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Manchester Vintage Home Show at Victoria Baths, June 2015

July 3, 2015

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It’s hard to believe that it will be two years in November since I last blogged about the Vintage Home Show at Victoria Baths in Manchester. Always a great event with plenty to see and goodies that will implore you to not leave without them. The show has been established by Keeley Harris, who has penned her own retro book called ‘Style Me Vintage’ (Home).

Let’s start with some lovely blue and brown illustrated Portmeirion Pottery. Does anyone else think of Disneyland and Mary Blair when they see this ? lol.

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Some fabulous items and even more welcoming stall holders, who were happy for me to photograph their wares to show to you today. Rachel from Funky (website not working at present), not only knows her textile designers but can tell you about their work and life in the 1950’s. How wonderful to get a background story with your retro cushion!

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From this blue bowl by Flavia to illustrated ware by Figgjo Fajance.

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Jennifer from 20th Century Crox sells everything from deco to psychedelic.

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Gill from Mid Century Homestores based in Todmorden, had a beautiful mix of designer retro pieces. My friend bought the fish plate above and I was tempted by sgraffito horse bowl and the John Clappison hippo beaker below. The Beaker is fetching prices around the £30-40 mark now.

More fab ‘n’ funky selections from Jenny at Wowie Zowie Online

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Jill Coulson displayed a nicely stacked array of matching Hornsea Pottery. In the latter part of the ‘sixties, it was a big hit with the public. The ‘Heirloom pattern’, (seen third shelf down), was introduced in 1968. In spite of its traditional appearance, Heirloom actually used a very modern technique called glaze resist. This allowed alternate shapes in the pattern to be glazed and unglazed.

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More common prints with crying children were available too!

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I loved this poster and there must be easier ways to remove tattoos !

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Some beautiful curvaceous furniture for the dinning room , the office and the living room from Salford Quays’ Retrolicious.

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Looking pretty wonderful in this tiled setting too.

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This was my modest purchase for the day, two Tams-ware mugs, from Jill Coulson, although I was tempted by much, much more.

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A great venue and day out, fab to see that many people looked the part too. Very dapper chap. Thanks to everyone for letting me snap their stalls. The next one here is Sunday 25th October, a date for your diaries and I look forward to seeing you there !

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Modern Publicity 1955-6 Part 2

July 1, 2015

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Continuing the theme of my Retro week, this is the second post from the Modern Publicity annual for 1955-56. I’ve coloured some of the black and white adverts, just to add a little zing to them.

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Great play on the word ‘guard’ here, helping to reinforce safety measures around the workplace.

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Travel, holidays and festivities.

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In my mind, there’s a little nod to the Pilsbury Doughboy adverts here. Perhaps that chirpy chappy (below) was inspired by these even earlier adverts (above) ?

Poke me 9,000 times and I’ll explode !!

If you liked this post you can find more, by simply typing the words Modern Publicity into the search function on my blog. Happy findings.

Ebay browsing in the 1950’s

June 29, 2015

Occasionally, but much more rarely these days, I would spend a half hour perusing Ebay, rooting through it’s 1950’s and 60’s ‘online treasures’ and sometimes finding a poster, book cover or piece of ceramic that catches my eye. Here’s a few I thought you might enjoy too.

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Old adverts for children’s sweets, I know the names but the packaging had changed when I last saw them in a sweet shop.

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Product advertising posters.

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These lovely couple of prints, the top one had a rush of bids at the last minute and went for over £60, lovely work.

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A few book and card illustrations from different parts and climates.

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More typical 1950’s work.

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Some paintings, wallpaper and textile designs.

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Possibly a couple of modern designs (below) inspired by the Festival of Britain.

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It’s great what you can discover that’s been living in someone’s cupboard all these years : ) Do you have any interesting 1950’s mementos ?

Still searching for Anthony Hutchings …

June 26, 2015

In 2011, I came across a book called NurseryLand Annual 1969 and wrote this Blog post about the mystery illustrator called simply ‘Hutchings’.

Since then in 2012, the site Magic Jelly posted more, and last year the site Pictures From An Old Book published more.

From my recent searchings on Amazon, I’m pretty certain the illustrator is called Anthony Hutchings, (and could have changed that to Tony Hutchings) but that is still all that we know. He created these memorable illustrations back in the late sixties and early seventies, does anyone know anymore ? They certainly seem to be memorable books for quite a few of you readers from the USA.

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I think his work is too stylish and elegant to not be featured elsewhere.

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If anyone can shed any light on this mystery illustrator, or if you have any more images of his work, then please let me know. The plot thickens ! Have a great weekend too.

Fishink on Instagram

June 25, 2015

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For those of you who may have missed the boat (relatively speaking!). I’ve ’embarked’ on a new Instagram page and have been pulling together illustrations, collages and surface pattern designs, many of which will be totally new to you. Here’s a few nature inspired ones.

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If you or a friend use Instagram, then please drop by, have a look, follow me or just leave a hello. It’s always nice to see a friendly face online!

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More textile designs to come, I really liked this blue bird , more retro design below. I can see it as some great gift-wrap.

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You can find more of my sketchbook doodles here.

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Or some stationery products and framed artwork here.

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All work is copyrighted. Do let me know your thoughts. I’m available for commissions and presently looking for new agents to represent my work too.

Mid Week Mix

June 24, 2015

Since about 2008, I’ve been collecting images from the internet that have caught my eye. Way back then, I wasn’t so diligent in keeping records as to where images came from, or who had painted, photographed, illustrated or indeed created the artwork in the image. So I apologise in advance for their lack of referencing, but to be honest, it was purely about seeing groups of imagery together, that for whatever reason, I enjoyed. As I have managed to amass quite a few of these ‘collaged sheets’, I thought I would share them with you, in the hope that they may also provide some inspiration to you the readers, from their shape, colour, texture or out and out randomness : )

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Do let me know your thoughts and which images catch your eye for whatever reason. Also I’d like to mention that I’ve recently started an Instagram page for Fishink Blog. The link is ( or you can click on the button on the right of my site. I am building up the collection every week, so if you lovely folk would like to follow me, or leave a comment or see more of my artwork, then please pop on over and check it out today.

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I’ll look forward to sharing more of my own illustration with you.

Tom McLaughlin Illustration and Cloud Spotting

June 22, 2015

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Tom McLaughlin studied illustration at Falmouth College of Arts, and later landed a job as the political cartoonist at The Western Morning News.  He spent 9 years happily caricaturing the good, the bad and the down-right ugly of politics and music. Although he had about 5 different deadlines looming, he very kindly spared some time and answered some questions, just for you guys. Because that’s just the kind guy he is : )

Which do you enjoy the most, the process of writing or illustrating a book ?

I can’t separate them. The pictures tell the story, the words paint a picture. In recent years I’ve become a lot more confident about my writing ability, I think that’s because illustrating had a 15 year head start on my writing.

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In 2006 he left the paper to become a freelance illustrator and stumbled into the world of animation when he won a bursary to direct his short animated film, The Girl With The Pink Shoes, as part of the Animated Exeter festival.

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Since then he has gone on to design and create a number of animated TV concepts with Honeycomb Animation, including The 99 Lives Of The Fuzzy Cat, which is being developed along with Molly Little Mysteries. Both projects have attracted interest from broadcasters at home and abroad. Tom has also worked as a designer for the animation studio Red Kite, and has devised a TV project called N.E.R.D.S with them, which is in the early stages of development. As well as creating TV shows, Tom is also working on the designs for a pre-school show which is currently in development with HIT Entertainment and Three Black Cats.

Do you keep sketchbooks of ideas and if so, do stories spark from those at all ? How important are sketchbooks to you in your work ?

I do keep sketch books, but I don’t doodle in them as much as I should. I have a terrible habit of losing them. Somewhere there are hundreds of sketch books with a few pages of scribbles in them. One day they’ll all turn up! I tend to write down ideas on my phone when I get them, I make written notes of visuals I see in my head. 

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On the books side, Tom illustrated Mark Sperring’s picture book for Puffin, Captain Buckleboots on the Naughty Step (2011) and other ‘Naughty Step’ titles. Simon & Schuster published his picture book The Diabolical Mr Tiddles in January 2012.

I’ve read that you are Dyslexic, do you feel that this may actually help you to look at illustrations and ideas from a different and slightly more ‘off-centre’ perspective ?

I do. For years it was a burden to me; I felt embarrassed about being dyslexic. It felt like words belonged to those who understood them. But now I think it helps. I think visually when I’m writing. I think about the mood of a story first, the pace of it, how it makes me feel. Then when I have that figured out, I add the words.

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Tom has been published both as a writer and an illustrator for a number of publishers, had his books translated across Europe and South America. In 2014 there appeared a new book called ‘ The Story Machine ‘ about Elliott, a boy who likes to find things. One day, he stumbles across a machine. At first, he can’t work out what the machine is for – it doesn’t beep or buzz like all his other machines and it doesn’t have an ON/OFF button. Then, quite by accident, Elliott makes the machine work. The machine makes letters! Elliott thinks it must be a story machine but, sadly, Elliott isn’t very good at letters and words. How can he make magical stories without them? But, wait, some of the letters look like pictures. Elliott is good at pictures and, as he discovers, pictures make stories.

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I love how the letters create the world around the central character. Clean lines and colours help the illustrations tell their story.

Apart from publishing, Tom has also spent time as a script writer and a character designer for several animation channels. His latest book which comes out in September this year is called ‘The Cloudspotter’.

The Cloudspotter doesn’t have many friends. He spends his time, all by himself, spotting not just clouds but adventures in the sky. This way, he doesn’t feel so alone. Then, one day, an unexpected visitor appears in his adventures and it throws everything up in the air. Could it be that two cloudspotters are better than one ?

Can you tell me a little about where your ideas for a new story starts from ?

I used to lie on the grass as a child and look at the clouds, I’d see shapes and adventures wherever I looked. Children should have their head in the clouds as much as possible.

Tom very kindly sent me some of his early ideas for the book.

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Before we get to see the real deal : )

Do you work mostly digitally or from drawings when constructing your illustrations ?

Both! I draw or ink away, then when I have the drawing I use a computer to move it around. Change the colour. I use lots of hand made textures, but I bring them all together on a computer. 

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What’s the nicest part of creating a new picture book ?

The blank piece of paper. Knowing that one day, that drawing, to that half a paragraph will turn into a book. That’s the best bit, sitting down with nothing and turning it into something new. 

And the worst part ?

There isn’t a worst part. Even when you’re up against a tight deadline, when you hit it, it’s a great feeling. Sorry if that sounds corny.

Which illustrators work do you most admire and why ?

Ronald Searle is my great hero. Gerald Scarfe too. I spent my early years as a political cartoonist.

Do you enjoy collaborating with other authors / illustrators or do you prefer to mould a book on your own ?

I love working with other authors. It’s always interesting to see how they work. I tend to illustrate other people’s work that’s very different to me, which makes a great change. I’ve never had anyone else illustrate my stories. That would feel really weird! I’m not sure I could do it!
When you’re the author and someone else is the illustrator, do you give them ideas as to how the illustrations might look or wait to see what images they construct before you add your thoughts to the ‘mix’ ?

It’s never happened to me. I know some authors work with illustrators, other publishers keep both of them apart. I’ve always found it helpful to have authors give me feedback.

Any plans for future books in the pipeline that you can tell us about ?

I’m halfway through my next novel with OUP, It’s called The Accidental Secret Agent. I’ve just started my next picture book for Bloomsbury. It’s about a boy who grows a planet. I can’t say any more than that! 

Thanks Tom for sharing your thoughts (and secrets) about your future books. I love the simplicity of your illustrations, the peaceful scenes of landscapes and wide skies, it certainly puts me in the right place to lie back and look for shapes in the clouds. Let’s not forget you don’t need to be a child to do this !

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Wonderful work, I can’t wait to grab a copy of the new book for myself.


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