Sunday, 20 July 2014

How many notebooks do you need..?

'Make Hey!' notebook by Pip Lincolne (nice Aussie designer). Current no. 1 unused notebook
Do you love to buy a nice notebook when you see one? I do. Do you say to yourself, 'You can never have too many nice notebooks' or 'A nice notebook will always come in handy'? I do. Do you go to lovely shops and exhibitions and think, 'Oh everything is so expensive but I could just get a nice notebook to remember the day by'? I do. Do you have a large box overflowing with nice notebooks, some that you feel are just too nice to use? And some that are no longer nice enough? I do.
Extra nice Peter Blake notebook from the Holburne Museum in Bath -- always interesting
I admit that I'm a notebook addict. And a diary addict. It can't be right to have eight unused diaries from past years -- although I fully intend to use them when the right combination of dates and days comes around again.

In fact, for anyone else with this problem, here's a handy guide:
Upcoming year:     Use diary from:
2015                        2009 (You have to watch out for leap years as well as what day the year starts on)
2016                        1988
2017                        2006 or 1995
2018                        2007 or 2001
2019                        2013 or 2002
2020                        1992

Great, by the end of the decade I'll have had the opportunity to re-use two whole diaries! Who knew years were so pernickety! Actually I make my own diary each year now, so, let's face it, they are never going to get used.
This is my current diary
But the notebooks, the notebooks. They're so seductive, with their cool, creamy pages and covers that invite you to jump in to another existence.
I love this trash-paperback-sized beauty by Rose Gridneff
The one below has a plain cover, but the pages consist of offcuts from Hato Press -- beautiful, and too good to write in...
They go on... and on...
And those are only the ones I've picked out. There are more...
It needs to stop. But it probably won't. Have you got a paper habit?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

My photo picked by Uppercase!

You'll have to forgive me for blowing my own trumpet, but I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that Janine Vangool, the creative wonder behind Uppercase magazine, had chosen my photo as the header for her latest letter to readers. I had submitted some shots of my tiny coloured toy collection for the colour-themed issue (no.22) but had had a note to say they weren't going to use it. I had put it out of my mind and then up it popped in my inbox this morning. I feel very honoured and chuffed.

A note from Janine the previous week had brought news that running one of the best magazines on the planet isn't necessarily that easy or lucrative as she said she had had to lay off her two employees. The only answer, really, is for more people to subscribe to the magazine so that the massive amount of work required for each issue generates more income. It would be a terrible shame if Uppercase didn't continue on its glorious, colour-saturated path.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A family brought together again

Tony's original photos
When we were doing our Found and Chosen stall in Letchworth the other weekend, the best thing that happened (on what was a rather low-key rainy day, as it turned out), was that a gentleman called Tony stopped on the way past. He said he was just on the way to Prontoprint to see if they could do something with some old photos he had, but maybe I'd like to do it? He had seven photos in an envelope in his pocket.
     I said yes straight away without thinking about it too much and then I took down the details of what he wanted. The people in the photos were all siblings from the same family and one of them was coming up to a big birthday, so it was a question of putting them all into one picture to make a gift. He had clear ideas about what he wanted, which always helps.
     It was very satisfying using Photoshop to balance the pictures and then cut them out and piece them together. I'd love to do more work like this. And Tony seemed happy when I took his picture round to him.
I have his permission to blog about this but I don't want to put too many pictures up as it's his own affair, really. But I was delighted that the opportunity came up and glad I was in the right place at the right time.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Yow! A snapshot from 1973

This post is rather self-indulgent, so I beg your indulgence.
    The picture above is of my school ring-binder, which I've kept for ... just over four decades. It's hideous, covered with horrible striped sticky-backed plastic and then adorned with stickers. It's the stickers that fascinate me. They are insanely eclectic and ugly -- I can remember that I was so crazy for stickers that the actual content of the stickers didn't matter. I just had to have stickers. The folder reflects my completely uncritical love of adhesive cutouts and is a weird reminder of myself at the age of eleven.
I was NOT an official member of the Osmonds Fan Club Europe (founded on 1st January 1973 by Maureen Street). I didn't even like the Osmonds. On 2nd November of that year my Mum went down to London on her own for a few days, staying as we usually did in the Britannia Hotel, Grosvenor Square (it was owned by British Rail and you could get good deals if you booked the hotel at the same time as your train ticket). She sent me a postcard which read, "When I arrived at the hotel, which is lovely, I found a great crowd of screaming girls yelling p*** o** at anyone who dared to look at them, standing outside … and what do you think? The Osmonds are staying at the same place!!! I wonder if I shall see them? What a treat – I don’t think." She didn't like them either.
This folder is full of things I didn't like: I wasn't remotely interested in cars... or anything to do with them...

Nor religion (though now I come to think of it I think it was 1973 when I was briefly lured to 'Joyseekers Club' at school because a nice boy called Nigel used to go and I liked walking home with him afterwards)...
Radio Tees and Radio Cleveland were our local radio stations. My best friend and I once got 'The Sloop John B' by the Beach Boys played as a request on Radio Tees -- strange choice (we liked singing harmonies to it). Radio Tees was commercial and we always felt a bit naughty listening to it, as it if was Radio Caroline. It wasn't.
The dancing hippo is a Vari-vue or lenticular sticker with a movement effect when you tip it back and forth. Apparently they were given away in Spar supermarkets in 1973 and are now quite rare. It's Disney and I'm afraid I was a terrible snob about Disney when I was a kid too, always bemoaning the way they had 'ruined' 101 Dalmatians and Winnie the Pooh. Even so, sticker lust won out and here is Hyacinth Hippo from Fantasia (which I've still never seen and would quite like to now) on my folder.
Really, the only things on the folder that genuinely reflect my passions, growing up, are the (unbelievably dull) stickers in French -- I would go on to study French at university...
'For children, sight is the future'
... and Gallery Five
I truly adored everything that Gallery Five did, especially these animal stickers. I recently tracked down some sheets of them -- the nostalgia!:

I can remember staring obsessively at the sheets to work out the permutations of patterns, and, of course, putting them in order of how much I liked them. This would have consequences for how I used them and which ones I gave to my best friend, if any. They were potent. I could almost lose myself in contemplation of them (which worries me a bit now, but they don't seem to have done me any lasting harm... as far as I'm aware).
     I had this one as a sticker on my bedhead:
I felt it watched over me while I slept (well, I didn't have the comfort of religion, so I needed something...).
     I just can't understand why Gallery Five isn't better known and why there's hardly anything by them on the internet. Why aren't there passionate collectors sharing their collections? I've got tons of Gallery Five gift tags -- I love them. Gallery Five still exists. They mainly sell Beryl Cook cards now. Not long ago I rang them up, just to see whether they still have any of the Seventies designs. I spoke to the sales manager who told me that Jan Pienkowski, who started Gallery Five and did a lot of the early designs (including all the ones above) kept careful yearbooks of all the designs but doesn't want to licence them to other companies as he wouldn't have control over what was done with them. I would give anything to look through those yearbooks. It would be heaven. But for now, I treasure my very odd folder which is itself a sort of 'yearbook' of my life in 1973. Yow!

Monday, 23 June 2014

British Folk Art at Tate Britain

It's already just over a week since I waited outside Tate Britain for the doors to open and let me into the British Folk Art show. I arrived early because I was meeting a friend at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition at 1pm and wanted to have the maximum time possible into which to fit the folk art beforehand.
In the event I needn't have worried as the show wasn't nearly as extensive as I'd imagined. Given the absolute mass of objects that must have been available, one way or another, I felt slightly shortchanged -- the tickets are £14.50 if you pay the gift aid bit (I didn't...).
As I had asked if you could take photos in the Phyllida Barlow installation and been told it was okay, I started clicking away at the folk art too, but was soon politely told to stop -- however, here are my few samizdat images: a lovely sun insurance sign, a wooden fish, and a giant boot next to a tiny boot, the huge one made as a shop sign, the little one as a sample.
Here's an even bigger boot:
This was a real beauty, about four feet long.

The exhibition took a rather wry view of folk art and while it claimed not to be trying to define folk art (it is most often defined by statements of what it isn't -- not 'proper' art, not made by 'real artists', not valuable, though of course some of it's very valuable now), it went out of its way to score a number of points against various idees fixes of folk art. Such as that many apparently naive and 'natural' artists were actually rather canny self-marketers. Similarly, the show tackles the phenomenon of Alfred Wallis head on. Famously 'discovered' in St Ives by Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood, Wallis is supposedly the only outsider artist to have crossed over into the 'academy', and to have been taken seriously as an artist (with prices to match). This has supposedly been because of innate talent that was spotted by Nicholson and Wood -- but the show tries to demonstrate that artists of a very similar bent to Wallis abounded, even those who shared his love of ships and harbours are quite easy to find, leading us to the conclusion that Wallis was just lucky.
Newlyn Harbour by Alfred Wallis
'Folk' artists are just as keen to make a living from their art as trained artists, and one example in the show is that of Walter Greaves who was establishing himself as a naive, self-taught artist when he was taken up by Whistler. Whistler's influence on his protege's style is so overwhelming as to be almost comical. Greaves went from this ( 'folk' art style):
Hammersmith Bridge on Boat-Race Day from 1964 (the year before Greaves met Whistler)
to this:
Nocturne in Blue and Gold by Walter Greaves, from the 1870s
in just a few years. He was even accused of plagiarising Whistler's work -- a view with which it's possible to have some sympathy.
Elsewhere, the show had lovely patchwork, ships' figureheads, corn dollies, objects decorated with broken pottery mosaic (apparently called 'boody' in the north-east but that's a new name to me), genuine items mixed in with things such as leather Toby jogs (looking like old boxing gloves) made in the late 19th C and early 20th C and aged in an effort to give them a patina of authenticity -- the message here was that folk art became very popular between the end of the 19th century and up to about 1930, during which time the massive increase in demand was met by a wily supply of fake folk art -- so beware the grimy relic of times past, it may not be as venerable as it seems.
Boody, my boody
When I got home, I thought about my beloved bits and pieces of broken pottery ware and my ratty old patchwork quilts: I value them so highly because they have such strong imprints of their makers on them and so they speak to me of real people in much the same way as the old photos I love so much. Somebody made these things and now I'm their keeper and I like that. I'm not bothered about their monetary value.
In years to come, I may even be feted as a folk artist myself -- you never know. This is a cigar box covered in pipe-lighting spills that I made when I was a teenager -- oop North we'd sit around t'fire, cutting an' gluin' spills while the barmcakes warmed -- or something. The inside is patchwork which has stayed horribly bright as it's been protected from light and dirt all this time.
I was on a mission to make the smallest patchwork ever made. I regret to say that I actually wore this pouch thingy round my neck. It was the Seventies. The other thing was for stamps. Quite tiny, really. And nicely grubby.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Phyllida Barlow at Tate Britain

Just one part of Phyllida Barlow's amazing installation
I've just posted about Phyllida Barlow at Tate Britain on our new Found and Chosen Wordpress blog, so please click on the link to read the post there.

Thanks! See you there...

Saturday, 31 May 2014

20th Century Design Fair at Farnham

Last Saturday saw us getting up at 4.45am so that we could be at Farnham Maltings by 7am to set up our stall at the 20th Century Design Fair. We were all ready so we just stumbled into the car and off. What a (relative!) pleasure the M25 is at that time of the morning.
We found the Maltings in a warren of narrow streets and were soon inside and setting out our wares. Here's our stand, with its slightly eccentric preponderance of Shorter ware. This is because, back in the late Nineties, D and I became keen collectors of Shorter and amassed a huge quantity of mainly green plates, jugs, vases and planters. It was something of an obsession, fuelled by our buying a copy of The Shorter Connection by Irene and Gordon Hopwood, which is a fantastic book containing many tantalising photos of rare Shorter pieces.
The 'connection', by the way, is with Clarice Cliff, making Shorter of particular interest to Cliff collectors.
     We were quite pleased with the look of our stand, having brought some fresh flowers and also the 'round mini bunting' that I'd made the day before to decorate our shelves (you can see it in the photos above). We even christened our new Instagram account with a couple of photos, but when we looked at them later we decided it looked a bit 'quaint' -- I think you could tell we were newbies at this business.
     It was the first public outing for our new logo, 'Found and Chosen':
This represents a venture into design and retail! We're going to be designing and selling things through various online outlets (such as Society 6 and Etsy) as well as blogging on a new Wordpress blog which I'll tell you about soon. It feels great to be collaborating with D on this and I definitely feel that we'll do better things together (than if we tried on our own) and that our individual skills will complement each other -- so that's a very positive place to be starting out from.
Meanwhile, back in Farnham last Saturday, we were cutting our baby teeth in the real world of retail. The fair was full of lovely stuff, very covetable -- but that was NOT what we were there for! (I did weaken a little bit in the end...). The other stallholders were very friendly and didn't seem to mind us being new people at all. The lady on the stand next to ours shared lots of trade 'secrets' about which were the good fairs to do and when the 'season' starts and ends, which we really appreciated. The consensus seemed to be that this was quite a quiet fair -- it normally takes place in Woking but has been in Farnham just a couple of times while the Woking venue is refurbished. Apparently it goes better in Woking. But we made enough to cover the cost of the stall and petrol with a little bit left over so we were happy. To be honest, it felt a little like playing shops and we just enjoyed the novel experience. We loved the people-watching aspect of it all and I can tell you that Farnham antique-lovers are a splendid lot!
The highlight for us was when a gentleman (not the one above) told us that he was related to the Shorter family through his great-grandmother. We were really delighted that he liked our stand and bought something.
     I bought two boxes of old letters, which I intend to use in some art projects.