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Fishink at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair 2016 Part 1

October 17, 2016


Wow has it been a year already since the last Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair , I don’t know where the time goes, but I do know where the beautiful designers hang out… read on to discover for yourselves : )

As usual I try to cover the new designers I come across with work that catches my eye for one reason or another.  One such person was ceramist Jasmine Simpson with a new range of lions, dogs and birds.


I loved her curled up watercoloured fox (below) and her anxious lions and slightly starey looking dogs, best of all.


Melissa Montague had an interesting range of metallic objects, some functional, some decorative.


I watched Rhian Malin patiently draw out the design in pencil onto her pot, before creating these intricate designs with blue glaze, all with such a steady hand. Simplistic, stylish and sophisticated. The stand looked great.


More ornate and beautifully stylish jewellery from fresh graduate Lauren Bell Brown. Based on the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, many pieces hold a combination of the dark and light sides of the tale. Hidden hearts and skulls, lie within the pieces and of course the crowns and mirrors remind us who is the fairest jewellery designer of them all ! ; )


I have previously included work by the talented mixed media, papier-mache artist Anya Keeley but I find I’m always drawn to her stand to see what’s new and more importantly ‘Who’ is new!  This year Olaf caught my eye and made me smile… so thanks to Anya and Olaf for that.




I spotted a few linear pieces from jeweller Holly Higgins. Inspired from research on pattern and line drawings Holly’s work has moved into silver 3-d form.


Finally in this post was fanatical paper dog maker Liam Hopkins trading as Lazerian. Liam has created a limited edition range of this fine looking hound in many differently designed ‘coats’ . They looked amazing all together.


More to come in next monday’s post. Tell me which work you like the best and why. Watch this space.







Alison Brookes Talented textile designer

October 10, 2016

I’m delighted to give my blog space over to a talented designer for this week’s post. I met our guest artist, Alison Brookes many years ago when recruiting freelance designers to work for different sectors of the textile/ interiors and gift-ware markets. I have always been impressed by her professionalism, organisational skills and of course her beautiful textile design work. We recently rediscovered one another through social media, and it’s been great catching up on the time in between. So without further ado.. Ali please take it away!

Hello! I’m Ali, and I’m a Surface Pattern Designer from Northamptonshire, England.


I’m a curious person with the habits of a magpie, and I like nothing more than a colourful image. I loved drawing as a child, but I probably loved fabric more. There is something about patterned fabric that sets my heart a flutter. So it wasn’t a surprise to my family that I followed my heart and studied for a degree in Textile Design at Derby University in the mid to late 90s.


I loved the freedom that my degree offered and the time to develop into a designer. It allowed me to experiment, take risks and think about things in a different way.  This approach is probably why when I left university I had developed a range of styles. I love combining various media and techniques: collage, machine embroidery and painting.

The design influences forged at university have stayed with me throughout my design career. I have collected new ones along the way, but I’m still a big fan of 50’s design, particularly anything by Lucienne Day. I still admire Paul Klee, Rothko and Tricia Guild for their use of colour.  Also, I was fascinated by how Annora Spence and Mary Fedden painted and how they composed their images. Today, I love how social media sites like Pinterest have opened up instant avenues of inspiration and the discovery of new designers and artists that would have taken years to find otherwise.


After university, I started working at a local college, teaching visual studies to interior design students. At the same time, I got my first freelancing gig through Craig.  He was working for a company that had started up a freelance division, and through him, I sold my work to the stationery industry, notably Paper Rose, and interior companies. One memorable project was designing a child’s duvet cover that had to be hand-painted to 100% size. (It was big!)


My next job was working in a studio at a company that produced transfers for the glass and ceramic industries. Here I worked with some of the industries oldest and greatest companies such as Royal Worcester and Denby. I learnt a lot about screen-printing, which has influenced my design process today. I also gained an appreciation of ceramics and their role in history.


The next phase of my life was being a full time mother to my three children, and my design career was put on hold. However, I never stopped looking for inspiration, and I took up knitting to fulfill the creative gap left by leaving my career – I knitted a lot of socks when my kids were small, and my children have an appreciation for a good yarn shop! I found that knitting could be put down at a moments notice to attend to the myriad needs of numerous small children, whereas drawing cannot.

However, it was during this time that I found an unexpected path that has led me to where I’m today. I never thought I could return to my design career and fit it into family life. Teaching was something I had always considered, and I started working at a Montessori nursery school where my son attended.  Soon I had taken over the responsibility of the creative areas in the nursery. I love how young children are spontaneous, and nothing is a problem when it comes to creativity.  Then came a stint at a local secondary school in their art faculty, which morphed into an artist-in-residency position. There is something intoxicating about the smell of an art room, and I knew as I started working with these teenagers that I still wanted to design. I loved helping and teaching the students, but I didn’t want to become a full-time teacher, I wanted to be at the end where the kids were: creating.

The industry that I had left was now unrecognizable from the one I had previously known. Even the job title had changed! Was I a textile designer or a surface pattern designer? I opted for the latter. In the age of digital design, my patterns could be reproduced on any surface, not just fabric. In the relatively short time, I had been absent the world had changed. Computers, the Internet, social media, and selling sites such as Esty had made their appearance.  I had little computer experience and zero social media know-how, and what was a Wacom tablet for heaven’s sake. I didn’t even have a Facebook account until February of this year – I know, I joined the party late!

I embraced these changes and used the Internet to search for an answer to how I was going to update my skills. I joined Skillshare and did a few online courses such as Jessica Swift’s Pattern Camp and one of Rachael Taylor’s The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design courses, found my ‘tribe’ on Facebook, and started showing my work on Instagram. I still begin a project by drawing, but I love using the computer to put everything together into a pattern. I like the speedy nature a computer gives to changing layouts and colour choices – the possibilities are endless. I love designing in repeat. It’s like doing a complicated puzzle, and I relish the challenge of trying to fit everything together in a pleasing and harmonious way.


One of my favourite parts of the design process is the initial brainstorming of ideas, and I have folders stuffed full of ideas for future projects, which I update regularly. I draw every day and squirrel everything away in sketchbooks and envelopes, including any mistakes, as I never know when they might come in handy. I often find the unexpected in the mundane. At the moment, I have a fascination with the rear brake lights of cars. I’ve not quite reached the design stage yet, as gleaning the images are quite tricky when you’re driving. My children have got used to me shouting, “Quick! Pass me my phone,” when we are sitting in traffic. Or, “Take a picture of that car in front!”

So what’s next? My new website will be online shortly, and I will be approaching agents with the intention of establishing new working relationships. Continuing to discover the complexities of Illustrator and Photoshop every day and building up collections of patterns is an ongoing process, and at some point, I will be working on some one-off collage pieces.  Oh, and I’m moving from working at the kitchen table and into my studio, aka the garden shed, because everybody has got fed up with finding bits of paper in their dinner !

Many thanks to Ali for agreeing to treat us all to a viewing of her wonderful work (readers I’m sure you’ll agree ). Please leave her your thoughts below and I want to wish her the best of luck for the design path that lies ahead. Do keep us posted Ali.

You can check out more of Ali’s beautiful work on her Facebook Page or over on Instagram and don’t forget to follow her too.








Esso. Put a Tiger in your tank !

October 3, 2016


For those of you who saw and liked my post about oil company Shell …

You can be sure of Shell

Here’s a little about one of their competitors … Esso. The company began in 1880 in London, Ontario, when 16 refiners created the Imperial Oil Company. In 1898 Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon Mobil Corporation) acquired a majority interest in Imperial. In the 1900’s, Standard Oil of New Jersey started marketing its products under the brand name ‘Esso’, which is the phonetic pronunciation of the initials ‘S’ and ‘O’ in Standard Oil. Application for the Esso trademark was filed in 1923 and the Esso oval was introduced in the 1930’s as a sign of quality and a symbol of service. Since then, the Esso name and oval have been used continuously in Canada and over 50 other countries.


In 1936, Esso sponsored the first national radio broadcast of an National Hockey League (NHL) game. In 1940, Esso sponsored overseas transmissions of hockey games for Canadians serving in WWII. By 1950, three million Canadians were listening to Esso hockey broadcasts each week. In 1952, Esso expanded its sponsorship to include television broadcasts.

As usual with these successful brands, alongside the campaigns… comes wonderful illustration, visuals and ideas.


As early as the 1930’s, ‘motoring’ was becoming ever more popular. In 1935, Imperial produced free road maps for customers and also gave out free colouring books to keep kids entertained on road trips. Today, thousands of Esso customers use the online Fuel Finder to help them on their journeys.


The tiger first appeared as a mascot for the Esso brand in Norway around the turn of the 20th century. He surfaced again in the 1950’s, when Esso started using it to represent quality and power. Thanks to the now famous advertising phrase, “Put a tiger in your tank”, the Esso tiger became extremely popular in Canada in the 1960’s and was featured in numerous ads, jingles, and TV commercials. After a 27-year hiatus, the Esso tiger once again earned his stripes in the 1990’s.



Whilst some of us Brits link the tiger with Kellogs and their Frosties advertising.


I’m not certain (time-wise) where the friendly oil drop came from but it’s another winner in my eyes.


As a company with such a close association with the tiger, Imperial, together with our parent company, Exxon Mobil Corporation, was instrumental in establishing the Save The Tiger Fund in 1995. Today, Exxon Mobil Corporation contributes $1 million a year to help conserve Asia’s remaining wild tigers.

Another trip down memory lane for some, and a totally new experience for others, let me know which it was for you.


Bernice Myers Talented mid-century Illustrator of children’s books

September 26, 2016

I’d like to refresh your eyes with a little from an old favourite Bernice Myers. Also…

Bernice Myers Illustrations from a working Illustrator.

Anyone familiar with the children’s books illustrated by the mid century artist Bernice Myers like The Four Musicians, Bunny Button etc , may not have seen her science based ‘ All Around ‘ series of books. This is her more usual style.

I discovered her other style whilst browsing on Flickr and started collecting the range of books she illustrated with the text supplied by Tillie S Pine and Joseph Levine. Here’s a few of the titles I have already. I love their simple style and colourful, humourous characters. Most of the books feature two colours and black to show off the fun images.

I’ve taken some images from each of the books for your to marvel at. Starting with Friction All Around.

Electricity All Around.

Air All Around.

Sounds and Magnets All Around.

Heat All Around.

Gravity All Around.

Water All Around.

Light All Around.

A superb collection of quirky and informative illustrations, that I’m sure would captivate children and adults alike even today.

I did get in touch with Bernice who told me that she was flattered to be featured on my blog. How great is that !! She also mentioned that the work you see above, helped her to pass a test for a Ford Foundation Scholarship, where she learnt enough to go for a specially created college degree. Some 60 books later and she’s still working !

Superb work Bernice, I still have a couple of books in the series to go for the set but I’m getting there.

What’s new Pussycat ?

September 19, 2016

There’s quite a few ‘must see’ exhibitions already on, or coming up in the next few weeks. Whether I’ll get to many is another matter. as I’m frantically busy doing a new course at a local university for the next few weekends, but if anyone else does make it to any of the following, be sure to give me a rundown : )

Let’s start with something that has been on since early July and that’s the John Moores Painting Prize 2016 which is on in Liverpool at the beautiful Walker Art Gallery, 9th July until 27th November. Thanks to my good friend Gill, who took some photos when she went recently, so we could share a flavour of it.


Does anyone else think of Hockney when they see these reclining figures ?


I love the floating boats here.

Hopping further north to Edinburgh, to the Scottish Gallery‘s Exhibition of Michael McVeigh’s whimsical work. Perhaps my northern friends will be popping into that one. Eh Rick, Carys, Mel, Eileen and Jess ?


I’m thinking Grandma Moses, Alfred Wallis and a tiny smattering of Chagall here : )



A great range of work here, from drawings, to etchings and paintings.

Next we move closer to home and what I’m hoping will be a beautiful collection of the work of

Rena Gardiner A lifetime spent Illustrating the English Landscape

Rena Gardiner Artist and Printmaker

This is on at Manchester Metropolitan University 12th September until 18th November. Well worth a gander.


Finally for today there’s the beautiful Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair taking place between 7th and 9th October 2016. It’s here again at the end of Quay Street, a few meters from the junction with Gartside Street, accessible from Deansgate in Manchester city centre. More amazing design work to come !

These alone from Deva Booth would be reason enough to go lol. Enjoy you lucky people. Apologies to all our overseas readers to tempt you in such a way : )







Fishink in Manchester. From Fashion to Fire station.

September 12, 2016

Hello everyone, welcome to Monday once again. I am seriously questioning where the week goes in between my blog postings. Am I just getting older or is time literally flying by these days lol ? Does anyone else feel the same ? I completed a commission piece for a client in the week…. this was the basic layout for it.


I had a chance to visit some exhibitions and places around Manchester over the last weekend, that I had been meaning to get to for quite some time. I seized the opportunity.  First stop was Manchester Art Gallery and three exhibitions. The first was called ‘Fashion and Freedom’ and looked at the change in women’s fashion from pre-war to afterwards. Looking at how styles had altered and also some modern designers responses to a brief using Restriction & Release as a starting point.


Some pretty bizarre outfits I must admit, but also some clever use of ideas in terms of restriction and freedom, like in these two outfits below, top left .


Boris Nzebo who was born in Gabon, central Africa in 1979, uses large canvasses to tell stories from daily life in the city of Douala, Cameroon, where he now resides. He explores themes of urban life and identity and uses bright colours, influenced by the posters he used to see in beauty/ hair parlours when he was small. Made me think of Bowie and Grayson Perry all at once.



There is always a top collection of children’s books in the gallery bookshop to tempt one’s pocket.


I wonder why this one caught my eye : )


The real ‘must see’, free exhibition is the 100 years of Vogue photos and covers, on show until October 30th. A fascinating social, photographic commentary on changing themes, styles and trends. Beautiful, captivating shots by the likes of Lee Miller, Horst, Bruce Weber, David Bailey and

Norman Parkinson . Style in Fashion Photography

And if you need a break, there’s always some great food and rest spaces to be found in the cafe, for when the art gets too much lol.


Worth popping in to see the Japanese Design exhibition too. I always admired the work of Comme des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake from my early days studying Fashion design at Ravensbourne.



Intricate and stylish at the same time.


More clever folding and constructions.



Further along the road from the Art Gallery is the hidden away Portico Gallery, with a collaborative exhibition between and artist and a sculptor. Even though it’s only a small space and tiny exhibition, the pieces did make an impression and created some intrigue by making you question their meaning, purpose and point of origin.



Finally on the Sunday there was a craft fair being held at the old Fire Station on London Road. A great opportunity to see, yet more art and also view the insides of this great space before it’s converted into a hotel and restaurant.


Whole communities used to live on site, in the dwelling spaces under where the billboards are in this photo below. Back in the days when the fire engines were just water carts, and the horse power to get to the fire, wasn’t an engine at all, but simply a horse ! What a wonderful space.


Some very interesting, quality designers and makers there.


Flying paper birds and pop art.


I just had to capture Joe& Co’s stand, as it looked fantastic against the peeling, painted blue of the engine shelter.


Something for everyone, food and live music too.


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Good old Manchester, always plenty of new things to see, I forget how lucky I am to have it all on my doorstep. I must make an effort to go there more often : )




Charles Keeping Illustrating paintbox picture books

September 5, 2016

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Charles Keeping (1924-1988) an illustrator and lithographer, produced dynamic and emotive images. Born in Lambeth, East London, his secure and happy upbringing had an unusually important effect in shaping both the man and the artist. Entering a working class family, there was no obvious route for Charles to get into art school. He spent his childhood in a house that overlooked an active stable yard, and became a frequent and accurate observer of horses and carts. He attended the Frank Bryant School for Boys, in Kennington, leaving at the age of 14 to become apprentice to a printer.

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He joined the Royal Navy Army at the age of 18, and fought in the Second World War, serving as a wireless operator.  He received a head wound which he became convinced would make him become a Jekyll and Hyde figure, but after being institutionalised, he recovered.  Determined to pursue his love of drawing, he applied several times to study art at the Regent Street Polytechnic, but was unable to get a grant.  He kept on applying, supporting himself by reading gas meters, and continuing drawing in the evenings.  It was at the Regent Street Polytechnic (1946-52), where he met the designer and illustrator Renate Meyer, whom he later married. His books explore amazing roads into colour and texture, whilst dealing with solitary, often lonely figures in their tiny worlds.

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He took various jobs, including cartoonist on the Daily Herald, before starting work as a book illustrator. In 1956, he was commissioned by the Oxford University Press to illustrate stories for children written by Rosemary Sutcliffe, and with the encouragement of the doyenne of children’s book editors, Mabel George of OUP, was launched on a career which for three decades made him one of the best known and more prolific illustrators (1960-1980s). He made brilliant use of colour and the new printing techniques, using a mixture of gouache, tempera, watercolour and inks. He was an early enthusiast for Plasticowell, the grained plastic sheets designed by the printers, Cowells of Ipswich, for lithographic illustrations.

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Charles Keeping was always concerned with the lot of the working horse:  having been born in Lambeth, he was surrounded by them.  He wrote two picture books, Black Dolly and Sean and the Carthorse about ill-treated working horses, and one Richard, about a working police horse whose treatment is always fair.  Illustrating Black Beauty must have been something of a dream commission:  he dedicated his version “to all those concerned with the care and welfare of horses and ponies.”

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Keeping won the Kate Greenaway award for Charley, Charlotte and the Golden Canary (1967), and again for The Highwayman (1981); he was a prize-winner in the Francis Williams Award for Tinker, Tailor (1968), and for Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Wildman (1976); and he won the Emil Award in 1987 for Jack the Treacle Eater. He became particularly well known for his work on historical novels for children, especially tales by Rosemary Sutcliff, which often depicted Vikings, men in battle or war situations. Or similarly for Leon Garfield books about ghosts, creatures from the dark and other sinister characters.

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His commitment to the immense project to illustrate the complete Dickens for the Folio Society was total, and he completed it just before his death on 16 May 1988. He became the first illustrator to complete a full edition of Dickens illustrated by a single artist. His wife Renate, also an artist, set up a website called The Keeping Gallery so that both of their work can be treasured.

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Have you ever seen such colour in books before ?

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Thanks to Matt for sending in these scans after seeing this post.

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Amazing use of rich shading and textures. Wonderful work Mr Keeping.