Sunday 30 May 2010

I love Staffordshire figures

I love Staffordshire figures. They're quaint, colourful, a little kitsch. They play with scale in a way that I find appealing, and most importantly, they tell a story: kind of like illustrations in ceramic form. I often wonder about the thought process behind the decision to make certain personalities and their stories into diminutive three dimensional home decoration, and what it says about the society that bought them.

Above image of evangelical hymn writing duo Moody and Sankey, from Comollo Antiques. The first popstar souvenirs?

Above: An ale bench from the wonderful Myrna Schkolne, who writes in her book:
Beer was considered a nutritious dietary necessity because it was the safest, most palatable, most accessible liquid. Children drank it, and hospitals gave patients beer rather than water. England seemed to have a chronic crisis of drunkenness, or as Shakespeare’s Iago commented, “in England . . . they are most potent in potting.”
Of course that's a subject worth depicting in ceramic form (and buying to display proudly on the mantle)! It makes me want to step outside right now and make little figures of the men standing outside the pub getting wasted in their football scarves and beanies. That would be great.

Above: the story of Lt. Munro who escaped the jaws of a tiger that tried to maul him in India. Kind of like me and my imagined clay AFL football fans, another contemporary artist has taken this Staffordshire story and put a contemporary twist on it, but in a slightly different way: Karen Thompson.
(This one courtesy of Myrna's blog.)

Above: Bull Baiting, also from Myrna.

I love this these figures for their play on scale. Above image from Iconic in Edinburgh. Below: again Comollo.

And these figures from The Canterbury Auction Galleries look so quaint as a group that I like to imagine they are one: the giant bird watching over the house and the tree and the tiny figures.
I could go on posting Staffordshire figures forever. However as I don't own any books on the subject I would probably just end up re-blogging from the site of Myrna Schkolne : the most rewarding online resource I have come across.
And of course, there are probably quite a few contemporary artists who like to play with the aesthetics of the Staffordshire figure and other popular ceramics from times past. I am a big fan of the witty and meticulous Melbourne artist Penny Byrne , whose work can be seen at Sullivan & Strumpf. (An excellent little gallery to visit by the way, if you are ever in the back streets of Paddington, Sydney.)

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Thinking about men and cows

Thinking about men
(and jumpers)

and cows
(and soup)

...oh yeah, and I finished the as yet untitled lady with the village on her head, last seen on this recent post, waiting patiently to be cut out. For those who read that post, there is a very happy ending. My mother read the post and soon after my father very very very kindly bought me a scroll saw. If I pretend that it's like a sideways sewing machine, I'm not so scared. Anyway, the instructions say that it's ideal for making toys and puzzles, so how dangerous can it be?
...I'll let you know.

Sunday 23 May 2010

German food advertising illustrations from the 1980's

I'm giving it all away now. The source of my unhealthy interest in food advertisements and packaging, especially idealised pastoral landscapes: my mother's Burda Moden magazines from the 1970's and 80's. (If you don't know Burda, it's a super German magazine full of sewing patterns for women and children, recipes, craft and home decorating ideas. Martha's got nothin' on Aenne Burda: for a start, Aenne's empire has been keeping thrifty Europeans crafty since 1950.) Above: Landliebe quark advertisement illustration, 1988.
Above and below: Unox soup illustration and advertisement detail, 1983. The picture above is one of my favourites ever.

Above: detail of a Bayern advertisement, 1980. My brother and I each had a set of Bayern panorama cards which were part of the same series of illustrations. I would love to know where they are, or if anyone out there has any! They were very dear to me.

Above: Dutch cheese symbol illustration, 1980.

Above: Bressot dairy advertisement, part of a series of village character illustrations, 1983.

Above: Schneekoppe muesli advertisement , 1983.

Above: Alpine salt advertisement detail. You turn the page and see the actual packaging. But imagine if packages really were this lovely, and even better, this anonymous? Wouldn't supermarkets (and our food cupboards) be beautiful?

Above: OK, not quite a food advertisement but pretty cute: kitchen notepads from Carina magazine, the sadly long defunct teen offshoot of Burda. In 1981 that magazine was gorgeous.
ABOUT AENNE BURDA: "A symbol of the German [post-war] economic miracle" according to Wikipedia, Aenne Burda (who actually lived from 1909 - 2005) was a remarkable woman: reading the article she seems more Oprah than Martha, given her combination of power, broad interests and philanthropric bent.
Thanks Aenne, you had a huge impact on the lives of many women around the world who love to make things, including mine!

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Plywood Ladies in Progress

I'm in trouble. I bought a large piece of (ahem, sustainable) plywood the other day and have taking a few bites out of it, for example the house that I made recently. However now that I am painting somewhat larger things, I have failed to take into account the fact that my little D-shaped saw has absolutely no way of getting around to cut them out. D'oh! I feel pretty silly.
I have decided to just keep painting anyway. The lady waving her arms about above might just have to wait to actually put on her new German sausage dress. I do look forward to the moment when she does. She will be most fetching. (Do note my pathetic attempts at cutting her out on the right.)
When the plywood board is full of pictures I'll just smile sweetly at the Bro and ask if I can use his electric saw: now that's a scary idea. I wonder if you can get really big D-shaped saws?? How else can I cut these out without recourse to scary electric saws?
Maybe I should just give in to technology.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Patchwork is cruel!

I decided sometime last year that I had to make another patchwork quilt. Now, I need another patchwork quilt like the proverbial hole in the head: I already own three, and have made at least that many for other people, including my brother. But once you get going with patchwork, it takes you over. You can't stop at one. Even if you have no need or space for another quilt, you are compelled to keep going. I can't understand it. I have a small theory though: it's about the alchemy that occurs when disparate cast offs become a magical (and useful) whole. And it can be incredibly easy.I can see from these photos that I still have some re-arranging to do as the colour balance isn't quite right.

The criterion here is simple: all of the fabrics must be different. Not one square is to be the same as another. I can't exactly remember why I decided that, I think that I just wanted it to look really home-made. And the nice thing is that I have asked friends for some of their fabrics, so a bit of them is now in there too. I just need five more squares and I'm ready to go.

Above: my first ever patchwork effort: a cushion that I made when I was a child. Yes that is indeed Frida and Agnetha in the centre. Below: I found my old book, Supersewing Without a Pattern by Carolyn Trager (New York, 1976) when visiting my parents the other day. On the back page was a reminder of what the patchwork cushion was originally going to be:

A super Abba patchwork tunic! Illustration by Christine Randall.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Working 9 - 5: Grey Days

When I designed the graphic for the t-shirt above (way back at the end of last year) I think I was just looking for an excuse to draw some stationery. Now I'm not sure what kind of crazy kid would want to wear a t-shirt that's actually about homework.

Above: here I think I was in a Japanese-y mood. I like how the motif has been angled slightly differently on the t-shirt, so that the bird looks more like it's winning.

Above: This reminds me of the house and legs of the previous post. I get a strange sense of satisfaction when the designs that I come up with at work start to resemble the designs that I come up with outside of work. And now you all know my trick: stick a pair of legs on an inanimate object and voila! you're done.
These t-shirts are all available here.

Monday 10 May 2010

Lady is the House, II

Today I finished the plywood house previously shown on this recent post. (Red autumnal leaves added for the pleasure of Northern Hemisphere viewers.)
I very much enjoyed adding the dotted curtain detail to the windows.

A scan of the little legs.

And -- bonus -- here's a head and arms which were going to be attached to the roof of the house. However after I slotted in the legs I thought that it looked complete, and perhaps more interesting: I think that often it's better to give the viewer a little bit of work to do. The best thing is that now I have another half finished piece. Yippee!! I'll enjoy working out what to use for her body...
In case anyone is wondering, the reason why this post is titled Lady is the House, II is because there's a Lady is the House I, here.

Thursday 6 May 2010

Japanese Graphics from the 1920's

I love the simplicity, colour and surrealist humour of these Japanese graphics from the Taisho (1912 - 1926) and early Showa periods (from 1926 onwards).
Images from Commercial Design of Japan, Kyoto, 2006.

Monday 3 May 2010

A house in progress + Jem Southam

Above: there's still alot left to do on this house which I began painting on wood this afternoon. An opportunity to show the photo that inspired it, below and a few more by the British landscape photographer Jem Southam.
Above: Nineteenth Century Miner's Cottage, Brea.

Above: Pengegon Flower Show.

Above: Bolenowe. All from Jem Southam, Landscape Stories, Princeton, 2005. A serendipitous encounter at the Readings bargain table. Southam's work captures the melancholy beauty of the English winter. And the colours in his photographs have to be seen to be believed: if the book is this good then his prints must be breathtaking. They take me back to the winters I spent on the island of my ancestors, when memories of hedonistic childhood summers were flipped cruelly on their underside: dark, bleak cold and a constant reminder between the white washed walls and rosaries of my Catholic grandmother's house of the imminence of our decay. A perfect source of teenage despair.