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Gere Kavanaugh

October 26, 2020

Gere Kavanaugh’s varied output has dubbed her a designer of textiles, furniture, interiors, exhibitions, products, and graphics, as well as an artist and a colour consultant. She’s also channeled a love of letter forms into type design, creating custom typefaces for the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and Arklow Pottery in Ireland. “I love too many things. I’ll design anything I can get my hands on—just ask me,” says Gere, an active designer at 87 years old, who’s itching for a commission to design a destination tea room or redo the interiors of an airline. “They’re just so boring!” she remarks with her usual affable candor.

Gere’s prodigious and polymathic approach to design began in school. After studying fine arts at the Memphis College of Art, she went to Michigan to pursue a master’s degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art. There, she thrived in the tightly knit studio system, living and creating with fellow students working in ceramics, painting, textiles, graphics, and architecture. At the time, both the classroom and the workplace were male-dominated, but Gere was not to be impeded by this fact. She was one of the first women to go through Cranbrook’s design program, along with mid-20th-century legends Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, and Ruth Adler Schnee. Cranbrook’s staff included strong male and female teachers, and Gere was encouraged by designers such as Finnish ceramicist Maija Grotell, architect/industrial designer Ted Luderowski, and textile designer Marianne Strengell.

After Cranbrook, she was immediately hired at General Motors. Buoyed by a wave of postwar optimism, Gere remembers this time as heady and exciting for designers, especially those working in Detroit. In addition to GM, design-forward companies such as Ford, Chrysler, Herman Miller, Eero Saarinen, and Minoru Yamasaki were all located in Detroit, then the center of design in America. “There was a milieu—an atmosphere—[where you felt] that by creating better products, you were creating a better world,” she recalls.

Gere worked at GM’s styling studio, equivalent to a company’s in-house design department today. She designed displays, created model kitchens, and would even, at times, work on the interior design of private homes of GM’s top executives. But as part of the design architecture group, Gere’s main focus was designing exhibitions to showcase GM’s automobiles. For one memorable springtime show, she rented 90 canaries and housed them in a trio of 30-foot, floor-to-ceiling columns made of Swiss cotton netting, which hung like transparent birdcages beneath the dome of the Eero Saarinen-designed GM Technical Center. “There were also lights underneath and when you turned them on, the birds would sing.” Gere likes to incorporate animals in many of her concepts, drawing from memories of living across from the Memphis Zoo as a child.

Gere was part of GM’s “Damsels of Design,” the first group of women to work as professional designers in a U.S. corporation, a move championed by GM’s legendary design director Harley Earl. The “damsel” moniker concocted by the company’s public relations department didn’t always sit well with her, and she wasn’t interested in fueling the raging narrative about sexism and feminism. Her mindset is that of a humanist.

In 1960, after four years at GM, Gere accepted a design position at Victor Gruen’s—known as the father of the shopping mall—architecture firm, first in Detroit, then in Los Angeles. She flourished in Southern California’s creative climate and enjoyed great freedom in her new role, working on interiors of retail stores and shopping centers across the country. Following Gruen’s vision of recreating the atmosphere of European town centers in suburban America, also designing the first town clocks at shopping malls as public meeting places.

She also forged a lifelong friendship with her colleague Frank Gehry, a relationship that led her to venture out on her own. Gehry and his design partner, Greg Walsh, invited her to split the $76 per month rent for a bungalow in Santa Monica that was so small they used the bathtub as storage for their drawings. After moving to a bigger space years later, the Frank-Gere-Greg trifecta was joined by Deborah Sussman and Don Chadwick, best known as the co-creator of the iconic Herman Miller Aeron chair.

With the support of her colleagues and champions, the “unique, multi-dimensional design firm” Gere’s designs excelled. Her client roster has grown to include Pepsi, Hallmark, Neutrogena, Max Factor, and Isabel Scott Fabrics, who hired her to help set up an ikat silk weaving factory in South Korea.

Working with the patio furniture company Terra in the 1970s, she invented the now ubiquitous market umbrella, at times referred to as the “California umbrella,” a design she was unable to patent because it had “no unique patentable parts,” she explains. Frustrating dalliances with patents and copyrights throughout her career have informed her efforts to help Cranbrook establish an alumni product archive, a place for alums to donate a design or artwork that companies can reproduce and pay royalties directly to the school.

Reflecting on how design students have changed since she was in school, she observes, “We’re living in the most exciting age that we can ever live in and have more disciplines to draw upon to produce our work. But you have to be smart enough to figure out the best tool to produce what you’re thinking. And this the students are not doing today.” She’s talking about using one’s hands for more than clicking around a computer’s track pad.

For Gere, her hands are still the best creative tools she owns—as they’ve been since she started doodling as a child. “Working with your hands teaches you about your inside person,” she says, and at 87 she must know a little more than most of us.

Many thanks to Anne Quito for her biography on Gere, and the information used in today’s post.









Bob Dawe Red Barn Pottery Mid 60’s ceramics update

October 19, 2020

Last week 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.




















Fishink New Collection

October 17, 2020

Hi there, just a quick message to say that for anyone interested I have a new collection of Ceramics that are on sale this weekend on my stories @fishinkblog on Instagram. Open 10 til 5pm UK time and on my feed thereafter. Here’s a quick mix of the type of items available.

Do pop over and follow me or have a browse. Thank you Craig


Lynita Shimizu Discovering Moku Hanga Printmaking

October 12, 2020

Morning everyone, and apologies for my lack of posting last week I was actually away in the Northumbrian National Park, walking and catching up on some time for drawing. Here’s a lovely post I first featured a few years ago.

People often ask where I find the artists and creative people that I feature on my blog and the honest answer is that I just seem to stumble upon them.

Often when I’m searching for someone (or something totally unrelated to my initial search), I will spot an illustration, photograph, piece of ceramic and that sets me off on an adventure to find out more. I can’t stress enough how important good labelling is for all of your images. It’s the one thing that enables others to help find you and your work.

The most frustrating thing, is to find an amazing artist and then discover that there is no link to their site, or that the illustration is labelled simply ‘Joe Smith’ and that when googled , there are about 120 google searches that display results for ‘Joe Smith artist’ !

At which point I often decide to follow another avenue and the search is forgotten. It was whilst looking for the work of a wood cut illustrator/ printmaker that, by chance, I came across today’s featured artist.

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Lynita Shimizu has been creating woodcuts using the Japanese techniques of Moku Hanga since the mid-seventies.

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Originally from Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, Lynita graduated with a Fine Arts major from Westminster College in 1974.

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Following a year at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, she moved to Japan to concentrate on woodblock printmaking.

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During her four-year stay, she studied in Kyoto with an elderly master of traditional woodblock printmaking, Tomikichiro Tokuriki, and in Tokyo with contemporary printmaker, Yoshisuke Funasaka.

These landscapes are amazing and somehow possess both a 1960’s and completely modern feel to them.

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From Japan, Lynita and her husband moved to River Edge, NJ, where they raised three sons.

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Today Lynita lives in Pomfret, Connecticut, where in addition to printmaking, she enjoys her favorite activities of gardening, hiking and playing piano. I think her textured, whimsical birds are also fabulous. These Guinea Fowl made me smile immediately.

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Lynita describes the process behind creating the right paper to work with. Amazing work don’t you think ?

Joey Rutherford Cats and Ghosts

September 28, 2020

If like many people you are a fan of ceramics, cats and ghosts (or ceramic ghosts with their cats) or the ghosts of cats on ceramics or just cats, cats and more cats, then I’m sure you will love the work of today’s artist Joey Rutherford.

Even as a dog lover, I am partial to a bit of cat when it comes to ceramics and Joey does them so well. I got in touch to discover how her ceramics ‘tick’ or rather ‘purr” : )

Hi Joey, thanks for agreeing to be featured on Fishink blog, can I start by asking what is your background when it comes to ceramics, how did you get started and what first drew you to it ?
No worries, Craig, It’s great to be here. I did an A-level in ceramics and then I didn’t touch clay for about 15 years. During that time I was always drawing or making strange
little old men from paper mache. Then about four years ago, my friend managed to get me a job making ceramic Tiki barware in what was essentially, a mouse friendly warehouse, in a carpark by a canal. My manager was so knowledgeable and kind and answered all my questions and over the course of three years, I basically learned what would become my entire studio practice.

Tall cats that double as vases, short cats that sometimes become candle holders and even flat cats who mostly just live on plates.

Can you tell me more about your love of cats and the ones you create amongst the flowers. Do you make each one by hand from scratch ?

While I have always loved cats, my recent obsession does come from my cat Maeby, the only cat I have ever seen with elbows !

My practice is a mix of hand built work and slip cast pieces. Everything starts as a handbuilt piece, and then occasionally I will make a piece that I like enough to make a mould of it so I can use it for slip casting. I really like decorative folk painting, especially with floral and botanical themes. Also a cat sitting in a pretty garden is one of my favourite combinations, so that is probably what I was trying to create with those cat vases in particular.

There’s a whole host of houses, lighthouses, boats and coastal bits and bobs for us adults who still like making their own towns.

Who influences your work and if you could pick one person to collaborate with, who might that be and why ?

To be honest the work I find most influential is mostly from outsider artists or people who have died. Alfred Wallis was a Cornish fisherman and his paintings are so beautiful and Maud Lewis’s work makes me so happy but sadly both aren’t with us any longer, but if I had a DeLorean ( i.e. the car from Back to the Future) that’s who I would look up ! I think I really just like painting what makes me happy, even if that means it’s haunted villages all day long, and that is exactly what they did, they only ever painted for themselves.

I love the way that you link some of your work, like the tall ladies with towns on them. Where did these lofty beauties originate from and is the townscape based on anything real or a dream perhaps ?

Honestly I am not sure where my lady vase forms came from. I like the idea of creating a form and then only really making it recognisable as human by adding hands and a bob haircut. I have family in Prince Edward Island in Canada and the landscape there really stuck with me and I see it also in coastal villages in the UK. I have only ever lived in cities, so there is something about these little pockets of houses by the sea that I really love painting. I find the seaside a lonely sort of place even though it’s so charming, it must have something to do with how big the sea is and how tiny we are.

I’m also curious to know where the ghosts came from, I love their little towns and coastal jaunts captured so cleverly on your pots and dishes.

Well, I can give you the, ‘I think ghosts are cute’ answer, or I can give you the “I think about death often and my Catholic upbringing convinced me that there is a good chance that the people we love never leave us, they just hang about in the ether, floating above our heads”.  Either answer works and they are both equally true. I never really noticed how many of my pots had coastal themes on them, I have been going on holiday to Dorset every year since I was a child and I think my love of the sea started there.

Ceramics, jewellery and paintings too.

How important is your sketchbook in creating your ideas in clay? How much time do you spend drawing and painting ?

My sketchbook is empty, I buy them as it seems the right thing to do and then I never touch them. During my Foundation I was constantly retro-actively making sketchbooks by sticking drawings together in a book to try and show my process, but no more !  I love seeing other peoples sketchbooks, and it’s always the first thing I go to in an exhibition, but they just don’t work for me. I do draw and paint but I always skip the drafting and just go straight for the end result, which obviously never works the first time because I skipped all the sketching. I am at peace with it now.

Something for everyone, and do you think Joey will ever get bored of painting cats…

Where do you see the future for your ceramics ? Any new ranges still to be made or places you would like to sell or exhibit your work?

I have a list of so many things I want to make, what I lack in sketching I make up for in lists. I am hoping that I’ll have some lamps soon, I love lamps. Also I am working on a series of tiles based on the river Thames and, of course, more things with ghosts and cats on them. As for where I would like to sell my work, I am a sucker for a gift shop, and would love to see my work right between the fudge, tea towels and the inexplicably bouncy balls.

Thanks again, Joey for your informative and entertaining replies. More from Joey on her Instagram account here and in her Etsy shop here. What is your favourite aspect of Joey’s work ?

Nordic Craft and Design at Manchester Art Gallery

September 21, 2020

Perhaps it’s not coincidence that I settled in Manchester with two of my favourite galleries on the doorstep. A year ago I visited the City Art Gallery to see this exhibition of Nordic Craft and Design. I thought it was worth an online revisit.

Let’s start with some stylish glassware.

It wouldn’t be a true Nordic exhibition without a glimpse of the Moomins.

This amazing dress was worn by Bjork for one of her concerts, I also admired the beautiful Ribbon Chair by Katie Walker.

I really enjoyed seeing some retro fabrics from the 60’s and 70’s.

Unusual bag with etched wood and fabric, depicting a forest scene.

Two famous shaped chairs that proved to be exceedingly popular (and probably well copied) worldwide.

Amazing detail in these embroidered gloves from the late eighteen hundreds.

Not seen these wonderful glass birds by Oiva Toikka before, they even had a few for sale in the giftshop.

Even some impressive lights to feast your eyes on.

Another new ceramic artist for me was Mari Simmulson. Born in 1911 and died in 2000. She was one of the leading designers for Gustavsberg and Upsala-Ekeby in the 1940s-1960s

More interesting textiles and new names to research.

A few snippets of other exhibitions on at the gallery at the moment.

Also a great new addition are some wonderful paintings on the cafe walls.

Especially these two by Nash.

Well worth having a browse in the gift shop too. I try to buy something to contribute back to the gallery.

This has just given me more desire to plan a Scandinavian trip away. Anyone want a well behaved visitor ? : )

So pleased I saw this exhibition.









Michael Robertson Updated

September 14, 2020

I last featured the work of Illustrator Michael Robertson back in 2011. Since following one another on Instagram for the last couple of years, I thought it was a good time for an update and so fired a few questions over to Cleveland USA to discover a little more about the artist himself.

Hi Michael, at what age did you first get interested in Art and did you get encouragement by anyone in particular (family, teacher etc) ?
Craig hi there, I have been interested in art for as long as I can remember. I think my mom recognized my talent very early on because she saved one of my first drawings that I did when I was only 2 years old. She thought that out of all her kid’s early artwork, there was just something special about my little drawing of a dalmatian.

How did your style develop into a midcentury one, who are your major influences design wise ?
When I was a child, I would wake up very early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons. Back then, there was no streaming or internet so if you wanted to watch cartoons, getting up early was the only option! I was particularly interested in the cartoons that had that “modern” feel, such as Loony Tunes, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Pink Panther, The Jetsons and many other Hanna Barbera cartoons that had that quirky drawing style. I also have been an avid collector of mid century art, design and furniture, which has certainly influenced my style. I spend most of my free time combing thrift stores, flea markets and antique shops looking for modern treasures,  including old childrens’ books from the mid century era. Some of my favorite illustrators from the past include Mary Blair, Alice and Martin Provensen, Jim Flora, Helen Borten, Abner Graboff, Paul Rand, Bernice Myers, Leonard Weisgard, to name just a few. I could go on and on!

I see that you worked as a game and toy designer before becoming an illustrator. What prompted the shift in career and how much did that previous training help you become the artist you are today ?
I graduated from college with a degree in painting, but finding profitable work proved difficult until I stumbled into character and toy design at a company called Those Characters from Cleveland. There, I worked on developing characters for licensing as well as developing toy concepts. Some of the toys I was lucky enough to have a hand in have become classics from that era, including My Pet Monster, Popples, Nosey Bears and Madballs. Although I did enjoy toy and character design, I was a bit frustrated that I was never able to produce any finished illustration art. Since I was developing concepts, all my presentation art was done strictly in pencil or markers!

What do you most / least enjoy about working as an illustrator in 2020 ?
Obviously, the pandemic has affected businesses all over the world and I’m certainly feeling the ramifications as well. I’m feeling optimistic that things will eventually turn around and 2021 will be a better year for everyone.

In which direction would you most like your work to follow and why ?
I would like to push my style and make my work a bit edgier, yet still remaining approachable. I would also love to learn some simple animation programs so that I can really bring my characters to life.

Here you can compare Michael’s early sketch to the finished artwork. The additional detail and subtle fine tuning makes the second illustration ‘POP’ !

Are there any market areas you would still like to make a mark in (computer games, books, stationary etc ) ?
Not really, I think I’ve touched on most aspects of publishing- book and magazine illustration, stationary, greeting cards, toys, games, puzzles, wrapping paper, stickers. One thing I am trying is writing and illustrating my own books. I did a lot of writing for fun in the past but never really pursued it. I am currently working on a couple of new ideas that I’m very excited about. The first one is done as far as the writing end, I just have to start the illustration part and hopefully find a publisher.

Which contemporary artists do you most admire ?
There are so many amazing and talented artists and illustrators that I admire. Some that immediately come to mind are Peter Emmerich, Joey Chou, Riccardo Guasco, Chris Sasaki, Johnny Yanok, Satoshi Hashimo, Steven Millington, again, I could go on and on.

What would be an ideal freelance brief for you ?
The jobs that I get that allow the greatest amount of creative freedom are always my favorite kind. I like to get jobs that are challenging. 

Here are a few rough idea sheets and sketchbook pages to show how Michael’s ideas develop.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start their career as an illustrator today ?
I would say that one of the most important things is to develop a style that is uniquely your own. Take in inspiration from everything you see. Art, design, nature, film, music-everything you take in influences the way you see things and will help to develop your style. Study other artists, both past and present. Concentrate on what you like. If you love dogs, draw dogs. If you love cars, draw cars. Always carry a sketchbook with you and draw whenever you can. Be yourself, but also be open to advice from others. As an illustrator, you will have to work with art directors who have their own ideas and you will have to be flexible and easy to work with.

Great Advice Michael and thanks again for appearing on Fishinkblog today, It’s been fab having you drop by. You can see more of Michael’s work here.

Karen Mc Phail and Eve Campbell. Creativity running in the family

September 7, 2020

There are two words that spring to mind when coming across the work of Karen McPhail and her daughter Eve Campbell, creativity and professionalism. Both graduates of Glasgow School of Art, they presently work from their family home in Renfrewshire, where you can also book to stay in a beautiful lodgehouse or take a sailing course at Carry Farm in the surrounds of Tighnabruaich, Argyll.

As someone who personally trained and worked as a Textile Designer for 25 yrs and who now presently works as a Ceramist, I was interested in finding out how each of these creatives work and think. I set both Karen and Eva the same questions and asked them to work on their answers separately. Here’s what I discovered, first Karen.

What are your earliest memories of doing something artistic ?

I think my earliest memory of creative activity was watching my dad make plaster reliefs in a tiny box room in the upstairs of our house. I distinctly remember the smell and consistency of the white plaster. Thinking back now I’ve no idea what he was actually making but he was an architect and had just finished building our house so I suppose the material was close to hand.

Who was your main/earliest, encouraging influence on becoming a creative person ?

My dad was definitely a creative inspiration, always making and building things. There was a confidence that came from knowing that if you want something you can make it. My gran (dad’s mum) was a embroiderer for Coats Thread Mill in Paisley and she always had sewing projects on the go. She was patient in helping my sister and I make little felt animals and peg dolls. She made me a simple school pinafore and I remember her constructing the paper pattern and then translating that into fabric. Yet again there was the confidence of using materials.

Who inspires you as an artist and who’s work is either influential or pleasing to follow in contemporary circles ?

Obviously I’m inspired by numerous artists and makers. In my final year of art school the sculptor Eva Hesse was a big influence. When my 3 children were young children’s book illustration gave me a lot of pleasure, John Burningham, Maurice Sendak, and Tove Jansson and many others. I think their ability to create ‘worlds’ from their imagery was an influence on my work today. The ceramicist Makoto Kagoshima currently makes work I greatly admire.

What is your favourite type of work to create and what parts of your creative process do you like the most/least ?

Part of the appeal of ceramics has always been the processes involved in turning raw clay into a fired and perhaps functional piece of work. I really enjoy every stage, working with materials and tools, trying to work out new ways of doing things. Decorating is probably my favourite time and glazing, after the first bisque firing, is definitely my least favourite activity. Opening the last firing is like Christmas morning and is a enjoyable end to the whole cycle, and then it is back to the start with raw red clay.

Karen, I can really associate with all of those feelings : ).

How does living and working in such creative surroundings play a part in the work you create ?

Working at carry farm with beautiful wild shore and woods right on our doorstep can’t help but influence my imagery. Living in such close contact with nature, changing seasons, and patterns of weather means that everyday I notice details of structure or colour combinations that infiltrate my work. My husband , daughter and sister also have studios at carry farm and we constantly consult, help and constructively criticise (!) each others practise. My brother in law has a mechanic workshop/boat yard next to our studios and so practical help is always on hand. It is a fun place to work and live.

It sounds idyllic.

Where do you see your work going in the next 5/10 years ?

I hope that people continue to want my work in their homes and that enables me to continue making.

Is there anywhere you would most like to see your work displayed or someone you would really love to collaborate with ?

I make my work hoping it will give people pleasure in their homes. Whether a daily interaction in a tactile mug or biscuit barrel, or a plate or candle holder for special occasions. I also like hiding little bits of work in nature. I took part in an archeological dig last summer and I’d love for my work to be buried perhaps to be found by a child in the future!

During lockdown my husband and I set up dreyworkshop to combine our skills in wood and ceramic. My family are probably ideal collaborators. It gives me particular pleasure to see Eve’s work develop and follow her interactions with other makers etc.

Where did your imagery of bird, arches and people first originate ?

I have only lived at carry farm for 2 years, previously I lived and worked in the house my dad built. During that time I remember driving through Glasgow and seeing a tree shadow cast on a building. The image struck me as exactly what I would like my work to project. The wonder of nature and it’s relationship to the built environment and people. Growing up Eve kept doves in our garden. The way that the birds were free but became connected to her and our house was an inspiration and the bird motif combined with architecture and figures became a regular feature of my work. On graduating Eve did a residency in an Italian silk mill. While there she visited St Marks Basilica in Venice. On her return home we poured over images of her trip and I found the cathedral mesmerising. The combination of architecture and nature through the use of stone, clay, coloured pigments felt connected to the more humble shapes seen in ruins around the Scottish west coast.

Karen states :- “My aim is to create visually satisfying objects for domestic environments that have a quality of surface and pattern, and that appeal to our sense of touch. My process involves layers of bold and playful decoration while retaining the inherent warmth of red earthenware clay. Simple forms are made on the wheel, handbuilt or using plaster moulds. I collect imagery from daily life and nature to make paper collages and, before the first firing, coloured slips are brushed on to the ‘leather hard’ pieces using cut paper stencils. Newspaper lettering on the final work echoes this process. Layers of applied slip produce a subtle raised decoration and can be drawn though to reveal the red clay beneath. A second glaze firing is followed by a third for the application of printed decals. ”

Such beautiful work Karen.

Now onto Eva’s questions.

What are your earliest memories of doing something artistic ?
My brothers and I were exposed to all things creative from an early age. With both my parents being artists being creative, making and drawing was integral part of our childhood. I have memories of spending time in mum and dads workshops watching them as they worked and being given pieces of clay, paints and other materials to play with. I was always good at drawing and I remember my first Daler Rowney sketchbook. From watching mum and dad draw in their sketchbooks, I learnt how to fill mine. In this sketchbook you see my drawing abilities completely transform.
Who was your main earliest encouraging influence on becoming a creative person ?
For my 12th birthday I received my first screen and squeegee from mum and dad and today there is hardly a day without screen printing. I loved being creative but was often encouraged to follow different career paths by others. My parents made me see art and design equally as significant to any other career and supported me along the way to becoming a textile designer. They made me believe that with a bit of hard work, following a career in the area that I loved was possible.

Who (if anyone) inspired you as an artist and who’s work is either influential or pleasing to follow in contemporary circles ?
I love the work of Marth Armitage. Marthe Armitage is in her 90’s and her work continues to be as strong as ever, hand rolling her designs on a 100-year old offset litho press. From hearing her talk, to her drawings, process and final prints there is a simplicity to what she does but she knows what works and how to make something beautiful.
What is your favourite type of work to create and what parts of your create process do you like the most/least ?
I screen print using paper stencils and by far the most satisfying part of the process is lifting the screen and stencil to reveal what you have just printed. Despite creating the shapes, mixing the colours etc. seeing how the new layer interacts with the rest of the print can be a surprises and is always exciting.

How does living and working in such a creative surrounding play a part in the work you create ?
As a creative person I am always questioning myself and thinking of new ideas. With no set path to follow there are thousands of decisions to make daily. Being surrounded by people who enjoy discussing ideas and consolidation decisions helps clear up thoughts and keeps work moving forward. We are always inspiring and feeding off of each other.
Where do you see your work going in the next 5-10 years ?
I would love to collaborate with other makers, architects and brands. I see myself continuing creating my own designs and prints but having collaborations play a larger role.

Is there anywhere you would most like to see your work displayed or someone you would really love to collaborate with ? 
My dream company to collaborate with would be Marimekko. My love for Marimekko took me to Finland to visit their factory a few years ago where I was further drawn in by their process and aesthetic. I am always inspired by their designs and the textile designers they work with. One day I would love to see my designs in their collection.

In 2018 Eve was a winner in a competiton for Johnson Tiles and as a result got to turn some of her paper ideas into ceramic tiles.

Her sketchbooks are full of energy and ideas.

She was also asked to work with high street brand “White Stuff” and created a line of textile designs for their stores last year. (More info here.)

Where do you find your personal inspiration from and how would you define your style ?
I take my inspiration from nature on the West Coast of Scotland. I fill sketchbooks with drawings of the woods, shore and islands and then use these to create my designs. My paper stencilling/screen printing process informs the style of my prints and I like to keep my designs looking fresh and bold.
Are you looking to work across different creative areas ?
I would like to collaborate with makers and people from other creative areas. At the moment I don’t see myself independently creating out with textiles and ceramics however I would love to expand on this by working with makers who are skilled in their areas whether it is furniture, architecture, etc and who’s work I find inspirational.

Thank you to both Karen and Eve for taking time out of their busy day to answer my questions. Such inspirational and creative work from both of you, it makes me excited to put this post together and I look forward to seeing where your ideas take you from here. What do you think readers ?

Tigerlino by Kester Hackney

September 1, 2020

Tigerlino is the business from Web Designer and Graphic Artist Kester Hackney. Printing from a cabin in Deal on the Kent coast, he designs, lino cuts and prints a whole array of boyish delights from robots to mermaids, rock heros to crazy birds.  Kester creates some wonderfully midcentury-esque work that give a modern day nod to the likes of Cliff Roberts and Jim Flora.

I caught up with Kester to ask a few questions.

What attracted you to working with Lino cutting after working as a Graphic artist and Web designer ? 
When I started Tigerlino, I was working as a graphic and website designer and my creative output was largely influenced by creative directors and marketeers. I found it incredibly liberating to come home from the office and just do something to satisfy my curiosity and to expand my knowledge of artistic practices. I was lucky in the sense that I still had a full time job, so I wasn’t dependent on monetising my creative hobbies at that point. I realised as soon as I started linocutting just how satisfying it was and how much I enjoyed everything about printmaking. As much as I was having fun, I was getting increasingly frustrated by the printing part as I didn’t have a reliable way of printing my designs. I was losing about half of them through mistakes and smudges. Basically I needed a decent press. So I decided to do a kickstarter style project to raise the cash required. I promised that for a modest pledge, I would provide my backers with one copy of every edition that I printed with the press over the course of a year. That went really well and I ended up buying everything I needed to get up and running. Inks, drying rack and a really sturdy used press from eBay. I think the backers got about 18 different prints in the end so it all worked out quite well.

Your work has a great mid century feel to it and gives a nod to the likes of Cliff Roberts and Jim Flora. Who would you say are your main influencers or who’s work do you most admire from this era or modern day ? 
I’m a big fan of both Cliff Roberts and Jim Flora’s work, so thank you! I really like the wacky lines and distorted perspective. It reminds me of all the cartoons I watched as a kid. I am in absolute awe of so many artists. Contemporary artists like Vicky Lindo, Melvyn Evans, Grayson Perry, Peter Green, Hilke MacIntyre, littlefriendsof and Bryan Angus. I have to mention Robert Tavener and Charlie Harper also. I’m constantly blown away and feel very inadequate when I see some of the work displayed by the people I follow on Instagram.

Where does your subject matter originate from ?
Most of the time I have a couple of ideas knocking around in my brain that need to come out. I always find that it’s like scratching an itch until you manage to find the time to turn them in to something tangible. I don’t have a hard and fast method for turning an idea into a print. Sometimes I’ll know exactly what I want to achieve, or I’ll just take it as a it comes and start putting elements together straight onto the lino and adapt and add until I’m happy. In a way, I quite like to work like that, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see where the design ends up. I’m always on the look out for strange shapes and patterns in trees and curtains. (It’s called Pareidolia, I just looked that up). I get a few ideas that way.
I tend to see shapes iand get ideas from mottled bathroom tiles Kester ! Don’t worry you’re not alone lol

Do you find living on the coast another inspiration for your work ? 
When I first started learning about printmaking techniques, I drew quite a bit of inspiration from coastal and nautical themes. It served me well to help me understand printmaking processes and it gave me a path to follow. I’m a lot more confident in the process of creating linocuts now and with that, I feel like it’s opened up the door for a bit more experimentation, humour and free flowing ideas. I’ve always been much happier making things that I don’t necessarily think I have seen anywhere else, which is probably why much of my printmaking involves some weird subjects and characters. There are some incredible printmakers who do printmaking with nautical and coastal themes.
(Kat Flint being one of them.)

Is the Tigerlino work more of a hobby or contrast to staring at a screen all day ?
I’m acutely aware of the time spent looking at computer screens writing code for websites, so to get away from that is a welcome relief. I’ve always spent time relaxing by creating and making things since I was a kid. I joined instagram quite a while ago now and called myself ‘Tigerlino’, which initially was going to be a place I could post pictures of the projects I was involved in. Most of my time since then has been a printmaking journey. Since instagram has been used so widely by the creative community, we’ve all got quite a platform for keeping in touch with each other, being able to share what we are up to in our sheds, kitchens and living rooms, and getting support and encouragement from fellow creatives across loads of different disciplines. It’s enabled me to keep in touch and discover with so many people.

I’m liking these crazy characters.

Where do you see your work going, any plans for larger runs or perhaps greeting cards etc ? 
I’m really excited about the momentum I’ve built up creating prints. I generally do quite small editions of prints, as I like the intimacy of only a small number of prints being created so I’m not looking to increase that. I’m going to make an effort to enter some printmaking exhibitions and will see where that takes me over the next couple of years. I’ve recently bought a CNC routing machine. This machine can cut and carve sheet materials to really precise measurements based on computerised artwork. I’m really interested to see how I can use that in my printmaking process. I’m not looking at it as a way of replacing carving lino, which is one of my favourite aspects of linocutting, but I’d like to see how I can use it to make something more interesting and experimental textures alongside my characters. I’m also working on some ceramic projects which so far have been really good fun.

What ideas do you have for possible future prints ? 
I’ve been thinking recently about doing some large colourful reduction prints based on some mid century furniture designs alongside more strange little characters and weird people. I’d like to try some bold reduction prints that use many colours. The first ever lino cut I did was a 7 layer print of a boat about 8 years ago. It was ridiculously ambitious and really put me off multi layer printmaking. I think I’m ready to try again.

Loving these quirky birds (of course). Many thanks Kester for taking part today, If you would like to see what’s available on his website you can head over to his Ebay shop here , or catch up with his day to day musings on IG here.

Sllip The Ceramic Shepherdess

August 24, 2020

Sarah Louise Lynch is the creator and maker of Sllip. Her initials cleverly form the name and nature of her company, as Sarah is a ceramist who works predominantly with Stoneware, Porcelain and Sheep ! Also a member of the Northern Potters Association. I got in touch to find out more.

Hi Sarah, can I start by asking when did you first get interested in clay?

I was lucky enough to have a very inspiring art teacher in high school and from memory, I assume she was a keen potter. She took me under her wing and encouraged me in not just art & pottery, but in encouraging self-belief.  She got permission for me to take my art O’level a year early, just so that I could do a pottery O’level the following year. I loved my pottery teacher, (Mrs Pickerill) and still have the pot she awarded me, for what I don’t quite remember but I think I was teacher’s pet lol.

It was such a shame that my art foundation course did not have a ceramic side. It wasn’t until I was working as a clothes designer in my mid 20’s did I revisit clay by attending a night school class with my manager. I was so pleased I was better than her (ha ha). The classes phased out and the next time I got to ‘play’ was when my son was about seven. I took him along to an evening class and for a while he enjoyed playing with clay too, but it wasn’t long before football took over his interests. I attended my pottery teacher Jayne’s classes for quite a few years, one day a week when I could, until I came across an advert for a kiln for sale locally. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I had never fired clay before and hadn’t attended any classes but hey, I bought it!

I Googled and read a lot and just basically had a go. I thanked Jayne for all that she taught me, left her class and converted a bedroom to a studio and haven’t looked back.

Here’s some of Sarah’s early work.

And the lady herself…

How did your interest, (nay obsession lol) with sheep first begin ? Have you ever considered having your own sheep ?

Yes okay so I’m obsessed with sheep, but I’m not quite sure what the catalyst was or exactly when it happened or in fact, if there ever was one.

Perhaps there were a number of factors in the formation of the obsession. Firstly, by then my son was playing football at a high standard and we would take him all over the country to play. During these lovely family outings, there would be plenty of sheep to spot and time to sit and observe their behaviours (from the car window of course). I had also finished my Owl project (see first photo in this post) and so had been looking for a new subject to make.

At first I really struggled. Sketching sheep in the fields is not easy and as soon as you’ve put pen to paper, they’ve moved again. I was finding it difficult, especially with modelling the sheep heads, when my friend drew me a sheep during her cancer art therapy classes and told me I wasn’t to give up.

I was very determined to succeed and these woollies weren’t going to get the better of me !

I have made internet friends with lots of wonderful sheep owners that now give me my daily fix of these beautiful creatures and I’m delighted to say I’ve recently found a lady near to my home that rescues local unwanted sheep. I hope to visit frequently as I’m not in a position to own any sheep myself ……just yet.

Where do you mostly sell your work ?

During lockdown I was furloughed for four months. I normally only have a Friday to potter, but five days a week for four months was a small blessing for me during these very difficult times. I’m really pleased to say that the extra time allowed me to not only make more pottery sheep, develop my flock and take time to learn more about social media. I have grown my Instagram accounts @sllipblog and @pottery_sheep_for_gift and opened my nuMONDAY online shop. I have since sold members of the Sllip flock to the USA, throughout the UK and Europe and one little woolly travelled as far as Tasmania !

I’m not surprised they have been so popular, just look at these stunning porcelain creations.

I can see that Sarah has a strong love of colour / texture and a wonderful eye for composing her ceramics to make them look so amazing.

Obviously Covid has meant that artists have had to reconsider their selling options for a while as places and fairs have mostly been online. In a Covid free world, is there anywhere you would love to showcase your work, gallery or exhibition wise ?

In a Covid free world and assuming I had the time to commit to putting on a really good show, I would love to be accepted by the Ruthin Craft Centre. This has always been my first ‘go to place’ to see exhibitions and demonstrations by esteemed potters.

You have make brooches, plaques, sculptures, night lights, what’s next for SLLIP ?

So far, every member of my flock has been a unique sculpture, hand made by me without the use of moulds and never twice repeated. I recently made a Dorset Horn sheep pen holder, and I could have sold it over and over again. So I often worry there are customers who miss out.  I’m therefore considering making a limited edition series instead. Also I plan to spend more time researching and sketching different sheep breeds with the aim to create them in my own unique style. However with an estimated 1000+ different distinct sheep breeds, where do I start? Actually joint favourites at the moment are Herdwick and Shetland.

I think this scrolled sheep (above) is amongst one of my favourites and lies perectly here amongst the shells.

Sarah say’s :- “Customer’s love the fact that each sheep is named. My secret is, I have to thank my husband for this. He sits with me on the couch with a glass of wine, the day after I’ve opened the kiln and we name the members of the flock that have survived the firing ordeal. This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Baptism of fire !” Our favourite name so far has been Lilly Pickle, (if you’re quick, you can find her in my shop at nuMonday).”

Thank you Sarah for telling us about your work and the journey to get where you are today.

For more of Sarah’s woolly adventures, follow her over on Instagram here @sllipblog or to make a purchase head over to her shop here.