Thursday, 1 December 2011

Veg Out!

Here's a sneak preview of the endpapers of the children's book I've been working on. Its called "Grandpa's Garden" and it will be out in the spring. I will of course remind everyone to rush out to the bookshop when it comes out! In the meantime, get down to your allotments and dig for victory!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Pictures by Chinese Children

If I asked children at primary school to draw me a picture I think I’d probably get a few pirate ships, aliens or fluffy kittens. If you’d asked the same thing in 1970s China you might have got rather different results. How about a nice drawing of “Peasant Uncles delivering grain to the State"
or perhaps this picture entitled “Lets all criticize Lin Piao and Confucius.”

Maybe I should ask the kids to do me picture of the Euro Zone debt crisis... could be interesting! I picked up this book from a charity shop and it’s a catalogue from a 1970s exhibition of Chinese childrens art. The images are a remarkable documentation of life in China at that time. The political propaganda is very evident throughout, and it’s quite amusing to look at it now as it is so extreme it comes across as, well, a little bit bonkers. The bottom picture has the title "We sing "The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is Fine." Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." There is of course a more serious aspect to all that brainwashing, but I don’t want to get too heavy. Some of the pictures actually makes me question whether they were by children at all, because although they are admittedly done in a na├»ve style ,they have a sophistication that seems far more adult. I suppose in a country as large as China you would get your fair share of prodigies. Maybe the whole thing is part of the propaganda. I’m not sure it really ultimately matters to me though, as I like them for what they are regardless of the age of the person who did them.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

All the Fun of the Fair

Since finishing my latest childrens' book (about 2 weeks ago), I've taken to frantic cushion-making.
I got this fabric made up a little while ago using some of my fairground-inspired illustrations.
I've finally got round to making it up into cushions, which I am hoping to sell in my shops.
The whole cushion making process is perfect for when you feel like doing a fairly brainless manual task. (not sure I could do it all the time though.) I think they would go well in childrens' bedrooms, so if the little ones in your life are lacking somewhere comfy to park their posteriors you may want to invest! My Folksy shop is here and the Etsy one here.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Making an Impression

Its surprising how many common expressions are derived from printing, and specifically letterpress terminology. For example " to quoin a phrase" "making an impression" "mind your Ps and Qs" (lower case ps and qs being quite similar and easy to get mixed up when setting the type which is done upside down.) Indeed, the terms "upper case" and lower case" are more examples, and refer to the locations of the trays in which the type was kept. "Getting the wrong end if the stick" is apparently another one as are "stereotype" and "out of sorts". I could probably go on... I wonder if its possible to get them all into one sentence ? Anyway, last weekend I attended a wedding up in Scotland, the invite of which was done by letterpress ( can you see a theme emerging?) It was a great weekend away despite the dampness of the weather. The following day we visited Robert Smail's print works which is in Innerleithen near Peebles. It is a printing workshop and office which has been bought by the National Trust of Scotland to preserve it. It remains pretty much how it would have been in Victorian times, and as Robert Smail never threw anything away it has a fantastic archive of letterpress stuff. You can tour the works and have a look around, and even better do some actual printing. You get to make a bookmark. I'd recommend this place if you are in any way interested in printing. The tour is very interesting and informative and is free if you are in the National Trust - always a bonus.

By co-incidence, last week I discovered an app for the ipad or mac computer which is a kind of virtual letterpress thingy. Frustratingly though I can't use it as stone-age computers like ours are not supported. You can get it here (if you have the right equipment) By all accounts its quite good. But I will have to wait until our computer properly breaks before we have an excuse to get a new one. In the meantime I'll just have to make do with the old John Bull printing set.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Lucha Libre

When I saw this postcard of lucha libre mexican wrestlers it reminded me of Peter Blake's work. So I bought it and sent it to him. Hope he liked it! He seems to have a bit of a thing about wrestlers and the comic-book, super-hero-ish aesthetic was something I thought he would appreciate. I've liked Peter Blake's work for a long time and for several reasons.Not least because he's one of the few artists who has managed to cross the illustration/fine art divide successfully . He definitely has a foot in both camps. While I was at it I also got this wooden toy which is really a piece of folk art,in my opinion, but have kept that for myself.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Handy Shop

I couldn't decide whether to post this or not as I'm sure you've all got better things to do than read about what I had for tea, anyway on balance I decided to go for it as if anyone is ever in the vicinity of Helston, there is the slim chance they may remember and check out the delights of a little known tea emporium called the Handy Shop. Its at a village called Sithney. I must stress you must not go there if you are on a diet due to the copious amounts of clotted cream, lets just say they don't skimp. I hadn't been there for about 20 years and little had changed. I'm sure the lady who runs it is the very same one. She is Cornwall's answer to Mrs Doyle from Father Ted. The appeal of this tea room for me is that in many ways it is the antithesis of places like Costa and Starbucks. I don't think overpriced poncey latte was an option on the menu. (probably best to stick to the tea). The cream tea is the thing to go for. Fresh,warm scones, piles of cream and jam...yum. And that's not all - this place also has a small selection of second hand books and a very small model village and railway complete with gnome display. So a winner on several scores!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

As I was going to St.Ives....

...I thought I would pop into the Tate. There's an interesting installation by Martin Creed there at the moment. He has filled a large area with white balloons ( about 10feet deep).When you go in to the area you are surrounded in all directions by them. Before you go in they ask if you suffer from claustrophobia or similar. Yeah, Yeah, health and safety gone mad I thought, and plunged in. I have to say, it really was quite an experience! You get disorientated very quickly as everything looks the same. Its quite hard to find your way out and you have to fumble around until you reach a wall to get any idea of orientation. On top of that all the static makes your hair stand on end and you emerge looking like a crazed loony! Oh and the beach there's not bad once you've done the balloons.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Map Competition

Here's a map I rustled up for an illustration competition on a site I stumbled on called "They Draw and Travel" I didn't have much time to do it as I only found out about it a couple of days before the competition ended . It didn't win - they had over 200 entries, but it was fun to do despite involving some late nights. There's a real variety of maps from all over the world - so if you fancy a browse take a look at their site.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Happy Holidays!

I thought I would post this travel poster by Herve Morvan as it seemed appropriate as we launch ourselves into holiday mode. Ok, so we're not going to Tahiti, we'll have to make do with a weekend of camping near Penzance. We do have plenty of great beaches and have even got palm trees what with the sub-tropical climate n'all. Lets hope it doesn't do the monsoon thing this time....

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

University Challenge

The question is ...why do I like these stamps from the 70s celebrating university buildings? Possibly I'm missing some urban grit, there's not many tower blocks here in Cornwall - the nearest thing to any kind of high-rise is a lighthouse! Maybe its the screenprinty quality of the images?Perhaps .Maybe living with an architect all these years has fostered some kind of appreciation for modern architecture ...not sure. Hang on a minute, I know what it is - its the price! Bargain.. 3p to post a letter! Those were the days...I wonder how these building have fared over the years. Are they still standing?

Monday, 16 May 2011


Few things in life remain the same forever, but one exception appears to be the iconic label of Tiptree jam. The design of this label must be one of the oldest on the supermarket shelves. It hasn't significantly changed in the last 125 years. Ironically, the plainess of the label now makes it stand out more. A few weeks ago, we made the pilgrimage to the factory which unsurprisingly is in Tiptree, Essex. ( I have to point out we were in the area anyway- we're not quite insane enough to make a special journey from Cornwall.) It was a shame that you couldn't go round the actual factory, but there was a museum which was (jam) packed with related artefacts . They also had a very informative film and of course, a tearoom . The jam, by the way, is mighty fine - it was my granny's favourite. As well as good old strawberry they have more obscure jams such as quince, medlar, and damson . They've also branched out into sauces. I've only tried the brown sauce so far, which is yummy! Anyway, I'd be interested to hear if anyone can recommend any other factory tours as I do like that sort of thing.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Here Comes The Bride...

Here's a picture of the royal wedding. Not the one just taken place, you understand. No, this is perhaps the oldest surviving piece of artwork done by myself. And I'm not even going to tell you which wedding its of, for fear of revealing myself to be a complete old fogey. All I am prepared to divulge is that I was 7 when I drew it. I can actually remember doing this and feeling like I'd spoilt it by not colouring in the union jack properly.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Signs of the Times

One of the benefits of living almost on the doorstep of an art college is that I can sneak into some of the events and talks that they have on. Last week I was quite excited to see that Bob and Roberta Smith was giving a talk. Bob and Roberta are, in fact, one person. I have been familiar with some of his/their work for a while as it sometimes would be visible in the environs of Hackney. I'm sure there used to be a bit of his work up near the junction of Hackney Road and Bethnal Green Road. Anyway,the work appeals to me as it doesn't take itself too seriously- it has a sense of humour and also because I just happen to like hand painted signs and typography. I hadn't realised that his work crosses boundaries into other areas such as performance, installation and music. The talk was entertaining and at times perhaps a little "random".It included elements of audience participation.For example,one student played the tune of three blind mice on a toy xylophone whilst the rest of the lecture theatre was divided into halves, pantomine style, for a sing-song on the theme of fruit and vegetables! Meanwhile a film featuring Bob going on a bike ride wearing a chain-mail outfit played on a screen in the background. All part of life's rich tapestry...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Strange and Beautiful

I've become a bit obsessed lately with the paintings of Jeremy Miranda. Who he? you may ask.
Well, I found his work when he was a featured seller on Etsy. The quality of the painting is incredible and I particularly like it when the paintings become narrative. The central theme to quite a lot of the work seems to deal with the relationship we humans have with nature and how we attempt to contain, tame and take ownership of it. He tends to work on series of paintings reworking them several times. The floating greenhouse is so strange and beautiful I can't stop staring at it. I have to warn you that visiting his shop may result in separation from your cash! The paintings are however very reasonably priced - so you can buy 4 like I did!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Soviet Matchbox labels

I have really posted this in response to Roddy and Ginger's blog post. These labels which I got on ebay bear an uncanny resemblance to the folk art pottery she has managed to locate at her local charity shop-lucky her!
These are without doubt soviet in origin since they all have USSR on them. I'm sure someone out there must know more... Some of them are really more than a little odd- in particular the multi-headed horses! I have quite a few more - so let me know if you'd like to see them!
I've just had a quick look on google and found out that they are called Dymkovo toys

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Mapping it Out

I am trying to get to grips with all the features of Etsy, some of which I can't quite get my head around. I've had an Etsy shop for ages but have listed things only sporadically and they keep changing the features, so I can't keep up! One of the gadgets they have is the "treasury" where you curate other people's items into collections. Anyway, I've come up a collection of items on the theme of maps.Its called Mapping it Out . It was good fun doing this actually, so I'll probably be doing some more as and when.
Its kind of like pretending you're the editor of a fancy magazine.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Fab Fabric

Since the arrival of my sewing machine at Christmas, I have become a bit of a fabric junkie. I cannot stop buying the stuff and will quite happily spend hours trawling the internet for "finds".
Lord knows, we'll be drowning in cushions soon, if it continues. Anyway my latest fabric fix came in the form of these 1950s style fabrics . I even visited a real shop to get them when in London last weekend. I think they are actual 50s designs which have been re-released by John Lewis.