‘T’was the week before Christmas (ish.) What could you make with cardboard, no storage, borrowed paint and a handful of volunteers? Turns out, you can pull off a stage set for an Early Years Winter concert!
After my initial idea was ruled out as the Production Manager was super busy (concerts upon concerts!) and couldn’t let us use the wooden stage flats, I had to come up with another plan. I decided on rooftops made of cardboard to host the reindeer and the sugar plum fairies. This was a modular solution that we could make in a small area and store until the show, and didn’t require volunteers to have specific skills to be able to help out. I asked parents to cut up rectangles of card at home of specific dimensions, and these were turned into roof shingles. The school facilities chaps were so helpful when I kept stealing the recycling, and I visited Michaels on delivery day to snag some of their large scale packing card.
In between running around Christmas shopping some of the parents popped in to help as I set up in a corner of the school and constructed and painted the rooftops, using kitchen sponges to print brick texture. Karen, another Mum introduced me to Tuck Tape which was amazingly reliable for construction – (I won’t use anything else now!) apparently its used for actual home construction. Karen also made cute curtains which we hung inside cardboard dormer windows and lit from within.
The final set looked lovely with the addition of some fir trees (just like West Vancouver!) but the real show stoppers were undoubtedly the children, we were all so proud of their performance!
Traditional ‘zillij’ tile design inspired this print suite for a beautiful destination wedding in Marrakech.
I created a custom logo for the happy couple using a ‘Khamsa’ or ‘Hand of Fatima’ motif. This symbol is considered auspicious in Moroccan folklore – paired with an ampersand, it represented our best wishes for the newlyweds, and provides a visual nod towards the traditional henna worn by the bridal party. I employed a colour palette that would complement the Atlas roses, metallic accents and dusky pink environs.
The full commission encompassed a variety of card stock items, invitations with laser-cut sleeves, acrylic accessories, wayfinding and signage, stickers and corresponding website.
I have always been fascinated by medieval illuminated manuscripts not just for the amazing painted miniatures and flourishes but also for the typographic inspiration. The Getty has such a wonderful collection, a rotating selection of which are always on display, and I find myself drawn to them quite often during my research for docent tours. This time however, the inspiration fed into my day job as a designer, a book layout for a client on the subject of Saint Patrick, and as its nearly St Paddy’s day, I thought I’d write a little about the process.
My client, a theology professor, had written a book about the saint’s teenage years as an inspirational story for young adults – the most unlikely character turns his life around to become a role model for later generations. It was certainly news to me that St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, started his early life in my home town of Liverpool and was captured, bound for Ireland as a slave.
Studying some of the visual cues used in medieval manuscripts from the 13th century onwards, and early printed editions of medieval inspired works such as those by the Arts and Crafts movement, I was inspired by the notion of ‘rubric’. Rubric is a device used in medieval typography for a variety of reasons such as a chapter heading, title or instruction, the word originating from the latin ‘rubrica’ the red ochre pigment used to create it.
When text is ‘rubricated’ it is highlighted in red and in a liturgical context may signify something akin to stage directions for the priest – the text left in black being the actual words to be read aloud. Other uses include red being used for the congregation’s responses, a little like subtitles on a film employing different colours to distinguish various characters’ voices. Red, and occasionally other colours such as blue or gold were used to highlight important names, first lines of psalms or section headings and for large ornamental or historiated (illustrated) drop capitals.
I decided to use medieval typography cues to draw on tradition and reference the origin of the story but also to break up the text into bite-sized pieces in an attractive and useful way, encouraging reluctant readers to not be daunted by the sight of a great deal of text. For the purposes of a book aimed at children and young adults, variation in typography adds interest but I was concerned that the text remain accessible and legible so I avoided an overly fancy script style and chose clean, sans-serif body typefaces. Also in this spirit I split the text up into sections and gave these headings to hint at what that section contained, in order to encourage further reading. The first paragraphs of the following text were set in red rubric style to further lead the reader into the chapter.
Another way I was influenced by the styling of manuscripts was to use the rubric idea to distinguish between different voices within the text. In the Patrick of Liverpool story the author has included passages of rhyme or ‘rapping’ to connect with the young audience, and I set this type as centred, in a different colour and typeface. Maewyn, the main character has his own typography style as do some other characters he encounters, this is a lively break in the narrative and attention is drawn to it visually.
The book’s illustrator is an inspirational story himself – a former prison inmate who was commissioned to create the drawings. I requested a hand rendered celtic style border from him to add to the illuminated feel, and varied the illustration layout as full page bleed or with a miniature style border to accompany the text.
As the book’s story is based on theological research it was important to include notes on this, however, I ensured information not aimed at the book’s main target audience ( such as difficult wording in the preface and reference notes section) was positioned outside of the main flow of text and set in smaller type so it is visually glossed over as ‘small print’ by the target audience in favour of the main story, yet is available for teachers or other interested parties to access.
Patrick of Ireland is available to buy on Blurb or though the publisher Liverpool Community Spirit and all proceeds go to charity.
Just launched, a website I created for the new exhibition at Whitworth Art Gallery, the University of Manchester’s art gallery.
The exhibition, curated by talented Helen Stalker, is based on the ‘shadow’ as an artistic device to cast reality into relief. Drawing parallels between modern technology and the primordial urge to create avatars of ourselves, with historical methods of trickery to inspire wonder and a sense of magic, the exhibition leads us through a variety of media.
Dark Matters is comprised of a major exhibition including new commissioned works from international artists, and a display gleaned from the Whitworth’s extensive collection of masterpieces from Van Gogh to Rembrandt. An interesting and varied series of talks film screenings and events is also programmed.
Go and see it if you can, now showing at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (September 24th 2011 to January 15th , 2012.) Visit the website at www.Darkmattersart.com
A few photos from the local Acima supermarché in El Jadida – Some striking colour, pattern and print quality to be found on the shelves – I love how Moroccan appreciation for geometry and calligraphy manifests into flipped diamond shapes, honeyed hexagons and smart typography. Henry’s, so nostalgic -as a child I remember trips back from the local épicerie sharing a packet of these little malted milk biscuits in their shiny wrapper…
With this makeover I wanted to create a room with a warm and exciting feel, I used Yoruba and Ashanti West African-style fabrics with pieces from North Africa and threw in some vintage finds for an eclectic room full of colour and texture.
I have spent a lot of time in North Africa as I am half-Moroccan, and my home growing up was filled with West African art as my parents travelled there often, so a cosy room with these influences makes me feel both at home and inspired.
I love waking up to the punchy pink colour every morning, after painting this room I discovered this honeysuckle shade is the 2011 Pantone colour of the year!
I hope to add some of my West African art treasures from back home when I get hold of them. I also plan to display some enlarged photography pieces of mine and my husband’s – particularly some images from the souks in Marrakech, for centuries a meeting place of cultural influences and trade between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.
I came across an exciting fabric find at a yard sale, turns out the lady selling it had Yoruba heritage, and the pieces are vintage. I plan to make a runner or bedspread together with the yards of Kente and wax print fabric I acquired downtown at Ashanti Fabrics.
Playing on the ‘straight to the bargain bin’ concept, I used an Oxfam charity shop as a backdrop for the new album release by Condor Moments, featuring cover art by artists Rachel Lowther, Alex Baggaley and myself.
‘And Though We’re Told We Have It All, The All We Have Is Freezing Cold’ by Condor Moments, Released by What Delicate Recordings, New York, actually is to be found in record shops and available on iTunes
(yes I know Big Ben is actually the name of the bell, and not the clock tower) Anyway
A rainy night for a commission, I was glad the streets were wet and brought up such interesting reflections to play with, even though my assistant and I got soaked battling the wind with an umbrella and keeping the tripod steady on a traffic filled bridge…
I used exposure bracketing to ensure the illuminated clock face wasn’t blown out, and set long exposures to capture light trails from passing buses and the movement of people to add to the bustling feel. I then layered images of festive lights taken at home as the iconic lamp posts lining the bridge were actually out of action and being repaired, necessitating a generous dollop of festive artistic license.
The finished Christmas card designs were used for the UK Houses of Parliament, in their MP print on demand system to send to constituents.
The launch event for a charity book I designed was held in a church hall in Liverpool. Many members of the local community including Ethiopian elders and community leaders, and some special guests got together to celebrate with those involved with the book’s creation. A highlight of the evening was a haunting live singing performance in Amharic. We feasted on some festive Ethiopian fare, such as delicious Lamb Wot stew and Iab cottage cheese and yogurt, with flat Injera bread.
An evocative tale of love, hardship and success, with universal appeal, coloured with traditional detail set against the rich cultural backdrop of Ethiopia.
The book ‘Tell Out My Soul’ is a story for children of a Black saint. The boy, Yared, turns his life around from a tale of failure to self-belief and astounding success as a role model for future generations. The book’s theme was underscored by the fact the illustrations were created by a former prison inmate as part of his rehabilitation. The author is a theologian who specialises in ‘Community Spirit’ courses for the workplace to raise awareness of various cultural traditions and religious practices from all over the world.
I designed and put the book together ready for print as a pro bono project. although I am not religious, it was gratifying to be involved in a project with a great role model for young people, and positive messages that reach beyond the notion of religion. This book was created for schools and community groups in the UK, however it is available for anyone to order through Blurb, as a hardback book or e-book. Here’s a little preview: