Meet the maker Martine Camillieri

Martine Camillieri is a French installation artist, author and teacher. Her own work takes precedence over all her other activities. It is based round waste and the fact we make, and own too much stuff.

use portrait

She lives with her Dutch husband in what was, at one time, their art gallery. It is a large industrial space with big windows metal beams and wide oak floorboards. It is built round a courtyard with a metal spiral staircase at its center. Everything is of an industrial scale.

spiral stair

When I went to interview her she was creating some very stylish lamps. Asked about them, she said they are made from very tacky old lamps that are taken apart and the components reassembled with other items such as bamboo steamers. The lamps are all ‘one offs’

lamps on

 

Did you go to art school and if so what did you study?

Yes I went to the decorative arts school in Nice and studied advertising. I was top of my year.

What did you do after art school?

I worked in advertising for twenty years but I always wanted to be an artist.

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What made you change direction ?

In the year 2000 I was 50. I wanted a life change. I left advertising and set up the gallery with my husband. We were victims of its success. It took over our lives so that neither of us had enough time to practice our own work.

whole room

My husband works with wood, creating bespoke pieces. Eventually we closed the gallery and I worked full time on what is my life’s passion. To stop waste and to stop filling the planet with objects.

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 Describe your work

 

My work is created out of found objects, rubbish,the flotsam and jetsam of everyday living. I hate waste of any kind. I take the tacky and put it with other items to make it pleasing. I use what is there and I do not change the final destination of the item. For example if I am using a bucket, in an installation, I will not put a hole in it. If I do that it can no longer be used as a bucket.

eiffle tower close ups
Eiffel Towers created from waste

I make installations that are exhibited all over the world. I had work in Expo 2004 and at Creative Lab in Milan. My work has been exhibited in shop windows such as Bon Marche.

floral lamp in kitchen
Lamp made from discarded bits and pieces

 

Tell me about your books

I have had over fifteen books published. I do all the work on them from original concept, photography, art direction lay out and typography. My first book was on making tables from ephemera. It was a huge success and so I wrote more books based round the same topic of not wasting and re-using resources.

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You also produce children’s books

Yes I take toys from childhood and mix and match them give them a new life. I have written and created a series of traditional fairy tales using found objects and old toys to make the pictures.ready to shoot 1

 

Do you run workshops?

I work with children in schools. I will work with a class for a whole year. One of the projects we are currently working on is taking the waste from vegetables. For example we grow the tops cut off carrots and create something new. For example the fronds from the carrot may become trees in a forest scene. We also use grow from pips and seeds.

 

Who or what inspires you?

I am militant about a no waste agenda and that we should stop filling the planet with objects. My motto : Do not waste, do not throw away, give new life to things and stop producing.

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What advice would you give to a designer or artist starting out today?

Make things. Don’t worry if you are copied. Just keep doing. If you are copied it doesn’t matter as if you are truly original you will come up with more and new ideas.

hands and her book 

You have written a book called ‘Never without my Van’ which is about Frugal traveling. Tell me about it.

Each year  we  leave France in September and travel in our van for about two months around various European countries. We have a particular fondness for Greek islands.

We live very frugally and simply, in a van we converted ourselves. The book gives inventive ideas of how to transform a van to live in as simply as possible. We eat food we find growing by the roadside and attempt to have as small a carbon footprint as is possible.

What are you working on next?

I have been asked to do a 3D project based on my children’s books. They are going to be a TV program and I am art directing it.

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Meet the maker Tracy Kendall designer of extraordinary original wallpapers.

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Wallpaper is barely an adequate word to describe the designs and constructions of Tracy Kendal. They range from paper manipulations, pleating and stitching  to the use of fringing, buttons, jig saw pieces to the reconfiguration of  everyday objects. She is always ahead of the pack with her ideas. She designed a fringed wallpaper in 2004. The design is  still  going strong particularly as fringing is this year’s interior must have. The giant cutlery design still sells twenty years after Tracy printed her first one.

Did you go to art school originally and if so where and what did you study?

I went to art school in Manchester – Manchester Polytechnic between 1977 -1980 graduating with a Fine Art Printmaking Degree. MA in mixed media textiles from the RCA 1997-2001

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When we first met, you were working in the print studio at the Royal college of Art and doing your own work as well. The print I remember was the giant knife fork and spoon, that you screen printed onto fabric as well as paper.No one was doing anything half as imaginative as you were.

 

What made you want to produce your own wallpaper and was it difficult to find a manufacturer?

It’s a fairly typical answer to this, I wanted some wallpaper for myself at home in the kitchen and everything I saw that I liked I couldn’t afford so I made my own…the cutlery set. I had printed some wallpaper for myself again for my house a few years previous to this – the newsprint design. I silkscreen print myself so I am my own manufacturer. My fine art printmaking degree and a MA in mixed media textiles from the RCA and decades of teaching print in art schools gives me the skills to do this myself.

knife wallpaper

Why wall paper?

 

It is the perfect mix of all my training and interests and family background. My family on my father’s side are Russian Jewish cabinet makers so lots of hand skills and measuring, lots of measuring. I like that by limiting myself to wallpaper I can do anything with it, I can explore it fully rather than trying to put my designs on fabrics, plates, trays or whatever I fully embrace just one medium.

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Are any members of your family involved in running the business and if so what roles do they perform?

My partner works for me doing all of my administration. Without him we would not be paid or have such good communications between the interior designers and suppliers that we work with. My son does my website and some visual technical support.

sequins pleats

 

Your work looks very complex, labour intensive and expensive to produce. Is all your work bespoke?

All of my work is made to order and can be changed and adapted for the clients interior. Some is very simple and in the scheme of how things are made not that expensive. Other designs are expensive, complex and very time consuming but then true bespoke work is.

Feather wall paper

To whom do you mainly sell? How do you find your clients or do they find you?

I mainly sell to interior designers and a lot are from the US. I have shown there quite a lot and the Americans seem to understand and embrace modern design.

 

Are the papers produced in the UK?

All my production is in the UK.

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Are you there when the making process is taking place?

For most of the work yes, it happens in my studio so we over see it from start to finish. Some of the designs are produced by other manufacturers all of whom we have worked very closely with for a long time to ensure the quality is of the highest standard. Everything is checked in the studio before shipping to clients.

 

Do you have more conventional papers that you sell to wholesale or retail clients?

We do sell wholesale and retail and any of the designs can be made for those markets.more conventional

 

What is a typical working day like for you ?

I don’t have a typical working day but my day starts with clearing my thoughts walking the dog on the beach. Then its working on whatever project I need to. We usually have a number of projects going through the studio at any one time with varying deadlines and work requirements. At points in the day I check with my partner any suppliers issues or if we need to order in anything for a job. There is always a great deal of measuring with all the projects so I am often permanently attached to a ruler of one form or another!

 

You have moved from London to Margate what are the benefits and the drawback of this move?

The move to Margate has only had benefits no draw backs at all. It helps to give some sense of a work/life balance and also a indication of life after work.

 

Do you run creative workshops or give talks?

We are about to run some workshops after much nagging by friends who want to learn to screen print and yes I do give talks at some colleges and universities.

 

What is the best part of your work and what is the worst part?

I love a new challenge, when a designers wants to try something different or unexpected with my work. The worst doesn’t really happen for me, I get to do what I enjoy everyday as a living and that’s something most people want to do.

button wallpaper

Who or what inspires you?

My answer has been the same for many years to this question, Ingo Maurer the German lighting designer. He manages to combine beauty, technology and humour within his work so effortlessly.

 

How long have you been working as a professional designer?

15 years

What advice would you give to any designer starting out today?

Do whatever it is with passion, don’t copy, get your hands dirty and enjoy being outside your comfort zone.

What is next for your work?

Some more designing as I want to expand on some of the designs I already have either in scale or colour or via a different production technique or all of the above.

Tracy Kendall

http://tracykendall.com/shop/Read More »

Meet the makers: Rex London

This ‘meet the maker’ post is a little different from usual as it is more about the work of a company rather than one designer. Although my questions are directed at the main buyer for Rex London, the company  employ six designers who are  all involved in the creative process.  Dot com gift shop is re-branding in April 2018 and from then the company will be called Rex London. It started life trading as a market stall on Portobello road in London, selling candles and Ponchos. The business behind dot com gift shop, Rex International Ltd (wholesale) has been trading successfully for 35 years, supplying gifts and home ware to over 20,000 retailers in more than 70 countries worldwide. It now has in excess of 70 employees working from its West London headquarters in Acton, and an impressive turnover – last year exceeding £10 million. Chances are even if you do not know the name you will know the products.

Candy Smith is head buyer and oversees development of hundreds of new lines to market each year and is always on the look out for the latest trends. She has a passion for design and an uncompromising eye for detail. But she tells me that she works very much as part of a team and the evolution of each product is very much a collaborative process between her and Les Whiteman, Rex London’s Design Director, and his team of designers.

Les head of design
Les Whiteman  head of the design team

Why is the company rebranding and what difference will it make?

 Since 2005, we have been designing and sourcing our own unique product range. We felt that people perceived dot com gift shop as merely an online marketplace – whereas we see ourselves as a design brand…and rebranding was the best way to affirm our own unique brand identity.

New range

 

How many collections do you oversee each year?

The number of collections vary season on season, year on year – but on average we create 1000 new products every year.

Jan Konopka
Jan Konopka

How large is your design team and do different people work on different parts of the collections?

Our Design Director, Les Whiteman, has a team of 5 designers who all work from our West London office. We don’t have a system where one designer necessarily works on a specific category of product – our designers are very versatile and can be at any time working on an idea for men, ladies or children.

Ashley Le Quere
Ashley Le Quere

 

Where do you get most of your designs made?

 All of our designs originate here in our West London office and studio. Manufacture is mostly in China, although we have producers in other countries, such as India & Thailand.

Nadia Taylor
Nadia Taylor

 

Are you essentially a wholesalers or an internet retailer?

 

Wholesale is, business-wise, the largest part of the operation – we sell in 70 countries to over 20000 retailers – but we see ourselves as a design company. Without amazing design, we wouldn’t have any customers. We are essentially a gift company although we do a few home wares.

Louise Head of Marketing
Louise Head of Marketing

What is your best selling line?

This season our bestselling range is our new eco-friendly bamboo fibre collection for children and adults. This is a new collection of sustainable bamboo dinnerware and food storage, including lunch boxes, serving trays, plates, bowls, cups and cutlery – all in a selection of our designs.

Apple range

 

What is a typical day for you?

Work is very varied, so I am fortunate to avoid monotony and routine. When I’m not working on new products with the team, I’m researching current trends – I’m always on the lookout for inspiration…whether that be in magazines, online or on the high street.

 

…and on top of these duties, I also style and merchandising our Rex London wholesale exhibition stands, retail shows and pop-up shops.

Asa Wikman
Asa Wikman

 

What do you love most about what you do?

When a product finally arrives, one I’ve been involved in and nurtured from the very beginning throughout the whole length of the process – which can be months, or even years in some cases – and it exceed even our high expectations. That’s very special.

 

What do you dislike most about what you do?

Having to tell a designer that their design isn’t commercial enough for our customers – even if it’s something I absolutely love.

 

Has Rex done any collaborations? If so with whom?

 

We’re actually working on our very first collaboration – we’ve asked children’s author/illustrator Neal Layton to create a world exclusive design for one of our recycled jumbo storage bags. This will be a strictly limited edition, with all profits going to children’s charity Make-A-Wish.

 

What are your biggest challenges?

The responsibility of choosing which product designs to put into production.

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

 Understand who your customer is, and listen to what they’re telling you.

Pineapple and icecream paper decorations and Jumbo bags

What are you currently working on?

Today I’m collating new ideas to take to our manufacturers on our next visit. Watch this space

Many thanks Juliet Bawden

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Meet the Maker Jehane Boden-Spiers textile designer and Art licenser and consultant

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I know you as a textile designer and maker, Can you tell us if you went to art school and if so what did you study?

I was born & bred in Brighton. I studied Textile Design at Winchester School of Art (1994 – BA Hons).

Jehane’s own hand drawn designs

How and when did you become an art consultant?

I have curated my fellow artists’ work since first opening my house for the Brighton Festival in 2002. I discovered that I am skilled at selling other artists work and enjoy talking about the creative process. I became a licensing agent in 2004 when my children were born. Through my work as an agent, I have received many submissions from artists that I have not been able to represent for one reason or another Being an art consultant means that my services can be offered more widely. I now offer one-to-one consultancy to emerging and established artists internationally.Jehan-2

You contributed a chapter to the very successful book ‘House of Cards’ did you enjoy the writing process and have you ever written a book of your own.

I loved it! I would love to do a book of my own. It’s on my bucket list.

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Can you give us a brief history of how you started out.

I first licensed my own designs in 1992 as a student at Winchester School of Art. I worked as a textile designer in Vienna when I graduated. I set up as a freelance designer back in Brighton in 1996 under the name of Cloth of Gold.

Jehanes own work
Jehane’s own work cards and wrapping paper

I designed for industry (mainly paper products), made one-off embroidered pieces for private clients, and created hand-made items for small batch production sold to galleries and retail outlets nationally.My designs have sold for textiles, gift-wrap, greeting cards & more. Licensees of my designs include Stewo, Jung Design, Gallery Five, Sanderson Fabrics, Baumann, Penny Black, Collage, Medici, Zoewie, Boots Plc, and The Paper House Group.

My designs have featured on London Underground posters. My retail clients have included Liberty of London, English Heritage, the RSC, and Vienna & Sydney Opera Houses. My one-off embroideries have sold in galleries nationally. I have given many talks about her artwork including at the V & A.

I also had a variety of agents before I set up on my own as an Artists’ Agent.I was always very pro-active, exhibiting at trade fairs and contacting shops/ licensing clients directly.

Ken Eardley
Ken Eardley designs used on laundry bags plates and kitchen ware.

What is a typical day for you?

Everyday starts with catching up on my Instagram and planning the day’s social media. I will walk down to my workspace at Studio Eleven where I have been for 7 years. I have my own room in a shared studio space of creatives. It’s a great atmosphere and very focused. I currently spend all of my time at a computer although I have started planning a new range of products for my Open House in May. A typical day I would be designing and writing new marketing campaigns, liasing on existing licenses, contacting new clients, and giving creative direction to the artists that I work with.

Nancy Nicholson
Nancy Nicholson tins

What do you love most about what you do?

I love being immersed in another artists’ work. I enjoy the wide variety of client responses to artwork and the fun of trying to predict who might like what. Most of all I love combining my love of the visual world with conversations

What do you dislike most about what you do?

Being solely defined and seen as an agent. Being a designer is at the source of everything I do.

Cressida Bell
Cressida Bell

What made you want to start your own creative business?

I knew it would be the thing I would most regret not doing.

Your business seems to have really grown over the last few years how has this happened?

I have always worked hard. I have never taken time out. More recently, I have spent a lot of time asking myself difficult questions and challenging myself. What is really important to me? I realized that working in an inter-disciplinary manner is hugely important to me. It has guided me to expand my offer. I have been able to promote hard as a result because I am very sure of my vision. This has really helped me to grow my business.

Can you describe your creative process?

It always starts with a response to either pattern, colour, or words. I often need to make associations and connections between things.

What are your biggest challenges?

So much to do, so little time. I also find it hard to send short emails! Focusing on the bigger picture when there are so many details pulling me the other way. Speaking in public – I have lots to say but I get incredibly nervous.

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

Work hard. Ask questions, Don’t me scared to put yourself in front of people. Think about your own intent, what is important to you, really important to you? This will be invaluable in guiding your decision making. Present everything visually and beautifully. Attention to detail.

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

I think it is easier. There are more resources and the creative industries are booming. Even though they are marginalized in schools, they are more recognized by the government (and people at large) as being crucial to the economy. 35% of the UK’s income is from the creative industries. Websites and social media make it much easier to be seen and to connect with clients.

Have you exhibited? If so, where?

Yes – all over the country, mainly in group exhibitions but all over 15 years ago.

Liberty of London

Grace Barrand Design Centre

Ferrers Gallery

Manchester City Exchange

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art etc

How do you find clients?

Trade fairs, social media, trade magazines, look at the underneath of products

Artists from open house
Artists from open house

What are you currently working on?

Planning new products with my designs for my open house

New newsletters for Jehane Ltd

A bespoke licensed range with British Airways i360 and Cressida Bell

A new licensed diary for Waterstones 2019

Talking to New artists for representation

Planning my open house; getting flyers ready to print

& more!

What is next?

An online shop on www.jehane.com

Has social media impacted on your business and if so in what way?

Yes, hugely. It has been the launching pad for my new business Jehane Ltd and has been the main reason that I have attracted the new artists I represent and the new clients I am talking to.

Open House instagram @jehane_openhouse

Meet the Maker: Deirdre Hawken

DeidreDeidre Hawken makes what might loosely be called hats or head pieces. However that description does not do justice to the exquisite intricate pieces of work created by this multi talented designer. I and my photographer went to interview her recently in her studio. radish salad toms opener

 

JB.I know you as a hat designer and maker, but I understand  that you also design and make jewelry. Can you tell us which discipline you trained in and how you came to practice both?

DH I trained in theater design, sets and costume, at the Central School of Art and Design, now Central St Martins.

 

I worked as a Theater Designer for some time and I was an Art Director for a couple of design companies, but I have always loved the design and making process. I have made costume accessories for The Royal Opera House, English National Ballet and the BBC, I also designed a run of windows for Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and made props for Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Asprey Ltd and I had an exhibition in Fortnum and Mason among others, and I created collections of jewellery with my sculptor husband for various fashion designers.

three hats

 

JB.What is a typical day for you?

DH. There is no typical day! I could be designing hats or jewellery or researching new work, seeing a client or dealing with boring administration.

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 JB. What do you love most, about what you do?

DH.I love researching ideas, it is now so easy on the internet, and as I said I love everything about the making process, especially dyeing fabrics.

working pages with fabrics dyed

 JB.What do you dislike most about what you do?

DH Any kind of administration.

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

DH.When you are a designer for the theater you’re basically working with and for the director, but I have been a freelance designer most of my life. I did collaborate with a jeweler, we were asked to make a joint piece, but I did not really enjoy the experience. I have also made jewellery with my husband.

mushroom onions etc

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

DH. I love working for myself, although I sometimes have an assistant on a really big job, such as when I made jewellery for Saks 5th Avenue.

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

DH.Not recently, but in 1998 I won a scholarship to study couture millinery. This was through QEST, Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust. There are no age limits and but you do have to fill in a very difficult application form. I trained with Rose Cory in Couture Millinery and had an internship with Stephen Jones. I also went to America and studied at the Met.

JB.Can you describe your creative process?

DH.First I have an idea, then I research, choose the materials. I only work with a few materials, leather, silk taffeta, silk velvet silk organza and organdie. I dye all the fabrics myself using Dylon dyes. I then decide how to make the headpiece or perhaps a collection of jewellery. Most of my headpieces are one off designs. I never make another piece exactly the same.

cigar making in progress

JB.What are your biggest challenges?

DH.Selling work.

cigars

JB. What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field today?

DH.It has always been difficult to be self-employed, especially in the Creative Sector, I believe good training is essential, also you must have self belief.

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

DH.I think it is harder, as everyone thinks they can be an artist or a designer.

JB.Have you exhibited? If so, where?

DH. I have had so many exhibitions it is hard to choose which ones to talk about. I have work in the following Public Collections: Victoria and Albert Museum – London, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Costume Institute – New York, Kyoto Institute of Costume – Tokyo, Graves Art Gallery– Sheffield, Museum of Costume –Bath, Philadelphia Museum of Art-USA, Hat Museum- Stockport.

 JB.How do you find clients?

DH. Clients come to me and I sell at exhibitions.

JB. What are you currently working on?

DH.A very tricky Summer Pudding Headpiece for submission for the London Hat Show early 2018.

summer pudding

 JB.Do you teach or run workshops? If so where?

DH. Not now! I have taught at various Art colleges and was an assessor for the BA Jewellery course at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and design, Dundee for three years. I have given many talks including one at the V &A and many workshops all over the country.

lemons leather

 JB.What is next?

DH. I am developing a range of headpieces which can be displayed as Still Life’s in acrylic cases, which I am finding very exciting.salad

 

JB. That is a great idea, your work is far too lovely to store out of site, in a hat box.

Many thanks Juliet

http://www.deirdrehawken.com/

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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.

Claire-6.jpg

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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Claire-21Claire-18

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Meet the Maker: Hilary Simon

 

Francescas flowers close up copy

Silk painter, curator, artist and costume designer are just some of the fields of excellence for which Hilary Simon is known. You just need to peek into her house, a riot of colour, and you know you are in for a visual treat. I went to visit her in her home to see where she works.2C2A6051

Hilary is a human Magpie, the house is jam packed with colourful ephemera picked up on her travels plus lots of examples of her own work. Oh I forgot to mention she also runs fabulous guided tours to both Mexico and Peru.

J.B. Tell me a bit about your background and how you got into Silk painting.

H.S. I trained in Costume design at Croydon Art School but I was always interested in textiles. As soon as I had the opportunity and had saved enough money I took myself off to Java to learn about Batik. I stayed for 3 months.

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J.B.Who trained you to do silk painting?

H.S. No one, I taught myself.

On my return from Java I learned about a silk painting technique practiced in France. I went to Paris and bought up the dyes and the resist gum, and with a book, started painting on silk and made cushions for Liberty’s and then Harvey Nichols bought some too. I had a fashion show with a range of silk painted clothes and a stall at Chelsea Craft Fair

.Oaxaca landscape close up copy

J.B. It sounds like your career was really taking off.

H.S. Although it sounds really good and they were great commissions they were not bringing in enough income. I was doing freelance costume design for films and I still do that occasionally. When I had my first baby I started doing craft fairs, selling my silk paintings. A job then came up as a Costume Supervisor at GMTV working three days a week. This was great as it gave a stable income whilst at the same time lots of time to do my own work.

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J.B. In what way was your work developing?

H.S. I started making greetings cards and had an exhibition of painting on silk. I showed at Chelsea Craft Fair.

J.B. How did you get into running workshops?

H.S. Because of the contacts I made when I was exhibiting, I was invited to start teaching workshops. The first ones were at The Polka Children’s Theatre when my children were very young. Later I worked at the Eden Project and then I taught at Art in Action for many years. I still teach at the fashion and Textile Museum and at some of the London Art Schools. I also run weekend courses at West Dean College.

I have taught at Wildfibre in Los Angeles https://www.wildfiberstudio.com/

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J.B. How do you make your contacts for work?

H.S. I am always on the look out, for example My trip to Guatemala, was from showing at Art in Action in Oxford, when someone told me about an American arts centre in Antigua called ARTGUAT http://www.artguat.org/I contacted the owner, photographer Liza Fourre, and gave a 10 day workshop there two years running.

Inspired by my time in Guatemala, I later had a Solo exhibition of 55 paintings at the Stephen Bartley Gallery, Old Church Street, Chelsea.

To fund my visits to Mexico whilst I was researching, I gave tours in Mexico for Day of the Dead. I have run a workshop in Mexico in Guadalajara at ‘Hard to Find’ arts centre http://htf.org.mx/.and at CaSa,Centre of Arts San Agustin,Oaxaca.http://www.mexicoescultura.com/recinto/57071/en/san-agustin-arts-center-oaxaca.html

J.B. How did you get into curating exhibitions?

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H.S. Having done many tours in Mexico I became aware that no one had done an exhibition about Rebozo’s that are hand woven on a back strap loom. I thought I would create an exhibition.  A rebozo is a hand woven garment ,with ikat design. Its characteristic is the hand laced fringe.The rebozo evolved with the influence of the Spanish, and the weaving skill of the artisans creating this garment. The artist Frida Kahlo wore them. It was a great idea. I just didn’t realize that it would take so long from the initial concept to the actual exhibition. The Fashion and Textile Museum in London was my choice of museums. It was there that I set my heart. It was designed by, Mexican architect, Ricardo Legorreta. I met Ricardo in Mexico City before he died. We made a shrine for him in the exhibition.

My Mexican Shrine close up copy

Exhibitions are expensive especially travelling ones. I managed to get funding and support from a number of different organizations, including the Anglo Mexican Foundation, The British Council, The Mexican Embassy and the Fashion and Textile Museum.   I bought Mexican’s over to the UK to demonstrate the skill needed to make a Rebozo. All in all it took 5 years from the initial idea to the London exhibition in 2014. It also showed in Mexico City in 2015.

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J.B. Are you thinking of running any other exhibitions?

H.S. I am currently working on an idea to exhibit Peruvian Costume. The working title is “Weavers in the sky’ although this may change.

J.B. What made you choose Peru?

H.S. They are outstanding weavers and there is currently a great interest in Peruvian crafts, particularly the weaving, culture and cuisine.

J.B. Where do you get the inspiration for your work?

H.S. My inspiration comes from my travels, decorative things such as textiles embroideries, shrines, bright colours, textures and different cultures.

J.B. Who are your design heroes?

H.S. Andrew Logan, Zandra Rhodes, Molly Parkin, Missoni Leonora Carrington. I am influenced by Mexicans including  Diego Rivera, Francisco Toledo.

J.B. If you were starting on your education and career choices again, what would you do?

H.S. I would always be an artist, but it’s a hard life.

J.B. What are the benefits and downsides about working from home?

H.S. The upside is that I love being on my own and being able to work whenever I feel like it, even quite late into the night. There are no distractions from other people and I don’t waste time travelling. The downside is I don’t get the critical information that I would if I were working with or near to other artists.

J.B. Apart from Peru what other projects are you currently working on?

H.S. I was commissioned  by the Swedish church to paint two, four feet long, panels of the tree of life. These were for the vicar to wear. I posted the finished design on face book and out of the blue was asked to come up with another Tree of Life Design for a Classical CD sleeve for musician Morgan Szymanski. I have just finished this. I have recently completed some Silk squares that I will soon be selling and I am constantly working on new designs.El Arbol de la VidaFE8A7467 copy

J.B. Thank you for a glimpse into your artistic life.

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