Thursday, 25 June 2009

Artist Designers

What better way to spend a Monday lunch time than listening to the delightful ramblings of three charming grey haired gentlemen imbued with a love of the artist designer? Not any particular artist designer I hasten to add, but the concept of the talent that slips naturally between the occupations of fine art and more commercially minded design. The three chaps in question were Brian Webb, Peyton Skipwith and David Gentleman at the Fleming Collection giving a lecture entitled, "Artists, Designers and Illustrators: Their Impact on our Society."
Brian and Peyton had just completed a book working with David in their "Design" series. The series, published by the Antique Collector's Club has so far had titles including the work of Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Paul and John Nash and Edward McKnight Kauffer. A recently published addition was the book about Harold Curwen and Oliver Simon at the Curwen Press. A rich source of the most lovely graphic design bringing together the concept of artist designer in elegant style.
Much of the discussion boiled down to anecdotes about Edward Bawden, obviously not the easiest man to get along with. David, who was taught by Bawden at the RCA, referred to his "prickly veneer" and Brian remembered his comment on the then Managing Director of Wedgewood, with whom he had a rocky relationship, as "having an unnerving eye for the mediocre." The talk breezed over such artist designer gods as Eric Ravilious, Lovat Fraser, Paul and John Nash, David Mellor, Graham Sutherland and even Rodchenko.

I loved David's recollections of his artistic childhood. His parents met at Glasgow School of Art in the (relatively new) Mackintosh building and had tea at Cranston's, at a time when it was important to "instil useful abilities" at art school. David's father, Tom, was an artist designer himself and became Head of Shell Studios. David remembered watching, as a very small boy, George V's Silver Jubilee parade from the Shell Studio perched below the clock in Shell Mex House - surrounded by the elite artist designers of the day.
In this school print by Tom Gentleman, the little boy in blue on the right of the horses is David.
We ended the session catching up with Brian, and getting the David Gentleman booked signed by all three contributors for my mother.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Poppies near Foxton

Driving back from Cambridge the other day we had to stop to admire this exquisite dab of heaven.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

My favourite stamp

The image of this stamp in The Guardian today took me right back to when I was five. I have loved this stamp ever since then and have it - and several other classic Goaman designs - in my little stamp book, carefully slid under the cellophane strip to hold it in place.

Michael Goaman died in May aged 88. A stunning graphic designer who worked in partnership with his wife Sylvia, daughter of JB Priestley. He studied at Reading University art school and Central, where he met Sylvia. She studied textiles in London and Paris.
His stamps seem so much part of my life, childhood and design being that I can't look at them without hearing the Beechnut machine that was fixed to the wall of the corner shop, next door to the Post Office where I bought the stamps. The three white oblong lozenges in their white and green wrapper would fall obligingly into my outstretched hand. I can feel the twist of the rubber stopper in the Tizer bottle. The fizzle of the Sherbert Fountain on my tongue. I can see every crack in the pavement I carefully avoided so as not to upset the bears. What powerful stuff graphic design can be.

Images © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2007

Monday, 15 June 2009

Donkeys and Mare's Tails

We had the delight of donkey rides in the sunshine on Sunday. My two older daughters volunteered to lead donkeys round for the lovely people at Duke's Meadows in Chiswick. My little girl got two rides, on Marigold and Daisy. And lots of ice cream. 
Duke's Meadows Trust, a community driven conservation charity, has been restoring the riverside park over the past few years. They've created a wonderful new children's paddling pool and converted the old paddling pools into a wildflower garden. Last weekend there was a Springwatch event where we spotted birds, painted pictures, made a bird feeder and a nest box. The whole place has a curious 'lost in time' feel, quiet, green and strangely mid-century. The Farmers market on a Sunday morning has that lovely French rural feel and the whole is greatly enhanced by the lovely allotments adjacent. As we left on Sunday we witnessed a 'perfect allotment moment' - a table set up for lunch with wine and bread and fruit, an artist at her easel drawing a sitting model in charcoal, a man at the table playing a violin, a general mood of timelessness and community. Mmmmm.
Above us all was this divine mare's tail sky - which seemed to be a fitting tribute to the hard working donkeys.

Friday, 12 June 2009

The Summer Show

Tuesday was a day of inspiration and possibilities. Firstly we visited John Purcell Paper between Brixton and Stockwell. An amazing warehouse where we were served by the delightful Will, got to feel lots of paper, ask endless questions about sizes, weights and deckles and took away a few samples to test. 
After that we went up to the Royal Academy to see the Summer Show. I think its real joy is the mad amount of stuff which just creates an energy and artistic wave that is too good to miss. Of course a lot of the time is spent in saying things like, "How did that get in?" and "How much?"
But there are lots of old familiars like Mary Fedden and Elizabeth Blackadder who are always worth seeing - and a rich mixture of new and old to reassure, surprise, annoy and delight. Should you think about going try the RA app for the iPhone - it has a tour and info about each picture including, importantly, the price. It costs £2.99, but is less than the List of Works at £3.95.
This piece by Prof William Alsop OBE RA called 'I wish my garden was really like this' reminded me of a rather lovely wire drawing Tansy did at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green a few months ago.
We then strolled down St James and across St James Park to Westminster Central Hall to see Portfolios, a Creative Review exhibition of photographers and illustrators (well their agents actually) which was passably interesting. We did, however, win five hours free photographic retouching from the rather delightfully named Stanley's Post in their lucky dip. Haven't decided what to retouch yet...

Friday, 5 June 2009

The first package

The first package addressed to 'Starch Green' has just arrived from The Alpha Engraving Company.
It contained the first electrotype of our logo ready for locking up into a forme and printing. It's type high and really lovely. 
You can see it next to a lemon wood block. (Jonathan wants me to say he doesn't like using lemon wood - it's just an offcut...) Can't wait to get it inked up...

Heaven and Earth

Jack and I visited the Richard Long exhibition at Tate Britain yesterday - and wow! It was really inspiring. Whilst I thought I was familiar with the idea of Long - photos of circles of stick, lines in the desert, beautifully laid out stones in galleries, I really hadn't appreciated the beauty, wholeness and elegance of his work. 
And certainly not the typographic element. His consistent use of Gill Sans over the last forty years is heroic - and when you see it applied directly to the majestic walls of the Tate it is absolutely lovely.
And then there's the mud. Splattered and spread on the walls. Dripping on the floor. Splashing back. And smelling divine. All so very earthy. And the very definition of hands on.

Don't miss the book room. His artist books are really lovely, with some exemplary typography (and a lot of Gill).

It's on until 6th September, 2009. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Website launch

Well here it is. Our new website is now officially live. There is stuff to buy, there is stuff to download, and there is nice stuff to look at. We have tested it and tested it (but if you do find something that doesn't work let us know).

We are now sending our our first newsletter to let everyone know - and hope lots of people come and visit.

Having gone through the process of building the website, we have already got lots of ideas about version 2, as well as a whole bundle of product ideas we are busy turning into reality.

But for now, we are standing back and taking a breath...