Amelia’s Magazine | Tent London 2011 Review: Best Surface Design

Kate Usher wallpaper
Wallpaper by Kate Usher Studio.

The printed textile designer in me will always be a sucker for great decorative surface design. Here’s some fabulous stuff that I found at Tent London this year.

Kate Usher Meerkat wallpaper
At the Designed and Made stand I was immediately drawn to Kate Usher‘s marvellous wallpaper designs with names such as Sharkbait and Hang About. She has set out with an admirable mission to shake up the tired old cliches that appear on most children’s bedroom decor, story so expect bold designs, thumb all printed to order on FSC approved base papers… and with the possibility to add a bespoke Swarovski crystal topping. Wow-wee.

Tent London 2012 review -kate usher and sarah blood
Also at Designed and Made I liked the neon Duck lights by Sarah Blood which offer a fun updated version of this kitsch classic.

Tent London 2012 review -flavor paper
Tent London 2012 review -flavor paper
Tent London 2012 review -flavor paper
Brookyln’s Flavor Paper had flown to the UK to showcase their unique wares. What fun! I particularly loved their hot air balloon display and given their provocative name I couldn’t help asking if any of their designs were actually scratch ‘n’ sniff – to my delight I discovered that indeed the cherries were. All their designs are created to buyer specifications, either digitally or via traditional screenprinting.

Tent London 2012 review -bluebellgray
Digital printing was used to great effect by Scottish designer Fi Douglas of Bluebellgray, retaining the feel of pretty hand painted floral watercolour textiles.

Tent London 2012 review -happy happy bows
I am not sure which section these Happy Happy oversized bows fit into since they are essentially an entirely useless bit of decor. Made by RCA trained designer Stephen Johnson, these kitsch creations are intended to bring a bit of happiness into the world.

Tent London 2012 review -3form tiles
Tent London 2012 review -3form tiles
Gorgeous (but very expensive) irridescent sculpted bespoke tiles were on display from 3Form solutions.

Tent London 2012 review -Lisa Grue avantgarden
And then I chanced upon Lisa Grue, who I last met in Copenhagen a year ago. She was taking in part in Tent London with a group of artist/designers working in multiple disciplines under the name avantGarden.

Tent London 2012 review -Lisa Grue avantgarden
Tent London 2012 review -Lisa Grue avantgarden
Tent London 2012 review -Lisa Grue avantgarden
Titled Beautiful Mortality, all of avantGarden‘s work was inspired by the beauty of life, death and decay and all the designs were rendered in a limited colourway of cream and browns – quite a departure from Lisa’s usual colourful work. I loved her moth and fox designs and her huge hand-appliqued wall hanging.

Tent London 2012 review -Meyer-Lavigne
Tent London 2012 review -Meyer-Lavigne
Bulbous painted ceramic plant pots from Meyer-Lavigne were also particularly wonderful.

Tent London 2012 review -Louise Gaarmann
Louise Gaarmann presented some tactile ceramics in imaginative combinations of shapes. Together with textile designer Tina Ratzer she had created Mr.Craftsman, a huge tribal coat in pure wool accessorised with hanging ceramic talismans.

Our Man_ratzermeetsgaarmann mr craftsman
Don’t forget to take a peek at my pick of this years furniture design too.

Categories ,2011, ,3Form, ,avantGarden, ,Beautiful Mortality, ,Bluebellgray, ,brooklyn, ,ceramic, ,copenhagen, ,Danish, ,Designed and Made, ,digital, ,Duck, ,Fi Douglas, ,Flavor Paper, ,Happy Happy, ,kitsch, ,Lisa Grue, ,London Design Festival, ,Louise Gaarmann, ,Meyer-Lavigne, ,Neon Lights, ,rca, ,review, ,Sarah Blood, ,scratch ‘n’ sniff, ,screenprinting, ,Stephen Johnson, ,surface design, ,Swarovski, ,Tent London, ,textiles, ,Tiles, ,Tina Ratzer, ,Underwerket Projects, ,Wallpaper

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Amelia’s Magazine | Pick Me Up Contemporary Graphic Art Fair 2011: Sam Arthur of Nobrow speaks at Mokita

Sam Arthur of Nobrow by Yelena Bryksenkova
Sam Arthur of Nobrow by Yelena Bryksenkova
Sam Arthur of Nobrow by Yelena Bryksenkova.

Since Nobrow burst onto the scene in 2008 I’ve been a massive fan of their beautifully produced books and magazines – somehow they’ve managed to print a huge collection of work in just a short space of time and for the past two years they’ve been showcasing their wares at Pick Me Up. This year several of their featured artists were also amongst the newer names showing in the Ones to Watch section on the first floor so I was intrigued to hear Sam Arthur, this one half of Nobrow, medicine in conversation with Kingston University illustration lecturer Geoff Grandfield with interjections from Adrian Shaughnessy and Valerie Perezon. Below is a rough transcription of the conversation that ensued during the Mokita Symposium.

Nobrow 5 - A Few of My Favourite Things
Nobrow 5 – A Few of My Favourite Things.

Geoff: How did you decide that there was a market for your work?
Sam: We were inspired by publishers such as Le Dernier Cri, Bongout, and Fantagraphics: small places with an avante garde output. And we felt we could do something similar in this country. We’ve both been through the art college system, but I felt that most illustration was very industry based, always destined for a client. No one was generating their own material, for their own sake, so we felt there might be a gap in the market that we could exploit. Our aim is to get illustrators to do their own work – we just set a theme and a colour palette. We were unsure it would take off but we knew it was really important to print everything nicely.

Nobrow 5 - A Few of My Favourite ThingsNobrow 5 - A Few of My Favourite Things
Pages from Nobrow 5 – A Few of My Favourite Things

Geoff: In a way you turned the clock back.
Sam: We have a mix of influences, but we love all the old methods of printing. I guess these anachronistic methods of production have met the internet with Nobrow. People say that we have a very strong look but we love lots of different types of work and I think the similarity comes from the way we print things, and our restricted colour palettes. We look at every bit of work that comes to us and store it in memory bank for later. Then we might come back to it at the right time and ask does it communicate the right idea and can we work with this person on an individual basis? We are drawn to relatively expensive ways of printing, which is quite risky really but we want our stuff to look good, smell good and feel good.

Ford Almanac 1964
One of the images Sam chose for a slide show: a famous cover of the Ford Almanac 1964, illustrated by Charley Harper.

Geoff: Like scratch ‘n’ sniff?
Sam: There is definitely a shift back towards attention to detail; I had a paper merchant in recently and she was trying to push coated paper stock onto me, but of course I wasn’t interested. She moaned that no new graphic designer will ever uses it – I guess it’s because we like to be different and coated stock seems so common.
Geoff: Who is your audience?
Sam: In terms of an easily identifiable market it’s mainly students and working practitioners – there is a danger that we will never turn a profit and it will always be that way… For the people that aren’t so easy to label I’m sure there’s some marketing speak for them… maybe Rainbow Sky Crap Thinkers or something! But for us the most important thing is to remain close to our customers via our website and social networking.
Adrian: Mark Valli of Magma said he set up the shop because he realised that there was a big non professional audience, so maybe that is changing?…

Nobrow 5 - A Few of My Favourite ThingsNobrow 5 - A Few of My Favourite Things
Nobrow 5 – A Few of My Favourite Things.

Valerie Perezon: What is your editorial line?
Sam: We don’t mind how you describe yourself, we just chose what we like. Online we can be more adaptable, for example in a blog you can put across whatever idea of yourself you like. You can be illustrator or an artist one week and then a circus performer the next. But it all starts with being able to draw and communicate. For example we saw Jack Teagle at his graduate show and he immediately grabbed us. We are quite often drawn to print making because we like the restrictions of spot colour techniques but I think our tastes are quite diverse: we’re currently working with John Sibbick, who over the years has worked on dinosaur pictures and heavy metal covers.

The Bento Bestiary, illustrated by Ben Newman, former Amelia's Magazine contributor
The Bento Bestiary, illustrated by Ben Newman, former Amelia’s Magazine contributor.

Geoff: Do you ever tackle themes of social change?
Sam: We like to keep our themes interpretable, so that leaves them open to tackle social issues if people want to.

The Bento Bestiary, illustrated by Ben Newman, former Amelia's Magazine contributor
The Bento Bestiary, illustrated by Ben Newman.

Geoff: Did you know that 40% of the printed matter in world is Manga?
Sam: Because the magazine we produce is made up of collections of images on a theme it does tend to limit our mass appeal.
Adrian: There has generally been a huge move towards a very visual culture, but in UK we are still very much a literary culture – we value the word above all and image is not valued as much, apart from the F-word that is, photography… which is revered and valued.
Sam: The French publishing industry is underwritten by the government but here illustrated books are still seen as for children.
Adrian: I think the biggest drivers of imagery come from subcultures where the image is revered, but is it a weapon or a platform? Because something comes from a subculture does that mean by definition that it has a limited period of interest?
Sam: Yeah, and if I become too trendy then I cease to be… but I’m not trendy so that’s fine. Even if we did sell Nobrow Magazine in WHSmith no one would buy it so we know this title will always be relatively niche.

The Bento Bestiary, illustrated by Ben Newman, former Amelia's Magazine contributor
The Bento Bestiary, illustrated by Ben Newman.

The Bento Bestiary is out now and the fifth issue of Nobrow magazine has just been released with the title A Few of My Favourite Things.

Read my transcript of James Jarvis’ talk at Mokita, my review of the whole Mokita symposium or my review of this years Pick Me Up exhibition.

PS: I did scratch ‘n’ sniff for issue 04 of Amelia’s Magazine.

Categories ,A Few of My Favourite Things, ,Adrian Shaughnessy, ,Ben Newman, ,Bongout, ,Charley Harper, ,comics, ,Fantagraphics, ,Ford Almanac, ,Geoff Grandfield, ,Graphic Cosmography, ,Jack Teagle, ,Kingston University, ,Le Dernier Cri, ,Magma, ,Manga, ,Mark Valli, ,Mokita, ,Nobrow, ,Nobrow Press, ,Pick Me Up, ,Sam Arthur, ,scratch ‘n’ sniff, ,Somerset House, ,The Bento Bestiary, ,Valerie Perezon, ,Yelena Bryksenkova

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Amelia’s Magazine | Introducing the printers of Amelia’s Magazine: Principal Colour

Alan and Martin Principal Colour by Kellie-Black
Alan Flack and Martin Darby of Principal Colour, help illustrated by Kellie Black for the launch of ACOFI.

I have been working with Kent based lithographic printers Principal Colour for 8 years now, ailment ever since Martin Darby and Alan Flack so kindly helped me to produce the very first issue of Amelia’s Magazine in print way back at the start of 2004. Over the years my harebrained ideas have inevitably demanded that each new issue utilise a new print technique, and they have patiently helped me through all the most difficult of production issues. Die-cut, flocked, scratch ‘n’ sniff, Swarovski crystal encrusted, glow in the dark, metallic, holographic, foiled, 6 colour, different papers for different pages… the list of my requirements went on and on. And then I went on to produce two books with Principal Colour, Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration and Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration (both in the shops now) – and these also featured awkward production challenges, including embossing accurately over print and pearlescent effects. Yup, I have been anything but an easy customer, but I am always sure of what I want to produce and Principal Colour are always more than happy to help me achieve things which even they have never heard of or tried to do before. Working with Principal Colour has been absolutely essential to everything I’ve done in print, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with such delightful people – I fully believe that good relationships are the key to a sustainable and happy business.

Now, after several years of nagging, I have finally persuaded Martin and Alan to embrace the wonders of Social Media, with me at the helm. Because Principal Colour do a lot of high end lithographic print design alongside their bread and butter jobs, my output for them on social media will concentrate on interesting design for print, as well as tips for the best outcome using lithographic print techniques. Much as I adore the internet, my heart will always lie with quality print design, and since I really enjoy the whole production process I shall relish the process of discovering more. Why not join us to learn more about the secrets of print, for there is a lot to share.. and believe me, however big the internet gets, print design ain’t going nowhere.

You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Our first blog on Tumblr is a Q&A with director Martin Darby about the history of Principal Colour and what makes the company tick…

Categories ,Alan Flack, ,Amelia’s Magazine, ,Crystal Encrusted, ,CYMK, ,Die-cut, ,Facebook, ,Flocked, ,Foiled, ,Glow-in-the-Dark, ,Holographic, ,Kellie Black, ,Lithographic, ,Martin Darby, ,Metallic, ,Miss Pearl Grey, ,principal colour, ,Print Design, ,Printers, ,scratch ‘n’ sniff, ,Swarovski, ,Tumblr, ,twitter

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