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Bob Dawe Red Barn Pottery Mid 60’s ceramics update

July 19, 2021

A while ago I was contacted by a lady called Susie, who thanked me for my blog piece in 2017 about the potter Bob Dawe. She went onto explain that sadly Bob had died last October but she had been a longtime friend of his and would I like to see a few ceramic pieces she had of his later work, of course I would. So I thought I would update his post in memory of a gent who’s work I look at every day.

I was recently looking around my studio-space thinking how some of the artifacts that surround me have come to be there. One such item is a small pot by ceramist Bob Dawe.

From my school days, I used to visit the Bluecoat Display Centre in the heart of Liverpool. I must have stumbled across the place when I was still in school but just old enough to travel to Liverpool on my own.

The Bluecoat Centre and gallery shop, has and always will be for me, a timeless, tucked away gem, some small oasis in the hustle and bustle of a busy Liverpool city centre. It must have been back in the early eighties, when I was taking my Art and Ceramics A levels, that I had saved up about £15 and bought myself this beautiful vase from the display shop.

I must admit that it felt quite grown up to buy a piece of another artist’s work at the age of 17 and I’m guessing that I must have been attracted to it’s simple form and the 1960’s style of the sun stamp, which adorned one side of the vase. Thinking back, I think those early visits to the Bluecoat must have helped define my love of craft and designer objects and the appreciation I have for individual hand-made ceramics today. Here’s my vase.

Bob Dawe and Howard Evans ran the Red Barn Pottery in Great Wratting, Suffolk, UK, from 1965 to 1968. From there he moved to Sudbury in Suffolk to work on his own.

He specialized in using a rolling technique to create cylinder pots. Decoration was usually incised lines and impressed marks. The way these pots are constructed is very important, such slab pottery is amongst the earliest that man ever made. The technique used predates the wheel and along with simple techniques like pinching and coil making, date as the first pots of civilization.

On 20th century forum, I discovered someone asking Bob why he had made his work in the way that he did. He replied … ” Hello. This is Bob Dawe replying to your interesting question about our style of pottery in the 60’s. It was probably because several of us went to Goldsmiths College, where building pottery was far more of an interest to us than throwing. Secondly, under the influence of two splendid tutors: David Garbett and Gordon Baldwin. There was a very strong emphasis on textual decoration that related to the pot and enhanced its form. We enjoyed hand-building because it was a much more direct way of using clay than throwing, where you have a “machine” ie the wheel between you and the clay. ”

It was great to discover a little more about my early ceramic purchase and see more of Bob’s work from the same period.  I’ve discovered that some of the larger, square ceramics are possibly made by Howard Evans, Bob’s working partner at the studio at the time. I thought I would leave them in to show the range of work coming out of the studio too.

There’s almost something plant-like in some of his forms.

I discovered that I had also kept a 1970’s book on pottery that I’d found really useful when I first started taking ceramics at school. It covered the basics so well and featured such topics as slab pots and surface decoration. It could almost have been written by Bob himself lol

What a delight to see more of Bob’s work. I really enjoy it’s simplicity and almost tribal /rustic /rune-like, freshly unearthed appearance. So much so that I had a look online today and decided to purchase a second and third piece of Bob’s work. They should sit nicely with the first, only purchased some 35 years apart ! : )

What sits around you at home/ perhaps in your studio space, that has some personal or sentimental meaning ?

Susie said about Bob.. ” In the 90’s he made several ranges of moulded dishes of different sizes with wonderful glazes. I have one complete set of six, much used, and several early experimental ones with more detailed markings on them. He was a consummate artist, with little appreciation of the quality of his work – he simply did what he loved, working with clay. It’s good to find his memory lives on – thank you ”

The bottom photo is a very recent one of a few of my Bob Dawe pots in use. Susie told me “He would have been very pleased to know you are using his pots for autumn leaves – it was his favourite season. ” Thank you Susie for the sad but kind update on Bob and his work and I’m so pleased it prompted this timely update.

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Roland Collins A forgotten Artist

July 12, 2021

A couple of years ago I discovered the work of Roland Collins, I’d like to resahre it with you today.

He was born in Kensal Rise, NW London and showed artistic aptitude from an early age, winning at the age of eight a poster-colouring competition organised by the Evening News. He attended Kilburn grammar school, helped with scenery painting for the school’s annual Shakespeare play, and was encouraged by the art teacher to go to art school. This he did with the help of a London county council grant, spending two years at St Martin’s School of Art (now Central Saint Martins), where his teachers included Leon Underwood and Vivian Pitchforth. After college he worked as a studio assistant in an advertising agency, preparing layouts and designs.

In 1937 Collins first exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of just 18, submitting a pen-and-ink drawing entitled Riverside, Chiswick, of two houseboats on the mud at low tide on the Thames (see above). The pen-work was masterly in its taut linearity and rhythmic arrangements of shape, balancing dark and light with satisfying authority. But black and white was not enough for the full expression of his essentially Romantic vision; he needed colour, and gouache (an opaque form of watercolour) became his preferred medium. He painted on paper, usually on sheets measuring about 15in x 21in, which he attached to a drawing board and worked on in front of the chosen subject.

Ever since those pre-second -World-War days, Roland Collins became an acute observer of the London and later the Dieppe scene. The Old London as we used to know it has disappeared, and it is with more than nostalgia one is taken back thirty, forty or fifty years. Roland Collins has managed to record the landscape of the time in a way the camera never has. it is not just a case of buildings destroyed by the war and the property developer, but the disappearance of items-all clues to what was a more leisured way of life-like the hand-pushed cardboard box delivery cart-massive but presumably light in weight. the old carriages and stable in Knightsbridge Mews; the Watney’s Lion and Shot Tower that became the South Bank Site for the Festival of Britain.

When the second world war broke out Collins registered as a conscientious objector, although a lung problem meant that he could have only undertaken light agricultural work in any case. He continued painting, discovered Fitzrovia in the West End of London (where he was to live for 40 years) and undertook the first of several mural commissions for a Greek restaurant. Artistically versatile, he relished turning his hand to other projects, working as a designer, photographer and even travel writer.

In 1945 he designed the sleeve for the first British LP issued by Decca: Stravinsky’s Pétrouchka, also a self portrait below and a couple of commissions from over the years.

In 1951 he wrote the text for The Flying Poodle, a book for children with photographs by Wolfgang Suschitzky, and in 1956 illustrated another poodle book, the novel Fifi and Antoine by Charlotte Haldane. Meanwhile, in 1954, a series of lithographs, to illustrate Noel Carrington’s book Colour and Pattern in the Home, seemed to anticipate in their crisp design some of the 1960s pop-inflected interiors of the English painter and printmaker Patrick Caulfield.

Since his Royal Academy debut in 1937, Roland has continued to exhibit regularly since, though an innate modesty has kept him from the limelight. As a consequence, his delightful and unaffected paintings are less well known than they might be, and a talent which has been continuously in use for more than 70 years has gone largely uncelebrated.

“Eventually, my love of architecture led me to a studio at 29 Percy Studio where I painted for the next forty years, after work and at weekends. I freelanced for a while until I got a job at the Scientific Publicity Agency in Fleet St and that was the beginnings of my career in advertising, I obviously didn’t make much money and it was difficult work to like.”

Yet Roland never let go of his personal work and, once he retired, he devoted himself full-time to his painting, submitting regularly to group shows but reluctant to launch out into solo exhibitions – until reaching the age of ninety.

For me his work shows elements of Nash, Ravilious, Bawden and occasionally Degas and Dufy too.

Whether using gouache, watercolour, pastel or inks, Roland had a wonderful control of his media.

Hopefully the skies weren’t as grey as he depicted here as he often painted outdoors !

Beautiful observational work.

I love the simplified windows in the building below, they’re almost arrows pointing to the Lion above lol

Welcome back to part 2 of my posts about artist / painter Roland Collins. I’d like to show you Roland’s coastal work and some of his paintings created during his yearly trips to France.

Working predominately in gouache on a format of 15 x 21 inches, his work records landscapes and cityscapes that have since disappeared. In 1964, Collins, and his wife Connie, purchased Ocean Cottage in Whitstable on the Kent coast. This was to provide an endless source of inspiration for him and arguably resulted in some of his finest work.

I feel there are definite strains of Ravilious in this painting above. Roland’s work sits comfortably among his other contemporaries Paul Nash and Edward Bawden but it’s only really been truly ‘discovered’ in the last ten years.

His forty years spent living and working in Fitzrovia, five years in the Cornish fishing town of Padstow  in the 1990’s and his and Connie’s many visits to Dieppe all feature predominately throughout his body of work.

Such beautiful colours and textures here.

Some stronger colours here.

Again, his depiction of the beach here just works so well.

He spent hours and hours just painting and sketching outdoors.

Obviously (as he owned a boat himself for a while), he had a real love for the shape and line of them. For the sea and coast, where he also chose to live for a few years.

Although the coast, London and its environs were a constant inspiration (he illustrated the Picturesque Guide to the Thames, 1949) he also began making painting trips to France. “You could say I first went to Dieppe in the early-1950s in search of Sickert,” Collins said. His palette seems much fresher and lighter, not so many grey English skies perhaps !

Some links back to his life in the advertising industry here spotting these French billboards and iconic businesses.

A couple of lovely soaring bridges.

Perhaps a touch of Raoul Dufy’s colour palette here.

Sadly Roland passed away in 2015 at the grand age of 97.

Many thanks to The Guardian, Spitalfields Life, James Russell and the sites above for my introduction to another outstanding British artist, which I hope you’ve also enjoyed ?

More images looking through the catalogue over at, The Portland GalleryBrowse and Derby or the Michael Parkin Fine Art Gallery.

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Paul Wearing

July 5, 2021

Paul Wearing lives in London and is a graduate of the RCA. Starting as a Textile Designer, he discovered his love of Graphic Art through album covers and he went on to work for companies like Liberty and Conran Design creating wallpapers for their ranges.

He recalls doing lots of paper collage in the early days and marvelling over the work on The Face and id Magazine in the eighties, “but now” (he says) “much of my day is spent on the computer”

Through attending trade fairs like Premier Vision, he developed a love for colour predction and colour trending, this obviously fed into his work and he has now been an illustator for the last 20-25 years.

Chatting to Paul, he recalls creating a wonderful painting of a Fish at the age of 8 and being inspired by the imagery in childhood films like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Paul found a love in designer’s work like Clarles and Ray Eames, Lucienne and Robin Day and painters like Edward Bawden, Paul Nash and Eric Ravilious.

I asked Paul what his main likes and disilikes were to do with his working life. He replied that he dislikes the part of work that involves conference calls and lengthy contracts and getting stuck on one style of illustration that people expect to see in his work. But likes it when he gets to work with Art Directors who understand his ideas and having the time (like over the last year) to continue to develop his own personal work.

Personally I love the curvy, mid-century feel to his work, combined with a use of overlapping and see through colour and textures inspired by his early textile design background. He created these panels with his brother Nigel using stitch on a vintage finish leather.

Another project from 2010 includes illustrations for Kitchen Secrets by Raymond Blanc.

Each chapter focuses on a different group of ingredients. Here are the opening pages to the Summer berries, Spring greens and the Fish chapters.

Colour plays such an important part in my work. We decided early on to give each chapter opening it’s own colour theme, reflecting ingredients and recipes.

Many thanks to Paul for the phone call the other week, I think we have quite a lot in common with our textile pasts and design backgrounds. Keep up the amazing work and delighting your followers with your stylish precision, and fab use of colour and shape.

Fishink Sale starts today !!

July 3, 2021

Hi everyone. Just a quick message to say that in under two hours my latest Ceramics sale starts over on Instagram on my stories and feed @fishinkblog . (www.instagram.com/fishinkblog} Starts 10am UKtime.

Here are a few examples of what is available to buy today and don’t forget I ship worldwide and can also send a gift to family or a friend on your behalf, so it’s a great way to buy a treat for yourself or a present for someone else.

Happy Browsing, Craig x

All my work is hand made and unique, so whil’st I can sometimes make another, it will never be the same.

Please spread the word and see you on instagram @fishinkblog

Bernice Myers Fondly Remembered

June 28, 2021

Hi everyone, I want to dedicate this post to the memory of a very special lady who sadly passed away last week. I was very fortunate to interview her last year with the help of her son and would like to share that post with you again today. In her son’s words ” Mom remained a fan of Fishink and was extremely grateful to you for featuring her work and the Q&A last year. So interesting that before Mom and a couple of others, children’s books were largely overly rendered and formal. She helped modernize the design and graphics by appealing to children directly rather than their spending parents. Quite a revolution”. An amazing lady indeed. Here is the post from December 2020.

I have a wonderful treat for you today and a post that I have been saving up for this very moment. Any regular readers to my blog will know that I am not just a big fan of 50’s and 60’s illustration, but also of the opportunity to introduce, promote and showcase artists who have been mid-century greats and may nowadays be unknown to a more contemporary audience. Today it is the turn of the wonderful, Bernice Myers !! (hearing a fanfare in my head), whom I’ve mentioned previously here and here.

Initially I wasn’t certain that Bernice would care to take part, as I had messaged her four years ago to see if she would answer some questions, but at that point she had politely declined.

Bernice is not only a wonderful mid-century illustrator, but believe it or not, she has just written her latest book at the age of 95 ! and has a back catalogue of over 100 volumes to date. Her editor Grace contacted me to tell me of her latest book ‘Dog Meets Dog’ and then fortunately her son Marc got in touch, and it was with his help, I was able to ask his mum some carefully chosen questions and this post was possible.

Marc told me that basically “She’ll respond if the questions are good” and as we say the rest is history!  Phew lol !

Hi Bernice, many, many thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. I initially created my blog in order to show a contemporary audience the work of artists who’s work perhaps isn’t still in print and very little is known about them, their life, their struggles to find work or just how living in different time periods had it’s own share of problems or benefits that a modern audience may be unaware of. I want to tell people each illustrators story so that we may better appreciate the people behind the work that we have grown up with (and in your case) are probably still reading to our grand children today.

Could you please tell me your background story, i.e. where you grew up, what memories you have of becoming an artist. How you started as an illustrator, what life was like working as a female illustrator when you started, how hard was it to find work, how did you first get ‘discovered’ as an artist. Memories/ funny tales of working for the different publishers etc.

I was born in the Inwood section of Manhattan in 1925. My father, Leo, traveled often to Europe as a costume-jewelry designer and salesman. But those trips ended in the early ‘30s as Europe grew increasingly dangerous with the rise of Nazi Germany. My family managed to survive the Depression. I had a sister who was many years my senior, and my parents were older and weary, so growing up was relatively lonely. I began to draw at an early age, a talent that grew once I began to work in New York’s garment district as a fashion sketcher and model during World War II. Back then, families without means couldn’t afford to send their kids to college, and loans for education weren’t widely available. Only returning veterans on the G.I. Bill were able to get a free college education. So for most of us, you went to work right after high school.

When the war ended, I landed a job at Columbia Pictures in New York in the photostat department. Which meant I was responsible for having photostats made of artwork created by the art department of movie stars for display at theaters in support of upcoming movies. In those days, the movie studios were in Los Angeles, but the business of promoting their films (and recording the scores) often were done in New York. At Columbia, I met my husband, Lou Myers, who was a portraitist in the art department. He had been a war artist in the Navy and portrait painter. After the war, he used that talent to draw and paint actors’ likenesses for theater posters. After we married in 1947, we began taking on children’s-book illustration work together. For a brief time, we received double-billing. My career as a children’s book illustrator began in 1949. One of the first children’s books with my name alone was for “It’s a Secret” (Wonder Book), by Benjamin Brewster. It was published in 1950. “Billy and His Steam Roller” (Wonder/1951), “Mr. Shortsleeves’ Great Big Store” (See Saw/1952), “Bunny Button” (Whitman/1953) and “Peter Picket Pin” (Whitman/1953) followed, among others.

Then Lou and I went off to Europe to hitchhike in the early 1950s and moved to Paris in early 1954. We both illustrated children’s books there for French publishers (among other things) before returning to New York in 1956, where my first son, Marc, was born. After my second son, Danny, was born in 1959, my career grew steadily in the ‘60s as children’s books became easier to print as paperbacks. Schools were provided with book lists and ordering forms for students, and the public education system began to view children’s books as an important part of their curriculum for grade school.

Did you ever look to anyone for inspiration or was your style purely your own?

No one specifically, but I always wanted to stand out. Lou taught me that. If your drawings had a special look, you’d be in demand, especially if you had an eye for design. I’ve always loved children and believed that what was most important in books was the feel of illustrations. I wanted mine to connect with children on an emotional level, not as realistic or photographic illustration. To achieve my feel, I embraced a graphic simplicity that gave children illustrations that were on their level. I left enough space for their imaginations to kick in and for them to identify with what they saw. In other words, by thinking like a child I was able to communicate like one.

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Do you enjoy working in any one style, above others, or in a particular medium, paint, collage more textural for example ? Does it help to have more than one style to be more versatile in the publishing industry ? I notice, for example, that the style you used for the science based books, ( the “All Around’ series) of textures, strong outlines, few colours, is very different from the more animal based books you’ve drawn. (The Pear Shaped Hill, Olivier etc) which is also different from the more cartoony Bears series. Perhaps you created different looks for different subjects as you felt was appropriate to that area of interest, making science books more straight forward and simplistic and the animal stories more colourful and well rounded, to appeal to a younger audience.

I did not consciously set out to project one style or another, nor did I shift styles for different subject matter. The “All Around” series forced me to envision how I was going to fit everything necessary on a single page or spread. In other words, I had to develop a strong sense of art direction before drawing so that each cover and spread inside was animated with action and delivered a high fun factor. The subject matter—space, water, earth and so on—demanded an active, “cool” approach. Sympathetic to children’s short attention spans, I knew that they would have to be pulled and engaged by my drawings if we expected them to read and absorb the material. My other books instinctively felt like they needed texture or graphic drama, again, to command the attention of young minds. My adversary was distraction, so I consciously worked to make sure that what I drew was more interesting than TV, cereal boxes and comic books. What else could I do?

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Can you remember what your brief on a book would have been like in the 50’s/ 60’s. Were you given a copy of the text and told to ‘sketch around it’ or did you have ideas of your own for the books , or perhaps worked closely with each different author and took some guidance from them?

Publishers knew I had a strong sense of art direction, so they’d simply send along a manuscript and then turn me loose, so to speak. I was urged to “do my thing” and come up with solutions that were bold and active, in a child’s vernacular. My work was known for leaving children mental blanks to fill in. I found that children don’t need or want lots of detail. They look for engagement and whimsy, something that makes them laugh. When that happens, they sense a friend and identify with the characters and the story. At least in my experience.

During your career were you working mostly as a freelance artist or were you employed by one publishing house at one time ?

I worked as a freelance writer and illustrator, but a number of publishing houses used me often because sales of my books were strong. These publishers included Scholastic, McGraw-Hill and Four Winds among others.

At any time during your career, did you feel that being a female artist either a hindrance or a benefit. I think of the “MadMen” era in particular and hear stories of how badly women were treated or what they were expected to put up with in order to get work.

I didn’t find bias during the 1950s and beyond. Then again, I worked mostly at home, and my editors were mostly women. At first, I worked with my husband on book illustrations. But in a very short period of time, I could handle the work myself, and many women worked in the children’s book market then. It was like the maternity ward of publishing. Where the challenges existed were on the home front. My husband was very successful as a cartoonist and pioneered his thick-line style in print advertising work before the wide use of photography in the 1970s. His style was so well known, he was among the first who was encouraged to include his oversized signature, which was a big deal in commercial advertising.

As a result, we both worked seven days a week to complete the large amount of work that came our way. Up until 1969, we lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan’s Washington Heights. So in addition to writing and illustrating more than 100 books, I had to raise Marc and Danny—meaning I had to make sure they did their schoolwork, had breakfast lunch and dinner, took them to stores for clothes, etc. I also was expected to shop for food, cook dinner, help Lou get his work out, and deal with our house once we moved north of New York in 1969. I didn’t mind. I always had a lot of drive and energy. But looking back, I have no idea how I managed.

My children’s-book work was relentless, but for my husband and me, work wasn’t work. It was who we were. We both loved seeing our work in print. There was a great sense of accomplishment. As all authors know, the joy of opening a box of newly published books is rewarding, and you instantly forget the hard work that went into those books. Just watching my kids’ faces as they realized their mother had written and illustrated those books was worth it.

Below.. a magazine painting by Bernice for a Fashion spread.

Two books of yours that I really admire are Off into Space and My first book of Weather. The illustrations are simplistic but both endearing and engaging. Do you have a favourite book from your own extensive library of books you have illustrated, and what makes it special for you ?

Thank you for your kind words. I don’t look at my books the way you do. In other words, you delight in elements that came naturally and magically to me. I didn’t think about them that way at the time. They were problems that needed solving. So favoring one book over another, for me, is often a question of how much of a struggle went into creating it and whether I enjoyed the process. But to your point, I am proud of the science series because there were many hurdles to leap to make them come together neatly and excite children. The same with the Space book. The layout choices, the images and the color choices all come together well and they remain remarkable. They still deliver a visual bang, don’t you think?

Yes I do.

Do you have any idea how many books you have had published to date ? Now at the wonderful age of 95, what are your biggest challenges in creating new books ? Obviously you are still working because you enjoy the work which is fabulous. If you hadn’t been an artist was there ever a different career path that might have taken your fancy ?

More than 100 books. One day Marc will create a site for me (nudge, nudge) and we’ll know for sure. The biggest challenge with my most recent book after many years in retirement was relearning how to turn my story into graphic ideas and then into finished color prints for submission. I had to track down professional color markers and bleed-proof paper—all things that are relics, since everything is done on the computer today. Fortunately, the materials I once used were still stocked at Blick Art Supplies.

Can you describe a typical day for you when you are working on a book? Does the process get easier the more that you create or is it still a challenge ?

It’s always a bigger challenge at 95. Should the dog look left or right? Should his tail wag or stay still? Hills in the background or not? A moon? Is my work any good? Will children get my humor or are they too sophisticated now? I went through a lot of paper trying to figure it all out. The process takes longer now, but my passion is still there as is my sense of humor and love of the adolescent spirit. But it’s definitely much more difficult, since emotions move faster than brainpower.

What advice would you give to a young artist who would love to follow in your footsteps today?

Observe how children play and note what makes them laugh. Don’t try to please them. Instead, speak their language with illustrations, include humor and leave room for their mental participation. That’s so important. Children are always smarter and more intuitive than we think. They’re naturally honest and kind and “get” things faster than adults. That’s because they are emotional first and think second. My kind of audience.

Many many thanks to Bernice for her incredibly lucid and inspirational answers. I applaud both your work and attitude, alogside the fact that you are still creating now. It shows that the need for talented artists never goes away and that many generations of readers, can appreciate and ‘adopt’ your work, as if it belonged only to themselves. What a lady !  Thank you also to Marc for making this post happen at all, what an inspirational role model you grew up with. I bet you can tell a good story too : )

So that was my last post and a bit of a SCOOP if I do say so myself. A Happy Christmas and festive break to all my readers. I will be taking a couple of weeks off to recharge myself, so let’s catch up in 2021 and hope that it’s a year of calm, better direction and a posititvity that seemed to escape us in 2020.

Please leave a comment below and you can follow me here and over on Instagram here at Fishinkblog, where I sell most of my ceramics.

Until I ‘see’ you next, all the very best and thanks as ever for reading, Craig x

Ruth and James McCrea. Children’s Illustrators from the Sixties

June 21, 2021

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Ruth Pirman was born in Jersey City on May 28, 1921. She attended schools in Brooklyn Heights, in Brightwaters, and in Florida, and earned her bachelor of fine arts degree from the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Fla., where she met her future husband, James C. McCrea.

James was born on Sept. 12, 1920, in Peoria, Ill. He attended Sewanee: the University of the South in Tennessee, and served in the merchant marine during World War II. He also taught typography at Cooper Union in New York City for a decade.

The McCreas were married on July 4, 1943.

During World War II, while James served in the merchant marine and she lived in Miami with her in-laws, Ruth supported herself painting watercolors of the Bahamas, producing more than 500 of them. The couple moved to New York City after the war and lived in Bayport from 1956 until 1980, when they bought a house in East Hampton and retired there.

In their professional lives, the McCreas worked with many of the major publishing houses in New York. They also collaborated on four children’s books that Ruth, wrote and illustrated, which were published by Atheneum Books. In 1963, the American Institute of Graphic Arts named one of them, “The King’s Procession,” one of the 50 best books of the year.

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I particularly like the illustrations in this book ” The Birds “, it has such a charm about it and I love the contrast between the birds and their environment too.

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More Medieval dragons, castles and celebrations in ” The Story Of Olaf “.

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Among Ruth’s independent work were the covers and illustrations for dozens of cookbooks published by Peter Pauper Press, with titles ranging from “The ABC of Canapes” and “The ABC of Cheese Cookery” …

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… to “Simple Continental Cookery,” “Simple Hawaiian Cookery,” “Aquavit to Zombie: Basic and Exotic Drinks,” and “Abalone to Zabaglione: Unusual and Exotic Recipes.”

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In East Hampton, where she was a longtime member of the Ladies Village Improvement Society, Ruth was known as the “dollhouse lady,” her family wrote. She built and lovingly maintained a collection of elaborate dollhouses, all impeccably furnished and decorated. In years past, she often opened her historic Main Street house to visitors interested in her creations. The largest of them was called Hazard Hall, because, according to a 2011 article in The Star, “it was too hazardous to get anywhere near it because things, like the children’s chess pieces and their father’s handkerchiefs, disappeared into it.”  “Every time life was too much for me, I would start another room on the house,” she told The Southampton Press in 1998. “It’s a form of escapism.”

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The McCreas also collaborated on dozens of book jackets, designs, and illustrations including covers for novels by such writers as Graham Greene and Iris Murdoch. They worked together on the original oil paintings used for the cover design of the full set of Ernest Hemingway titles in the Scribner Classic series. Some featured below.

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Sadly James passed away in 2013, aged 93 and Ruth in February 2016, aged 94.  I love their strong graphical, quirky style and I’m certain their work has inspired many Illustrators and Graphic artists since the 1960’s too. I’m sure I’m not alone in loving their wonderful work ?

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Deidre Chestney

June 14, 2021

I came across the wonderful work of Deidre Chestney on Instagram recently and was so pleased that I had, because it made me smile. I got in touch with Deidre to discover more.

Hi Deidre, I love the range of techniques you use when creating your ceramics. How much time would you say you spend in ‘play mode’ and how often do the findings from that experimental creative time lead to new ideas ?

It’s taken me quite a while to get my head around all the aspects of making and decorating clay objects. First you have to choose the clay and make the thing (earthenware, midfire, stoneware – handbuilding or wheel thrown – functional or decorative?) Then there’s the decoration (stains, oxides, underglaze, slip, glaze, decals and lustre) Since purchasing my own kiln in 2016 I have been able to explore all these techniques and it’s only been in the last couple of years that my focus is starting to narrow. I know enough now to achieve consistant results in the firing as well as knowing what work I enjoy making so the experimental time is becoming less. 

Can you tell us a little about your life before becoming a Ceramist ?

After studying Graphic Design in New Zealand I spent my 20’s and 30’s working in studios and freelancing in Wellington, London and Melbourne. After moving to central Victoria with my husband we had a child, rennovated a house and now we run a business in the counry. After my daughter went to school I finally had time to get back to being creative and signed up for a local pottery night class. In 2015 I saw the Grayson Perry exhibition in Sydney and it blew my mind on what could be achieved with surface decoration on ceramics.

What is your fav item to make and why ?

I do love birds. Wings, feathers, colour, form, standing still or flying, 2D or 3D. I’ll never get tired of them!

You create a mix of quirky and realistic animals. Where would you say your ideas derive from and how much time do you spend working in sketchbooks before going into the making process ?

I’ve always been drawn to animals used in stories to symbolise emotions and human traits – as a child I would devour any books in the library on myths, legends and folk tales from around the world.  I’ve always loved childrens book illustration, folk objects and outsider art.

Our house backs onto a forest and we have many furred and feathered visitors to the garden that are inspiring – Kangaroos, Echnidas, Foxes Hares, Cockatoos, Ravens etc. If I can add a crown, texture or pattern to these creatures all the better.

Also there are a lot of sheep in paddocks around where we live. I look at them as I’m driving along and they are not always heads down eating grass. Often you catch them looking into the middle distance, quite introspective. Even being part of a flock I think they retain their individuality!

I draw in sketchbooks and flesh out ideas with pen and ink, paper cutouts and guache studies. If I’m trying to work out a composisiton often I’ll scan drawings and shapes into the computer and play around with them in illustrator. 

I saw a small video of yours where you transferred coloured glazes to your artwork using paper of some kind. Can you please tell us how this process works and what paper you use to do this ? Is it at the green or bisque fired part of the process ?

Slip transfer is a process where the decoration is all created on newsprint – this allows for creating gestural drawings that are hard to create directly onto clay. Using underglaze painting, slip trailing, stencils or screen printing you layer up a composition working in reverse. When the underglaze is dry you paint a layer of slip over everything and once that that’s dry you rub it onto a slab of firmish but damp clay. The mosture from the clay sucks all the slip and underglaze off the paper and it’s transferred to the clay.  Then you use the slab to form a shape – platter, tile, vessel etc.  Jason Burnett’s brilliant book Graphic Clay shows the technique as does Catie Miller on her instagram @catiemillerceramics

Which of your processes that you use do you enjoy the most and why ?

I’m enjoying building layers of colours with stains, underglaze and slip – both with the slip transfer technique and also using wax resist. I’ve found that relying on glazes to “colour” the work are too fickle and I seldom get the results I want. By using underglazes and stains I feel like I’m more in control.

Where do you sell your work and do you have an online site where people can buy from you ?

I exhibit with group shows in central Victoria a couple of times a year as well as some local retail outlets. This year I was part of Open Studios Macedon which has been very busy. People contact me directly through instagram if they see something they are interested in. I’m always planning to get my act together with my website but am just too busy!

Where do you see your work in 5 years time ?

I’m happy just letting things work themselves out.  I’m really enjoying the process of applying images onto clay and I enjoy being part of the local ceramic community. I would like to do more exhibitions, have a range of work I’m proud of and hopefully  in 5 years time will have sorted out my website!

Many thanks Deidre, it’s been great to find out more about your ideas and processes. All the best for the future and I look forward to seeing your website, do let me know when it’s done : )

Vanessa Lubach Cutting the Countryside

June 7, 2021

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.

Karl Erik Iwar Mid century Ceramics

May 31, 2021

Karl Erik Iwar (1920-2006) studied at Upsala Ekeby and then in the early 1950’s he opened his own workshop. He then worked for the company between 1936 and 1946. Karl Erik is today most known for his pottery animals from his workshop in Farsta and Åkersberga in 1953–1987. They are made of dark brown earthenware, with modernistic shape, and gently humorous expression. The figurines are partly glazed in earthy tones.

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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Mari Simmulson Swedish Mid Century Ceramist

May 24, 2021

Mari Simmulson (1911-2000) is a familiar name when talking about Swedish ceramic design of the 20th century. Born to Estonian parents in St Petersburg, Russia. At the start of the Russian revolution in 1917, Mari’s family moved back to Estonia. During the 1930s, she studied at the State Art School in Tallinn and later further developed her skills at the nearby Arabia porcelain factory in Helsinki.

After marrying, Mari moved to Munich where she studied sculpture. When World War II began,  she fled to Sweden on a fishing boat. She was forced to leave behind her family and relatives, with whom, sadly she would never be reunited.
In 1945, Mari began working at Gustavsbergs Porcelain Factory, where she was fortunate to work alongside the factory’s legendary leader, Wilhelm Kage (who preceeded Stig Lindberg). Mari’s creative output ranged from unique sculptures to small animal figurines.
Mari left Gustavsberg in 1949, taking a position at Upsala-Ekeby. Together with Hjordis Oldfors and Ingrid Atterberg, she completed a trio of influential female designers who set the tone for the company in the fifties. Mari would remain at the factory until 1972, designing a variety of dishware, vases, wall plates, bowls, and figurines. She often opted for bold, colorful decor, offering a clear contrast to dark, unadorned pottery.
The 1950s fascination with exotic cultures found its way into Mariʼs design. This stylistic trend influenced the form, decor, and naming of the objects. She often took a theme (such as a leaf motif) and explored all the possible ways to decorate a vase or pot using this idea.
The acclaimed grand sculptures depicting women from Africa and Asia are fine examples of exoticism. She often expressed admiration for the posture and demeanor of women all over the world.
Highly influenced by the air-themed paintings of Marc Chagall, it is no coincidence that birds are a recurring theme in her artwork. Mari’s daughter recalls that “Air was important for her. She said clearly that she did not want to be buried in the ground”
Women are ubiquitous in Mari’s artwork. They are often represented with almond-shaped eyes behind heavy eye lids.
The women typically have deep, thoughtful expressions, which contrasts with the playful colours.
Mari’s world was a contrast of light and dark, laughter and solemnity, all at the same time.
There’s touches of all these emotions in her ceramic ‘portraits’.
Captivating, engaging, faces with a fixed stare are a feature in Mari’s work.
Mari left Upsala-Ekeby in 1972, finishing her career with a few brief stints at other Swedish ceramic factories.
She is remembered as a prolific artist with a strong personality who held fast to her artistic integrity. At the same time, she understood that the objects she created should be marketable as well as beautiful. Interest in Mari’s artwork is at an all-time high today, and her two daughters give frequent lectures on her life and artistry.
Many thanks to Mother Sweden for the infomation on Mari. If you would like to buy some of her work, head over to their site for a large range of available ceramics here.