now available from the Little White Lies shop for £25.

Quentin Tarantino illustration courtesy of ilovedust, William Friedkin illustration courtesy of Hedof, open book images by Cool Hunting

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