THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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33 posts categorized "Art"

21 January 2015

Bye for now...

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Fran Taylor British Library

Happy New Year!

After looking after our creative industries blog for a few years, I’m going to be moving to a new role within the British Library to promote our Shop and commercial services. 

It’s been an absolute pleasure writing for you, building up a loyal following for our blog and working on projects like Spring Festival and our Jewellery designer in residence. I'd also like to thank all our guest bloggers including fashion forecaster Geraldine Wharry and writer Emma Tucker.

Although you won’t be hearing from me, you might also like to check out our Innovation and Enterprise blog for entrepreneurs and our Living Knowledge blog to get a ‘behind the scenes’ view of the British Library. Find me on Twitter and via my website.

All the best,

Fran

16 December 2014

Inspired by our Maps Collection: Meet illustrator Josie Shenoy

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I first met illustrator Josie Shenoy a few years ago at a ‘Make it, Sell it’ speed mentoring event I ran at the British Library, and she also took part in our Spring Market. She produces beautiful illustrations and has experience of working both for herself and big brands – her work is stocked in the Whitechapel Gallery, Foyles andWellcome Collection.

A year later I invited Josie her to a ‘show and tell’ event at the British Library to see our amazing Maps collections first hand and meet our Maps Curator, Tom Harper. We inspired her to create a new piece of work in response to the British Library archive, which is now one of her bestselling designs.

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Hi Josie. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hello! I am a London-based illustrator, and I work in my studio amongst a community of talented designer-makers at Cockpit Arts, Deptford. My work showcases my love of pattern, decoration and drawing, and is often influenced by the natural world, folklore and a love of storytelling. Alongside taking on commissions and freelance illustration work, I design collections for print and textiles. Drawing is at the heart of my creative practice, and I love the idea of crafting images. My work also often features vintage colour-ways, intricate collage and traditional print methods fused with digital processes. My own product range currently features greeting cards, lighting, stationery and prints, and is stocked in the Wellcome Collection, Foyles and Whitechapel Gallery. My freelance clients have so far included the Design Museum, Imperial War Museum, M&S and Somerset House.

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How do you spend a typical day?

Every day is different and that's one reason why I love illustration. If I'm working to a deadline, my day would be spent at the studio at Cockpit. I share a studio with an amazing jeweller called Maud Traon, and the building is so friendly, there are always people to chat with- it really is a blessing, as illustration can be very solitary work. I would come into the studio in the morning and have a tea with Maud, then I go through my emails and make a list for the day.

Our studio has a lovely serene, quiet environment, and we sometimes put 6 Music or Radio 4 on in the background if there's a good programme on. If it's an illustrating day, I'll start with some sketching and make sure I'm away from the computer, as I find it such a distraction! Everything is done by hand, apart from the very last stages of the illustration, such as cleaning up or adjusting the colours on Photoshop.

My illustrations are quite intricate so it might take me a few days or weeks to finish one, starting from extensive research, to product placement and sampling. If I've got a show coming up, there might be lots of packing up to do, and working out display, pricing and packaging options- I've recently got into Pinterest and love using this to look at ideas.

Or if I'm right at the beginning of a project with a client, I might be visiting them, pitching my work or going through potential ideas. Lunch is always spent with people around the building and we take it in turns to have lunch in our studios- it is such a healthy thing to do to step away from our work at this time. Creatively, I work best in the afternoon, and often don't leave the studio until after 8, however I'm getting better at sticking to 'normal' hours!

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What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in setting up your own business?
I studied illustration at university, and although I couldn't have wished for a better degree, there have been so many extra things I have learnt in the professional world, that you aren't taught in education.

Finding work and getting my work shown to the right people was a challenge to begin with, and still is at times. It can be tricky making sure that work is lined up for the year, as I get so engrossed in my current projects that I don't always think ahead as much as I should. Also making sure my prices were right for wholesaling and retailing, and learning all the jargon and official processes in this line of work, for example going through contracts and agreements.

Making sure that all the correct terms and conditions are in each contract can be really hard, especially because you're so keen to impress the client, and chasing payments is another slightly sensitive issue that comes up from time to time- it's really important to make sure you word emails clearly and find the right tone of voice. And, of course, finance! I've learnt to make compromises when making the freelance leap, and I never really stop working - but this isn't really a problem when you do something that you love for a living.

What advice would you give to other illustrators looking to commercialise their work?

I'm so glad I studied illustration, because it has drummed a philosophy into my work, which is making sure that the image comes first. It's very easy to start thinking about the product or outcome first, or get busy with all the admin extras, and the illustration can get lost along the way even though this is the heart of your business. I think it's best to find your own way and not get too worried about what other illustrators are doing, just making work about a subject that you are passionate about and that you are proud of. I try not to think too much about what my 'target market' might like when it comes to making a new image, as this goes against everything I believe as an illustrator - and I think this is how the most sincere and successful artwork gets made.

The best piece of advice I can give would be to make the most of all the support that is available when you leave university. Becoming a commercial illustrator and the freelance world itself can be quite scary on your own, but IdeasTap, Cockpit Arts, the Design Trust and the Prince's Trust are all organisations that have helped me hugely along the way. Of course designers can also use the British Library’s Business & IP Centre.

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Lastly, can you tell us about how you have been inspired by the Library’s Maps collection?

Last year, I attended the amazing maps tour at the British Library with Tom Harper and Fran. It was Tom's map tour that inspired me to create my latest illustration, 'River Thames' which has gone on to become my best-selling design. I wanted to create a map which wasn't accurate or practical, but which somehow resonated with people due to the images, words and textures that I included. I really love the narrative nature of illustration and strive to create work that makes the viewer feel like they're going on a journey and seeing something new each time they look at the image.

After visiting the map tour, I became very interested in different artists that have explored the art and science of cartography (such as Grayson Perry and Sohei Nishino), and also old maps from Japan and India. I really love learning how and why they were crafted, and why they differ aesthetically from culture to culture.

 

25 November 2014

Maggie Semple turns the British Library's Olga Hirsch Archive into Fashion Collection

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Maggie Semple OBE's career spans broadcasting, print and digital media. In October 2010 she founded Maggie Semple Limited (MSL) to coincide with the publication of her book ‘Women, Fashion, Stories’ and now uses the concept behind the book to host ‘Semple Secrets’ a series of conversations with inspirational women from a diverse range of fields. She also sits on the British Library Board.

The MSL Fashion team is proud to announce the launch of its first clothing collection designed by the incredibly talented Laura Ralph, in association with the Library. Laura is an up-and-coming designer whose signature ‘two-pieces’ have been featured in Italian Grazia, German Elle and The Telegraph.

The collection takes inspiration from the British Library Olga Hirsch collection of decorated papers, which includes over 3,500 sheets of paper and 130 books in paper wrappers or decorated with end-leaves. The papers can be marbled, embossed or block printed and have been collected from around the world, from Japan to Italy.

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Olga Hirsch, nee Ladenburg, came from a prominent Frankfurt family. After her marriage to industrialist and music collector Paul Hirsch in 1911, she became intrigued by the decorated papers used to cover music scores in her husband’s library and began to research and collect them. During the 1930s, the family moved from Germany to Cambridge and the British Library subsequently acquired both the music library and decorated paper collection.

The MSL Fashion team, recognising an emerging trend for coordinates, and with a passion to work with new British talent, chose to work with Laura Ralph to select three of the papers and turn them into beautiful prints. The final pieces are made from eco-friendly, 100% cotton and manufactured in the UK.

Being ethical is very important to MSL, therefore the printing, designing and creating was all done with this in mind. They worked with the Centre for Advanced Textiles to print the fabrics as their digital textile printing process is recognised as reducing dye wastage. Laura worked with a team of locally sourced and trained seamstresses who are paid above the UK living wage for their skills.

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Digitising patterns originally created for paper was a first for the team, and the process was trial and error. The first challenge was to create a repeating pattern and the second to redesign the original initial design. Following this, the prints were sent off to be printed onto cotton, steam washed and finished. The pieces are then completely hand made by Laura Ralph and her group of UK seamstresses – they were cut out individually by hand, sewn with an overlocker and then a sewing machine to finish the seams.

You can buy the pieces online.

Find out more about the Library's Olga Hirsch collection.

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17 November 2014

How the British Library supports designers

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If you are involved in illustration, graphic, interior or product designillustration, graphic, interior or product design, we can help you.


Be inspired by our collections
The Library’s collection includes a copy of every book and magazine published in the UK, photo books, artist’s books, knitting patterns, newspapers, vinyl covers, fanzines, calligraphy, maps, stamps and more. Whether you’re interested in interior design from the 1950s or examples of gothic type, we have something unique for you.

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Image: British Library music collection

So how can you use the archive?  You need to get a free Reader Pass to see our collections in our Reading Rooms in London and Boston Spa, Yorkshire. These short animations should help get you started.

Product designer Eleanor Stuart was inspired by the Library’s Alice in Wonderland original manuscript to create a new home ware range:

Designer and architect David Ajasa-Adekunle used our Business & IP Centre to develop his award-winning Tetra Shed (below).

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Image: Tetra Shed


See our Pinterest board of designers who have used the British Library to help develop their ideas.


Get help with the business side of things
In our Business & IP Centre you can get advice and support on working for yourself and setting up your own business. This could include business planning, finance, market research (we have some amazing reports on retail trends, for example) and intellectual property.  We run a full programme of events, networking and one-to-one advice sessions. Lastly, if you have already set up in business, you could benefit from our EU-funded Innovating for Growth programme.

A place to sell your products
The Library holds one-off markets and stalls within our buildings – previous examples have included a Christmas Market, Spring Fair and pop-up market for our Gothic Music and Fashion day.  We also stock designers’ work in our Shop (onsite and online).

Watch our Spring Market video:

Read more design-related blog articles here.

 

06 November 2014

Cultures of the dark side: Meet our Gothic stall-holders

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On Sunday 9 November 2014, as part of the Library’s Cultures of the Dark Side: A day of Gothic music and fashion, we’ll be running a pop-up market in the British Library Entrance Hall. Come and meet our stall-holders:

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Annabel de Vetten, Conjurer’s Kitchen
Annabel de Vetten is the creative brains behind Conjurer's Kitchen. Formerly trained as a sculptor, and having made a full-time living as a successful fine art painter, Annabel is taking the cake world by storm, presenting cake and other food art that's well outside the fare you'd find in your local bakery. Drawing inspiration from the things she loves - horror movies, alternative art, and whatever strikes her fancy, Annabel's creations have been featured TV and in the national press.

Benjamin Phillips DevilsBenjamin Phillips
Benjamin Phillips is a London-based artist and illustrator. His work can be both charming and amusing whilst at other times more sinister and melancholy. Offering a glimpse into strange and abstract narratives his creative works are heavily laced with humour. His art has been exhibited in galleries and print publications across the world, but has also been applied to book covers, album sleeves and other merchandise. 

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Face Lace

Face Lace is a British brand specialising in ready to wear Makeup designs. It launched in 2012 and was founded by Phyllis Cohen. She is a make-up artist who is famous for her intricate designs and bold fashion. The designs won’t fade or smudge and can be re-used. All of the designs are made in the studio, by hand, in small high quality runs. Face Lace now has retailers in 16 countries. Phyllis has also used the British Library’s collections and her products are being stocked in our Shop. 

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Helen Norman
Kitsch from the Krypt focuses on Helen's main interests; kitschy colours and gaudy jewels with images and icons of horror, macabre and cult favourites. When she creates her jewellery and accessories her tongue is firmly in her cheek.

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Jack Penny
Jack Penny is an illustrative artist whose work takes inspiration from the unseen characteristics of people. Jack is drawn to human imperfection - the obscure and secret - the parts we try to hide. He takes these individualities and highlights them in bold, loud colours and abstractions, creating uneasy, often gothic work.

 

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Jazmine Miles-Long

Jazmine Miles-Long is an ethical taxidermist working only with animals that have died from natural causes or as road casualties. Jazmine produces modern, naturalistic taxidermy on commission for artists, museums, conservation studios, collectors and photographers among others. She is also on the committee of The Guild of Taxidermists and is the Editor of their annual journal.

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Phoebe Richardson
Phoebe Richardson is a London-based graphic designer. Her range of Bone China has received press in a number of publications including The Book of Skulls (Lawrence King) and magazines including GQ, Stylist, Time Out, Living Etc and Sunday Times Style. Other work includes music packaging for the Pixies and David Lynch with artistic direction from Vaughan Oliver. Phoebe is currently redesigning the website for luxury fashion retailer Jaeger, whilst continuing to sell anatomical china to people who love bones. She has also used the British Library collections for inspiration.

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Sarah Healey
Sarah Healey's unique skulptural skulls reflect a fascination for the macabre with twists of eccentricity. Using real bird skulls she creates exclusive one off pieces using an eclectic mix of materials and themes. The symbolic contrast between beauty and decay. These captivating sculptures can be worn as brooches, hatpins, hairpieces and pendants.


You can find out more about the day on the British Library website (look out for our Gothic fashion event at 1.45pm.


13 October 2014

Interview with Dave McKean on Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination

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As I mentioned in a recent post, Dave McKean designed the wonderfully macabre artwork for our Terror and Wonder: The Gothic imagination exhibition artwork. That means that his image appears in all our marketing materials, from leaflets to tube posters. I asked him a few questions...

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Hi Dave. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I have worked for the past 25 years as an illustrator, artist, photographer, designer, writer, musician, composer and film maker. I've illustrated around 50 books for an assortment of authors including Ray Bradbury, Heston Blumenthal, Richard Dawkins, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, David Almond, SF Said and John Cale, and I've made hundreds of CD and book covers including the entire run of Neil Gaiman's popular Sandman series. I've written and directed three features and several shorts, including MirrorMask for the Jim Henson Company/Sony, The Gospel of Us with Michael Sheen and my new film Luna.

How did you first get involved with the British Library and the Terror and Wonder exhibition?

I was asked to design the previous exhibition, Comics Unmasked, by co-curator Paul Gravett. I really enjoyed working with the British Library, and problem solving on such a large scale. The curators of the Gothic show were also interested in aspects of my work, especially my illustrations for Neil's book Coraline, so then it seemed possible that I could do the poster as well.

Can you tell us about the creative process behind the artwork?

I drew out six or seven rough ideas, trying to find an image that was not a single specific character or story, some way of representing the breadth of work in the exhibition, but touched on key Gothic texts - Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde, and for me, The Hands of Orlac. Something that suggested the psychological aspects of these stories seemed appropriate. I also wanted a simple, bold, almost silhouetted flowing image, something that would stand out in a variety of formats and sizes. The drawing was made in ink and graphite and simply toned in Photoshop. The strange shadowy smoky face was an abstract ink stain, distorted into a face in Photoshop.

What are you particularly excited about seeing in the exhibition?

The design and presentation of the narrative. It was a steep learning curve for me creating the Comics show, so I'm now very interested to see how others approach storytelling in an exhibition space. And of course, I'm sure the British Library archives have unearthed another fascinating collection of work.

What’s coming up next for you? I know you're speaking at one of our upcoming events.

Yes, I'll be speaking with Vaughan Oliver, one of the most important influences on my early art school self, and he still is to this day, so I'm a bit daunted. I have a new film out called Luna, currently doing a small indi tour of the UK via PictureHouse. I have an exhibition of drawings in Paris at Galerie Martel, a new book of covers out from DC Comics called Dream States, and new collection of short stories out from Dark Horse Comics, Pictures that Tick Vol.2, I'm planning a new film with the theatre company Wildworks, and drawing more comics, including a new graphic novel inspired by the wonderful expressionist film the Cabinet of Dr Caligari. I'm hoping to create a new performance piece for the British Library as well, as part of the Gothic exhibition.

You can see Dave's artwork for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination below.

Dave McKean

 

01 October 2014

Be inspired by the Magic of Birds

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Did you know the British Library has a Publishing team? They release lots of great titles, and have just launched a new book called ‘The Magic of Birds’. 

You can find examples of imagery and symbolism of birds in cultures from around the world. They have captured people’s imagination since earliest times, with their beautiful plumage, behaviour and ability to fly. Birds are often linked to themes like birth, death, freedom and captivity.

Our author Celia Fisher has traced the ways in which artists, writers and storytellers have depicted them, from the myths of ancient Egypt to humble garden birds.

You can find out more on our Shop website and read a guest article  with Celia on our Asia and Africa studies blog. In the meantime, here are some of my favourite images from the book:

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Arctic Tern from The Birds of America by John James Audubon, 1827-38.

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Earl Mar's daughter, illustration by Arthur Rackham from Some British Ballards, 1919.

 

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Florican from Oriental Memoirs by James Forbes, 1813. 

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Golden oriole among leaves from Kyomjae hwachop, 'Album of paintings by Kyomjae', c.1900. 

 

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Page from Tennen hyakkaku (Tennen's one hundred cranes) by Kigai Tennen, Kyoto, 1900.

25 August 2014

The Bompas & Parr effect: Day-glow ice-cream and cooking with lava

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On Monday 22 September 14, we'll be hosting another Inspiring Entrepreneurs event in our Conference Centre, run by our lovely Business & IP Centre team. It's also available as a free webcast. The theme this time is 'Movers and Shakers': companies that have disrupted the status quo in their sector. We've got founder and CEO of Moshi Monsters, Michael Acton-Smith OBE (expect a games-themed blog soon) and Sam Bompas, the co-founder of Bompas & Parr.

When I looked at their website, I was absolutely blown away by their creativity and ingenuity. Their brand is so playful. I'm driving everyone in the office mad by raving about how much I want to eat their glow-in-the-dark ice-cream. I love how they can move between fashion, products and experiences so freely, responding beautifully to any creative brief they're given. Here are some of the projects they've been working on, in their own words. Fancy coming to hear them speak?  You can book your tickets here.

Glow-in-the-dark Cornetto, Leicester Square, July 2013
The world’s first glow in the dark Cornetto, created for a film premiere of The End of the World.

Glow ice cream Bompas and Parr

Jellies for any event
Bompas & Parr supply a customised jelly service – they even have a jelly technician! They offer innovative and bespoke moulds, created in their in-house workshop.

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Cooking with lava – Syracuse, USA, June 2014

Go into the kitchen of a top steak restaurant and you’re likely to find a £18,000 Josper oven, favoured by chefs for its searing 300°C cooking temperature. At Bompas & Parr they didn’t think that was anywhere near hot enough, so last month they headed to Syracuse University in upstate New York, where Professor Robert Wysocki has over-clocked an industrial bronze furnace and is busy working up an expertise in creating artificial volcanos and streams of man-made lava.
Prof Wysocki and his team have done 100 lava pours so far, for artistic and scientific purposes, but have never actually used the lava’s 2,100°F heat to do something as ubiquitous as cooking. See what happens when super-heated liquid rock meets an icy crevasse and a 10oz ribeye.

Scent of darkness - It's Nice That Magazine, March 2012
London’s smells represent an invisible architecture, shaping and enhancing our experience of the city’s urban environment. Certain odours created intentionally or not act as sensory landmarks, hardwired into your brains. Bompas & Parr traversed London between sunset and sunrise to chart the scents of the city at night. London’s aromas were composed as perfumes and shipped to Thomas Brown who photographed them with stylist Lyndsay Milne for Its Nice That.

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Tutti Frutti Garments by Kit Neale – Sold by Opening Ceremony, A/W 2013

Earlier this year Bompas & Parr worked with printmaster Kit Neale on the staff uniforms for the Tutti Frutti installation at Kew Gardens. Kit Neale’s prints intermingle obscure and forbidden fruits like the durian with more familiar fruits like bananas and pears, with the images sourced from Kew’s archive. The collection garnered so much interest it was put into production for Opening Ceremony launching in time for a fruity Christmas.

Tutti Frutti Bompas and Parr

 

September 2014: You can read write-ups of this event here and here.