Amelia’s Magazine | Port Eliot Festival 2014 Review: Books, Food, Comedy, Craft & Fashion

Port Eliot Festival by Maia Fjord
Port Eliot Festival by Maia Fjord.

I’ve been meaning to take in Port Eliot festival for several years but it has always been just that little bit too far away. This summer we were able to attend, thanks to a holiday in Cornwall with family.

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Once more we were blessed with a weekend of near perfect sunshine, ideal for wild and muddy swimming in the adjacent river, and the grassy banks were packed when we arrived on Friday afternoon. It’s a relatively small festival, which meant that we could pop up our tent quite close to the action. Beyond the main tented areas we traversed overgrown rhododendron paths, frolicked in a full sized maze and emerged with a spectacular view of the impressive aqueduct beneath which a couple of stand up paddle boarders were dwarfed.

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Port Eliot is not your average festival; here the usual music takes a back seat to other offerings: literary, foodie, comedic, crafty and fashionable. Thanks to some well placed connections it has built a bit of a reputation as the fashionistas’ festival, and despite the distance from London the big names return year after year. It was telling that (in comparison to my adventures at Green Earth Awakening) all the people I ran into on the site were friends I know from working in fashion.

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I liked the mix of activities, but it took awhile to get used to the workings of this festival, where queueing is a prerequisite for popular talks and workshops (I am very bad at queues, and never more so now that I have a toddler in tow). My partner tried to hear Martin Parr speak on several occasions (about his new film, which was also showing) before we finally tracked him down on the Sunday at the Dovegrey Reader tent, where the audience could sit out on the grass (and knitting is de rigeur). Lucky then that Martin Parr was speaking so many times! And obviously taking the opportunity to snap away at this most middle class of festivals. The favourite thing I took from his talk was his admission that he takes huge amount of photos, because most of them are crap. I have always believed it’s all in the edit so it was good to hear that Martin thinks so too.

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I didn’t have so much luck joining an Anthropologie workshop, having arrived at the allocated time to book a class, only to find they were already full. Instead I learnt how to crochet (at last!) with Ros Badger at The Badger Sett.

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Plenty of authors were on hand to talk about and then sign books but I only caught small parts of many talks due to toddler demands. Viv Albertine talked very engagingly about her new book Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys which I am desperate to read (Luella Bartley spotted in the audience), and I enjoyed listening to Richard Benson talk about rural life and his new book The Valley, but not so much Gruff Rhys on his US adventures (he didn’t engage). Susie Bubble was front row for a chat with fashion designer Simone Rocha and I bought a signed copy of Babette Cole’s new children’s book, inspired by her lodger, pictured above in dreadlocks and bunny ears.

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In the beautiful Walled Garden the fashion set held arty sewing workshops and a catwalk show for tweenies. I admired a clever bunting made from colourful hair weaves and the dexterity of The Flower Appreciation Society, ensuring that many ladies at the festival sported beautiful real floral headdresses.

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Every time we tried to get to the kids’ Hullabaloo area I got lost in the winding labyrinth of paths. Once there we discovered plentiful crafty workshops, theatre productions, a bouncy castle, puppet shows and comedy. Speaking of which, I managed to contain Snarfle for long enough to hear most of Robin Ince’s genius set.

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The main house was home to displays of crocheted tea cosies, cakes, flower arrangements and scarecrows. We didn’t visit the foodie tent but admired the stage set up from afar. Instead we frequented the Hix pop up in the Orangery, with food supplied by Fortnum & Mason. It was a pricey meal but we enjoyed the incongruous silver service. Elsewhere we dined on Cornish seafood, wood fired pizza and local ice cream. Food was a definite highlight!

Port Eliot Festival 2014 Review-the odd folk
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Port Eliot Snarfle and Sheepie
In the early evenings Snarfle and I headed to the smallest music tent, where he jumped around to the ramshackle and rather brilliant The Odd Folk one night and electro powered drum n bass anthems from sister act Love Nor Money on the next. He is now obsessed with ‘rock guitar’ as well as banjo. Thank goodness his Sheepie doubles as a guitar/banjo/ukelele stand in.

Categories ,2014, ,Anthropologie, ,Babette Cole, ,books, ,Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys, ,comedy, ,Cornwall, ,craft, ,crochet, ,Dovegrey Reader, ,fashion, ,festival, ,Food, ,Fortnum & Mason, ,Green Earth Awakening, ,Gruff Rhys, ,Hix, ,Hullabaloo, ,knitting, ,Love Nor Money, ,Luella Bartley, ,Maia Fjord, ,Martin Parr, ,Orangery, ,Port Eliot, ,review, ,Richard Benson, ,Robin Ince, ,Ros Badger, ,Sheepie, ,Simone Rocha, ,Snarfle, ,Susie Bubble, ,The Badger Set, ,The Flower Appreciation Society, ,The Odd Folk, ,The Valley, ,viv albertine, ,Walled Garden

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Amelia’s Magazine | Hullabaloo: Southampton Solent School of Art and Design Illustration Degree Show Review 2014

bethany coleman - hullabaloo - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Hullabaloo by Bethany Coleman

In 2007 I graduated from the Illustration degree at Southampton Solent University, formerly The Southampton Institute, and now finally returned to a more proper title of Southampton Solent School of Art and Design, based in a shiny and exciting new building in the centre of town opened by Sir Peter Blake in 2012. Last week I was able to visit this year’s satellite degree show at the Coningsby Gallery, organised and fundraised for entirely by the students themselves, the theme was Hullabaloo. Amelia previously spotted some great work from these grads at the D&AD Show, this time the work was labelled, although the people weren’t, so I got to practice my networking (randomly introducing myself to people) skills.

I only ever seem to come to the Coningsby on ridiculously hot days, so thank goodness there are usually free drinks. This was no exception on both counts, but in spite of the usual outspill of private view attendees onto the Fitzrovian pavement, the artwork on display inside was more than interesting enough to get good and sweaty looking at it.

southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014 - book table
The book work table – lots of goodies to pick up and peruse.

The focus on tactile, print, collage and book making skills as well as a strong emphasis on drawing that I remember from my years at Solent are still very much in evidence and I was pleased that these disciplines have a prized place in the new studios. In fact I’m jealous as I learned that since my time they’ve also acquired a laser cutter and letterpress facilities.

southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014 - book table 2 - Luke Baker
Bookwork by Luke Baker, and cameo by my beer.

Course leader and hipster favourite master of naïve hand drawn typographic print illustration Jonny Hannah told me that this year in particular has been an exceptional group, with a record number of firsts awarded. His influence is visible in the students’ approaches both in their use of text and print techniques, and the easy, practical, immediate no nonsense visual communication and embracing of traditional kitsch British imagery (a number of circus fonts and Punch and Judy type images were in evidence.) This year group, Jonny told me, really understood what illustration is.

emma chu - have a nice day  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Illustration by Emma Chu

I’m inclined to both agree and disagree. The work here pays testament to the heart and soul of traditional illustration, rooted in things you can touch and experience, books and prints and paper cuts. The table on which book works were displayed was the most exciting part of the show, and it’s clear that these graduates have a real understanding of how to create work that begs to be picked up and touched, to be read and experienced. There were a lot of yummy textures and colours and boundaries played with. And that’s beautiful and good and it’s true, but it’s not all of what illustration is today, in an industry that’s increasingly focused on the digital. Some of these students have clearly bridged this divide and have a foot in the each pond, especially seen in the art of Emma Chu and Bethany Coleman.

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Clever coded business card display.

A recurring theme in discussion with the students of a course with such a strong print focus, was access to print facilities post degree. While it’s obvious that such a focus leads to exciting work and keeping important techniques and technologies alive, the question of how to produce a portfolio when the working methods you’ve specialised in are not easily or affordably available can be a stumbling block for graduates, and one I hope these inspired young creatives don’t allow to trip them up.

Here are some of my favourite graduating illustrators and their work.

The Misfortunes of Timothy Evans - Solent Illustration - lino print - Alix De Courcy
This beautiful oversized book of linocuts combining some lovely use of typography and close up imagery with skilful balancing of positive and negative space very much caught my eye. It’s by Alix De Courcy who I unfortunately did not meet at the exhibition, a perfect example of printmaking as a design feature.

grace williams  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Grace Williams’ macabre intricate linework – she also makes a mean mandala.

kirby pyle  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Kirby Pyle uses lovely deep ink textures with smudged out monoprint designs, and also as materials to create relief collages. I spoke to her about her texture fetish and her beautiful monoprinted zine of John Masefield’s poem ‘Sea Fever’ – expect to see her on the small press scene in short order.

greta staron  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Greta Staron presented only original or half original work – in her limited edition art books she saves some elements to be hand added so each is unique. She hates to work slowly and likes to expose the soul of her working process, so this suits her style actually.

emily wilks - circus  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Emily Wilks similarly works with lots of printed textures, but cute them up to make children’s collages. Her final major project involved picking key imagery from 10 classic childrens novels, and then combining them together into densely spaced designs that would make great wrapping or end papers. I like that they are a sort of condensement of the iconography of childhood, but I’m sure this style would work equally well in a simple narrative.

Emma Chu - The King of Limbs - Southampton Solent School of Art - Hullaballoo graduate show 2014
Emma Chu was my favourite artist in the show, and as I said above she combines the physical organic qualities of print and collage digitally to look rich and strange and really fascinating. She’s currently looking for a graphics or illustration internship so if you have one open I suggest you snap her up.

laura hunt  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Laura Hunt was another favourite, and I enjoyed chatting with her about her progression on the course. Interestingly she used to only do really neat geometric pencil work, and for her this hand lettered design is really loose – it looks pretty tight to me! Her combination of found materials and colourful text design has already got her a mural commission and I think this style could take her a long way.

ellie aaen - welcome to england -  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Ellie Aaen’s clean autobiographical work is charming and a marked contrast to many of her texture rich coursemates.

dessy baeva - allen ginsberg - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Dessy Baeva’s work has a joyful freedom about it which suits her subject matter of beat generation journeys. She likes combining neat and messy text together and is experimenting with limited palette work.

jo porter  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Jo Porter has achieved a lot of beautiful lino cuts of animals for a children’s activity book with minimal injuries.

bethany coleman - new york  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Bethany Coleman designed the poster for the show, and it’s easy to see why she’s poster girl for the group, her work obviously owes a debt to Jonny Hannah in the use of text and colour, but also has a real vintage travel book feel which suits her obsession with documenting the idiosyncrasies of her travels near and far – turning coffee shop sketches into reportage posters. She’s working on some design work for Southampton Council but also has exciting plans for graphic novels, and a wealth of visual material from her recent trip to Mexico to turn into more colourful, immediate pieces.

luke baker  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Luke Baker also has a very immediate live drawn feel to his work – very evocative book designs, I wish I’d had the chance to ask him about this work.

jack snelgar  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Jack Snelgar I also did not meet, but look at that juicy linework and limited colour!

rebecca deans  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Rebecca Deans I did get to talk to and we chatted about movement and life in drawing – obviously evident in her quirky animal characters! We also talked about the importance of always making fresh work – a theme which came up with a few different people and which is so good to see in graduates – they’ll need that enthusiasm and determination, long may it last.

Jess Coxall  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Jessica Coxall doesn’t seem to have a website, but I had to include this lovely screen print from hand painted sketches of the French Riviera. Lovely linework and text design.

fenrisulfur  - southampton solent school of art - hullabaloo degree show 2014
Mist Sveinbjornsson I spoke to just before leaving and was interested to learn that this was another type of printing all together (so many techniques on show here!), her work is based on the charity Skateistan who fund skate boarding schools for girls in countries where they are banned from many other sports. The pictures are made from soft ply wood and use reduction printing – a risky process since once you have begun carving the second or third colour from your block, you can no longer begin a new print if you mess up. Amazingly she made only 3 copies of each print! Perhaps this is meant to reflect the risky status of skating girls in Muslim states – she didn’t say so but if not I think she should start saying it is, you can never have too much justification for your artwork after all.

Categories ,Alix De Courcy, ,All Watched Over by Machines of Infinite Loving Grace, ,Ba illustration, ,Bethany Coleman, ,Circus, ,Coningsby Gallery, ,Dessy Baeva, ,Ellie Aaen, ,Emily Wilks, ,Emma Chu, ,Greta Staron, ,Grizzly Gent, ,Hullabaloo, ,illustration, ,Jack Snelgar, ,Jenny Robins, ,Jessica Coxall, ,Jo Porter, ,John Masefield, ,Jonny Hannah, ,Kirby Pyle, ,Laura Hunt, ,lino, ,Luke Baker, ,Mist Sveinbjornsson, ,print, ,printmaking, ,Punch and Judy, ,Rebecca Deans, ,reportage, ,screenprinting, ,Skateistan, ,Southampton Council, ,Southampton Solent School of Art and Design, ,Southampton Solent University, ,The Southampton Institute

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