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Karl Erik Iwar Mid century Ceramics

January 15, 2018

Karl Erik Iwar (1920-2006) studied at Upsala Ekeby and then in the early 1950’s he opened his own workshop. Here’s a selection of his animal based figures which caught my eye. Sadly I couldn’t discover any more about him or his work. His ceramics have such humour.

His giraffe is a firm favourite for me. I love the proportions.

Funky poodles and friendly lions in the mix too, he also made people, but I like his animals the best : )

Does anyone have any further info on Karl ?

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Gere Kavanaugh

January 8, 2018

Gere Kavanaugh’s varied output has dubbed her a designer of textiles, furniture, interiors, exhibitions, products, and graphics, as well as an artist and a colour consultant. She’s also channeled a love of letter forms into type design, creating custom typefaces for the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and Arklow Pottery in Ireland. “I love too many things. I’ll design anything I can get my hands on—just ask me,” says Gere, an active designer at 87 years old, who’s itching for a commission to design a destination tea room or redo the interiors of an airline. “They’re just so boring!” she remarks with her usual affable candor.

Gere’s prodigious and polymathic approach to design began in school. After studying fine arts at the Memphis College of Art, she went to Michigan to pursue a master’s degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art. There, she thrived in the tightly knit studio system, living and creating with fellow students working in ceramics, painting, textiles, graphics, and architecture. At the time, both the classroom and the workplace were male-dominated, but Gere was not to be impeded by this fact. She was one of the first women to go through Cranbrook’s design program, along with mid-20th-century legends Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, and Ruth Adler Schnee. Cranbrook’s staff included strong male and female teachers, and Gere was encouraged by designers such as Finnish ceramicist Maija Grotell, architect/industrial designer Ted Luderowski, and textile designer Marianne Strengell.

After Cranbrook, she was immediately hired at General Motors. Buoyed by a wave of postwar optimism, Gere remembers this time as heady and exciting for designers, especially those working in Detroit. In addition to GM, design-forward companies such as Ford, Chrysler, Herman Miller, Eero Saarinen, and Minoru Yamasaki were all located in Detroit, then the center of design in America. “There was a milieu—an atmosphere—[where you felt] that by creating better products, you were creating a better world,” she recalls.

Gere worked at GM’s styling studio, equivalent to a company’s in-house design department today. She designed displays, created model kitchens, and would even, at times, work on the interior design of private homes of GM’s top executives. But as part of the design architecture group, Gere’s main focus was designing exhibitions to showcase GM’s automobiles. For one memorable springtime show, she rented 90 canaries and housed them in a trio of 30-foot, floor-to-ceiling columns made of Swiss cotton netting, which hung like transparent birdcages beneath the dome of the Eero Saarinen-designed GM Technical Center. “There were also lights underneath and when you turned them on, the birds would sing.” Gere likes to incorporate animals in many of her concepts, drawing from memories of living across from the Memphis Zoo as a child.

Gere was part of GM’s “Damsels of Design,” the first group of women to work as professional designers in a U.S. corporation, a move championed by GM’s legendary design director Harley Earl. The “damsel” moniker concocted by the company’s public relations department didn’t always sit well with her, and she wasn’t interested in fueling the raging narrative about sexism and feminism. Her mindset is that of a humanist.

In 1960, after four years at GM, Gere accepted a design position at Victor Gruen’s—known as the father of the shopping mall—architecture firm, first in Detroit, then in Los Angeles. She flourished in Southern California’s creative climate and enjoyed great freedom in her new role, working on interiors of retail stores and shopping centers across the country. Following Gruen’s vision of recreating the atmosphere of European town centers in suburban America, also designing the first town clocks at shopping malls as public meeting places.

She also forged a lifelong friendship with her colleague Frank Gehry, a relationship that led her to venture out on her own. Gehry and his design partner, Greg Walsh, invited her to split the $76 per month rent for a bungalow in Santa Monica that was so small they used the bathtub as storage for their drawings. After moving to a bigger space years later, the Frank-Gere-Greg trifecta was joined by Deborah Sussman and Don Chadwick, best known as the co-creator of the iconic Herman Miller Aeron chair.

With the support of her colleagues and champions, the “unique, multi-dimensional design firm” Gere’s designs excelled. Her client roster has grown to include Pepsi, Hallmark, Neutrogena, Max Factor, and Isabel Scott Fabrics, who hired her to help set up an ikat silk weaving factory in South Korea.

Working with the patio furniture company Terra in the 1970s, she invented the now ubiquitous market umbrella, at times referred to as the “California umbrella,” a design she was unable to patent because it had “no unique patentable parts,” she explains. Frustrating dalliances with patents and copyrights throughout her career have informed her efforts to help Cranbrook establish an alumni product archive, a place for alums to donate a design or artwork that companies can reproduce and pay royalties directly to the school.

Reflecting on how design students have changed since she was in school, she observes, “We’re living in the most exciting age that we can ever live in and have more disciplines to draw upon to produce our work. But you have to be smart enough to figure out the best tool to produce what you’re thinking. And this the students are not doing today.” She’s talking about using one’s hands for more than clicking around a computer’s track pad.

For Gere, her hands are still the best creative tools she owns—as they’ve been since she started doodling as a child. “Working with your hands teaches you about your inside person,” she says, and at 87 she must know a little more than most of us.

Many thanks to Anne Quito for her biography on Gere, and the information used in today’s post.

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William Crosbie, Scottish Artist

January 2, 2018

Welcome to 2018 and a year ahead of new art and artists work to discover. So how was your new year ?

Sadly I’ve been out of sorts over the last 4 days with something far worse than ‘manflu’ and have been acting like someone twice my age with little to no energy, zero appetite and bouts of falling asleep throughout the day. Which really isn’t like me at all.

Hopefully, the fact that my rough, raspy, bellow of a cough is turning into a bunged up nose, means that its slowly working it’s way out of my system.. hurrah, let’s hope so. I think it’s fairly typical that when we stop working (like we do for Christmas), that’s when we are often struck down with some lurgy or other.. hey ho. or should I say ho ho ho !

Anyway enough about that and let’s get onto cheerier issues and more importantly, the first of this year’s posts and the wonderful work of William Crosbie.

William was born in Hankow, China, in 1915, of Scottish parents. The family returned to Glasgow in 1926, where Bill attended Glasgow Academy and, in 1932, entered Glasgow School of Art. On graduating in 1935, he was awarded the Haldane Traveling Scholarship and set off for Paris, where he gained admission to the studio of Fernand Leger and was able to study under the master; he described his time there as ”one of my proudest experiences”. When his scholarship ended Bill was offered a job with the Archaeological Institute’s expedition to the newly excavated Temple of the Bulls and Temple of Sakhara in Egypt, where he copied the friezes on the temple walls.

In 1939, Bill returned to Glasgow where he set up his studio at 12 Ruskin Lane, a studio originally designed for Sir David Cameron. During the war he served in the Merchant Navy, though he continued to produce paintings through these years. He was also at the centre of what he once described as ”a little local Renaissance”, which included luminaries such as Hugh MacDiarmid, J D Fergusson, James Bridie, T J Honeyman, and Basil Spence. Other ”regulars” at his studio were the refugee artists Jankel Adler and Josef Herman, as well as Duncan Macrae (whose portrait by Crosbie is now hanging in the People’s Palace).

After the war Bill made his London debut at the Reid and Lefevre gallery in 1946 in a joint exhibition with the English surrealist painter John Armstrong.

An important part of Crosbie’s work after the war were his mural paintings, largely commissioned through his association with architects like Basil Spence and Jack Coia. These included works for the ”Britain Can Make It Exhibition” in 1946 and the ”Festival of Britain” in 1951; there were also many murals and altarpieces for churches of all denominations. He was involved in book illustrations for the publisher William MacLellan and even designed the set of a ballet for George Chisholm.

He exhibited on a regular basis with the Annan Gallery in Glasgow from the war until the 1970s and in Edinburgh with Aitken Dott’s. From the 1980s he showed with Ewan Mundy in Glasgow. Academic recognition came in 1953 with his election as an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy and subsequently as an academician. In Glasgow he was a proud member of, and annual exhibitor at, the Royal Glasgow Institute, and he was also a former president and long-time member of the Glasgow Art Club.

There were major retrospective exhibitions of Crosbie’s work at Aitken Dott’s in 1980, Ewan Mundy’s, 1990, and Perth Museum and Art Gallery, 1990.

His paintings hang in all the major museums and galleries in Scotland as well as the Royal Collection and the British Museum in London, and in private collections throughout the United Kingdom and abroad.

Some of his work has a flavour of Ravilious about them, like these watercolours below.

William’s own words are perhaps his best epitaph: ”Devotion to the muse and the life it has led me has meant I have enjoyed a richness of texture not readily to hand to the majority of my fellow citizens.” He was one of the finest and most singular Scottish painters of the twentieth century. He passed away in 1999 at the age of 84.

If you are ever in Edinburgh, take a trip to the City Art Gallery’s Cafe to view their beautiful commissioned mural, painted by William. Thanks to Clare Henry for the photo.

If you have any suggestions for blog-posts for an artist who’s work you consider would fit with the style I tend to show on Fishink Blog (1950’s 60’s), then please let me know. I won’t guarantee to use them but It’s always interesting to see who gets nominated : )

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Christmas, New Year and Spiritcloth

December 30, 2017

Welcome to that period of calm between Christmas and New Year.  I hope you’ve all had a good rest and a chance to recharge those physical batteries!

I’ve just spent a few days in Cobham, Surrey with my partner’s mum who is German. Traditionally she celebrates Christmas on Christmas eve (i.e 24th) so we had a big roast and gave our presents then. The next day (i.e. Christmas day) we drove back home and I must say, it felt a little odd to have a ‘not so Christmassy’ day on what would be my usual day for celebrating Christmas. After recently re-watching the film’ Groundhog Day’ I was convinced I’d woken up with Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You Babe” all over again lol

I also hadn’t bought a Christmas tree this year, partially because I don’t really agree with the idea of growing trees just for the season and then throwing them out straight after and also because I knew that we would be away anyway. So on returning home, imagine my delight to discover that someone with a gardening business had left two beautiful trees on our road, obviously unsold and now surplus to their requirements. I didn’t hesitate to carry one indoors and decorate it… she’s a real beauty. I thought that fate had found a way to bring a Christmas sparkle to my 25th of December after all : )

Cobham was lovely and as Surrey is the county which has the most trees in the country, we made a real effort to see as many as we could.

We went out for numerous walks around Ockham Common, where we saw this Semaphore Tower. Which was once part of a chain of towers used to pass messages (using Semaphore flags from their flagpoles on the roof) between the Admiralty in Whitehall and the Royal Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth. Built in 1822, it is now the only restored surviving tower in a line of signalling stations that stretched from London to Portsmouth.

We also did some walking around Esher and Wisley Commons too.

Boo loved the mix of paths and ferny undergrowth to rummage about in and generally disguise herself with.

Always on potential squirrel alert… that is, when she’s not posing for photographs !

Plenty of beautiful silver birch trees, making the paths quite magical and almost mystical too.

Interesting range of fungi.

A rare shot of Boo in the car, not her favourite place or mode of transport.

Bows and stone engraved, leafy flourishes. Truly wonderful woods.

Going forward into 2018, means that my blog will be 8 years old, wow where does the time go ?

I thought it would be good to start with a retro look back to a lady from a post I did in 2010. Jude Hill is a wonderful, embroiderer who writes a blog called Spiritcloth, where she explains her thought processes with such detail and delicacy that you feel you are accompanying Jude on her personal textile journey. Her work is a real labour of love.

I had read her blog for some years prior to me starting my own and was inspired by her calm, serene manner and her strength and determination to explore her topics for embroidery (i.e. moons, cats, feathers, leaves etc). Here are a few images of her work, cats are a firm favourite.

Apart from explaining her techniques and reasons that her work heads off in certain directions, (things that some artist’s choose not to share with the online world), Jude also takes wonderful images of the world and changing seasons around her. Reading Spiritcloth, you are very much a part of her life and world and feel privileged to be allowed to linger there too.

Playing with the idea of moons, houses and tie-dye textures and shades.

Her ideas and tapestries grow and flourish.

Some are small scale and others are bed cover size !

Beautiful, dreamy and at times almost hypnotic.

I always find Jude’s work rich, engaging and intriguing.

Happy New Year to Jude and everyone that you find inspirational and who will accompany you on your artistic journey this year.

You can find more of Jude’s images on Flickr and Instagram and I’ll be back in early January.

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Catching up with Liverpool.

December 21, 2017

Welcome everyone to my final post of the year, and yes I’m still catching up with myself !

A couple of weeks ago I spent a very enjoyable day in Liverpool, revisiting a few old haunts and starting off with lunch in a great veggie restaurant called the Egg Cafe. It’s been there as long as I can remember from my days of visiting Liverpool as a child and the food and service is as good as ever. Sadly as the building is listed, (there’s no wheelchair or pram access in the form of a lift) and it’s on the top floor up a rather rickerty staircase…. but for me, it’s all part of the atmosphere. The food rewards are definitely worth the effort. You can find the Egg at 16 – 18 Newington, Liverpool, 
L1 4ED

Plenty of graffiti…. to feast your eyes on… just around the corner.

It was a great sunny day and the city looked wonderful.

I also discovered another favourite building of mine, the Bluecoat School, was celebrating it’s 300th birthday this year. Happy Birthday to you !

It’s changed over the years to add a whole new gallery wing. There was a great exhibition showing the work of artists who had trained there in years gone by.

I liked their styles and their names were unfamiliar.

I found this lovely watercolour online, that’s stored at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

I feel that there’s a real calm serenity to these paintings.

The garden looking splendid as ever.

In the evening we took a lovely mexican meal in Lucha Libre,  just off Bold Street and then onto the Playhouse to catch up with a friend and see ‘Around the World in 80 Days’. A great physical, theatre romp. All in all a fab day out.

Obviously since then the weather is a little more ‘frosty the snowman’. Here’s a few images to leave you with, and let’s catch up in a couple of weeks.

Still in Liverpool, a fabulous night out with the very Christmassy Kate Rusby.

And some outdoor explorations… Brrrrrr !

This was just the frost on the car windscreen… outside and inside ! Boo seemed to enjoy the snowy weather.

Very crunchy underfoot.

Looking very picturesque and Boo with two coats on !

Although when the day is done, and all the running has been run, she still loves her sleep.

Have a wonderful time everyone and thanks for all your support and comments throughout the year. Always much appreciated.

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Catching up. Vintage Home Show, The Whitworth, Manchester Science Festival.

December 18, 2017

Hello there, this year feels like it’s been running away with me, so much so, that I came across a whole collection of images from trips I had made and not even got around to sharing them with you. Apologies if they’re a little ‘been and gone’ but better late than never eh !

Let’s start with the vintage fair set in Victoria Baths, Manchester, at the back end of October. Apparently the Vintage Home Show is on three times a year now in Manchester alone, they also set up in Leeds and the Midlands. How popular it’s become and well worth checking out if you like your retro.

I loved this middle record cover for Tchaikovsky below.

All in all I was very reserved at the fair and even though I saw a couple of interesting pieces, I resisted buying anything I didn’t really need. Can you believe there was ever a board game called Libido ? Only in the sixties lol

Always interesting to see what other folk have found to display and sell.

And speaking of findings.. I looked into the artist who did the record sleeve above and tracked them down to a lady called Miriam Schottland. Initially I just found her name and the fact that she was a New York artist of book and record covers. Here’s some of her illustrations.

Her work is particularly attributed to classical records in the mid sixties.

Then I came across this photo of her standing by a James Bond Porche and my interest was again peaked.

This led me to the website for the American Society of Avaition Artists and this rather interesting blurb from 2013 …

Most of us drive automobiles and feel we are good drivers…but are we? This will be an experience not to be missed! Miriam Schottland is a New York commercial artist and civilian Air Force Art combat veteran who moved to Washington 20 years ago. She bought a Porche 911 as her first automobile, and joined the Porche Club to learn how to drive. Within a year she was teaching diplomats and military personnel counter-terrorism driving tactics, off-road, ice driving skills and accident avoidance. Miriam is the Chief Driving Instructor for the Washington DC metropolitan Audi, Cadillac, Corvette, Porche and Volvo Driving Clubs.”

Wow you go Miriam !!! Isn’t it amazing what you can discover once you start. I still love this sleeve too.

Ok side stepping done, I also went off to the Whitworth Art Gallery for a look around.

Lovely shaped leaves everywhere in the grounds. Some rather strange figures running about inside too.

There was a glittering display of work by Raqib Shaw. Not really my thing, but amazingly intricate work with stuck on sequins and diamantes. Very lavish and rather over the top.

It was like glistening snow everywhere.

My favourite exhibition today was a section of South Asian Modernists from between 1953-63.

This exhibition is on until April 15th next year.

There’s always some great discoveries at the Whitworth, still one of my favourite spaces of all time.

Finally today, is a quick visit to the Manchester Science Festival which was on around the same time.

A great opportunity to see inside the University of Salford building and even though the fair is focused mostly for children, it’s encouraging adults to engage their kids too. This is the view from the back of the building looking onto the Imperial War Museum and Salford Quays.

There was plenty of interactive games and activities, as well as a whole area showing retro and vintage computers like the Spectrum ZX, Commodore 64 and Amiga with games like Mario Brothers, PacMan and Lemmings ! A techie’s dream world lol

Other areas had focused events on animal welfare, fitness, fake news, green and environmental concerns and an interesting section for me asking people to draw their pain/fears and trying to understand what colour people perceive their pain to be. Obviously a lot of red seemed to be popular.

Finally a great section where there was a whole room converted into an underwater kingdom with sharks swimming on the walls. My first opportunity to try out a head console and visualise what it’s like to be under the sea, interacting with fish and divers. A great first for me and very popular with children and adults alike.

I hope you enjoyed sharing my trips today. Last of this years catch up travels later this week.

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Sale Arts Trail 2017

December 14, 2017

Last weekend, when the snow was trying to stick for the first time this winter in Manchester, myself and 40 other designer-makers took part in the Sale Arts Trail

CHRISTMAS BAZAAR 2017

I’ve pieced together a quick collection of a few of the folk who were exhibiting alongside me. Starting off with graphic designers Netty & Di, showing a range of buildings and bees. Next door, some beautiful seashore/rockpool ceramics from the talented Alasdair Nelson.

I was rather taken by this little Hare and in general by the beautifully designed/ hand printed work by Nell Smith.

Really enjoyed the work of Paul Browne,  particularly his seafaring inky sketches.

I’ve mentioned previously the stunning embroidered vegetables from Cabbages and Nettles.

Also another favourite is the work of Liliane Taylor, who uses recycled fabrics to create her colourful landscapes.

Wonderful constructions from (lucy Porter) or Lucy Elisabeth. Birds, bees and hanging baskets, all in wire.

Claire from Dunnknit Designs, had some amazing,extra chunky knits, made using Merino wool and some 2 metre knitting needles… I kid you not. They certainly looked very toasty and warm in this bitterly cold spell. I wonder if she does a range of men’s ponchos or better still, sleeping bags ; )

I’m always wow’d by Lisa Ellul‘s beautiful ceramics. Delicate, floral and wonderfully made.

Some local fine art illustration (above) from Liz’s Scribbles.

Beautiful, land and cloud-scapes from artist Jen Orpin.

Finally, the work of Sophie Nixon, who’s imagery and style I’ve loved from her early days of painting at Bankley Art Studios in Levenshulme.

This was my stall, and I’m hoping for the next show to have a range of ceramics to exhibit there too… watch this space : ) Many thanks to the organisers Jo and Sophie and all the other exhibitors and everyone who came, purchased, tweeted, instagramed, facebooked or generally just enjoyed the space alongside us all.

Finally, I traded one of my hand-drawn birds for this fun mobile Owl from talented artist and animator Lucy Gell. He’s already hanging around my studio, tooting quietly and generally making me smile, I’m hoping he’ll get along ok with the ceramic lions !

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