Thursday, December 18, 2008

Grandma's Tree

This is Grandma's tree, which always comes out of the loft fully-decorated and ready to rock, with decorations dating back to the sixties combined with modern full-on tat - which she loved. I owe many of my creative genes to Blonde Grandma.

I've shown this one rather than my own tree, as Grandma died a few days ago, and I will miss this little over-decorated beast this year, and the next, probably.

Irene Richardson 1915-2008 x

Monday, December 15, 2008

That's the spirit!

Some eagle-eyed chums have already spotted that Inkymole has done the Co-op’s ‘That’s The Spirit!’ Christmas Campaign.

With a TV ad campaign by RSA Films, accompanied by a jaunty Christmas song by Gabriela Cilmi, the campaign includes a charming website which counts down to Christmas one week at a time, and copious amounts of my wonky little stars in-store on shelf edges, wobblers, posters and even sparkling signs. The work was commissioned by Kate Collings at TBWA/Manchester.

I do love Christmas, so seeing my glowing scribbles all over my favourite supermarket (well actually, my ONLY supermarket - I gave up supermarket shopping some years ago) gives me a warm feeling like brandy butter and a too-hot mince pie.

Visit the Co-op Christmas site to see their countdown, or, if you can’t get enough of that Christmas song in the ads, visit the RSA site and watch the lot!

And remember, it's only..

'Snowtrees' Winter Pin Badges

A lot of people have asked if they can get separately the 'Snowtrees' winter pin badges that I'm giving away with each print. Of course you can! I made plenty. They look like this, and have a 10mm genuine Swarovski crystal in the centre of each.

If you want one email me! A quid, including P+P inside the UK, quid fifty outside the UK. Just go to Paypal and do a 'Send Money' to my email address, Or if you're stuck, or are too exhausted from the last-week-before-Christmas work frenzy, email me and I'll sort out the necessaries.

I do love making badges!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Inkymole's first print!

Finally I've done a limited edition screenprint! I've been asked about doing this for ages, and specifically about making this illustration available as a print. Well, finally I've taken the plunge and have 150 hand-finished prints (well actually down to about 130 already) for sale.

They're 12" square (actual print area 8") with a deckle edge on the bottom, and are printed on 250gsm Somerset Radiant White stock, signed and numbered.

They're at a special 'Goodwill To All Men' price of £27 inc. P+P for the UK, and $37 inc. P+P for US buyers (but make sure you order before 10th December if you're in the US), and are delivered in a sturdy tube. I'm throwing in one of my new Christmas Snowflake badges (resplendant with 10mm Swarovski crystal) with every pre-Christmas order.

They do look lovely, and I'm really excited about them!

To order one, email

Hand-finishing in progress.

Close-up showing lovely textured paper.

The finished product.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

'A Cure For Sore Eyes'

I've won second place in the Altpick Awards (USA) for my
"Old-Fashioned Service" images in the 'Ad Campaign' category.

This series of six ads was created for Rita and Ilinca at AIA Advertising in London, for the the Sainsbury's supermarket chain's Pharmacy department.
The copywriting was brilliant and made it very easy to create funny and appropriate illustrations for each ad - a sarcastic slug, a crying baby, gammy eyeball, diseased foot and so on. It's all about miracle cures and old wives tales...or are they?

The same series has just been chosen for the Images 33 'Best of British Illustration' book and touring exhibition, out next summer.

Please click on the link to see the whole collection here: Sainsbury's pharmacy ads

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shirley Hughes

This evening I went to the Egmont Authors and Illustrators' Party at the London Transport Museum, Covent Garden. I walked back to the Tube Station with Shirley Hughes, who I'd spent the last hour plucking up the courage to speak to, but she was surrounded by people most of the time. She was collecting her amazing bright pink coat and dapper hat from the cloak room at the same time as me, and we walked to Covent Garden tube together. She told me about a talk her daughter once gave about her new Christmas story - to a class full of Jewish schoolchildren! - and I told her she was one of the reasons I ended up being an illustrator; her books filled the house through all three of our childhoods. I did get a bit starstruck. She's 81. I hope I look and sound as good as her - and am still drawing - when I'm her age!
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Plus Type Festival

Earlier this month I did a talk for the Plus Type Festival in Birmingham. I was chuffed to be on the same bill as Steve Bell from the Guardian, Jonathan Barnbrook, Jamie Wieck from Airside, and Ollie Leggett from ie Design, who was there to talk about his magnificent job management tool called Periscope.

The festival is organized by designers and aimed at creative professionals, focussing on typography. Agencies, freelancers, professional organizations and universities can all exhibit, and speakers come from all fields of visual communication - typography, type design, illustration, web, motion - who amalgamate type into their work. This year's theme was 'Hybrid', a label I can legitimately give myself in both a creative and business context. The word also reflects the current status of Birmingham, where the festival is held.

There were few photos of my actual 'speaking' (I have no idea what word I was ever so carefully enunciating in the photo below) but the room was jam-packed to satisfying/nerve-tweaking levels. There are photos of the event on Smile's website and here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

'The Witches', Manchester

In the middle of working on a Christmas job for our favourite supermarket, I was invited to put up a show at TBWA Manchester, by art buyer Kate Collings. Of course, I said yes faster than you can say 'trick or treat', but a site visit three and a half weeks before the date revealed that we didn't have a wall space to decorate. Oh no. We had a whole church - the converted St.Paul's in Didsbury - plus the company's other premises down the road, the more modern Parklands.

Suddenly, instead of mounting a few tasty bits on black foamboard and flinging a few fresh cards around, I had to create an entire installation. In three and a half weeks. If ever there was a time to call on the darker powers of magic, this was it.

First came the poem - I'd been obsessively repeating Oliver Wendell Holmes' fabulous lines for weeks in my head. Then came the story. Of course: Lancashire's own Pendle Witches, fast forwarded to 2008.

After that, the team. Having discovered during research that the root word for
Witch and Wicker was the same, and having fiddled around with ideas using effigies and dolls, I asked my friend Tom Hare to make 13 Witches - no two the same, ten female, two male. No real brief, just - "make 'em". These would be the Poppets made by each of the witches, whose personalities I would tease out with heads, hints of clothing, and personal ephemera, just as if the ugly crones had made an attempt themselves. Real hair, wax, jewellery, stitches, fabric, dolls, buttons, cats and dogs - it all went in. My job would also be to illustrate their confessions, as written by Ed Garland (who also happens to make some rather tasty tunes), our friend from Sale, now based in Bristol. Confessions written, of course, in 2008 - the year they all came back.
A witch being made in Tom's workshop

Tom's spider's web with handmade stool

Three weeks later Chattox, Demdike, Alice Nutter and company hang from the walkways of St Paul's by their own little nooses, with a corner dominated by a giant bobbing spider and 3 foot web, their own hand-drawn confessions (not a touch of Photoshop in sight) next to them and the most handsome trio of pumpkins nature ever saw. Ed's words are simultaneously blistering, ugly, cynical and charming ("Tension became feud. I think I won") and provided the thrust behind the frantic productivity of the show.

"Tension became feud, I think I won"

Tom's Poppets are primitive but clever, a triumph of improvised assemblage, and startlingly full of character, twig legs kneeling, faces denying, hands accusing. You'll be surprised at the personalities nature creates by herself - the least detailed are terrifying in their unmolested simplicity, thanks to Tom's quiet understanding of natural forms and materials, but still each one required its own careful, pondered but spontaneous treatment.

The view from reception
Inappropriately enough the show was erected on a Sunday with home-baked orange cakes and bread with pine nut pasta and organic teas for sustenance;, a culinary propriety which, like the one remaining village maiden, was utterly undone by a visit to the Sixways chip shop on the way home. Steaming chips were eaten the van - the only way, of course, in celebration of a most satisfying collaboration.

Chips from Six Ways chip bar

Monday, October 06, 2008


I've painted the number of our house on the door. Despite making some stained glass for it a few years ago when I did a course at the local college, nobody takes a blind bit of notice of the big green '71' over the door, so we get parcels and callers for 91, 73, 67...but not 69, since there is no 69.

So now the postie gets this every morning! Drawn in Hard-To-Buff black ink.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Baskerville Project

On Monday I spent the day drawing a detailed letter V in Fry's Baskerville, for the Baskerville Project organised by David Osbaldestin at the Birmingham City University.
As a BIAD ex-student, ex-tutor and lettering geek, I was very excited to be asked, and was happy to be sat at a makeshift desk, complete with decaf coffee, packet of crisps, iPhone at side and all my tools, just like my studio. Except that my studio at home isn't painted green floor-to-ceiling with a million-pound motion capture camera known as Milo glowering in the opposite corner. (For more on the frighteningly large and strangely silent Milo, go here.)
The project is to honour the creation of the lovely Baskerville font in Birmingham in 1757. The video documentation from the day is being developed into a series of 11 animated films, which form the basis of a large scale HD multi-screen installation at Millenium Point, Birmingham, for the Hello Digital Festival. It's also being shown at the Plus Type Festival. The artwork is devised for a multi-screen installation of 11 iMacs on plinths arranged in a circle. Each iMac will be showcasing a short animated film, of each one of the artists creating their letter.
What a fabulous day it was! I began the day sipping coffee, saying hello to old colleagues and meeting new chums, and ended it bashing away at my first attempt at slate-carving, covered in grey slate dust with gritty eyeballs - courtesy of the charming Gabriel Hummerstone, all the way from Devon, who was charged with doing the letter B and let me have a go on the back of his slab. (I carved the slate the way I bang nails in - a little wimpy to begin with, but switching up to a bigger bashing tool soon solved that).
In between I'd watched Barry the copper-engraver from Dudley making his 'R' on a little sand-filled pocket, ancient briefcase stuffed with tools; met Evelin Kasikov the embroiderer making her 'S' from CMYK threads, seen the four pieces of Karen Lewis' 'A' come together effortlessly before my eyes, and seen Amy Brown's monoprint 'I' evolve on the desk opposite - beautiful. My 'V' was centred on the parallel development of the steel nib (my weapons of choice) which, if you don't already know, were invented in Brum in the 1700s, shortly after Baskerville. The world's steel nib industry was centred in the city, where famous names like Gillott and Mitchell made their nibs, only to meet a tragic ending when the Biro (pantomime hissing please) took over the market in the mid 1900s. The nib factories closed, tipping hundreds of thousands of nibs into the earth. Why am I not spending my weekends digging desperately with my bare hands to find them? Because they were steel, and therefore would, by now, be mere dust. I’m sure the sprits of all those unused pens still scribble away like lunatics when the sun goes down. It makes me want to cry. I was therefore pleased to be given a nice sharp consonant with which to make my point.
I biked back to New Street station thinking how bloody great my job is, being given the chance to do things like this, and admiring the skills of the people I'd spent the day with. I forget - it's easy to do - how many other ways there are to make things, and just how many humans there are creating, all over the country, the world, all the time. Here's to them, and to John Baskerville himself!

Further pictures from the day:

Other artists taking part:
Alex Hughes | Alex Parre | Caroline Archer | Barry Caine | Clive Colledge

The Baskerville Project:

Hello Digital Festival:

Plus Type Festival:

Photos by the lovely Matt and Nathan at Smile:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Meet my devastating new weaponry.

A 48-colour box of Faber Castell brush pens with raked tiering and flip-top box, fastened by paper button and thread and supplied with free bottle of felt tip magic, which I am pouring all over my new work. They are shown next to my other artillery, the Staedtler Triplus set, three years old and still the blazin' squad.

Monday, September 08, 2008

All's Well That Ends Well.

My first ever paid job after my degree was as a propsmaker for the Royal Shakespeare Company, where I moved to Stratford briefly, stitching, gluing and mackling-together giant books, Capulet party invites and man-sized snakesuits for a season's productions. I grew up with my tongue out over pages in 'The Bloody Book ' - a weighty tome of Shakey's stories adapted for children and illustrated in full blood-soaked colour by Victor Ambrus, installing a lifelong love of Ophelia (whose pose I copied in the bath), Puck, Ariel, and the Witches whose physiognomies I then turned into 3D masks at college, as part of a new campaign for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Wizz forward to 2006, and actually I did do a campaign for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, through Palmer Hargreaves Wallis Tomlinson in Leamington. I did tons of illustrations, a map of Stratford, Tamworth pigs, sheep, shovels, ink blots and lots and lots of lettering, to be used on leaflets advertising each of the Trust's 5 properties. You can get a feel for it here.

Whoosh through another couple of years, and I've just come back from Stratford, spending a rain-sodden weekend with siblings in a Holiday Inn next to the alarmingly swollen Avon. As we wandered towards the Birthplace, siblings and I saw a sign with a familiar feel. Hey, you drawed that! shrieks sister. A sign? Wasn't in the usage, but hey, it looks smart - like what they've done with the herbs. Let's go inside. Oh, it's on a guide book too? OK...and look! A bookmark with my work on? A postcard set? Big posters in the Tourist Office!

As we walked around Stratford you couldn't avoid stumbling across some scribble or other by Inkymole, writ large and dangling overhead. The bus tour revealed more and more - I'm sure I spotted my Tamworth pig blown up into a poster somewhere around Anne Hathaway's cottage.

This is extremely pleasing to see (the signs on every house look lovely), and a gentle ambition fulfilled. Watching American tourists pose for family photos underneath signs brought a glow to my cheeks. I wasn't paid for quite such a vast spread of applications of the work - let's say it's more than a little beyond the scope of the original licence - but the Trust are benefitting from every new body through the door and every bookmark sold, and if my pen has helped another oak beam stay put, or added another few years to the life of a precious artefact, I'm happy. Now I am off to lie dead in the bath with pond weed around me.


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