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Reiko Miyagi Storytelling Ceramics

April 22, 2019

Happy Easter everyone, I hope you are having a great break and time off. The UK has been amazingly warm and not what we’ve come to expect from Bank holiday weather at all so it’s a welcome change for us who are having a few days break. I’d like to introduce you to a wonderful ceramist today, who is also a skilled illustrator and artist.

Reiko Miyagi‘s decision to be a potter came while she attended college in Tokyo.

She says:- “I studied, contemporary art and museum curation. It wasn’t pottery related so after I graduated, I went to a ceramic school called Bunka-Gakuin, where there were great teachers who had studied under National Treasure-level potters. I was able to study a variety of outstanding styles and skills there. I also learned functional pottery making skills for two years and then took an apprenticeship in the pottery town of Mashiko.  Mashiko had a very open and diverse atmosphere compared to other traditional pottery towns in Japan, probably a result of the folk-art movement there in the 1920’s lead by Shoji Hamada.  I enjoyed interacting with many excellent artists who lived independent life styles in Mashiko, including quite a few people from overseas who came to learn pottery making. ”

Reiko works using white stoneware with free hand-painted black slip and sgraffito decoration. Sgraffito is the technique where a layer or numerous layers of glaze are painted onto the hardened clay, before being scratched away in a design or pattern to reveal the surface of the clay beneath. It can create quite crisp imagery. You can see this technique in progress below. Reiko says:- ” I use all kinds of scratch tools, mostly made from metal, such as a needle tool, scratch board tools and an exacto knife. It really takes them all to make my work but since I’m also a metalsmith I like to modify my tools. For example, I like my loop tool because I was able to customise the shape for my needs by forging and filing.

There ia an ancient Japanese belief that all beings and objects have a spirit and divinity within. Being born and raised in Japan, Reiko’s aesthetic sensibility was largely influenced by the traditional art and crafted items that reflected this philosophy. Using black slip on white stoneware, Reiko creates her own sense of inner spirit and with the moments of bliss she receives whlst working with the clay, she expresses her belief in idea that all beings are connected and the appreciation for our surroundings, make us what we are.

I love the folk art element to her work.

Her studio name “Tabula Rasa” comes from the latin expression meaning to start with a clean slate. ” I was first exposed to this expression when I bought the music CD, “Tabula Rasa” by Arvo Pärt thirty years ago. I chose it for my new studio name when I moved to the US because I was making a completely new start. I have interpreted the words in my own way which is, “every moment is unique and a chance for a fresh start,” just like in Zen philosophy. We are easily distracted by thoughts of the past or future rather than being fully present in the moment but when I make my art and am having a good flow, I truly enjoy the feeling of this moment of “bliss.”

“I draw a lot of animals, trees and flowers. My culture has an animistic philosophy that all beings and objects have a spirit or godess within them. Animals and flowers have complete beauty and it’s like having a universe within so I never get tired of drawing these “millions of gods.” I also draw a lot of musicians, too”

“The pieces below are some of my “Tree of Life” plates. It’s an image in use for a long, long time in many places. I’m very interested in the patterns and imagery that you can see in different areas of the world and throughout a variety of time periods. Some images have literally travelled through time, whilst some are very similar but it cannot be explained why they have this similarity without any communication between them. Perhaps it comes from something humans are born with. Either way, I love looking at images and patterns that appear in historic and tribal work that play with my imagination and make me question what the artists went through to express these images”

Birds are a common theme and stem from mythology, stories and folk imagery.

Beautiful shapes and couplings.

I love these little Owls, they definitely feel like pottery discovered from Greek mythology.

Cups and vases with great little feet.

Her whimsical character-driven ceramics, almost suggest stories and create strong emotive responces to their narratives.

Nowdays Reiko is living in North Carolina with her partner and you can follow her work on her Instagram account over @studiotabularasa.

Happy Holidays.

Vanessa Lubach Cutting the Countryside

April 15, 2019

Artist Vanessa Lubach studied Illustration at Brighton, graduating in 1990 and has been illustrating, printmaking and painting ever since.

She has three children, four cats and a chicken called Pumpkin. Living in Norfolk, her work, (which is mostly taken from observational drawings), is a mix of what appears to me to be, ‘The Good Life’ and a tribute to the beauty of the landscape and countryside that surrounds her.

Her cats often appear as the subject matter in her lino cuts, and with so many willing (or unwilling) models around, then why not !

She also has a passion for beautiful chickens and hens.

Company Elite Tins have a wide range of her work on their storage containers.

Vanessa shows her love and understanding for nature in these beautiful scenes.

Her work is multilayered and intricately carved into lino, sometimes using as many as 14 colours !

She has also had her work featured on greeting cards and book jackets.

Through images on Vanessa’s instagram account, we can see how her beautiful work develops, step by step.

This process demands a steady hand, patience and the skills of a craftsperson, artist and designer all in one.

You can only start to appreciate how much detail goes into each linocut.

Of course the colours Vanessa selects also have to blend together well to create such a pleasing end result.

Whether its the countryside or the sea.

She has also been featured in the 2012 National BP Portrait awards with her painting ‘Rosie and Pumpkin’ (below, top right).

I bought a selection of postcards from her shop on Etsy and you can also treat yourself to a limited edition print here too.

One of my favourites being this tiny lino cut for a Henry Moore sculpture, which is just so beautiful and serene with the light shining through the trees.

Those of you who visit Fishink blog regularly might recall that I also featured Vanessa’s husband here back in 2017. If not you can visit Peter’s work here.

You can follow more glimpses of Vanessa’s life through her Instagram account here, and do pop over to here etsy shop here and make a purchase too.

Thanks Vanessa for letting me show your wonderful creativity here in all its colourful delight.

The Green Walk Arts and Crafts Weekend Open House 2019

April 8, 2019

Last year you might recall that I visited the Green Walk Open House event in Whalley Range, Manchester. This year I’m very excited to be taking part.

It’s a beautiful setting in a cul-de-sac of very artistic houses which open their doors to the public and show approximately 60 different designer-makers work over two days, which this year is May 4th and 5th (Sat and Sun) open from 12 noon until 6pm both days.

I’ll be in House no 3, Green Walk, off Wood Road, Whalley Range, Manchester, M169RE. With a range of my ceramics and illustrations. There will be food from Tibetan Kitchen and music on the green itself, so do put the date in your diary and pop by to say hello. This was the scene on the green last year.

I will be exhibiting some new Fishink Ceramics and illustrations like these. Brooches, badges, wall hangings, wall art etc.

Everything is handmade and original. Do spread the word around your friends in Manchester and if you can’t make it on that weekend but would like to make a purchase, please just drop me a line craig @ Fishink . co . uk Look forward to hearing from you soon.  Thanks Craig

There’s a link to their facebook page here.

A Harry Potter Book and early film inspiation

April 1, 2019

For all fellow Potter fans out there, I came across a book last week by Titan Books called ‘The Art of Harry Potter’ (apprently originally released November 2017!).  It should have been selling for around £50, but instead was on offer in Asda for just £20. Unfortunately (for me), It wasn’t as interesting as it could have been. I had imagined a book showing pictures from the sets and imagery from the films themselves, but this was other people’s imagination and artwork inspired by the Harry Potter films. Some great illustrations non the less and a beautifully glossy publication too. Definitely one for the hardened fans.

Magical beasts and baddies.

Dragons and dramatic places.

Other types of Dobby, the house Elf.

Beautiful scenes and settings.

Dark drama too.

Evocative work.

I came across this page by page walk through here on youtube, for those of you who want to see more. Happy viewing.

Whilst in Edinburgh the other week, I discovered this lovely find for £3 in a charity shop. Illustrated by Don Bolognese and dated 1967, it’s full of wonderful creatures that J.K. Rowling could have drawn upon for her Harry Potter Books.

I think these quick sketches show such expressive characters.

All kinds of weird and wonderful monsters.

From many different parts of the world.

The wonderful Hippogriff (above) and Griffin (below) are at least two characters from the HP books.

Each of these monsters have a name, a place they derive from and an explanation detailing what scary deeds they do.

The donkey and rabbit illustrations are amongst my favourites.

Fishink’s early influences and a Vintage Fair

March 25, 2019

From time to time I have mentioned the strange, chance happenings, that lead me to or from, writing a blog post. Today was one of those.

I’m sitting researching a classic Danish designer who made wooden toys in the 1960’s.  His work reminded me of some little figures (above) that I wrongly remembered as a child as being Gnomes but were actually Vikings, that I’d see sitting on my grandparent’s sideboard when I was a small child.

It made me think about my grandparent’s house and the kind of Ercol or G-plan style furniture and objects that surrounded them. My Grandfather was a tall, broad man who’s hands were that of a giant (at least four times the size of mine) and who could turn his own hands to anything, being particularly skilled at making things out of wood. He had a tiny shed in the back yard and I used to wander in and watch him at his work bench, marvelling at all his tools lined up neatly hanging on the walls. Turning the handle of his sanding-grinding-stone just to hear the noise of it revving up as it span around with my nose full of the smells of oils, tools and wood.

In his spare time my Grandfather would make nail and thread pictures and intricate wooden carts to be pulled by the ceramic shire horses he admired. My Grandmother was skilled with fabrics and would spend time sewing clothes or making rag or latchhook rugs, very similar to those pictured below. They both had other professions but enjoyed making new things for their home and gifts for the homes of their children and friends too.

Thinking about these things, it suddenly struck me that, their house and the items that they made / collected over the years, were the very things that had formed my interest and fascination with fifties and sixties objects. They were not only inspirational themselves, but were the very crafts people and artists that had helped influence the designer-maker I am today.

They were kind people, warm, generous with their time and would help anyone at the smallest request. They gave my parents and my aunt and uncle respite at the weekends by shipping my brother and I and four cousins away to their small caravan in Wales. How we all fitted in I don’t remember, but nothing ever seemed too much trouble or was ever a problem.

Thinking about their now vintage home, I suddenly thought that the Manchester Vintage Home Show was usually on around this time of year, I googled it and lo and behold, I discovered it was about to start opening it’s doors in about 15 minutes time !!! So of course I had to go.

I’ve covered this show for a few years now. I can’t explain why, but there’s something warm and reassuring about the fair that makes me think of my grandparents and that close association sits comfortably within me. It’s the perfect venue too… Victoria Baths.

Seeing this plate from the Homemaker range reminded me that we used to eat from these as a child, again I didn’t realise that Woolworths used to sell them. Another give away as to why I like this style of design today.

Given the choice (and money) I would totally live in a sixties styled home today. Look at that furniture, warm and rounded, it’s so far away from the angular, hi-gloss kitchens that people like today. Who remembers Observer books ?

Very tempted by this little proud chap on a seventies plate too.

Of course there’s good and not so good pieces there, but on the whole most items are authentic and a curiosity if not a joy to behold.

Hornsea Pottery.

John Clappison fish mug here and Squound had a lovely array of coloured glassware and lamps.

This compact-case, or shell-like seat made me smile, not my taste but I could see someone totally falling for it.

Lots of great fish ceramics, and some blue and red ladies adding some classic style to the day.

Another tempt, this magnificent man in his flying machine.. with dog riding the tail seat.

I’ve seen how this fair has grown and grown in popularity, a fabulous event.

What do you recall from your parents or grandparents homes that you enjoyed ?

Ladislav Sutnar Graphic Input

March 18, 2019

Ladislav Sutnar was born in 1897 in Plezn, Czechoslovakia. A Renaissance man, like many in his era, his activities were multidisciplinary and he studied painting at the School of Applied Arts in Prague, architecture at Charles University, and mathematics at the Czech Technical University concurrently.

This silkscreen print was published as a promotional kit for the Build the Town building block set Sutnar designed between 1940 and 1943 while living in the U.S. This print is 1 of only 2 promotional materials Ladislav produced for the modern toy design market.

Starting in 1924, Ladislav designed toys consisting of simple geometric structures of animals and puppets.

He attempted to introduce modern aesthetics into children’s toys by developing a building kit that consisted of sawtooth roofs, cones, and pieces in the colors of red, blue, and white (this remained a prototype).

The 1960s proved to be a difficult time for the designer as he turned to publishing Strip Street (1963). It was an album of 12 erotic silk-screen prints. He organized two New York gallery exhibitions of his nudes, In Pursuit of Venus (1966) and Venus: Joy-Art (1969). These works outside of his norm still included his hierarchical design approach as a father of modern information design. The term “posters without words” refers to Ladislav’s distinct poster-like design that characterizes the individual prints of this series.

His racy Strip Street compilation has relatively been forgotten. He wrote an essay to accompany these works. “In these disturbed times of cool and alienated society,” he wrote, “if the paintings can inject the feeling, the mission is accomplished.” An influence of Pop is notable despite Sutnar’s dislike of Pop and Pop Art. His paintings are reproduced today in a 392-page monograph.

Ladislav Sutnar is most notably a pioneer in the field of information design. He worked with many media including print, painting, products and interior design.

He went to school to learn how to make utensils, pots and other ceramic works. In 1923, he became the professor of design at the State School of Graphic Arts in Prague, and was later made its director. At the same time he worked as a designer at other firms too. Ladislav also did much work in exhibition design for a number of World Fairs, including the one in 1939 located in New York where he was to design the Czech pavilion. The exhibition ended up being cancelled due to the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia. Still, his work brought him to America, where he began a new chapter in his life.

Ladislav transitioned from industrial designer to graphic designer during his time in the States. He responded to the chaotic nature that he saw in American graphic design, starting his influence in information design. His work brought simplicity to the complex. His personal philosophy on visual design was that it should not “sink down” to the level of public taste, but rather inspire the general public to improvement and progress. He believed designers are called to perform to their fullest capacity and should “think first, work later.”

He placed a heavy emphasis on precision and clarity in information display, and on simplifying the complex.

His style reflected this philosophy in many ways, using grids and a strict layout, as well as a limited color palette and choice of typeface. He often used geometric form to guide layout, and also asymmetrical compositions to draw visual interest. Ladislav was also greatly inspired by movements such as Modernism, Bauhaus, and De Stijl. He used vivid colors, especially with his penchant for orange. A distinguishing feature of his work is the use of punctuation symbols to organize information.

After settling in America, Ladislav became the art director at F.W. Dodge’s Sweet’s Catalog Service in 1941 until 1960. His contributions here are seen in use even today. To replace the messy design that originally characterized Sweet’s pages, he created business-friendly templates and layouts for clarity of vast amounts of information and easy consumption by the general viewer. He contributed graphic systems to several companies and manufactured items. Also among his innovations was the use of double page spreads as opposed to only single pages. He was also the one to put parentheses around the area code in the American telephone numbering system.

Ladislav’s contributions to the practice of information design are still applied to graphic design today. The components of web design and navigation today can be accredited to his methodical Modern-style graphics, which are widely borrowed and applied. His designs transformed the face of business data, organizing massive amounts of information into not only comprehendible but visually interesting displays.

Though far from a household name, Ladislav Sutnar is a giant in the history of design. A Czech American who had a prolific career in his native Czechoslovakia in the 1920s and ‘30s and subsequently in the United States. He was an innovator in graphics, product design, exhibition design, and information design—a forerunner of web design. He is particularly known for his work in typography, including the innovation of adding parentheses around area codes in phone numbers, a seemingly small change that makes long strings of digits easier to read and remember.


Fishink In Edinburgh Part 2

March 11, 2019

Welcome back to part two of my recent travels to Edinburgh. I was lucky to see two more exhibitions whilst here. The first features the photography of Robert Blomfield and is on at the City Art Gallery until March the 17th, the end of this week.

Robert Blomfield practised street photography across the UK from the 1950s to the 1970s, beginning in Edinburgh, where he studied medicine. He adopted an unobtrusive fly-on-the-wall approach, seeking interesting or amusing scenes in the rapidly changing post-war period. An engaging manner and healthy disrespect for authority allowed him to get close to a myriad of subjects, taking photographs that are in turn tender, bold and humorous.

A subsequent medical career meant that Blomfield’s vast collection of striking images – which carry echoes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Vivian Maier – remained largely unseen, until a stroke forced him to put down his camera in 1999. Timed to coincide with his 80th birthday, this first large-scale display of his photographs will provide an opportunity for Blomfield to receive the recognition he rightly deserves.

The exhibition displays a selection of this stunning private archive, documenting the dramatic shifts taking place in Scotland’s urban landscape during the 1960s. It includes candid portraits and group shots, children playing amongst crumbling tenements, public gatherings, student life and evolving architecture, offering a rare opportunity to reappraise our understanding of Scottish culture at that time.

If you like Robert’s work, you may also wish to view my post about Vivian Maier.

Such a fascinating insight into life in Edinburgh in the mid sixties.

The second exhibition, I was very lucky to catch before it finished on Feb 23rd at the Scottish Gallery was Mark Hearld’s solo exhibition called “Studio Life”.

A wonderful collection of his paint and collage work.

Wonderful to see such an array of themes and sizes. Painted ceramics too.

It’s hard to appreciate the layering and texture that goes into Mark’s work without seeing it close up.

He still appears to be passionate about the birdlife he sees around him.

A friendly fox.

And a possible whippet too, Boo will be pleased.

More ceramics.

And a few close ups of details.

Great to see some of St Judes Fabrics with Mark’s designs in the exhibition too.

I felt very lucky to see Mark’s show and I always love the Scottish Gallery too, such a great space and friendly staff too.

I think my dog Boo enjoyed her first Scottish trip too. Hilltops, beaches and woodland walks, she had them all.

It was a fab time to visit with all the spring flowers in bloom too. Thank you Edinburgh, see you again soon.