Themerson Day and Wonderful Papers

Back at the beginning of the summer I was lucky enough to be able to attended a one day conference on the artists, film makers, writers. philosopher, poet...all round creative couple Franciszka and Stefan Themerson. Not only was the event, held at Queen Mary's University, London, free but we were each given an envelope full of duplicate documents from the Themerson Archive and this lovely book full of Franciszka's drawings.

I can still remember the afternoon in the early 90s and not long out of art college when working as a part time nanny (whilst starting out in illustration) I took the three children to the Imperial War Museum and I discovered Franciszka's drawings for the first time. I remember the thrill and that connection I felt with her simple sketchy, quirky drawings - that strange powerful , sort of emotionally overwhelming feeling you get when something resonates with you. I'm fascinated by that feeling, what  instigates it and why do we respond to somethings and not others? Any one know anything about this?!



Paper Archives







Last week I listened to an interesting programme on the radio about digital archives and the way people can now keep track and record so much of their lives. I liked the view of an interviewed psychologist who said "there is a good reason we forget things". I think this is so true - how much more messy would our lives be if we could instantly access images, text, video and sound of things long past that our minds and hearts would rather have edited out. 

Sometimes we need so little to recapture a memory or sense of time. Yesterday afternoon I looked through some of my old "visuals files" from the late 80s and 90s. 

I remember when I used to file these every few months I'd sometimes wish I was being more methodical. I remember seeing other illustrators who were filing saved images by category. Mine are random other than chronological (within a year or so) and compiled by what I thought looked good together. Now years later when I can use Google if I need to know how a certain animal looks or search images on a certain theme, what I most appreciate about these books are the randomness of them. I remember being intrigue by the Surrealists' use of Lautreamont's famous phrase, 'as beautiful as the chance encounter on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella'.

I have a huge box full of similar papers from the last ten years that I've never got around to filing. I also seem to gather less now....whether this is because less catches my eye or there is less printed material generally or whether I just don't look for it so much I'm not sure. I'd love to hear about other people's experiences of collecting printed ephemera.

Illustration for Selvedge Magazine and Memories of Little Grey Rabbit



Above is an illustration for Selvedge Magazine. I think it was for the issue before last  - to inform readers of all the different opportunities there are to connect with the magazine.

Lately I've been trying to have a clear out of old magazines but my few Selvedge ones I've bought over the years definitely won't be going in recycling! It's such an inspiring magazine, and I love the size and paper, I know that I'll want to refer to them in the future.

And below a buttercup repeat using the hive idea.


I've always been intrigued by hives since seeing this picture in "Little Grey Rabbit's Birthday". One of my most loved books from childhood and probably the book that made me decide at six years old that I wanted to be an illustrator. Margaret Tempest was the first illustrator I could name and I still adore her work. I particularly loved looking at the endpapers and still dream about living in this house in a forest!

Now I need to clean the blue ink off the glass on my scanner!



Vintage Fair and vintage reflections




When I arrived in London in 1991 after art college via Paris and Scotland, my friend Katie and I rented a small, tall terraced house in South East London. No heating and no carpets...just gaps in the floorboards and wonderful coal fires in most rooms. (We'd take a taxi to the coal merchants with polythene sheeting to lie in the taxi driver's boot on the return journey).

In the basement we had a workroom where we'd stay up late listening to the radio and making papier  mache pots, painted boxes and furniture, mono printed and hand bound albums and notebooks. I'd done my thesis at art college on the Bloomsbury group and inspired by the Omega workshop we'd come to London to make and sell!

Over that first cold winter we'd get up early on a Sunday and stagger to the station loaded down with those big cheap checked laundry bags and head for a stall at Camden or Greenwich Markets. The money we'd make mostly went on cosy lunches and hot chocolates with marshmallows to keep us warm. We had business cards printed and that was our promotion done! It's strange now in this land of Etsy, websites, twitter and blogs to think how different things were just not that long ago. I remember whilst still in Scotland writing a letter to a ceramicist in London who I'd read about in a magazine asking politely for some business advice....I never had a reply. I always think of that unanswered letter when contacted by students. Nowadays it seems as if there is much more a culture of sharing and supporting amongst artists/makers - all made easier by the internet. Most of our planning for the move to London and our "business plan" was done over the phone - me in Scotland, Katie in Guernsey. My Dad wouldn't allowed me to chat on the phone so I'd go to the phone box across the road with a bundle of ten pence pieces and a notebook and pen.  Pre mobile phones and pre internet days. I wonder where we found the contact details for the market organisers...and I guess we read printed timetables to know which train to catch!

Anyway after a few winter Sundays Katie got a real job and I got a full time job working in a friend's shop (where mostly I spent my days drawing and writing stories on the back of the shop's fliers, occasionally there would be a customer - often lovely, lonely women who would return, after pouring their hearts out to me, with a box of chocolates or once an amber necklace!) and later I started a Post Grad Art History course. And our dream for the "Worldbackwards" emporium quietly died away.

After a round trip of fifteen years to North London I'm back living in South East London and two weekends ago I found myself up early and trundling along the road to the station with a wheely suitcase and a bundle of bags....helped by my boyfriend...regretting the death of our car in the springtime and on a train to Caterham Vintage and Art Fair. I caught myself thinking here I go again....still doing the same old thing "carrying my wares around" has nothing changed!

Later in the day Katie turned up to keep me company in the beautiful Edwardian Soper Hall and we enjoyed delicious cup cakes from Bake plus more yummy cake and coffee from A Grand Affair served in old china cups. With a sound backdrop of 40s and 50s music we chatted to customers and other stall holders and I ended up spending some of my takings - on vintage children's books and a 60s pale blue Finnish enamel kettle - not a good business model!

By the return journey in the evening I found myself reflecting how lovely it is to meet the people who've bought the things you've made and to be around other people who are selling things that they've made or gathered with love or care.

It didn't feel any longer like a step backward - just looping back around on a beautiful walk!

Things from the Cupboard

Home in Scotland a couple of weeks ago I had a search through my old "toy cupboard". We had a boot fair in London a few months ago so I couldn't resist bringing some things back to start filling up the cleared out spaces!


This is a map from 1963 - the year my parents (as newlyweds) went on a road trip to Norway with my grandfather and teenage aunts.







My beloved Tufty Club Book - I thought it was lost so was very happy to discover!
Illustrations are so powerful to children and the emotions they create seem to get so fixed inside us - when I saw these pictures of bonfire night, the naughty weasel and the mole family on a long dark road I remembered how fearful I found them. And it surprises me how gentle the pictures seem when the feelings I can recall are more akin to those created by horror films!

I'm also surprised how things are not nearly as complex as I remember. I loved the tree house Tufty lived in - but now it seems so small and simple - not how it was in my head as a child!



I bought this book with a book token I got as a school prize aged seven for art. My Mum thought prizes were a terrible and unfair thing until I got one! I have just discovered a little about the illustrator Ronald Ferns
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Ferns
What a wonderful selection of projects he worked on!