Blog, Meet the Maker

Meet the Maker Joy Fitzsimmons of London Pooch

As Christmas will be with us all too soon, I thought it would be nice for you to read about some independent makers and designers from who you can buy original cards and presents directly . The first is Joy Fitzsimmons from London Pooch.

JB I know you as a card designer and maker. Can you tell the readers did you train as a graphic artist?

JF Yes I went to Liverpool Art School 1971 -74 and studied Graphics and Illustration. It was in the days when we all learned to set hot metal type and the Tate Liverpool was an atmospheric derelict Dock.

JB What is a typical day for you?

JF My typical day starts at 8.15am with a bracing walk round one of our local parks with our 2 dachshunds. I walk with a friend who has 2 dachshunds and during that 45 mins the we compare thoughts and experiences and leave the park utterly refreshed.

As I work from home there is always the invitation to be distracted by domestic matters. I dispatch these as quickly as I can. Then spend a large part of my day in the workroom at the computer as I produce all my work in Illustrator. 

I do fit in a certain amount of admin work for my husbands business then of course have to address my own admin work. I like a change of air midday when possible. When you are working alone it is good to meet a friend even just for a coffee. Give the eyes a rest.

My working day usually finishes as I address the evening meal preparations after 6. I enjoy this as it involves more active movements over a stove! And a change of scene.

JB What do you love most about what you do?

JF I love the fact that I have developed a routine of sitting and drawing to develop the theme of the artworks. My ongoing theme is placing a dachshund in a well-known painting or sculpture which totally changes the meaning. It has been so rewarding to copy from the great masters then give it a humorous slant.

I love to engage with the buying public in person although setting up a stall at a market can be demanding! I have to admit the pleasure I get from anyone wanting to buy even a card. It endorses your work.

JB What do you dislike most about what you do?

JF I dislike the fact that there is so much admin and trouble shooting which gets in the way of design time too often. Time management is a fine art.

JB Have you ever worked for anyone else, or done any collaborations? If so, with whom?

JF My early career was as a book designer and I worked freelance for 25years in the world of book publishing. Working for Weidenfeld and Nicholson and Studio Editions and eventually Partworks. During this time I also produced 2 illustrated children books. I think my timing was unfortunate as the recession of the 90’s hit too many old publishing houses. Including my own! But my time at Dorling and Kindersley was spent visualising. I was the only person employed to use a pencil. This was good and bad as the mode of book design went totally to computer. I had only worked with paper galley paste ups, unheard of now. At the end of this time I found I was not trained to design books in the now required fashion. So I slowly taught my self to use Illustrator in order to illustrate.

JB What made you want to start your own creative business?

JF London Pooch came about when I unfortunately had to have prolonged treatment for breast cancer. I suddenly had time on my hands recuperating. So we acquired 2 dachshunds. I had bought a small die cutting machine and collaged doggy cards seemed to be emerging. At that time I was printing all at home. From here I practised in Illustrator and London Pooch slowly started to develop. When my mother developed Vascular Dementia she came to live with us and producing greetings cards was an easier way to work round my additional job as carer. (Her attempts to help with the packaging were hilariously disastrous and short lived.)

JB Have you had any training recently? If so where and why?

JF I have had no further training although my Computer/Illustrator skills are all self taught. But I have been delighted to join a local Life Drawing class. Working from life straight onto paper again with pen and charcoal is immensely rewarding. And to work along side others who produce a totally different vision of the same object is a constant delight.

JB Can you describe your creative process?

JF Most of my designs at present are based on parodying Art and popular Architectural sites in London. All with the addition of a dachshund printed or collaged onto the card. 

The cards and prints are all printed in Kent by a well established printer. The Tea Towels printed in Lincolnshire. I have help to finish and pack the cards. We send out orders from here. 

JB What are your biggest challenges ?

JF Deciding what quantities to invest in when it come to production. Finding a good agent. Leaving enough time for new designs by delegating more to others. I handle the website largely myself since it was setup for me which is not perhaps the best use of my time. Fascinating though web design is I fell I need more purely creative time and must address this.

JBWhat advice  would you give to someone starting out in your field today ?

JF Talk to people already in the field at Trade Fairs and Local markets. All maker seller crafts people are generally keen to share stories as we all work in isolation and find that many working lives are running parallel.

JB Compared with when you started, do you think it is easier for designers to set up on their own nowadays or more difficult? Why?

JF I think it is easier to get an public awareness of who you are these days through social media. 

Also the trend towards small businesses and the spread of fairly high end Craft Fairs are all in the interests of young new makers. In these days of highly sophisticated marketing the public are definitely move towards small producers. See the spread of farmers markets at a time when sales in the High Street are suffering. Heartening. 

JB. Have you exhibited? If so, where?

JF Only at Trade Fairs. But my print collection is expanding now so I am looking to Exhibit at some point.

I have done Artists Open House in Dulwich

JBHow do you find Clients?

JF I have an agent for the London area and home counties. I have until now, sold myself into Galleries and Museums around the country but I am now looking to hand all of it to agents. Social Media has been good, but taxing on time. This takes me back to back to time management!

JB What are you currently working on?

JF I am always working on new designs. I usually have 2 or 3 in various stages. It is easier to be more objective about how they are shaping up unless I have a precise commission.

JB What is next?

JF I am gathering together enough work to produce a book. I loved word play. My first book was written in rhyme. I would like to produce more in this field. Would like to start all over again really. I have just produced my first Pooch plate.

Many thanks Juliet

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

HOW WE CHOOSE TO PLAY

By Fran Heath 2016

Abel’s illustrations copyright Roscoe Cattle 2016

Heather’s illustrations copyright Cleo Cattle 2016

I was browsing in the children’s shop a

Pocket Full of Pebbles, in Cowes Isle of Wight when I came across this delightful book by an Isle of Wight author and artist. She has taken a dolls house decorated it and created scenes for her story. This book is an excellent example of crowd funding working, to produce a book with a clear message that is : Parents and other adults should not limit the activities of children or choose how or with whom they play .

As someone who wrote children’s books in the nineteen eighties I was somewhat surprised and saddened to find this message is still needed.

         I grew up with Janet and John books, where John did things with his father and Janet looked on passively. At art school I was, and still am, a feminist. When I had my own children, boys first, I bought them dolls and buggies and wouldn’t let them have weapons of any sort. This didn’t prevent them from making them out of sticks, lego or anything else they could lay their hands on . My daughters played with Meccano and Lego. They climbed trees, learnt to sail , drew, painted and played with dolls, and one has studied disaster management and the other has a degree in architecture.

         Getting back to the book. It is made up of wonderful rhymes.

“ The princess loved skateboarding and she found it rewarding

to use the rainbow as a half-pipe when she flipped it upside down

She was liking being reckless, while the ninja made a necklace

of the brightly coloured flowers as he sat upon the ground. “

It is a story about a brother and sister and the different ways they are treated. Happy to say by the end of the book things have changed, the parents have seen the light and the children play together doing both quiet and physically challenging activities. The drawings done by the children in the story, have been created by the author’s own children and are fabulous.

A great book and thoroughly recommended.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Studio – Creative Spaces for Creative People

 

by Sally Coulthard

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If you are a designer, or just love creative people and enjoy seeing how and where they work, then this is must have book.

It is full of inspiration. The author, Sally Coulthard, lives on a farm where she rents out barns to artists. As she says ‘it’s a scruffy space, but the people who work there have transformed the building into something truly special. Not only have the artists organized their studios into useful spaces, they’ve also created rooms that express who they are and inform the work they produce. Each space reflects the personality of the person who works there –studios are like fingerprints, totally unique.’

The first part of the book has inspirational pictures and descriptions of different kinds of studio’s. Included are brights, mono, natural, industrial and collected.AlunCallenderPhoto_SarahCampbell_31_0125.jpg

The second part of the book is divided into different kinds of artists and designers and includes crafters, fashion and textile designers. Fine art, graphics and illustrators studios are featured as are the work shops of bloggers writers and photographers and last but not least are workshops and up-cyclers. nathalie leté 20(1)

Different kinds of buildings are as unique as the artists and designers themselves. One artist works in a shepherds hut another in a barn others in industrial warehouses and lofts. Some work together others by themselves.AlunCallenderPhoto_SarahCampbell_02_0045.jpg

The final section of the book deals with practicalities of how to plan your studio, getting organized, desks, lighting and storage are all explored. As are work tops and drying spaces. If you want to set up your own studio you need look no further than here. The book is truly international showcasing designers and artists from many different countries.CathDerksema_FINAL_HIRES-7.jpg

A joy to read and a very useful handbook.

Published by Jacqui Small at £25

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Uncategorized

Meet the Maker – Clare Youngs

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Craft Author and illustrator, are the two skills for which Clare is best known.

She writes craft books for the publishers Cico, and whatever the subject, they are always of the highest standard, beautifully styled and informative. I was curious how Clare had got into the business of being a craft author. She works from home in a studio at the bottom of her garden.

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J.B. Tell me about your design background.

C.Y. I did an art foundation course in London and then I went to Canterbury to do a degree in graphics and packaging design. It was a great course, very creative, we covered lots of skills as well as graphic design, including styling and art direction.

After art school I worked mainly for small design groups designing packaging.

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J.B. How did you get into writing books?

C.Y. My husband, Ian bought me a book on vintage style and I was flicking through it when I had a light bulb moment. I have always made things, including curtains cushions and blinds. I had an idea for a book on making things for the house out of paper. I went to Hamlyn and my first book was published by them. Then Cindy Richards the M.D. of Cico books got hold of me and asked if I would like to write a book for them. The first book I did was on making bags out of recycled materials.

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J.B. Do the ideas for your books originate from you or from the publisher?

C.Y. It is half and half, sometimes I come up with proposals and sometimes they do.

J.B. How long does it take to produce a book.

C.Y From start to finish probably 4-5 months, but that is working full time on it. From the concept to publication is usually a year.

J.B. Who does the photography and styling? 

C.Y.  I do the styling and Jo Henderson does the photography and my husband Ian does the illustrations.

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J.B. What are your favorite and your least favorite parts of creating a book.

C.Y. I love making things, so the designing and making is what I enjoy doing best.

When I started, I found writing step -by -step instructions challenging. The secret is to write them as you go along.

J.B. What and who inspires you?

C.Y. Vintage Children’s books, particularly those published in the 60’s and 70’s. I like the work of Brian Wildsmith and Roger Duvoisin, Alice and Martin Provensen an American couple who illustrated more than 40 children’s books together. Mostly between the late 1940’s and the 1960’s.

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J.B. Are there any modern illustrators you like?

C.Y. I enjoy the work of Joohee Yoon

J.B. What other things or people inspire you?

C.Y. I love vintage textiles especially the work of Lucienne Day. I like the textile designs of Marimekko. Scandanavian design and Japanese crafts both interest me. I like the work of the following painters and designers. Howard Hodgkin, Ben Nicholson, Robert Tavener, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravillious and William Scott.

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J.B. Are you a collector ?

C.Y. Yes I am a collector I have 23,000 czechoslovakian matchbox lables, mostly from Czechoslovakia and Poland, that I bought on line. I will probably sell some as many are duplicates.

J.B. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working from home?

C.Y. It is great to have a purpose built space that is just at the bottom of my garden. My husband who is also a designer sometimes works from home so we can meet up for coffee or lunch. However the down side of working from home is it is sometimes isolating as you don’t have feed back from other designers. As a result of this, last year I took an on line course called ‘Make Art that Sells’ . I wanted to study illustration as my craft projects have become more illustrative, for example I produce designs to embroider or collage. The boot camps that the web site runs are excellent and give you prompts rather than teaching as such. They have a face book group so that you can get feed back from like minded designers.

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J.B. Apart from the boot camp do you use other social media?

C.Y. I do instagram and find that is a very useful way of making contacts in the design world. Last year I participated in the 100 day project.

J.B Do you teach workshops ?

C.Y. When we first moved out of London, our kids were young and we thought it would be nice to move to the Kent coast. At this time I ran a few family craft workshops at the Turner Gallery.

J.B. If you hadn’t been a graphic designer what would you have studied or done as a career?

C.Y. I think I would have done a craft, been a print maker or a potter.

J.B. What are you doing next?

C.Y My latest book by Cico is coming out this November it is called Creative Collage

J.B. Clare thank you very much for letting us have a glimpse into your working life.

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