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UK Stamps

May 2, 2022

Happy Bank Holiday Monday, those of you who are lucky to enjoy it as a day off. I thought I would delve today into the colourful history of Stamps in the UK.

As one of the oldest organisations in the world, the Royal Mail Group can trace its origins back over 500 years to 1516. The ‘Penny Black‘ (above) was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was initially issued in the United Kingdom (referred to in philatelic circles as Great Britain), on 1 May 1840, but was not valid for use until 6 May. The stamp features a profile of Queen Victoria, and last year, one was offered at auction for 4 to 6 million pounds !! But failed to sell.

In 1837, British postal rates were high and complex. To simplify matters, Sir Rowland Hill proposed an adhesive stamp to indicate pre-payment of postage. At the time it was normal for the recipient to pay postage on delivery, charged by the sheet and on distance travelled. By contrast, the Penny Black allowed letters of up to 1⁄2 ounce (14 grams) to be delivered at a flat rate of one penny, regardless of distance.

The total print run was 286,700 sheets, containing a total of 68,808,000 stamps. Many were saved, and in used condition they remain readily available to stamp collectors. The only known complete sheets of the Penny Black are owned by the British Postal Museum.

As no other country at the time was issuing adhesive postage stamps, the country name was not used. For their distinction of being the first stamp issuing country, to this day, Great Britain is the only country in the World that is NOT required to print their country name on their postage stamps.

In 1966, Queen Elizabeth II approves Arnold Machin’s design of her to be used on postage stamps. Her image has since appeared on more than 180 billion copies of the stamps. Some early ones below alongside those of Queen Victoria.

I love the intricate decoration of these above. Below, a few notable designs celebrating different Jubilee’s throughout the years, up to the present day 2022 Platinum Jubilee stamps of the Queeen celebrating 70 years in service, (bottom left).

Books of stamps used to be stitched down one side with a decorated front cover.

More painterly stamps from the sixties to the eighties.

Stamps depicting nature are always a popular choice.

In the nineties, stamps were sold as part of a presentation pack, often with a header and a theme that linked them together, like Messages, Magic and Smiles.

In 2004, Royal Mail launches the UK’s first digital stamp with an online postage system called SmartStamp®. It is aimed mainly at small businesses. Today’s stamps feature Migratory Birds, DC Heroes and Harry Potter. How styles and tastes change over the years.

A new set of stamps has been launched to pay tribute to David Gentleman, the designer credited with changing the face of the British stamp. David has been hailed as the most prolific and influential British stamp designer, designed more than 100 stamps for Royal Mail between 1962 and 2000, and provided many more designs that were not used. Royal Mail collaborated with him to choose a selection of some of his most famous and influential images, seen here.

The tribute to Gentleman is notable as it is the first time Royal Mail has dedicated an entire issue to a designer of its commemorative stamps. David Gold, a spokesperson for Royal Mail, said Gentleman was “one of the foremost artists involved in British stamp design”.

“For over half a century, he has made an enduring contribution to British stamp design. His work continues to influence and inspire designers today.”

The first designs of Gentleman’s that were successful were for National Productivity Year in 1962, and used symbolic arrows.

Three years later he wrote to the new postmaster general, Tony Benn, in response to a general invitation for ideas about stamps, recommending more interesting subjects than had been featured previously. He also proposed a new size of stamp and introduced a small cameo of the Queen, based on her profile as depicted by Mary Gillick on coins from 1953.

Gentleman said: “Stamps were fun to design, though squeezing a lot into a small space wasn’t easy. At first it was difficult to fit in the Queen’s head until I turned it into the simple profile which is still used today”. A recent exhibition showed some of his original artwork.

Over the years UK Stamps have seen quite a few colour variations.

If you enjoyed this post, you may find it interesting to visit The Postal Museum. If you should wish to start collecting stamps for yourself there are some tips from the world famous Stanley Gibbons and if you are looking to know where to start buying your stamps and their value, then have a look at Albany Stamps for some guidance. Finally a wonderful site called Collect GB Stamps, has a dated collection of stamps from past to present. Do you have any favourite stamp designs you can share ?

Bob Peak Mid Centuary Illustration for Advertising

April 25, 2022

Robert M. Peak (1927–1992) is an award-winning American illustrator , born in Denver, Colorado, Peak grew up in Wichita, Kansas.

At an early age he displayed a talent for art, and had an interest in becoming a commercial illustrator. While attending Wichita State University, Peak took a part-time job in the art department of a local printing and graphics firm, McCormick-Armstrong.

After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, he enrolled in the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California, where he graduated in 1951.

In 1953 Peak moved to New York City and worked on an Old Hickory Whiskey advertising campaign, followed by numerous assignments in such major national magazines as Time, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, TV Guide, and Ladies’ Home Journal, among others.

In 1961 United Artists film studio hired Peak to design the poster images for the film West Side Story, the success of which began a three-decade-long career in designing movie posters for such big-budget films as My Fair Lady (1964), Camelot (1967), Superman (1978), six Star Trek films (1979-1991), and many others.

He is credited with having a major impact on the development and style of subsequent movie poster artists and was in great demand by film directors throughout the 1980s. Here’s some more of his sixties work.

Very clever how he depicts communication through these illustrations.

Peak won more than 150 awards, from numerous organizations, such as The Society of Illustrators, New York; The Artists Guild, New York; Art Directors Club of New York; Art Directors Club of Philadelphia; Advertising Club of Boston, and The Hollywood Reporter. In 1977 the Society of Illustrators elected Peak to its Hall of Fame.

For the 1984 Olympics, the United States Postal Service commissioned Peak to design thirty stamps.

He also created thirty-one watercolors depicting various sports events in the history of the Olympics for the book entitled Golden Moments, commissioned by the United States government.

Throughout his prolific career, Peak created cover art and illustrations for a wide variety of magazines. In addition, he taught at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles and at New York’s Art Students League. However he is possibly best known for his thirty year contribution to the film industry, creating vibrant and exciting designs for modern movie posters.

Peak’s work has appeared in numerous art exhibitions and solo shows. His paintings of Anwar Sadat, Mother Teresa, and Marlon Brando hang in the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection. Sadly his career ended abruptly and tragically in August 1992 after he suffered a brain hemorrhage in a fall.

What an amazingly talented Illustrator, any thoughts readers as to what you liked best ?

Fishink Vintage Book Covers

April 18, 2022

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Happy Easter everyone. I thought a splash of retro colour may go down well from the collection of Vintage Book Covers that I’ve been amassing. I hope nobody minds too much : )  Let’s begin with a few mid century foreign titles.

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A great variation in styles here.

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A smattering of more informative books.

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All kinds of travel.

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Animals of course !

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A good mix of different countries, subjects, age ranges and illustrative styles here.

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I love these decorated books, some patterns belonging to King Penguin Book Covers.

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Does anyone remember reading any of these titles when they were young ? I hope they might inspire some wonderful old memories. Do let me know.

Did anyone spot the covers by Alice and Martin Provensen, Leonard Weisgard and Edward Bawden ? Full marks if you did.

Tjitske Kamphuis on Instagram

April 11, 2022

I recently came across the beautiful work of Tjitske Kamphuis 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 your old busniess name of 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 old 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 Tjitske Kamphuis on Instagram here and her Etsy shop here.

Maurice Grimaud French Children’s Book Illustrator

April 4, 2022

As often is the case, I find a wonderful artist and then can find very little information about them or their life. All I know is Maurice Grimaud was most fondly remembered for a series of mini books, called ‘I want to read’, that were used in French Primary Schools in the late 1960s. The 4 mini-books were entitled George’s red bike, Cécile and his dog, Gilberte and his doll and Guita & The Four Seasons.

His work reminds me a little of another French Illustrator Alain Grée. Because that is all I know about Maurice, I will leave you to browse his charming illustrations and let me know your thoughts at the end.

There’s a beautiful sense of time stopping and allowing our eyes to wander into his landscapes without having to rush. I love his slightly subdued colour palette too.

His work definitely looks like it’s from another era. It’s well observed and thoughtful and I feel that he either had a very creative imagination, or he spent a lot of time sketching within the community, documenting all that he saw go on around him.

There is also a series of illustrations featuring singing Cicadas !

His adult book covers look like this.

If anyone knows anymore information about this talented author, please drop me a line to let me know. Thank you.

Embroidery – a general appreciation

March 28, 2022

Hi everyone. Before I present my post today, I feel like I would like to say a few words. The past few years for all of us have been difficult indeed. Having to deal with things that we could not have envisioned makes life both unexpected and traumatic. I am someone who tries to create a ‘safe space’ around me and also here on my blog, a place where people can visit and hopefully just lose themselves in the joys of art and creativity.

I don’t wish to discuss politics or news here, this isn’t the place for it and as it pervades every other aspect in my online and physical world, I strive hard to keep this place largely ‘news free’ and concentrate purely on the discovery of art and artists. The sharing of their skills and imagination is what drives me forward.

I am also a designer and creative who tries to give others, a sense of joy through my work, it’s rewarding for me when people take that away from my art and get a feeling of contentment when reading my posts. I think of myself as quite a sensitive person, who can get influenced emotionally by reading negativity in the news or hearing day after day of the disasters that occur, be they humanitarian, ecological or environmental. If I spend too much of my time reading about these things, I find that I can’t create the pieces that I strive to make, because my emotions aren’t in the right space to make them. I can’t ignore what is going on in the world or around me, but I choose not to introduce them into my work and I certainly limit my exposure to them on a daily basis.

I wanted to share these thoughts with everyone today just to say, that if you feel a similar ‘society pressure’ to be ever aware of the state of events going on around you, then don’t be. It’s ok to switch off the news, walk away from the headlines and take solice in nature or some book, piece of music or art that lifts the spirits. You know what you need to do to keep yourself on a calm plain.

We should not feel guilt by doing these things, we are all different and what works for one person will not be the same for another. Find your own way of getting solace in this life and when you do, cling onto it because it will be the soul-food that your inner self requires. I hope that resonates with some.

As is often the case with the research for my more general posts, they start off as one thing and morph into something else by means of distraction and falling down online rabbit holes (as I mentioned again recently). This post started out by looking at Embroidery within a Church setting, inspired by seeing a book released in the early sixties by Beryl Dean. Here’s a little of Beryl’s impressive work.

After that I started looking at other Embroidery from different time periods, countries and cultures. This is a mix of my visual meanderings. As a lot of the work I found isn’t credited, there are few references to their creators.

Birds and flowers appear to be very popular themes.

Some of the colourations and designs are so beautifully considered.

I love this row of rooftop birds and below another couple of fun pieces.

The influence of Swedish embroidery pops up again and again when looking at midcentury designs.

The company NIAB or Nordiska Industri AB (who also made rugs ) had a great design team and many of their sixties designs are being promoted by modern company Studio Flax (once Linladen). Owned by Tanja you can read more of the companies backstory here. Beautifully presented and using a backlog of 50 year old linen threads which are as good today as the day they were created.

Some of the original designs above and below.

The Studio Flax company provide a printed linen base cloth, a selection of coloured linen threads and stitch and colour reference information, to allow anyone to recreate these stunning midcentury designs.

Stunning colours don’t you agree ?

Finally I came across the delicate organic work of Japanese embroiderer Kazuko Aoki. Such a talented, popular Japanese textile artist whose work pops up in many embroidery magazines and exhibitions. Her delicate drawings are inspired by her great love of nature and the flowers in her own garden, which often provide the starting point for her creative designs. Kazuko loves to combine other embroidery techniques with cross-stitch to introduce a beautiful and unexpected element in her art and in the process create an original new style.

To me, they feel very relevant in today’s climate, a marked return to noticing the simplicity and beauty of the nature surrounding us all.

I hope that was a creative visual escape for everyone. Some stunning designs and ideas wouldn’t you agree. If this post inspired you today, please leave a comment or feel free to follow my blog or follow me here over on instagram . It’s great to hear your thoughts on my site and posts. Thanks Craig.

If you enjoyed this post you may also like to go here, here and here for more embroidery related information.

Fishink Ceramic Sale on Today

March 26, 2022

Hello everyone.

Just a quick message to say that I am hosting a Ceramic sale of brand new work on my Instagram stories today between 2 and 5pm GMT and I would love for you to join me.

You can find me here or and here is a sneak preview of what will be available for sale.

Many more pieces available online today and tomorrow and don’t forget that I post worldwide, to your door, or to the door of someone you might wish to send a gift to.

Hope to see you there, thank you Craig

Ib Antoni

March 22, 2022

At the end of last year, there was a new book released, celebrating the wonderful midcentury work of Ib Antoni. Written by Sara Alfort in collaboration with Antoni Legacy. It has been published in English with the title “The Man Who Drew Denmark”, also available in Danish, as an e-book, and an audiobook. It can be bought right here on the official Ib Antoni website.

Ib Antoni was born in Esbjerg in Jutland, Denmark in 1929 and grew up in Aarhus, where he was educated as an advertising designer on the advertising agency “Buchtrup’s Klichéfabrik”, after which he was hired by the agency “Harlang & Toksvig”.

It was however in Copenhagen that his career would really progress, and here he became one of the great Danish postwar-“Mad Men”, as he as the art director on some of the greatest advertising campaigns of his time made his humorous and positive stroke known and loved in the entire world. You may well recognise some of his world renown posters, such as the Little Mermaid, seen below.

His style is so accessible and humorous, I’m certain he has influenced countless Illustrators who came across his work.

Ib Antoni originally wanted to be an architect, for which (in spite of the great talent) the childhood home could not financially provide for.

Ib Antoni was an eager collaborator throughout his career and worked closely with around 200 companies and organisations all over the world.

The passion to design never faded, and therefore, in the late 1960s and early 1970s he devoted himself, apart from his work designing posters, to work that could satisfy his interest within the architectural field.

The demand for the Antoni stroke came from all over the world, and he had customers such as Shell, Unicef, Volvo, Life Magazine and Neiman-Marcus.

In Denmark he was called the ”National Illustrator of Denmark”, because his posters with The Little Mermaid, Tivoli and Copenhagen were – and still are – a part of creating the narrative of the native country and of the national brand, that attract visitors from all over the world. A narrative of great and clean-cut designs and the love of fairytales taken straight out of a H. C. Andersen adventure.

He also made his debut, before his untimely death, within beautiful rug designs, poetical children’s books, colourful textiles, stylish porcelain for Royal Copenhagen and last, but not least, the classical Tivoli lamp, that was reproduced in 2017 by the Danish company “Le Klint”.

When he died in a tragic fire, only 44 years old, the papers called him “world-famous” and “the greatest in his field”, and it’s easy to see why.

Many thanks to the Ib Antoni website who allowed me to use the info and illustrations from their site.

Berit Ternell Swedish Ceramist

March 14, 2022

Berit Ternell studied at the Handicraft Society School in Göteborg.

After graduation in 1950 she worked for a year as an intern for Upsala-Ekeby where her job included decorative painting of the studio ceramics by Ingrid Atterberg and Mari Simmulson.

Before being contracted by Gefle (Sweden) in 1957, she mainly worked for Bo Fajans (Sweden) but also for T.G. Green Pottery (England), Reijmyre Glassworks (Sweden) and Rörstrand (Sweden).

At Gefle she stayed for 14 years designing, the popular ‘Kosmos’ service (1966) in blue & brown, the ‘Cocktail’ and ‘Smide’ tableware, the vases Trio en Reactor and many, may more.

In 1971 she left Gefle and returns to Göteborg where she teaches art at the ‘Högskolan för Design och Konsthantverk’ (HDK), a department of the Arts faculty at the Göteborg University, until her retirement in 1974.

A wonderful collection of well designed ceramics wouldn’t you say !

Lisa Larson Sale this week !!!!

February 28, 2022

Hi everyone. Today I have some very exciting news for you.

I am having an auction-style sale of some of my Lisa Larson figures. if like me you have always wanted to own one of her beautiful midcentury figures, well here is your chance.

Starting tomorrow (i.e. Tuesday 1st March) at 10am GMT they will be available on my Instagram feed at

If you are interested in bidding on anything, you can do so by leaving a comment below the photo and description of the piece of ceramic you like on my feed. That way, the most up to date bid will always be at the top of the comments, so you can see what is presently ‘winning’.

Each of the fourteen ceramics have a starting price (top left) and the costs of postage will be approximately £10 per item (in the UK) for next day special delivery. People bidding from other countries will be contacted after the bidding finishes on Saturday at 10pm GMT, to finalise safe delivery costs with them personally, probably on the Sunday. All ceramic deliveries will travel insured and fully tracked to your door.

For those of you without an instagram account who might also like to place a bid, I will accept serious bids left in the comments below this feed. Please remember that other people’s bids will be added on the instagram account too, so you might not have the highest bid at any one time. I shall try and update people’s bidding amounts on here at the end of each day. Please use the number in the corner of each ceramics photo between 1 and 14, so that it’s clear what your bid selection is and your bid price in £’s.

All bids will cease to be accepted after 10pm on Saturday March 5th. The highest bid will win the item and the winner will be notified of the final amount (ie with postage) for a safely insured postage to their door on Sunday 6th March. Payments will be made via Paypal, you don’t need a Paypal account in order to use their services.

Here is a list of what is for sale.

1. Fox from Lilla Zoo series. Produced 1956-78 dimensions H7cms, L13 cms, W5cms

2. Lion Cub from Afrika Series. Produced 1964- dimensions H5cms, L5cms, W5cms

3. Telka Bird from Phoenix Bird series. Produced 1990’s. Rare colouration. H12cms, L9cms W7cms

4. Sitting Cat (1) from Lilla Zoo series. Produced 1956-78. H12cms, L7cms, W5cms

5. Small Bulldog from Kennel series. Produced 1977-79, 1992- H7cms, L8cms, W6cms

6. Standing Cat from Lilla Zoo series. Produced 1956-78 H11cms, L9.5cms, W3.5cms

7. Sitting Cat (2) from Lilla Zoo series. Produced 1956-78. H12cms, L7cms, W5cms

8. Dachshund DOG from Lilla Zoo series. Produced 1956-78 H5cms, L15cms, W4cms

9. Face Vase. Produced 1977-90’s H13cms, L9.5cms W9.5cms

10. Wolverine from Nordic Zoo series. Produced 1977-80’s H8cms, L15cms, W7cms

11. Maria from Children of the World series. Produced 1977- H14cms, l5cms, W4cms

12. West from Children of the World series. Produced 1977- H14cms, l5cms, W4cms

13. Three Bird Plaque from Harlequin series. Produced 1960-69 H19cms, L19cms, W2.5cms

14. Blue Advent Pig, four candle holder, Produced 1965-71 H8cms, L33cms, W7cms

Don’t forget you can find the live bidding here at

Do get in touch if you need any more information. Thank you Craig.

After the bidding has started I will update the highest bid amounts at the end of each day (Tuesday to Saturday) below here. Pop back to see if your bid is winning.

Latest Bid Prices.

  1. Fox £110

2. Lion Cub £80

3. Bird £110

4. Sitting Cat (1) £110

5. Bulldog £100

6. Standing Cat £110

7. Sitting Cat (2) £110

8. Dachshund Dog £110

9. Face Vase £100

10. Wolverine £120

11. Maria £90

12. West £90

13. Three Bird Plaque £140

14. Blue Pig Candle Holder £250

Happy Bidding Everyone : )