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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Meet the Maker: Hilary Simon

 

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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

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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.

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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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A Russian Garden created from recycled bottles.

Photo 30-06-2017, 08 07 31 Valentina Karelina and Yury Karelin are the parents of a very creative  friend of mine. She happened to mention that her parents had created a garden out of plastic bottles.  As a lover of all things recycled, I asked if she would send me some images, and  let me interview her.

Where do your parents live ?

They live in a small rural Russian town about 250 km  from Moscow. The population is approximately 30,000 but is dwindling as young people are moving away to cities where there are more job opportunities. The summers are hot between 20-30C whilst  the winters are cold minus 15-30C.

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What gave them the idea to create this magical garden?

The overwhelming amount of plastic that was being thrown away  and the desire to do something  creative and fun during long winter evenings. They mostly make everything out of plastic in winter and then put their art out into their 4 acre garden, in the  spring.

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Does Russia have a big waste problem like we do in the UK? 

Russia, has a big waste problem and because there are vast swathes of forest going on for thousand of miles,  the plastic rubbish is often just dumped  in the middle of them.

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Where did they find all the items to create the garden and how much has it cost to put the whole thing together?

They collect bottles from their friends and relatives.  All the plastic is basically  empty discarded bottles, caps, buckets etc. It’s labour intensive but not expensive. When one has the desire to create you  don’t notice how much time you spend on it, as you  enjoy it so much!

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Have they painted the bottles? If so what with?

They spray paint the  inside of the bottles so the paint doesn’t wash out during the rainy season.

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Do they use  a mixture of painted and non-painted?

Yes, if the bottle is lets say green then they leave it as it is. For instance  they are currently doing a flower bouquet from bottles hence green is very relevant. If the bottle is clear plastic then they paint it.

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How long did it take to put together? Is it still ongoing? They started 3 years ago and they make new pieces all the time!

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Thank you 

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