Thursday, 8 December 2011

Warmth in a digital world

The book of the week on Radio 4 is 'Just My Type' by Simon Garfield, beautifully read by Julian Rhind Tutt. Today's extract was about Erik Spiekermann, the German type designer. His descriptions of typography are inspiring and heart-warming. He describes using a grid as, "like cooking. You can follow a recipe to the last gram, but if the love isn't there it's just flat and bland."

Spiekermann teaches at the University in Berlin and tells his students that, "digital type can be too harsh." He suggests that warmth must be added by making a typeface not too perfect. Looking at his Meta typeface he says, "nothing is identical," and he has resisted any attempts to clean it up. The challenge is "to create warmth in a digital world."

We also love the smell of ink, its sticky blackness, the coolness of metal type, the imperfections of analogue. Whilst we love our Macs, we also love creating tactile, human, imperfect artwork and artefacts - and getting our hands dirty in the process. As Garfield writes, "We are still analogue beings. Our brains and eyes are analogue."

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Homely feelings - ready for Christmas

Winter is a lovely season for snuggling down, lighting the fire, baking with children, making marmalade and writing letters. Just as you're thinking about dusting down your Christmas card list wouldn't it be nice to get in touch with old friends, cheer up your schoolmate/child away at University or remind Grandma/Mum that you think about her more often than she thinks.
We've just designed our new Everyday Stationery set that will be on sale for the first time on Sunday at our Open Studio Sale. Ideal as a gift or as a little treat for yourself - and for getting back to a little bit of snailmail.
Other gifty ideas on sale will be our Comet mugs, dog and cat notelets, badges, studio pegs and our new Jam Making Kit which now has sticky labels. We also have some delightful Christmas cards, featuring Jonathan's wood engravings and all hand-printed by him on his letterpress in the shed.
Black Pollen
And not to be forgotten our lovely prints, limited edition wood engravings and larger silkscreen prints, which make lovely presents and are all 20% off for Sunday only.

And now we've ordered our turkey from Stenton's and booked our annual ice skating trip to Hampton Court, we feel we can get in the Christmas mood with mulled wine and mince pies at the Studio Sale. We do hope you are able to come along.

(And we're very pleased with the new photos Catherine Gratwicke has just taken for us)

Three new prints

There sleeps Titania, wood engraving by Jonathan Mercer
For our Open Studio this Sunday, 4th December, 2011, Jonathan has made limited edition prints of three rather gothic wood engravings inspired by women in literature.

"There sleeps Titania" is a slightly voyeuristic composition evoking the dark fairy-land evoked in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk roses and with eglantine.
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.

Persephone plucked the fruit from the tree, wood engraving by Jonathan Mercer
"Persephone plucked the fruit from the tree" conjures up visions of the River Styx and the division between Earth and Hades, Summer and Winter. From The Golden Fleece and the Heroes who lived before Achilles by Padraic Colum:

Beside the single tree in his domain Aidoneus stayed the chariot. A single fruit grew on that tree, a bright pomegranate fruit. Persephone stood up in the chariot and plucked the fruit from the tree. Then did Aidoneus prevail upon her to divide the fruit, and, having divided it, Persephone ate seven of the pomegranate seeds.

Shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth, wood engraving by Jonathan Mercer
"Shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth" echoes the words of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, another scribble by Mr Shakespeare:

Alack, alack, is it not like that I, 
So early waking— what with loathsome smells, 
And shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth, 
That living mortals, hearing them, run mad—  

These new prints will be on show in the studio on Sunday when we will be offering a Christmas special 20% off all prints - for one day only! They will then be available on our website.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Destination Askew Road

A very pleasant stroll this morning to enjoy the delights of two, yes two, groovy new shops on Askew Road. First stop was Long Live Vintage at number 163.
The lovely proprietor, Kieran Williams, was very welcoming, orange juice or fizz at the ready, busily making a few final touches to the displays. The shop is bright and stylish, with a select range of women's clothes and some very good bags and shoes - mainly of a sixties/seventies feel I would say.
The highlight of our visit was discovering a very fine Burberry mac in exactly the cut we were looking for that fitted Jonathan like a glove.

In fact, with its pre-loved look, it could have been his for years! And even better, 10% all purchases today.
Next stop was the much anticipated Ginger Pig. Lovely.

Yes, there is a lot of meat, but it looks really good. I loved the deli side of the shop too, with baskets of eggs, homemade preserves, pies and patés.
We secured a terrific looking Pork Pie with Stilton and Caramelised Onions and 100g of Smoked Cheek Pig Paté - roll on lunch time.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

As seen in Westside...

October's Westside magazine has a small piece on our bespoke social stationery. Hand-set and printed to order, A5 letterhead and correspondence cards are printed on deckle-edge paper on our letterpress in the shed.

Each set is presented in a hand-made Solander box, lined with our Comet pattern paper, has matching envelopes and an integral 'secrets' drawer for pens and mementoes. The box can be ordered in green, blue or orange. Comet pattern paper comes in blue, green, red or brown. Inside the box is a 'bookplate' with details of the box and personalised dedication.
For each order you have a choice of delightful, tiny wood engravings to feature on the paper and cards,  engraved by Jonathan and printed directly from the block. He will also set by hand, using metal type, the address or wording of your choice in one of two typefaces Gill Sans or Caslon 128.

Ideal as a special present for Christmas, a big birthday or a house warming gift, do get in touch to arrange to view samples and for lead times and prices.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hadrian's Wall

Having just visited Hadrian's Wall my eye was caught by the sub-head in Ed Frith's article in the Guardian, 'No comprehensive guide to our islands' buildings should exclude Hadrian's Wall or Stonehenge.' Commenting  on Jonathan's Glancey's introduction to the Guardian's Guide to British Architecture he suggests that Glancey misses the 'deep and longer story of British architecture.'

He goes on, 'Surely Britain is allowed its ancients: does the history of architecture only start with the arrival of Christianity, the dominant force in architecture? Surely it should include places deep in our psyche and defining the last six millennia. Where are the precise fabrications of Stonehenge, and the domestic and environmental connectivity exhibited at Skara Brae? Where are the Romans' technical marvels, Hadrian's Wall, and their integrated plumbing and heating?'

Indeed, what a marvel Hadrian's Wall is. Set in the most outstanding rolling countryside, the immensity and audacity of the project is inspirational. We spent a happy hour or two walking the wall, tramping the footsteps of the Roman soldiers, imagining the camp followers, the entertainers, the women and the muddy tracks across the sweeping landscape, standing meerkat like on top of the wall searching the moors for invading Celts...

Friday, 5 August 2011

Restless Times

There is a superb exhibition on at Tate Britain at the moment as part of the Great British Art Debate, Restless Times. Taking up just one room, it displays British art from 1914 -1945, including works by many of our favourite artists: Eric Ravilious, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, John Nash. The gallery handout is a wittily presented faux newspaper called 'The Restless Times', made up of related information and actual news reports from the period. Well worth a read.
And rather put me in mind of Old Town's Evening Star (talking of Old Town do look at the great shoot of their afternoon spent at The Red Lion, St. James's, called Piccadilly Pleasures, photographed by Matt Hind.)

Restless Times is on at Tate Britain until 6th November, 2011 and admission is free.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Selvedge Shop Sale

Loving this photograph of the Selvedge team 'getting ready' for their sale - Friday 5th August 5 - 8pm and Saturday 6th August 10am - 4pm. Proceed to North London forthwith!

Old colours

There's something about colours on old products that feels just right. I was really pleased to re-discover my Dad's old Velos 323 stapler on a recent visit to my Mum's. The slightly brownish rich red/maroon enamel, rather worn by wear, is a delight.
It put me in mind of this recently spotted, beautifully restored, Karmann Ghia. The lovely simple branding on the car and the stapler, so robust, is lovely too. The Velos proudly claims 'Made in England' twice.
The other piece of joy I spotted while up in Leicester was this fabulous shed. All peeling and overpainted - with the startlingly yellow ragwort setting off the green to perfection.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


Loving this new re-packaging for Falcon Enamelware. Love all things enamel really. Pack, typeface, colour looks good. Designed as a collaboration between Kiwi&Pom and Morse Studio.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Protoyping fabric designs

We've had a lovely week enhanced by the presence of our very capable work experience student, Miriam. From her I have learned lots about developing repeat patterns and effectively printing samples - excellent! I feel the net benefit may be all on my side, so I hope she's had a good time. The result of our labours? A test run of a '9 interesting things' fabric and three colourways for a print using a wood engraving of Jonathan's of a leaf/feather - yet to be named.
Jonathan's original wood engraving

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Mercer Yearbook 2010

One of the joys of the digital world is producing our annual family yearbook. Once we had boxes of shiny snaps that were carefully edited into photo albums - now we sync iPhotos, share pictures and construct a lovely book - printed and bound following a simple 'buy book' instruction and a little wait while the data squeezes down the broadband.
There's always a shimmer of excitement as we unwrap the parcel, slide off the elegant Apple branded slipcase and reveal this year's memory bank. There's nothing like it for capturing the rich tapestry of family life, the travels of the adventurous offspring and the many changing hairstyles.

It is the very essence of the pattern of life.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Pattern of Life

What a weekend! It was a delight to welcome people into our home for this year's Artists at Home. Despite the weather on Friday and Saturday, somewhat drier Sunday, we had an excellent turnout.
On display were 26 of Jonathan's wood engravings, some gorgeous silkscreen prints made form enlargements of his engravings and lots of Starch Green products. We had well over 120 visitors.

We even sold a few Christmas cards to a few of our more organised customers! Jonathan was demonstrating printing in the shed on Sunday with people printing their own Father's day bookmarks - D for Dog and Dad.
What I enjoyed most was the way all the family helped out and made the occasion seem so relaxed and warm. I really felt it was a great example of our philosophy 'the pattern of life.' We made bread Saturday morning before we opened, slipped in baking a beautifully decorated (by Tansy) cake on Saturday afternoon and drank copious quantities of delightful Starch Green tea (a blend of First Flush darjeeling, rose, elderflower and cornflower).
The honeysuckle even obliged by coming out in a riot of sweetly scented blooms.