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Woollythistle on Instagram

May 20, 2019

I recently came across the beautiful work of ‘Woollythistle’ on Instagram. After scrolling through her artwork and liking pretty much everything I saw, I decided to contact the artist and find out a little more.

How did the name Woollythistle first come about ?

Hi Craig, I’m Tjitske (pronounced like ‘Chitska’), I’m from the Netherlands and live with my husband and twin sons in Kent, UK.

My screenname ‘Woollythistle’ came about before my art and instagram, it was my name on the knitting community site Ravelry. Woolly was a reference to my love of knitting and Thistle is what a spellchecker will suggest to change my unusual first name into. The Woolly Thistle is also a wildflower that grows mainly in southern England and as my art is mainly inspired by the natural world around me it still seems to fit my work so the name stuck.

Here’s a few early drawings from about 3 years ago.

Then moving on to Tjitske’s more recent work.

Do you think of yourself as an artist, illustrator or designer and did you train in the Arts at all ?

I’m a self taught artist/designer and only started drawing regularly about 3.5 years ago. I was always drawing and painting as a child and teenager and always loved art but life and work took me in other directions for a long time. It’s been really wonderful to rediscover this and it feels like I’m finally starting to be able to express the pictures that have always been in my head.

There appears to be some common themes of trees, birds, pattern and shape. Are you conscious of this or merely drawing the things you love and admire ?

My inspiration comes from looking at details in the natural world and abstracting from them and combining patterns with figurative elements. I love drawing animals and insects in their surroundings and especially like the shapes of trees and clouds and am always looking for new ways to draw them. 

How beautifully delicate are these everyone ?

Do you have any plans to turn your art into framed pictures, greeting cards etc as i’m sure there would be a great market for them ?

I have done some illustration for clients and am just starting to sell my art as prints as well. 

You have a beautiful style and I love the subtlety of the pencil work. You seem to notice details in the landscape that others sometimes miss. Do you sketch the images you depict first or are they mostly made up from memories of a scene or something you wanted to depict ?

I work mainly with pencils (graphite and colour pencils) and sometimes ink pens to create sketches and textures that I scan in and then assemble into compositions digitally. My inspiration comes from looking at details in the natural world and abstracting from them and combining patterns with figurative elements.

Textures, patterns, shapes and abstact elements all fuse themselves to add depth, colour and richness to these landscapes. I could see some of these pieces as rug designs or window blinds and homefurnishings.

How would you like to see your work to develop ?

In the future I would love to learn new skills like lino or wood block printing and find a good balance between hand made and digital art making.

They’re truly beautiful Tjitske and I wish you great things with your work going forward, do keep us posted and thanks again for sharing your art with us. I believe a new Etsy shop is in the making and in the meantime you can follow Woollythistle on Instagram here.

Kay Bojesen Wooden Classic Toys

May 13, 2019

Kay Bojesen (15 August 1886 – 28 August 1958) was a Danish silversmith and designer.

He is best known for creating wooden animals, especially his wooden monkey (above) which was exhibited at the Victoria and Albert museum in London in the 1950’s, and which today is considered a design classic.

Born on 15 August 1886 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Kay first trained to be a grocer, but in 1906 began working for Danish silversmith Georg Jensen. The Danish Museum of Art & Design describes his early work as being in an Art Nouveau style, likely due to Jensen’s influence.

In 1922, Kay began designing wooden toys, typically about six to ten inches tall, with moveable limbs. These included a teak and limba monkey (1951), an oak elephant, a bear made of oak and maple, a rocking horse of beech, a parrot, a dachshund, and toy soldiers of the Danish Royal Guard including a drummer, a private with rifle and a standard-bearer. In 1990, Danish design house Rosendahl bought the rights to the toys.

In 1931, he was one of the key founders of the design exhibition gallery and shop called “Den Permanente” (The Permanent), a collective which aimed to exhibit the best of Danish design. Kay also designed furniture for children, jewellery and housewares. A set of stainless steel cutlery he designed in 1938 won the Grand Prix at the Milan Triennial IX of 1951, after which he named the set “Grand Prix.” Today, the Grand Prix cutlery has been relaunched and is being manufactured by Kay Bojesen’s granddaughter, Susanne Bojesen Rosenqvist. The Grand Prix is known as the national cutlery of Denmark and is to be found in every Danish Embassy worldwide.


Kay Bojesen died August 28, 1958, at the age of 72. His shop in Copenhagen, which he founded in 1932, operated until the nineteen-eighties. Following his death it was continued by his widow Erna Bojesen until her death in 1986.

He was an honorary member of the National Association of Danish Arts and Crafts, and was recognized for his toys by the Danish National Committee of the OEMP (World Organisation for Early Childhood Education). I bet they feel great to play with, anyone have or had one of these growing up ?

Mid-Century Modern Graphic Design

May 7, 2019

The up side to ‘meeting’ like-minded folk through my blog, occurs when somebody gets in touch to ask me a question, or better still, to say that they like my blog or admire the artists that I also admire. This happened with Theo Inglis who contacted me back in August last year.. when his opening line went a little like this :-

” Hi Craig, I hope this email finds you well! I’m currently writing and designing a book about Mid-Century Modern graphic design and illustration, your blog keeps coming up in my research about some of the illustrators whose work I’m showing. It is such a fantastic collection. ”

Needless to say I was hooked from that moment and consequently we swopped numerous emails where I would recommend how he could contact an artist he wanted to feature or suggest one he perhaps didn’t know and Theo did the same for me. So now, some 8 months later, what should arrive at my door, but a preview copy of Theo’s book in all it’s glory. How kind and boy what a book!

Beautifully bound in a square format from Batsford and available here direct from Theo himself for a mere £20. With over 250 pages it’s definitely one of those volumes that will take a fair few days to really absorb and visually consume.  Theo gained an M.A. in Critical Writing In Art and Design from the Royal College of Art back in 2017, and he’s clearly not been slow to get moving with his project since then.

I really like the way that he’s created the chapters on Book Covers, Record Sleeves, Posters and Promotions, Magazine Covers, and Illustrated Books   with numerous illustrations to show examples in each section. It’s a visual smorgasborg!

Featuring work from many of my favourite artists Bill Charmatz, Abner Graboff, Jim Flora, Richard Erdoes, alongside the list that Fishinkblog readers will already be familiar with, illustrators such as Aliki, Bernice Myers and Helen Borten.

A beautiful book that every designer interested in Mid-Century artwork should have on their shelf.

When I asked Theo what his next plans for writing might be he remarked ” No concrete plans for another book, hoping to do something but might need a bit of a break haha. Maybe more on illustration as that chapter could have been a whole book by itself.”

Now that would be worth waiting for… watch this space !!

Macclesfield Treacle Market

April 29, 2019

Yesterday I met up with a few of my old school friends and we went to the Macclesfield Treacle Market.

What a wonderful treat for anyone interested in Crafts, design, art and amazing food. I chatted to quite a few of the stall holders who were very chatty and excited to be apart of this busy designer market. Artist Andrea Joseph creates wonderful portraits of whoever happens to want one.

Manchester based Illustrator Dick Vincent, has a wonderfully dry outlook on the world around him. I really like my new Hockney badge and card I got from his stall.

Stunning woven goods from Suzanne Horwell who helps to run a working farm in the Peak District and a company called The Royal Edge, making beautifull wool and wire products from her own sheeps fleeces.

There was a great (but a little meloncholic) range of dog prints and cards by artist Lauren Van Helmond, who also sells antiques and woven blankets.

Some crazy guitars made from Cigar boxes alongside antique and modern design stalls too.

I also couldn’t resist this wooden Rabbit from Chorlton based designer Bear Print Design.

fishinkblog 11959 Treacle Market 7

Town Criers and a local Choir, something for everyone. Thanks to my school pals for a grand day out too !

Next weekend I’m taking part in the Green Walk Open House event in Whalley Range, Manchester.

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.

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.