Skip to content
Advertisements

Bob Dawe Red Barn Pottery Mid 60’s ceramics

June 5, 2017

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 ?

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

Lucienne Day and Barbara Brown at Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery.

May 29, 2017

If you fancy a taste of some wonderful textiles, then head over to Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery. On show is a small exhibition on the beautiful work of Lucienne Day, until 16th July and a larger selection, from Manchester born designer, Barbara Brown, showing until December this year.

Someone has been very busy scattering seeds and planting at the back of the Gallery as the gardens are looking wonderful just now. The array of plant life, shapes and types, work really well in their new setting.

How amazing they looked in the sunshine today, this one below looking like a floral firework caught in freeze-frame!

Born in 1932, Barbara Brown left Manchester in the mid 1930’s with her brother and sister, to live in a care home in Kent, before being evacuated to Dorset during WW2. She studied at Canterbury College of Art and then from 1953-56 at the RCA under the guidance of Humphrey Spender.

At her degree show Barbara’s work was talent spotted by Tom Worthington, the artistic director or Heal’s Fabrics (a leading British textile firm), resulting in her first commercially printed fabric ‘Sweet Corn’ in 1958 (below top left) and subsequently designed for them for the next two decades. Like Lucienne Day, she was working for Heal’s ‘without contract on an exclusive basis’.

Her ‘Complex’  pattern (below top right) won the CoID Award in 1968,

and ‘Spiral’ and ‘Automation’, two printed furnishing fabrics for Heal’s (below), won two CoID awards in 1970.

Throughout the 20th century, considerable energy had been directed toward the possible artistic conflict of industrial production and individual, hand-made objects. Here the artist considers the issue visually, creating an aesthetic statement inspired by a gear unit, a common symbol of the industrial revolution. The fabric was hand-printed using individual screens for each of the colours needed to complete the design.

Barbara also acted as a consultant for other companies in Europe and USA, and in 1964, she created ‘Focus’, a pattern for a range of ceramic tableware designed by David Queensberry and made by W R Midwinter Ltd.

For seventeen years Barbara worked solely for Heals and was regarded as their ‘golden girl’. Avoiding all sense of prettiness, her designs moved from abstract plant forms and geometric shapes to brutalist machine-age patterns. Some were restricted to black and white and others were printed in three to seven different colour-ways. Here’s some of Barbara’s striking, large scale designs.

Barbara’s career epitomised many of the difficulties of a female artist in the mid 20th century. Wishing to be a sculptor, she was pushed by her tutors towards a career in textile design. The results are some of the most powerful and usual patterns produced at this time.

Update…

Barbara Brown is now a paper and book artist. Her pieces are often collaborations with poets: for her, there is a certain alchemy that occurs when three dimensional imagery is combined with text. Barbara has been an artist member of WSG Gallery in Michigan since 2004 and curates Beyond Words: A Celebration of Book Arts each year.

 

 

 

 

So to the second of today’s textile artists Lucienne Day.

Lucienne Day (1917-2010) was the foremost British textile designer of the immediate post-war period. Her work repeatedly drew on the inspiration of flowers, foliage and other plant forms, but she radically reworked the traditional repertoire of the pattern designer, by bringing to it her knowledge of modern abstract art. Day’s textiles speak the visual language of Kandinsky, Joan Miro and Paul Klee combined with a wonderful sense of colour, the designer’s fashion awareness and a quirky sense of humour.

For Lucienne, gardening was a lifelong passion. She was a knowledgeable plantswoman who, at her London home, was largely confined to pot gardening. However in 1964, she finally go some real soil to work with when she and her husband Robin, the furniture designer, leased a cottage in West Sussex as a weekend bolt hole.

‘Calyx’ (below) is Lucienne Day’s most famous pattern from 1951. It was originally designed to hang in the Homes and Garden pavillion at the Festival of Britain. Although Heal’s were initially sceptical about the likely commercial success of the design, it sold in large quantities over many years and was widely emulated by other designers in both the UK and abroad. Highly original and startlingly modern, it proved the springboard for Lucienne’s career as a textile designer. Part of it’s success was the implied message of regrowth and optimism for a nation only just recovering from war.

Lucienne’s daughter Paula Day says ” I think (Calyx represents) the moment at which my mother found the courage to embrace her power as a creative artist. The pattern springs up, carefully contrived to work well in repeat yet apparently utterly spontaneous. ‘Calyx’ is at once dynamic and balanced, muscular and delicate, disciplined and free. I’ve come to see that as the signature of the best of my mother’s designs.

Some more of Lucienne’s designs, not all featured in this exhibition.

The Whitworth began to collect textiles designed by Lucienne Day around 1960, largely gifted by the manufacturers she worked with. The gallery was also the recipient of many textiles from the designer herself, after organising the first retrospective exhibition of her work in 1993. This show is part of the nationwide Lucienne Day centenary celebrations coordinated by the Robin and Lucienne Day foundation. More news here.

Thank you again to the Whitworth for some of the information for this post and for continuing to host such inspirational exhibitions.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Aliki Children’s Book Illustrator

May 22, 2017

Aliki Brandenberg is now 87. She has well over 60 books to her name and illustrates in a number of different styles. I love her fun simple lines and her textural work most of all. Aliki says “I write fiction out of a need to express myself. I write nonfiction—out of curiosity and fascination. And I draw in order to breathe.”

Born in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, Aliki’s parents, were originally from Greece, and they taught her to speak Greek as a first language. She started to draw at an early age, and her parents enrolled her in art classes.

After graduating from the Philadelphia Museum School of Art in 1951, she worked briefly at the J. C. Penney Company in New York, in their display department. She then moved back to Philadelphia and worked as a freelance artist, creating art for advertising and display purposes. She also taught classes in art, worked as a muralist, and started a greeting card company.

In 1956 Aliki decided to explore her Greek heritage, as well as many other parts of Europe. During her travels she met Franz Brandenberg, whom she married the following year. After moving to Franz’s native Switzerland, she wrote her first book The Story of William Tell, about the legendary Swiss archer. The book, published in 1960, was well received. Aliki and her husband moved to New York, where she began in earnest her long career as an illustrator and author of books for children.

She has written and illustrated many books and she has also illustrated books for other authors, including her husband Franz Brandenberg. Her career as an author and illustrator led her to explore many subjects of historic and scientific interest. Her nonfiction books, either written by herself or by others, touch upon matters as varied as dinosaurs, mammoths, book manufacturing, Shakespeare, evolution, and growing up. Aliki’s fictional works explore such themes as family and friendship. Aliki’s Greek heritage is also a recurring theme in her works, both fiction and nonfiction.

I have two of her books which display both of her styles that really appeal to me. The first is called ‘The Listening Walk’.

It’s all about the sounds we hear when going for a walk if you listen closely.

I love the simple use of two colours (sometimes overlapping to create a fall on third colour) with black line and textural elements. These cars below are wonderful, you can just feel the speed !

Lovely detail and observations.

The second is called ‘My Five Senses’ and was part of the classic ‘Let’s read and find out Science book’ series.

Lots of textural rubbings, pattern and variation in line thicknesses and scale.

You can read more about her here.

She has been living and working in England since 1977, Aliki continues to produce new titles. “I’m one of those lucky people who love what they do,” she once commented. “I also love my garden, music, theatre, museums, and traveling. But I’m happiest when I’m in my studio on the top floor of our tall house in London, alone with the book I’m working on, and Mozart.”

If you like Aliki’s work, you may also like the work of Helen Borten and Abner Graboff, you can see many posts about these artists, by writing their names into the search function on my blog. Happy viewing.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Ivan Chermayeff Collages, Models and Logos

May 15, 2017

If you’ve ever watched Showtime or NBC, visited the Museum of Modern Art or the Smithsonian, read National Geographic or a Harper Collins book, or shopped at Barneys or Armani Exchange, you’ve seen the graphic design of Ivan Chermayeff and his firm. Since starting Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv (then just Chermayeff & Geismar) in 1956, he’s created countless logos that are, to this day, ingrained in western visual culture.

The red ‘O’ in the famous Mobil logo was designed to pop out at you when you are traveling fast down a motorway and make you realise that you need to stop for a fuel top up.

Ivan says ” We started our firm in ‘56. That’s quite a few years ago, and I’d been working away for some years as a student before that, and as a little boy before that. It all adds up to a hell of a long time. It means I’ve done a lot of work because I really like work a lot. When Tom [Geismar] and I started, there was no such expression as ‘graphic design.’ When a cab driver asked what you did, if you said graphic design, you’d have to explain it for an hour. Instead, we’d just say ‘I’m a commercial artist.”

Below (in order) are the St Louis Children’s Zoo drinking fountain, Lisbon Aquarium, Tennessee Aquarium and Osaka Aquarium.

Chermayeff’s love of using found objects began when he was at school, intimidated by the skills of his fellow students. “They could all draw and paint a lot better than I could,” he says, ” I was always putzing around with garbage at home, but whatever I made, my father would say it was great. He really encouraged me.”

Now in his eighties, he is still working and shows no sign of slowing down. “And there’s still a lot of trash to get through.”

When talking about his collages he says “It’s important not to think too hard, most of these collages appeared in about 15 seconds – but I might have some of these scraps lying about for years before they find their right home.”

” I do have a small fear of drawing, and an even bigger fear of painting. That’s why I use scissors, and I have lots: short ones, long ones, heavy ones, so I can cut heavy things. Cutting and tearing has a sort of excitement about it. If you tear things, they have a look of being torn, in contrast to a line which has little emotion. ”

” I can’t sit still no matter where I am. Even if I’m lying on the beach in Cape Cod, I’m arranging pebbles in the sand. It’s always play. Play is a very good word for my attitude, even towards making a symbol that has to stand for a company–arriving at that symbol is still a form of play. ”

Ivan has also produced books, his work makes me think of Paul Rand, Matisse and Kurt Schwitters.

You can discover more about Ivan here and here .

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Gaynor Chapman Mid century Artist

May 9, 2017

There are so many fantastic artists from the 1950’s and 60’s who have very little presence online. I feel this is a great shame and that their work should be seen and appreciated by new admirers, it’s always an aim of mine to help promote and reveal these illustrators who’s work I discover and admire. One of those is Gaynor Chapman. She was born in 1935, she attended the Epsom School of Art and was one of the ‘bright young things’ at the RCA in the early 1950’s, where she studied illustration and graphics.

The combination of these two disciplines is very evident in her work, which has a deliberate, compartmentalised graphic structure, emphasised by the use of a visible, irregular black outline. Alongside posters, she also created many book covers and illustrations for other people’s stories.

Some of her most stunning pieces were commissioned by London Transport for its poster series.

She also produced projects for BP, COI, Shell, ICI and Air France, and she created a large mural for the ship SS Dover.

Photo thanks to Airnostalgie

Most of her work appeared in the 1960s/1970s, when she taught graphics at the Brighton College of Art and continued to paint.

She died in 2000, aged 65.

If anyone knows anymore information about Gaynor Chapman or has images you would like to share, please get in touch and I would be glad to do just that. Thank you. Thanks to Mike Dempsey and his wonderful ‘Graphic Journey blog’ for the information used in this post.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Yayoi Kusama Seeing spots before your eyes !

May 1, 2017

Yayoi Kusama is obsessed with dots, pumpkins and mirrors, so much so that she has devoted her whole life as an artist to these subjects.  She famously creates all of her work in a studio near the Tokyo psychiatric facility in which she has lived, voluntarily, since 1977, having reported experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations her whole life. Prior to her admission, she spent a period of time living and working in New York City, where she was part of the avant-garde art scene, painting dots onto naked folk, in public areas, as part of an anti-war demonstration. Her message was always one, not of war, but to ‘Love Forever’.

During 1968 and 1969, Yayoi staged events across Manhattan, from the United Nations Building and the New York Stock Exchange to the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park’s Alice in Wonderland statue. Frequently, these happenings involved her working with groups of naked men and women covered with her signature polka dots and dancing on the streets, until inevitably they were forced to move along by the police. In one instance, at the Museum of Modern Art, eight nude participants struck poses in the fountain of the museum’s sculpture garden. By this stage, the art press was familiar with the rhetoric of Kusama’s anti-capitalist, anti-war, anti-establishment and free love happenings, however, this particular spectacle attracted front page coverage by the Daily News, who reported that museum security officers spent 20 minutes attempting to coax the performers out of the water. Yayoi famously referred to the art gallery as the ‘Mausoleum of Modern Art’  and said ‘What is modern there ? . . . Van Gogh, Cézanne, those other ghosts, all are dead or dying. While the dead show dead artists, living artists die’

“Pumpkins have been a great comfort to me since my childhood,” said Kusama. “They speak to me of the joy of living. They are humble and amusing at the same time, and I have and always will, celebrate them in my art.”

A retrospective of her 60-year career has recently been touring the world Museums and art spaces, which brought together everything from the 87-year-old artist’s early drawings and sketchbooks through to her iconic installations.

Kusama has also previously created a concept store for fashion brand Louis Vuitton at London’s Selfridges department store, which again featured her signature polka-dot patterns.

She’s also well known for creating her mirrored infinity rooms.

Where even the stars find her work a little dotty !

Whatever you may think about her work, I admire someone who has continued to follow and work with a theme over so many generations. You can read more about Yayoi’s ideas, philosophies and art here.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Ladybird Books and Charles Tunnicliffe

April 24, 2017

Hello to Monday everyone and I’d like to start by wishing you all a Happy Earth Day from over the weekend. Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which day events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and celebrated in more than 193 countries each year. You can read more here.

So onto today’s post…..

What should make a tapping sound against my window as I sat down to write this (I kid you not)…

… I’m hoping that’s the seal of approval now for this post lol.

Like thousands of other children, I grew up with Ladybird books around me. I didn’t collect them, however, like many others I knew (and boy did kids like to collect things when I was growing up !) but I do remember going into ‘Bookland’ (my local book shop) and being confronted with a wall of Ladybird titles. It was quite literally (and visually) overwhelming !

So recently, I happened across a couple of cheap, possible first edition copies, of two familiar titles I remember owning as a child. Part of the ‘What to look for in… (Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer)’ series. Looking through them as an adult, I remember how beautifully the painted pages were, and I quickly re-associated with these familiar scenes from nature and my youth. What I failed to realise, until I started putting this post together, was that the artist Charles Tunnicliffe, was a name I already had on my bookshelf. These are some of his illustrations for Ladybird books.

Charles Tunnicliffe was born in 1901 in Langley, Macclesfield, England. He spent his early years living on the farm at Sutton, where he saw much wildlife. In 1916 he began to study at the Macclesfield School of Art, and later went on to win a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London.

He married in 1929 at the Methodist Church, Whalley Range, Manchester, to Winifred Wonnacott, a fellow art student. In 1947 he moved from Manchester to a house called “Shorelands” at Malltraeth, on the estuary of the Afon Cefni on Anglesey, where he lived until his death in 1979.

He worked in several media, including watercolor painting, etching and aquatint, wood engraving, woodcut, scraperboard (sometimes called scratchboard), and oil painting.  Much of his work depicted birds in their natural settings and other naturalistic scenes. His work was also used to illustrate Brooke Bond tea cards and as a result was seen by millions of young people in the United Kingdom during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Charles’s work was characterised by its precision and accuracy, but also by the way in which he was able to portray birds as they were seen in nature rather than as stiff scientific studies.

From March 1953, he painted many of the cover illustrations for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’s (RSPB) magazine Bird Notes, and several for the later Birds magazines.  At his death, much of his personal collection of work was bequeathed to Anglesey council on the condition that it was housed together and made available for public viewing. This body of work can now be seen at Oriel Ynys Môn (The Anglesey Gallery) near Llangefni.

His work shows such care and attention to detail, that you can’t help but be drawn into each scene, noticing more and more information as the eye works it’s way around the painting.

Charles also created the wood engravings too.

Here’s the other two covers in the series (below) and the only other ladybird book I owned (above).

And this was the book I had on my shelf already, without realising it was the same artist. Such amazing detailed and dedicated work.

Charles also received much recognition for his work on Henry Williamson’s children’s book ‘ Tarka the Otter’ in 1932.

He created many studies for Tarka, the main character.

Beautifully observed watery scenes.

He spent days just observing and creating observational paintings, which were often life-size studies !

Can’t you just feel the frost on this branch below. At least 250 books used Charles’s illustrations on the cover and inside.

Ladybird books had their beginnings in 1915, although the company traces its origins to 1867, when Henry Wills opened a bookshop in Loughborough, Leicestershire. Within a decade he progressed to printing and publishing guidebooks and street directories. He was joined by William Hepworth in 1904, and the company traded as Wills & Hepworth.

By August 1915, Wills & Hepworth had published their first children’s books, under the Ladybird imprint. From the start, the company was identified by a ladybird logo, at first with open wings, but eventually changed to the more familiar closed-wing ladybird in the late 1950’s. The ladybird logo has since undergone several redesigns, the latest of which was launched in 2006.

Wills & Hepworth began trading as Ladybird Books in 1971 as a direct result of the brand recognition that their imprint had achieved in Britain. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the company’s Key Words Reading Scheme (launched in 1964) was heavily used by British primary schools, using a reduced vocabulary to help children learn to read. This series of 36 small-format hardback books presented stereotyped models of British family life – the innocence of Peter and Jane at play, Mum the housewife, and Dad the breadwinner. Many of the illustrations in this series were by Harry Wingfield and Martin Aitchison.

The 1950s to the 1970s are widely considered to be Ladybird’s ‘golden age’. This period saw the post-war baby boomers come of age, creating a mass of new consumers who were open, confident and unrestrained. Ladybird books reflected this optimism with its forward-looking design and illustrations, which depicted a utopian vision of modern Britain.

In the 1960s, Ladybird produced the Learnabout series of non-fiction (informational) books, some of which were used by adults as well as children.

An independent company for much of its life, Ladybird Books became part of the Pearson Group in 1972. However, falling demand in the late 1990s led Pearson to fully merge Ladybird into its Penguin Books subsidiary in 1998, joining other household names in British children’s books such as Puffin Books, Dorling Kindersley, and Frederick Warne. The Ladybird offices and printing factory in Loughborough closed the same year, and much of the company’s archive of historic artwork was transferred to public collections.

Nowadays you can pick up a lovely retro print of a Ladybird book illustration from the company King & MCGAW.

I’ve been told that over 20,000 of the images from the books have been preserved in the world’s first permanent gallery devoted to Ladybird books at Museum of English Rural Life (MERL). The gallery has scores of titles shelved chronologically from 1961’s ‘Learning to read Numbers’ to current titles such as ‘Climate Change’ by the Prince of Wales. His book is one of the new range of “expert” titles for which the first new artwork in over 40 years was commissioned. A proof sheet shows how little the books changed once a standard was established to cope with wartime shortages, a single large sheet of paper printed on both sides gave 56 pages or text, illustrations, plus a cover.

In case you have had your head in the sand for the last year and haven’t noticed, there has been a range of Ladybird books for grown-ups, which use original Ladybird illustrations with up to date, dry humoured and witty, written commentary.

They have been runaway best sellers, earning an estimated £30m for Penguin.

The key illustrators of Ladybird books from that vintage period were: – Martin Aitchison, Robert Ayton, John Berry, John Kenney, B.H Robinson, Charles Tunnicliffe and H Wingfield, (some images of the illustrators exist here).

It is impossible to say exactly how many titles Ladybird Books has published over the past century as records before 1940 no longer exist. We do know that, between 1940 and 1980, Ladybird published a total of 63 different series, collectively containing 646 titles.  By 1990, the annual Ladybird catalogue listed over 600 titles still in print, with new titles being published at an average rate of 100 per year. Today, Ladybird continues to publish around 70 new titles every year.

Finally, and before you start asking me what your ladybird books are worth these days lol, I happened across a site that deals in rare and unusual Ladybird publications called The Wee Web.  They claim that the rarest book of them all to be ‘The Computer – How it Works’ (1971) – this is not the standard issue but rather a private publication that was especially produced for the Ministry of Defence in 1972. The M.O.D specifically asked for the book to be published in plain covers and without copyright information as not to embarrass their training staff !

Which titles do you remember and possibly still own ?

Many thanks to Wikipedia, Penguin Books and The Guardian for the information in this post. Please share this post with your friends and spread the word about Fishink Blog online, thank you for being a reader.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save