Skip to content

Vintage Book Covers

November 1, 2021

It’s been a while since I shared some classic book covers.

I can’t tell you why but they always make me feel warm inside, I hope they have the same effect for you : )

Here’s a little science to get the visual party started.

A little food to go on the side table.

Throw in a little mystery and intrigue.

Making sure it’s well packaged.

Remember there’s a lot to learn out there.

Even if it’s from our children.

Before alas and all too soon… the party’s over.

Do any of these covers prompt a memory for anyone ? Hope you enjoyed today’s visual feast !

Save

Save

You can be sure of Shell

October 25, 2021

Fishinkblog 10127 Shell Oil 1

As a child my earliest associated memory of going for petrol, was always the free gift you would get for filling up at that service station. Different companies tried to outdo one another with the presents they would bestow on you for your custom. As an early artist, I particularly remember one company giving away felt tip pens. Each colour had a name and so you were encouraged to try and get the set. I always found it so exciting, going to choose the colour (or colours, depending how much fuel you had bought) after my dad had filled the car. It was a clever way to get loyalty and repeat custom and was possibly one of my first exposures of the power of advertising and consumerism !

Shell used postcards as an early form of advertising, beginning in the early 1900s. Postcards were a quick and easy way of sending messages before telephones became a popular commodity and postal deliveries could arrive several times a day. The popularity of postcards helped Shell increase their profile in Britain, reaching everyone including the non-motorists.

shell-postcard-1911-banner

The first Shell advertising poster was created in 1920. They were displayed on the side of lorries carrying fuel to customers all over the country. These adverts (or ‘Lorry Bills’ as they became known), were designed in reaction to the public outcry against roadside hoardings in the countryside.

Fishinkblog 10133 Shell 7

Foreign posters too and a whole range of topics and themes, not just centered around the more obvious choices of cars and transport.

Fishinkblog 10132 Shell 6

Of course there were still many classic posters produced using the more obvious themes too.

Fishinkblog 10134 Shell 8

But unusually Britain’s landmarks and a campaign showing the different types of people who use Shell, became very popular.

Fishinkblog 10131 Shell 5

I’m sure you’re relieved to know that Judges, Architects, Scientists and even Film Stars all use Shell.

Fishinkblog 10130 Shell 4

We’re told it’s even a ‘friend to the Farmer’, giving it that ‘good for the environment angle’.

Fishinkblog 10129 Shell 3

The most innovative designs were created around 1932, when Jack Beddington became responsible for the company’s advertising. Under his direction, artists were commissioned who weren’t necessarily associated with commercial art. These artists went on to become famous names in British contemporary art.  Among them were people like Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Vanessa Bell, Ben Nicholson and John Piper.

Fishinkblog 10128 Shell 2

There are over 7,000 posters in the Shell Art Collection, reflecting the charm and character of a nostalgic age of motoring.

Just imagine filling up here… : )

Fishinkblog 10135 Shell 9

Fishinkblog 10137 Shell 11

The poster (below) depicting the family all ready for their holidays, is definitely my favourite.

Fishinkblog 10136 Shell 10

Which one is yours ? You can find out more about the Shell Posters by visiting the National Motor Museum website.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Vicky Lindo Ceramics that got the cream

October 18, 2021

Fishinkblog 9968 Vicky Lindo 3

Vicky Lindo has been on my ‘posts to relist’ for quite sometime now.  Based down in Bideford in Devon, she used to work for a number of years in the Burton Art Gallery. Until, both influenced and fascinated by an exhibition of the R J Lloyd slip-ware collection, made in the middle ages by farmers and country folk, (more here), she decided to start up her own workshop and make her personal range of slip-ware. Below are a sample of the ceramics Vicky was inspired by… and I can see why !

Fishinkblog 9977 RJ Lloyd Collection 1

Although it’s far more contemporary and with a slant towards the purr-fect feline, Vicky’s work certainly has a bit more colour and definitely makes me smile, her partner Bill Brookes is also her business partner and together they produce these beautiful ceramics.

Fishinkblog 9969 Vicky Lindo 4

The ideas often originate in a sketch or painting. It helps to determine where shapes and pattern will be, sometimes this will be altered slightly for the final piece. The hardened clay object to be decorated is then coated with a layer of different coloured slip (watered down clay) and once that’s dried, the design can be drawn and cut into (sometimes called Sgraffito). You have to be clever at thinking in monotone and good with shapes and pattern, it’s not as easy as you may think.

Fishinkblog 9966 Vicky Lindo 1

Finally after the second firing, the piece is finished

Fishinkblog 9967 Vicky Lindo 2

Sometimes Vicky hand decorates directly onto a pre-fired piece. Having cats around the home and studio must help when using your imagination to conjure up these whimsical pieces. Of course the cats help out too… when then can!

Fishinkblog 9970 Vicky Lindo 5 Fishinkblog 9971 Vicky Lindo 6

It’s great to capture the ‘aloofness’ of cats so well and I like the way the garden creeps up onto their coats sometimes too.

Fishinkblog 9972 Vicky Lindo 7

It’s not all about cats.

Fishinkblog 9973 Vicky Lindo 8

Some pieces are commissioned too.

Fishinkblog 9974 Vicky Lindo 9

More variation of themes and colours.

Fishinkblog 9975 Vicky Lindo 10

When she has a few minutes to spare (which I imagine these days doesn’t happen often), Vicky likes to relax and do some hand embroidery.

Fishinkblog 9978 Vicky Lindo 12

Fabulously quirky ideas.

Fishinkblog 9979 Vicky Lindo 13

Fishinkblog 9980 Vicky Lindo 14

But in the kingdom of the ceramic world… Vicky’s cat is still King of the jungle.. or at least her back garden ! Beautiful work Vicky, keep inspired and long may they prosper and continue to amuse us all.

Fishinkblog 9976 Vicky Lindo 11

Charles Keeping Illustrating paintbox picture books

October 12, 2021

Fishinkblog 7057 Charles Keeping 1

Charles Keeping (1924-1988) an illustrator and lithographer, produced dynamic and emotive images. Born in Lambeth, South London, his secure and happy upbringing had an unusually important effect in shaping both the man and the artist. Entering a working class family, there was no obvious route for Charles to get into art school. He spent his childhood in a house that overlooked an active stable yard, and became a frequent and accurate observer of horses and carts. He attended the Frank Bryant School for Boys, in Kennington, leaving at the age of 14 to become apprentice to a printer.

Fishinkblog 7060 Charles Keeping 4

Fishinkblog 7061 Charles Keeping 5

He joined the Royal Navy Army at the age of 18, and fought in the Second World War, serving as a wireless operator.  He received a head wound which he became convinced would make him become a Jekyll and Hyde figure, but after being institutionalised, he recovered.  Determined to pursue his love of drawing, he applied several times to study art at the Regent Street Polytechnic, but was unable to get a grant.  He kept on applying, supporting himself by reading gas meters, and continuing drawing in the evenings.  It was at the Regent Street Polytechnic (1946-52), where he met the designer and illustrator Renate Meyer, whom he later married. His books explore amazing roads into colour and texture, whilst dealing with solitary, often lonely figures in their tiny worlds.

Fishinkblog 7063 Charles Keeping 7 Fishinkblog 7064 Charles Keeping 8

He took various jobs, including cartoonist on the Daily Herald, before starting work as a book illustrator. In 1956, he was commissioned by the Oxford University Press to illustrate stories for children written by Rosemary Sutcliffe, and with the encouragement of the doyenne of children’s book editors, Mabel George of OUP, was launched on a career which for three decades made him one of the best known and more prolific illustrators (1960-1980s). He made brilliant use of colour and the new printing techniques, using a mixture of gouache, tempera, watercolour and inks. He was an early enthusiast for Plasticowell, the grained plastic sheets designed by the printers, Cowells of Ipswich, for lithographic illustrations.

Fishinkblog 7067 Charles Keeping 11

Charles Keeping was always concerned with the lot of the working horse:  having been born in Lambeth, he was surrounded by them.  He wrote two picture books, Black Dolly and Sean and the Carthorse about ill-treated working horses, and one Richard, about a working police horse whose treatment is always fair.  Illustrating Black Beauty must have been something of a dream commission:  he dedicated his version “to all those concerned with the care and welfare of horses and ponies.”

Fishinkblog 7066 Charles Keeping 10 Fishinkblog 7068 Charles Keeping 12

Keeping won the Kate Greenaway award for Charley, Charlotte and the Golden Canary (1967), and again for The Highwayman (1981); he was a prize-winner in the Francis Williams Award for Tinker, Tailor (1968), and for Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Wildman (1976); and he won the Emil Award in 1987 for Jack the Treacle Eater. He became particularly well known for his work on historical novels for children, especially tales by Rosemary Sutcliff, which often depicted Vikings, men in battle or war situations. Or similarly for Leon Garfield books about ghosts, creatures from the dark and other sinister characters.

Fishinkblog 7062 Charles Keeping 6 Fishinkblog 7069 Charles Keeping 13

His commitment to the immense project to illustrate the complete Dickens for the Folio Society was total, and he completed it just before his death on 16 May 1988. He became the first illustrator to complete a full edition of Dickens illustrated by a single artist. His wife Renate, also an artist, set up a website called The Keeping Gallery so that both of their work can be treasured.

Fishinkblog 7058 Charles Keeping 2 Fishinkblog 7059 Charles Keeping 3

Have you ever seen such colour in books before ?

Fishinkblog 7065 Charles Keeping 9

Thanks to Matt for sending in these scans after seeing this post.

Fishinkblog 7069 Charles Keeping 14

Amazing use of rich shading and textures. Wonderful work Mr Keeping. You can find more on http://www.instagram.com/officialkeepinggallery.

Save

Save

These Shoes were meant for sharing !

October 4, 2021

Hi everyone, I hope this find’s you well and easing into the week ahead. About a fortnight ago I had a few days away from the grindstone and hopped over to Northampton, largely to visit friends there, but also to take in the city and it’s wealth of surrounding parks.

I discovered that the town hall was rather lavishly decorated with stunning details.

There were beautiful stone carvings, depicting scenes from nature and many of the local professions of the area.

The top one being a shoemaker, which led us to visiting Northampton’s Museum and Art Gallery where there is a fabulous collection of shoes from throughout the ages.

The exhibition starts with the notion that there are perhaps only 11 types of shoe. The Bar Shoe, Boot, Clog, Court Shoe, Derby, Moccasin, Monk, Mule, Oxford, Sandal and Trainer. Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is home to one of the largest collections of shoes and shoe heritage in the world. Arts Council England designates the collection as being of local, national and international importance.

The first thing that struck me about shoes from the 1600’s is how thin and tiny people’s feet used to be. There is such a variety of styles, I just picked out some of the fancier ones. Spot the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ‘child-catcher’ early Winkle-Pickers below and those famous flapper girls!!

As a county, Northamptonshire is built on the shoemaking industry with many towns and villages at one time or another being home to shoemakers, leather merchants, designers, tanneries and other related businesses. Northampton, has a proud heritage dating back almost 900 years. This photo dated around the 1920’s.

The county is still world renowned for the shoes it creates. Today over 25 manufacturers produce a huge range of quality footwear. Famous names such as Dr Martens and Church & Co still continue to thrive. Who recalls a trip to Clarks shoe shop and having their feet measured ?

Some of the information and a rather scary looking reptile boot !

Examples from Trainers…

To something a little more specific !! The red shoes derive from the film “Kinky Boots” and parts of it was filmed locally too.

From desirable and almost sci-fi footwear…

.. to those from further afield.

Spanning many eras.

Possibly my favourite idea was this “decorate your own pair” of Adidas trainers, complete with paints and brushes, all neatly packaged in an artists box. Clever designing !

Something for all and well worth popping in for a browse as the educational videos were as entertaining as the shoes. What shoe stories do you have to share ?

Russell George Wilson Mixed Media Artist

September 28, 2021

I have been a keen admirer of the stunning work by artist Russell George Wilson for quite some time now.

He is a maker who is confident working across many different areas, including painting, illustration, needle felting and ceramics to name but a few. His work is always considered, precise and beautifully constructed and it is because of this attention to detail that it has taken a while for Russell to find the time to answer my questions and join the creatives here on Fishink blog. I’m so glad that he did, as I’m certain you will love his work as much as I do.

Let’s start off with some hand-made paper moths to whet your appetite !

Hi Russell, Please can you tell us a little about your artistic journey prior to today?

I’ve always loved being creative and I was forever drawing or making something as a child, I used to make lots of models and always had some sort of project on the go that I’d get completely obsessed by ( I probably drove my parents mad!) Later on, I studied Graphic design at Derby University to degree level. I’m not sure why I chose graphic design as a course as I came to realise in my final year that this was somewhat misguided and not at all what I wanted to do as a career. I think if I had my time again I would have done a ceramics or craft based degree. Luckily, I did get the opportunity to do illustration and 3D work as part of my degree which was more my sort of thing.

After leaving university I worked in a local theatre painting stage sets and eventually became an Assistant Scenic Artist whilst I also did some freelance illustration work for various card companies. I was eventually offered a job at one of the card companies as an illustrator where I worked for 21 years before deciding to go it alone and pursue a career making my own work; something I’d always wanted to do but never felt sure until the pandemic happened. I had been making ceramics and other craft work whilst I was employed and selling to galleries etc but I never felt that I was giving it 100% but hopefully now I can. I would describe myself today as a mixed media artist, I work across several different disciplines including ceramics, illustration, needle felting, painting and paper. 

How did you first get involved with ceramics and model making?

Like I said previously, I was always making something as a child, paper mâché, air drying clay…..you name it!  I suppose I just tend to have a brain that can think in 3D.

I remember vividly being introduced to ceramics in the first year of senior school, everybody did pottery class back then….I’m not sure if that happens today (which is a great shame if not). Whilst a lot of our class weren’t remotely interested and spent most of the lesson throwing clay at each other, I was fascinated and hooked from the first lesson. I was amazed how clay magically became solid after firing. I made some really lovely small pinch pots that the teacher glazed in the most beautiful glazes, I have no idea what happened to them but they were in our house for years. Later on, years later in fact whilst I was employed illustrating greetings cards, I enrolled on an evening class to do A level ceramics. I hadn’t touched clay for years up to this point but it bought back the memory of the enjoyment of making things from clay years before. I loved doing the evening class every Wednesday night and made some great friends! It wasn’t very long before I purchased my own kiln and began making ceramics at home. 

My needle felting work developed from my time again working for the greetings card company. I stumbled across the work of an American lady (I can’t remember her name now) who made characters out of needle felt, I found them quite amazing and had no idea how they’d been made etc. I basically found out all about the technique and through trial and error taught myself, my first attempts were probably quite awful looking back but eventually I became the go-to person at work for 3D character briefs.

My characters were photographed to go on greetings cards, they were all mainly cute animal type things! My birds sort of just emerged from a desire to make needle felting a bit more of an art form, something more worthy – I think needle felting has a very crafty and quite twee image and isn’t particularly well regarded as a media, I’ve found some galleries don’t really like the idea until they have seen photos of my work so hopefully I have gone some way to change perceptions.

Where does the inspiration for your lovely characters derive from?

My approach to making my ceramic animals is very much my own really, I work instinctively – sometimes I will use reference for a particular animal as a starting point but often I will just use my imagination and create something from my head. I’m particularly interested in stylisation, the animals are not meant to look real or anatomically correct, they are more about form and simplicity of shape. It’s interesting to see how far I can push the shape of something and it still be recognisable as type of animal that someone will recognise. This can probably be best illustrated by my ceramic lions, their faces are so un-lion like but they are still undoubtably a lion, I’m not really sure where the face for my lions came from, it just sort of happened!  

I suppose the best way to describe my animals would be naive but controlled. As for inspiration, I am strongly influenced by the simplistic animal forms found in prehistoric cave paintings, primitive sculpture from early history, my love of folk art and Staffordshire pottery figures/ animals. I also love the naivety of 19th Century carved Noah’s Ark animals, traditional wooden religious toys that were bought out on a Sunday for children to play with (and educate them about the bible). The animals were all carved often by people who had never seen or experienced the animal being depicted, so they were often rather odd or quirky looking, something which I find really appealing. I hope someway I can capture a little of that feeling in my animals.

As for my felted birds, I think these are all about detail and being as real as possible, anyone that knows me will know that I love detail and can become quite obsessive about it, so the birds sort of reflect that side of my character, weirdly contrasting with my approach to my ceramics?!  The birds were initially inspired by traditional taxidermy, my aim was to make a sort of alternative version that didn’t involve killing anything, but still give a similar effect, something that I think works best with the larger birds I’ve created. I had a phase of putting smaller birds inside glass domes but had limited success with this idea, maybe the idea was a little too Victorian!

Look at these stunning sighthounds too, another reason I was drawn to Russell’s work !

Do you have a website where people can view and purchase your work?

Yes, I do have a website but unfortunately it needs updating as currently it only shows my felted birds. My website is russellwilson-felt.com I need to update it as it’s not really showing the rest of my work and its a few years old too now. I don’t currently have an online shop either, again this is something I’ve been meaning to get set up. I tend to sell my work mainly through galleries and occasionally I will sell pieces, particularly paintings on Instagram (@russellgeorgewilson). I’m fairly new to social media, I resisted for a very long time as it just isn’t my thing but I now see the benefits as it’s great for getting my work seen by a wider audience and it’s encouraging to get feedback etc.

What part of the making process do you enjoy the most/ not enjoy at all and why?

With ceramics, I really enjoy the making process , actually handling and using the clay. I make most of my animals using the technique of pinching combined with random coiling (probably better described as adding small pieces of clay in a haphazard way to build the shape). I’m careful to try and make the inside as smooth as the exterior of the piece, keeping the walls of clay quite thin. When I first started making ceramics my pieces were really hefty and thick but over the years I have refined this!I always think I’m more of a maker than a decorator with ceramics, I often find the glazing/finishing stage quite difficult and often get stuck and really have to think how to proceed so I don’t ruin the piece.  I have lately developed a method of using just three different stoneware clays that I make my pieces with and also use the same clays as slips to decorate the animals, avoiding the need to use glazes. Having said that, I do have a couple of fairly reliable matt glazes I sometimes use.

Regarding my felted birds, I actually find the making process quite laborious, it’s basically hours of stabbing wool with a felting needle, very time consuming….anyone who has had experience of needle felting will understand how long it can take, I suppose I take it to ridiculous levels though for the standard of finish I aim for. I must admit that the finished result is what tends to keep me going, particularly when making a larger bird the actual making process can be very long-winded! It’s always great adding the eyes to a bird, I sometimes use glass taxidermy eyes and it’s great when I know I’ve really captured the look of whatever bird I happen to be making.  I find pricing my felted birds very difficult as I can never get back all the hours they take monetary, I sometimes think people find them a little expensive, usually the uninitiated who don’t appreciate the amount of work involved.

I haven’t really mentioned my paintings yet…..but I enjoy all aspects of painting. I tend to paint still life subjects and landscapes. I love plants and gardening so most of my still life paintings feature seasonal flowers or plants combined with old/vintage pottery, often old advertising ceramics such as Dundee Marmalade pots etc.  

My landscapes are more about playing with space and composition.

I find that painting can have its frustrations especially on days where nothing goes well and I tighten up and get too detailed. I’m constantly trying to keep a looseness to my paintings but I have to be on my guard not to start adding too much.

I don’t tend to use sketchbooks for my ideas, I just tend to do rough scribbles or thunbnails on scraps of paper, or just write ideas down. I sometimes wish I could keep a beautiful sketchbook like other artists do but it just doesn’t seem to come naturally. I find I get most of my ideas whilst out walking when my mind can just wander.

And those ‘rough scribbles’ turn into these beautiful creatures.

I would so love a Lion or a Tiger from Russell’s animal range. Their curious faces are just perfect !

Who’s work do you find inspirational and which artists do you follow regularly?

I love lots of artists work, I’m constantly inspired by what I see in exhibitions, books and on Instagram etc.I love the ceramic work of contemporary artists such as Jane Muir who makes wonderful simplified sculptural figures with amazing colour/ decoration. I also love the ceramic animals and birds by Susan O’Byrne, theses are pieced together from intricately patterned fragments of clay, I have a couple of her birds here at home.  I’m inspired by the painter Mary Newcomb, her work is just incredible. I first saw her work years ago when I bought a book about her, but recently I saw her paintings for real at the recent exhibition at Compton Verney. I think she has to be my favourite artist.  

Other painters I like include Mary Fedden, Elizabeth Blackadder and contemporary painters Elaine Pamphilon, Barbara Peirson and Vanessa Bowman.  I also love the work of illustrator Laura Carlin, she has such a sophisticated but child-like, playful style, she also makes ceramic pieces too which are just wonderful.  I follow lots of artists on Instagram, too numerous to mention really….. I think its the best reason to be on there really to see peoples amazing creations. Of course, my greatest source of inspiration for my work has to be nature and the natural world itself.

Where do you see your work going in the future? Either in terms of materials you use, the places it featured or the items you create?

It’s not really something I’ve really thought about, I guess I just hope to continue developing and making good pieces of work that people covert and want! My head is full of ideas, many of them never come to fruition but hopefully there are lots of ways I can continue to develop further.  I had wondered whether I should concentrate more on one media, but so far it’s only been just a thought.  It would be very nice one day to be able to do a two person or solo exhibition of my work at a gallery when I’ve had a bit more time to expand my work. I’ve actually always fancied having a go at woodcarving…..but maybe that would confuse matters further!

If you could make one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I would like to have the time to concentrate more on my ceramic work as I feel it has potential. It seems to have taken a bit of a backseat lately as galleries have mainly been interested in my paintings and birds. I have had my ceramics in a really great gallery in Derbyshire this year, they sold really well which was good.  So far my ceramic animals have been fairly small in scale so it would be lovely to work on some much larger, sculptural pieces maybe. I still feel I have so much to learn about ceramics, the more I learn, the more questions there seems to be.

You have a natural brilliance when working with many different materials, your work is beautifully precise and a joy to behold. What would you say spurs you on to make things and what is important to you when creating new pieces?

Thank you for saying that!  Yes, I must admit I’ve struggled with the fact that my work ranges across different media and is difficult to pigeonhole into one thing. I feel like the expectation is to concentrate on one medium as working across many is difficult for galleries particularly to categorise, but working in this way seems quite natural to me. I’ve always just used whatever media feels appropriate, I think I’d feel restricted doing just one.  The jobs I’ve done too, particularly being a greetings card illustrator were very varied and so I suppose I just like variety!

I think I’m just spurred on by an inbuilt need to create things and by the urge to keep improving and developing my work.

Well Russell I can honestly say that I think you should continue to work with whatever mediums you feel excite and interest you. As long as you can sell and show all the different work through different galleries, shops and your website / Instagram account, then there is no reason to be restricted.

What do you think readers ?

Krystyna Turska Children’s Book Author / Illustrator

September 20, 2021

Krystyna Zofia Turska was born in 1933 and spent her childhood in Poland until World War II.

In 1940, Krystyna was arrested with her family and taken to a concentration camp in Russia. She escaped to Persia and finally reached England in 1948.

Krystyna studied at the Hammersmith School of Art and became an illustrator and author of children’s books. 

Here are a few of her many titles.

She had a long and prolific career in illustration and worked as an author too.

Like many other illustrators working at this time, she has a variety of bold and ornate styles to suit each different publication.

Krystyna received a Kate Greenaway Medal for The Woodcutter’s Duck.

Some of Krystyna Turska’s books include: 
Coppelia the Story of the Ballet (1985) 
How the Camel Got His Hump: And How the Whale Got His Throat
The Elephant’s Child
The Woodcutter’s Duck (1972) 
A Cavalcade of Sea Legends (1971) 
A Cavalcade of Goblins (1969), A Cavalcade of Witches (1966) 
A Cavalcade of Dragons (1970) 
Marra’s World (1975) 
The Mouse and the Egg (1980) 
The King of the Golden River (1978) 
Tales From Central Russia (1978) 
The Trojan’s Horse (1968) 

Here’s a few black and whites.

Some wonderful painterly textures here.

I couldn’t find anymore information online, so if anyone else knows more about Krystyna and her work, do get in touch. Thank you.

Jenny Southam Creative Ceramist

September 13, 2021

Jenny Southam gained a Fine art degree and a Post-Graduate Diploma at Bristol Polytechnic (now UWE), specializing in work in bronze. She now lives in Exeter and creates her terracotta, individually hand-built figurative sculptures from her home studio. I fell for her fabulous work last year and have wanted to introduce her here to my readers ever since. I’m very happy to say that we recently managed to make it happen.

What are your first memories of making art ?

I remember that my mum kept scrap bits of paper in a brass coal scuttle box on a hearth, which was my go-to place for raiding and drawing on in my very early years. When I was five we moved to a house which had an area that we called the ‘clay patch’. My brother and I played here for hours and would dig up this white clay to make things out of. Once we made a large collection of Egyptian-like artefacts out of the clay and grass there, and organised them into an exhibition. I loved all manner of crafts as a kid, in many materials. Every time I went to the local library on the Saturday I would always bring back a book on some craft activity.

Let’s talk knitting patterns.. where did this lovely idea first originate ? We’re you or your relatives a knitter previously ? I love the idea of the film company possibly using them too !

I’ve collected vintage knitting patterns for a few decades now, just for their quirky imagery. But it was only a couple of years ago that it came to me that I could use this imagery as a starting point for my own figurative ceramic work. They are a very individual and unusual historical phenomena in that they show models, obviously showing off the knitwear, but also set often within a scene or environment, either indoors or outdoors. This might be a garden or park, an art gallery, cafe or a living room.

They sometimes have props; for example an umbrella, a drink, balloons, a horse, a bunch of flowers, and also the inevitable pipe for smoking. They create fascinating tableaux within which a possible narrative unfolds. I previously created narrative ceramics anyway, but these wonderful pamphlets provide rich source material for further exploration.

My mum would knit us all jumpers and cardigans, although there were six of us kids and so she never had the time or resources to be very experimental with her knitting. They were functional and hardwearing. I would have given my eye teeth for a nice synthetic shop- bought school cardi rather than a rather chunky home-knit! One day recently I was made aware that an American film company had bought a small series of my ceramic busts (head and shoulders), based upon knitting pattern models, and that they wish to possibly use them in a forthcoming film based on the ‘Wool’ trilogy by Hugh Howey. Very exciting news, although having read the first book I’m not exactly sure where these little people would fit into this dystopian setting. There is very little directly to do with actual wool. Watch this space!

I see you use sketchbooks to draught out your ideas first. Do you always work in this way and does it help you ‘see’ your sculpture in a 3D form by working intially in 2D ? Do you ever work straight from an image in your mind or do you always prefer to sketch the ideas first ?

In fact I usually dive straight in to making the clay sculptures directly either from my imagination or more latterly straight from the knitting patterns themselves. I might make a series of small maquettes first, before more ambitious pieces. I am too impatient often to makes sketches, collages or paintings first, although when I do give myself permission to play two-dimensionally I enjoy doing them hugely. I feel that I should be working in clay all the time, which is ridiculous really, as in fact I feel that my clay work benefits from the process of initial two-dimensional interpretation first. What I would love is a dedicated painting/ drawing/ collage studio that I can go and immerse myself in at any time and not have to tidy things away in between times. But I guess that’s the same for many of us.

What are your favourite pieces to presently make and why ?

I must admit that I’m a bit of a butterfly and like to have a period of making, say, large cats, and then have some time making small narrative pieces, and then my Knitting Pattern Folk, and then maybe making some stock for galleries. In truth I would want to be making all of these things all of the time, as I love making them all; but that’s not feasible. I am extremely invested in the Knitting Pattern Folk however. I feel that I have only scratched the surface of all the many possibilities that they offer. I love their ‘staginess’. The theatricality and nonsensicality of the tableaux produced. Each figure I make seems to have their own personality which moves me somehow.

What would be your fav and least fav part of the making process and why ?

My favourite part of the process is the handbuilding. Constructing something out of a lump of clay is both an easy and a very challenging thing to do. I’m always amazed when I go to ceramic fairs and see the most astonishing variety of creations that once started as muddy stuff dug out of the ground. It has such a history to it as well, and I love to see artefacts that were made and used, or given some purpose tens of thousands of years ago.

So I like to make my figures and animate them with some personality or inflection which I feel gives them an emotional resonance. As to the least favourite, I sometimes find applying colour to them difficult, and I can dither around a lot before I know how I am going to approach it. I used to work in bronze before I turned to clay, and the monochrome qualities of this medium proved much more straight forward. But actually in answer to your question glazing has to be one of the most exacting, yet boring processes to carry out.

Are your figures all hollow inside and if so what ‘tricks of the trade’ to you use to help ensure they remain upright ?

The small figures are usually solid. A rule of thumb is never to make work that is thicker than an inch or else they might blow up in the kiln due to thermal differentiation. I sometimes go a bit thicker than this but make sure
that I take the temperature of the kiln up and down slowly to accommodate this. Bigger work I make hollow, and tend to roll out slabs of clay and piece them together. I use good old fashioned scrunched up newspaper to fill in the forms to stop them caving in, and the odd wooden block to prop elements up until they are dry enough to take their own weight.

I’ve read that some of the inspiration for your work comes when you are gardening. Are there other times when ideas pop into your head for suitable new pieces to make and do you have to jot them down there and then, to
keep them from slipping away ?

Many of my earlier works were concerned with the domestic rituals that we carry out. For example; giving a haircut or planting seeds, making a bed or talking to a friend. This early era coincided with renting an allotment; the potential of which excited me hugely and so the idea of growing things became important within my work. As I work on one piece, I always get ideas during the making process for more possibilities and variations. So ideas evolve and I will jot/ draw the ideas as I go, or else, like dreams they might easily evaporate!

Are there any future creative lines that you are thinking about and can share with us today ?

I had a run a few years ago of depicting narratives based on some personal family stories. I would like to return to this area and explore some family history in a visual way.

Who or what would you say are your modern day influences ?

It depends how modern we are talking about here. I am a huge fan of Mid-Century European Modern. In fact I want some time to read through the posts you have written here on Fishink Blog about artists from that era. But I particularly enjoy English, Italian and Northern European art and design. If you are wanting more recent influences, there are a large amount of extremely talented ceramicists producing incredibly exciting work that I very much admire. But I’m a bit of an old fashioned gal and tend to be more influenced by seventeenth century English flatbacks and slipware, and Greek and Roman sculptures than contemporary work.

Where do you see your work going in the future ?

Hmmm. Interesting question. I feel extremely privileged to be able to make ceramic work in the first place. All I really have on my horizon is to continue making and creating; either in clay, or in other media. And also to keep
pushing to make it go forward; to keep it fresh and developing. I’m not much good at talking about my work, but feel that if the work speaks to people, and enriches their life in some way, as it does with mine, and continues to do so, then I’ll be happy. The other thing that I would like to do is collaborate with other makers. Working in a studio can be a solitary business, and there are several people that I would love to work alongside to explore various ideas.

I recently visited the Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales amd saw these pieces of Jenny’s work up close. Such a great experience ! Many thanks Jenny for making the time to contribute to Fishink Blog. I’m sure many more new followers will be as excited about your work as I am, don’t forget to follow Jenny over on Instagram @jennysoutham I for one, look forward to seeing what new folk emerge from your creative thoughts and knitting patterns.

Sylvia Leuchovius Mid century Ceramist

September 6, 2021

Sylvia Leuchovius (1915–2003) was one of Sweden’s leading ceramic artists in the 20th century.

She was part of the Nordic design tradition aiming for warm-hearted, humorous, and sometimes subtly ironic design.

After her studies at ”School of Design and Crafts” in Gothenburg, Sylvia worked for the Rörstrand factory for more than 20 years.

She became a prominent designer of figurines, wall plaques, and tableware – often with stylistic animal or plant motifs.

Sylvia’s artistry is represented at the Swedish National Museum of Art and Design.

Such a fun and quirky style.

Gareth Floyd Author and Illustrator

August 30, 2021

Gareth Dennis Floyd, was born at Whiston, Prescot, Lancashire in 1940. I first came across his work through a copy of Finch’s London. The book is an oddity as guide books go, presenting London as a varied selection of pubs with some interesting sights in between ! His illustrations draw you in and offer an artist’s view to accompany the guide’s descriptions.

Gareth spent his childhood at Halesworth, Suffolk and studied at Lowestoft school of Art under Eleanor Doris Varley.

Gareth Floyd is a published author and an illustrator of children’s books and young adult books and illustrated a series for Penguin Books during the 70’s and ’80’s.

The credits of Gareth Floyd include ‘The Whispering Knights’, ‘The Midnight Fox’ (Puffin Modern Classics), ‘The Real Live Dinosaur and Other Stories’, and ‘The Night-Watchmen’ (Lythway Large Print Series) .

He is probably best known for working on Jackanory, (a BBC TV children’s story show), as an illustrator.

Often someone would narrate a story whilst Gareth illustrated a scene from it. Gareth worked on the series for nearly 15 years. Here are some of the ones used on the programme.

Some viewers recall the effect that the drawings had for them at the time, so with books like ‘Stig of the Dump’ by Clive King, they said they could clearly visualise the characters mainly because Gareth’s drawings made them come to life.

His iconic Jackanory illustrations (about 1,200 of them) were sold by auctioneers Ewbanks only last week and some of you bought a piece of their childhood history ! Gareth was also a popular choice with the publishers to capture a child’s or perhaps a parent’s imagination with a great cover illustration. Here are just a few.

It seems that some publishers at the time, thought the title of the book had more impact, if it began with the word ‘The’ !

He also has an interest in railways and modelling. He married at Guildford, Surrey in 1965 with Penelope Dean and is still living in Guildford now.

Another talented artist from my childhood days. How many of these covers do you remember ?