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Manchester School of Art Degree Show 2019 Part 1

June 15, 2019

I went to the Manchester School of Art Degree show this week and caught up with a few creative graduates work. In case you are interested the show is on until June the 19th. Opening times: Mon – Fri 10am – 6pm, Sat/Sun – 10am – 4pm at Manchester School of Art (Benzie, Grosvenor and Chatham Buildings, Cavendish Street, M15 6BR) and 99 Oxford Road (Old Manchester Met SU, M1 7EL). I was greeted by a giant in the foyer!

I began in the Textiles in Practice area with clean florals and wildlife from Leia Butterworth.

“My final collection ‘Fresh Traditional’ includes original drawings, digitally printed wallpapers and digitally printed fabrics for cushions and curtains. The collection is inspired by botanical drawings from Manchester Metropolitan Library Archive and my own photographs of florals. ”

Modern sneaker street art from Kristine Kho.

Graphic and architectural representations from Nicola L Dean.

“My most recent project ‘Soho Suitor’ was inspired by exploring the architecture of New York city; I have used this research to create both woven and printed fabric designs that provide a unisex style of clothing and accessories suitable for the modern day business person. Through trend research I have selected the appropriate colours, fabrics and yarn choices for various areas of suiting and, with both genders in mind, I adapted my colours and designs accordingly to incorporate both masculine and feminine qualities. The designs take on a vivid and graphic nature showing my interest in unusual colour combinations and hand drawn elements ”

Niamh Baker show some vibrant inspiration and some textured, printed fabrics.

” My most recent practice Mimicry has been inspired by movement and mimicry of fish scales and how they shift their form creating misleading patterns and colourful lures to protect from predators; Batesian mimicry. I’ve been working on the Gyotaku which is a Japanese art form which uses actual fish to create an ink image traditional with sumi ink and rice paper ”

Some jungle inspired prints from Hannah Sheldon.

” My final project, ‘A Walk on the Wild Side’ is a Spring/Summer 2020 Collection inspired by wildlife within their natural environment. A focus on majestic animals gives a sense of power and sophistication to the designs. Being influenced by East Asian print and traditional style clothing as well as current Haute couture catwalk, I intended for my work to have a feel of opulence and luxury ”

Lauren Boland’s printed fabrics speak of opulence and grandeur.

“My project ‘Oriental Plush’ is a collection of bespoke digital paper designs and screen printed fabrics. Through a strong colour palette, I have created an interior collection with a luxury touch. The project has taken inspiration from chinoiserie and Japanese art with added tropical elements, enriched by the choice of colour and fabric ”

Two woven designers work that caught my eye were Elle Moors and Mimosa Rickets.

Elle says “The British Countryside has been a recurring concept inspiring my practice this year, researching into wool, colour composition and traditional woven structures. My final show is inspired by the great outdoors of England and the need to keep warm, whilst being stylish and practical ” I think these would compliment some Harris Tweeds very nicely.

Mimosa says

“Inspired by the familiar and ever changing Peak District landscape of home, the geometric structures found in the urban landscape of Manchester and most recently the children’s illustrated book ‘Where the wild things are’ have provided me with a wealth of visual information that I have recorded through stitch, collage and weave ”

Thanks to Fern Cooke for providing a great reminder about recycling. ” All of my fabric pieces have been created out of recycled or discarded textiles, with all the denim cut from second hand jeans. Sustainability is incredibly important to me as not just a message, but a key factor in choosing materials too ”

Whilst Chloe Allen introduces us to her insects which speak about social values and cultural identity within fashion markets.

“My final year of study has focused upon providing an insight into how we collectively treat our world – and all that’s in is as disposable. My textile collections endeavour to bring a treasured aesthetic. By taking a resourceful and sensitive approach to practice my work aims to bring into discussion the precarious position we now find ourselves in due to the depletion of precious natural resources and the continued destruction of nature, and its wildlife ”

Some creative prints from printer Maisie Short.

“Playful experimentation and sampling is critical to my design development and I particularly like using hand-made processes. I aim to show a crafted element in all my work, to establish a connection between maker and audience and often to give the work a bespoke feel. By engaging with the tactile qualities of fabric and embellishment I gain a broader understanding of the materials I use and how they can be combined and enhanced ”

Ella Slade brings a sense of rural calm to her wall paper collections.

“The aesthetics of my print design resonates from growing up within the countryside. I have always had an indefinite connection to natural elements within my practice. With a primary focus on botanical illustration, liner fluidity, and carefully considered composition’s. The rich variety of blue, green, and yellow shades largely make up the colour pallet for ‘In the herb garden ”

Beautiful silk and linen work by textile designer Megan Burton.

“The project ‘concertina’ explores how woven samples can be manipulated into three-dimensional forms inspired by Japanese culture, in particular origami. Becoming more mindful of my surroundings, inspiration came from recognising folds within daily life and finding beauty and use in everyday objects and materials”

I liked the contrast and structural element to the 3D printed and assembled forms by Jack Thomas.

“I am currently investigating how geometry can be used to create material properties in 3D printed structures. I have explored how 3D extrusion can create forms that flex, stretch, bend and spring. The forms incorporate repetitive structural patterns which use pleated lines and sharp angles to facilitate movement. This year has been a year of research and development; getting to grips with this expanding technology and learning the behaviours of the hardware ”

Jack will be continuing onto an MSc in Digital Digitalisation next year. He says ” I want to apply my research into a real-world context. I have had interest in my structures for medical, architectural and environmental fields. These areas would enable me to solve practical problems that would have real impact in the world as we grow during this current industrial revolution ”

Great to hear of students thinking practically about their future environments, the impact their work can have on and in it and how to change things for the better.

Check back in for part 2 of my Degree show visit on Monday. See you then. Tell me who’s work has inspired or caught your eye today ?

Fishink in Manchester, the Peterloo Masacre and Sale Arts Trail Pop Up Shop 2019

June 12, 2019

I went into town yesterday to go to the Manchester School of Art Degree show which I’ll talk more about later this week and early next week. Whilst I was there, I popped into the Manchester Craft and Design Centre and saw this comissioned work by Newcastle based ceramist Alex Sickling, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre in August this year.

I thought it interesting to see a ceramic response to a historical event and that Alex did an impressive job of creating a personal depiction of something that happened so long ago.

Many people living in Manchester today perhaps aren’t aware of the extent of the massacre that occured, and so it’s a great way to document the event and tell a story using ceramics.

This was a poster sent out by the local police before the event some 200 years ago, warning people not to attend.

On a more contemporary note, I also dropped in to see the lovely Linzi Ramsden who is selling her beautiful stoneware and porcelain ceramics from her groundfloor shop, opposite this display.

Beautiful colours and movement in her work, thanks for the chat and for letting me showcase your work again Linzi.

More local news is that I’ll be part of this years Sale Arts Trail based at Minikin 57 Cross Street, Sale, M33 7HF. It’s on 13th and 14th July and there will be a great mix of artist and designers taking part, covering areas such as ceramics, illustration, jewellery, painting and much more. Save and share the date !!!!!  Also announcing the Arts Trail POP UP shop.


” We are pleased to announce from Sale Art Trail HQ that we will be opening our Pop Up Shop. The shop is located at 21 The Mall in Sale Town Centre and will be opening this Sunday 16th June to coincide with Sale’s very first Makers Market.

There will be a selection of work in our artists gallery and find out what we will be up to in the shop for the month prior to the Sale Arts Trail.

We will be open from 11-4. Drop in, say hello and collect your Sale Arts Trail leaflet ”

A small selection of my Fishink work I’m assembling for the show.

Look forward to seeing many of you there soon. I’ll be showcasing my selection of graduates work from the Man School of Art on Friday and Monday, drop back in for more news.

Halima Cassell Nature in Stone

June 10, 2019

Any sense of familiarity we have with the art of Halima Cassell perhaps comes from seeing geometry in nature. I came across Halima’s work on a recent trip to the Manchester Art Gallery and marvelled at the flow and movement of her work.

As a child, Halima investigated the patterns of maths and nature by dismantling plants. Trying to understand the art in the multiplication of living cells brought Halima the same joy that many people feel while gazing upon her creations. Although being dyslexic created challenges for Halima’s academic studies, laying the family carpet at the age of 11 was one small sign of the creativity and beauty her hands would bring into the world.

She was born in Kashmir, grew up in the north west of England and her sculpture reflects her dual international and local heritage. Early ceramic works such as Mancunian Roofscapes, (below) first shown at Manchester Art Gallery in 2005, were influenced both by the architecture of the north west and the repeated geometric patterns of Islamic design.

In recent years, Halima has travelled throughout Britain and in Italy, Japan and Pakistan to explore new materials, techniques and approaches.

These experiences have enriched her work and taken it in previously unforeseen directions: the regular repetition of carved geometry and immaculate symmetry giving way to sensuous organic curves and asymmetry.

Travel renewed her appetite for experimentation – in Japan she threw pots whilst stood on a step ladder and in Italy she worked in marble for the first time.

She is gifted with an exceptional ability to visualise complex patterns and mentally project them on to 3-D objects. Her work is diverse in inspiration and form, but her personal style is instantly recognisable due to her bold, energetic designs, crisp carving and intuitive understanding of how to integrate pattern, form, material and scale. You can’t appreciate the scale and intricasy of the work until you see it close up.

Here (above) Halima explores the idea of organic shapes emerging from natural structures, and (below) makes a flowing sculpture turn into liquid marble.

A few early ideas and prototypes, discovering form and movement.

Amazing to see how her travels and gathering of clays from other countries have had such an influence of the textures, colours, patterns and shapes of her final pieces.

Is this an Owl or some ancient spirit watching over it’s owner !

In her artist’s statement Halima says :-

“In my early work I was exploring the boundaries of my new found modus operandi, which was infused with Islamic influences drawn from heavily carved architecture. This led me to look to other examples of intricately carved and constructed buildings from all around the world. In addition, I was inspired by the repetitive motifs of pattern derived from the influences of North African surface design.

Delving deeper into these architectural influences and looking closer at structures of past and contemporary building styles, I discovered that I was also greatly intrigued by the internal space and the construction, which were articulated together on the external surface envelope. These relationships have informed my own work as I strive to unify not only internal and external forms but also the parts to the whole. In this respect I am reminded of the Greek principle of the Golden Section, namely that, the smaller is to the larger as the larger is to the whole ”

The exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery runs until early February 2020.

Kat Flint Devilish Details

June 3, 2019

I believe that there is something magical about the process of carving a piece of wood or lino in reverse and then printing it to see, for the first time, what you have created in all it’s glory. I’ve been following the extroadinarily creative prints from talented artist Kat Flint on Instagram as they take shape, develop and are finally revealed for the first time. They are fascinating.

Kat’s work has great depth, detail and drama. She has a love of sayings, traditional rhymes and folk tales which appear again and again in her prints, like “Storm in a Teacup”.

“Hey Diddle Diddle” and “The Owl and the Pussycat” also make an appearance.

Alongside Goldilocks and George and the Dragon.

Kat has also painted directly onto ceramic surfaces.

I’ve flipped this linocut image so that you can read the text, as “Fortune Favours the Bold”. Normally everything has to be carved in reverse in order to be printed the right way round.

I love this series of elementary men and women. Ideas around Air, Water, Fire and Earth are explored here.

Kat often shows tantalising images from her sketch books, revealing how her ideas take shape and how many times she may draw and redraw a subject, before the final decision is made for which one to carve.

The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe (above) and a circus theme with tatooed lady Lion Tamers and barbell lifting Strongmen.

A few coloured repeat designs, which show lovely movement.


Snake charmers

Lately she’s been carving a huge illustration with imagery based around Fishwives and the Sea. I can’t wait to see the final result.

Buy an original print from Kat’s shop here and follow her on Instagram.

Stunning work, looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for her designs.

Paula Metcalf Illustrating a wonderful life.

May 27, 2019

Chances are you won’t find today’s guest illustrator Paula Metcalf lounging about taking a rest in a tree like this chap below, no, no, no… she’s far too busy !

Presently completing her 20th Children’s Book and teaching on the M.A. course at Angela Ruskin University, she generously took some time out of her hectic schedule to answer some questions for Fishink Blog today.

Hi Paula, many thanks for joining us today, I’ll get straight to the questions. You wanted to be an illustrator from the age of sixteen, and I’ve read you’re now working on your 20th book, (congratulations) what does it feel like to be doing what you’ve wanted to do?

Thanks Craig for asking me. I feel incredibly lucky! As a kid I dreamt of making this my career, but it seemed almost impossible to get noticed by publishers. It took a LOT of determination and tenacity, but finally I got my dream job and I still can’t quite believe it’s true!

With so many wonderful books already created, do you prefer to write and illustrate your own work, or collaborate with writers to create a joint book ?

There are different ups and downs with both. With illustrating someone else’s text, you come to it fresh, without having wrangled with the plot/words/pacing etc for weeks (even months) before. But on the other hand, you may not love or be as invested in the story as much as one you have written yourself. Writing stories is a big passion of mine, so getting to do both is very exciting indeed.

When you’re working with a writer, how much do they get to influence the scenes you depict and how much are you left to create ideas and illustrate them yourself ?

It’s generally the publisher, not the writer, who influences how I bring the story to life, and it depends on the publisher how involved they get. Sometimes they monitor you so heavily you end up wondering if they should be illustrating rather than you! And at other end of the extreme some publishers leave you to your own devices almost entirely. Somewhere inbetween is probably best, and mostly that is what happens.

Do you have a preferred style or way of working, i.e. naturally or digitally and roughly how long would a typical book take to put together from start to finish ?

I like to work on paper using real paint, real pastel, real pencil. But those elements always get scanned into Photoshop, and meddled around with a bit. I will layer drawn or painted elements over each other, then add extra depth, colour, contrast …. whatever I think is needed. I used to over-Photohop my images, which often wrings the life out of an illustration. These days I try to keep freshness and energy in the image by walking away earlier!

Illustrating a 32 page picture book usually takes me 3 – 4 months, but can take rather longer! Recently I completed one in a much shorter time-frame (2 months) which was extremely stressful and left me quite unwell. Being an illustrator is not the healthiest career. You can spend incredibly long hours hunched over your desk/staring at a screen, so it can cause neck, shoulder and back problems. Approaching a big deadline can make you miss out on sleep, eat badly and forgo fresh air and exercise! All of those things have happened to me, so I am trying very hard to get a healthier work-life balance from now on.

Wise words indeed Paula and familiar to many artists reading this I’m certain.

I believe that you spend some time lecturing on the MA course at the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. What advice would you give to any budding illustrators who long to draw and design children’s books ?

The competition in this industry is enormous so you really have to put your heart and soul into it. Only do it if you feel genuine huge passion for illustrating, not just because you think it sounds like a fun job. The financial rewards are often not great, so this career may mean you have to make a lot of sacrifices in life. If you REALLY love what you do, this won’t bother you of course, because nothing in the world makes you happier than sitting with your pencils, brushes and paint, beavering away into the small hours!

Something else I think is important is to not panic when you don’t seem to be progressing, or everything you draw is horrible. Every illustrator has periods where they hate their work and feel totally defeated. Those feelings can even persist for a long time. But be patient, keep trying, and whatever you are struggling with in your work will generally resolve itself.

How do you see the future of Children’s books in the UK. Do you think we need to be more adventurous with our stories and styles in order to compete with the European markets or does the UK have its own look that we can be proud of ?

When I go to Bologna I barely spend any time looking at UK publishers! I feel so much more excited about books from Europe and further afield. I think British publishers do play things much too safe, in terms of stories and illustrators, and it’s a shame.

Which of your books are you the most proud of to date ?

‘Dog In Boots’ (OUP) definitely. It makes me laugh a lot – even though I wrote it myself, and even though I’ve read it lots of times. As much as I love it, I’m also a bit heartbroken that the funniest bit got axed (it was too rude!!). Maybe one day I will self-publish the uncensored version!

Which illustrators do you most admire and does anyone influence your own work ?

I am obsessed with so many illustrators! I spend far too much of my time drooling over stunning images on Instagram, and envying their talented creators. Roger Duvoisin is my all time favourite, followed by an ever changing selection, currently featuring: Lee Gee Eun, Natalia Shaloshvili, Alisa Yufa, Viola Wang, Olga Demidova, Ekaterina Khebnikova and Natascha Rosenberg.

I’m also a huge fan of Roger Duvoisin and you can see more of his work on my blog here and here.

Can you reveal which characters we might expect to see more of in the coming years ?

Philip’s best friend Ralph (the lurcher) will have his own adventure at some point in the near future. He is in a supporting role in Dog in Boots, but he is such a sweet and funny character I can’t  wait to give him a lead role!

I love this moonlit scene, such wonderfully warm feelings and sentiments arise looking at this.

I’m also a little fond of these kooky-eyed elephants.. fabulous !

Paula thank you so much for your inciteful and honest replies.

It’s so interesting to hear what an experienced artist like yourself feels about Children’s book illustration today. Let’s hope some of the UK publishers are listening !

Beautiful work, I wish you all the best for your future and well done for creating the career you have, I know it’s never as easy as people think. Do keep us posted with your new books, my own lurcher Boo is already interested in offering her services as a potential character model for you lol.

Woollythistle on Instagram

May 20, 2019

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

How did the name Woollythistle first come about ?

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

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

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

Then moving on to Tjitske’s more recent work.

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

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

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

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

How beautifully delicate are these everyone ?

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

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

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

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

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

How would you like to see your work to develop ?

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

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

Kay Bojesen Wooden Classic Toys

May 13, 2019

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

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

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

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

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


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

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