There's a great film in the making, Made You Look, a feature length documentary exploring the UK Graphic Art scene and the challenges and triumphs of living in a hyper digital age. With interviews ranging from Anthony Burrill, Hattie Stewart to Adrian Johnson ( and many more), it reveals a fascinating insight into how creative people, although reliant on digital networks are also turning to mediums that take them away from their computers, making real, tactile items to be cherished and kept, instead of being consumed and forgotten.
The MYL crew are at the final hurdle and looking for our help to complete the film and right here is the teaser trailer (below) and Kickstarter link.
"What we save, saves us. We value timeless over trendy, few over many and plain over fancy."
It was this statement that caught my attention and is the guiding principle for, Thisispaper, a Polish design studio, shop, blog and magazine, founded back in 2011. I was keen to learn more about the individual talent, approach and beliefs behind the brand that continues to provide us with quality and timeless products sourced locally and made by hand. Founders, Zuzanna and Alexander took the time to share their story and I am happy to welcome them as the 10th contributor to the Plucky Ones. Enjoy!
Hello Alexander and Zuzanna, could you share the story of how Thisispaper started?
We started Thisispaper back in November 2011 as our own digital piece of land to cultivate as we please. We published daily posts with design projects that we liked - the idea was really that simple. What we believe set us apart from other blogs of this kind was the fact that we cared about the design of our website and its content equally. At first we were simultaneously working at our day jobs and running the blog, which was quite exhausting. When we got the idea to launch Thisispaper Shop, we gave up our jobs and decided to devote all our time to Thisispaper. Then, in a few months, everything accelerated - we launched Thisispaper Stories with longer articles to complement the daily blog, published the printed magazine and started hiring people to help. Now we have a team of 6, who are working on new projects and constantly improving the ones we already run.
From then, to now, what’s the 3 most valuable lessons learnt?
1. Compromise never leads to anything good. There's a phrase in Polish, "rotten compromise", which does a good job at describing the dangers of settling for half-good solutions. They just don't work.
2. Never be complacent. We talked about complacency in our interview in Thisispaper Issue Two with Simon Watkins, the co-founder of Labour and Wait - an amazing shop in London. It's been running for 13 years now and is getting better all the time. That's because Simon and Rachel never thought of the shop as something that is good enough to stop working on. We share their approach.
3. Take risks. That's what every entrepreneur will tell you.
What products are you most proud of since you launched your shop?
We're proud of all bags and rucksacks we designed, but especially of those we made for Thisispaper's Autumn Collection. We feel that with these bags we managed to design something that's as functional as it's beautiful, and that has always been our aim. We have perfected every detail and made several prototypes before we arrived at the form we were entirely happy with. Moreover, they are made of 100% Polish materials and entirely in our studio, as all our bags are.
What’s your bravest moments and funniest memories?
We've got some funny memories with international guests. From time to time some of our international readers traveling to Warsaw misunderstand the information on our website, and think the address of our studio is the address of a shop (which doesn't exist). They show up at our door when we least expect them and there's always something funny resulting from this. All the unexpected guests that we've had so far were really friendly and like-minded, and we had nice conversations with them over lemonade in our kitchen.
What are your dreams for Thisispaper's future?
Probably what any company wishes for - evolve and grow but stick to our initial values.
Could you share a couple of your favourite books?
Right now we're really into Polish books about sport from the 1950s and 60s. It may sound odd, but they all have amazing illustrations and pretty outlandish content. They inspired our new project, Sport Support, which launched in August.
Hazel Stark's new Naturally Dyed #1 textile collection is here. An ethical and striking range, Hazel makes each piece from Oeko -Tex certified linens and coloured with organic dyes ranging from madder, weld to woad, all grown in the south of France, resulting in one heck of a candy coloured palette. As an owner of two of Hazel's previous ranges, I can vouch for the quality and care that goes into each and every design. Stark's latest collection features cushions, aprons, tablecloths, napkins and a mighty practical tote bag, all made to order from her London studio. Returning to the slow, careful, natural way of doing things, is for me, one to believe in, support and celebrate. And no compromises, they're beautiful to boot. You can see the full range here.
"Don't just except the world as it is. Don't except the street as it is. Customise it to what you want." - Mike Mills.
A great video from a workshop (2010) where Artist, Mike Mills asks a group of kids to create a personal poster that encourages them to participate in taking back public spaces.
From a studio in San Francisco, Woodworker Aleksandra Zee sources reclaimed wooden laths to create new Native American inspired patterned artworks. Zee's latest exhibition, Sea Salt, was formed of intricate chevron and herringbone inlaid installations, each in a limited pallet of bleached woods, whites and indigos.
In a recent interview (Dream Job Shop) Aleksandra shares her story of leaving her secure job as a Store Display Artist at Anthropologie to become independent, mastering her skills, creating commissions and building her business as well as her faithful Instagram following. Today she produces artworks that are not only beautiful but resourceful. Aleksandra Zee is making her mark and a lasting impression.
Anna Kövecses is a self taught Hungarian born graphic artist that currently lives in Cyprus in a small seaside village with her family. Her striking and simple illustrations are a delight to what seems to be, everyone! All charmed by Anna's confident use of colour, shape and intriguing characters that sit within joyful compositions. Since working on an array of personal projects from her Colorodore poster collection to the Hungarian Alphabet book, Anna's clients now range from the The New York Times to the BBC. I am thrilled to welcome Anna to The Plucky Ones who's thoughtfully shared her story and adventures to us all.
Please tell us about your background and what inspired your journey into Illustration?
My career started about 6 years ago but actually I've been deeply involved with creating stuff my whole life. I spent a lot of time alone as a kid since my parents were working all the time and we moved a lot from one town to the other. As there was often no one to play with I soon submerged in this "parallel universe" of making things. I just up-cycled pretty much everything I found and turned them into looms/toys/mobiles/artworks etc. For a really short period of time I had the ambition to go to a proper art school but shortly after graduating from high school and spending a year on a Greek island at the age of 20 (I sold my cheesy drawings of the small town and donkeys to tourists on the street) I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter so university was immediately out of my plans.
I started reading a lot of books on art and design instead and learned how to use my laptop for drawing things. At first I started out as a logo designer but found out pretty soon that corporate branding was not my piece of cake and turned to illustration instead. I did a lot of self initiated projects that gave me total freedom to explore myself and find my own style. In the meantime we had to leave Hungary as my boyfriend is actually a diver and Hungary did not have many possibilities on offer. First we moved to Egypt (right after the revolution there) which was quite an adventurous short period of time and then to Cyprus. Here we live in a small village by the sea and our daughter is already speaking Greek fluently in the local kindergarten.
You’re a self taught illustrator & designer, yet have you had a mentor along the way?
No, not really. But of course there are a lot of people whom I'm incredibly thankful to: magazine editors, bloggers, clients, agencies and design lovers who just simply saw something in what I do and encouraged me to keep on doing it. And, well actually the only other creative person in my family is my grandma, who first "explored" my talents and encouraged me to become an artist. She was a very enthusiastic forest landscape painter when she was young but never really took it further than a hobby. Anyway I think she always pictured me as a potter or a traditional painter working on elaborate still lifes in oil.
Can you share what a typical Anna Kövecses day looks like?
On an ordinary weekday, after my boyfriend and our daughter leave for work/kindergarten I usually spend the first 30 minutes doing nothing in particular holding a cup of tea in my hands as an excuse (this is the 30 minutes I always regret later at some point of the day). Then if I'm not in a hurry with work and I decide to be a good girl, I do 20-30 minutes of Pilates, which actually makes me feel 10 times better afterwards. So after an hour of warming-up and a quick shower I sit down to my tiny desk (the only way to prevent a mess is to have a tiny desk) and write a list of things to do into my notebook.
When I start working on a new project I always try to summarize key points first and take a lot of notes and sketches on paper. I also do research on the internet or select books and magazines from my shelf that are inspiring me. I usually have all my ideas ready in my head and my sketchbook by the time I turn on Adobe Illustrator, which is actually the only software I use. Then I try to realize these ideas on the screen. What I learned throughout the years is to try to really stick to and capture that first picture I had in my head when I started to think about the project. That first picture is usually a million times better than any of the ones later. I usually work until 1 pm when my daughter comes home from kindergarten, then we have a light lunch together and she goes to have a nap (luckily she's a good sleeper) so I have an extra 2-3 hours to finish my work.
For those looking to leap into Illustration, could you share your top 3 lessons learnt?
1. The only way to learn and evolve is to look at the world with open eyes and really be interested in what other artists and thinkers have come up with. You have to be tolerant and pay attention to new ideas even if at first you have some stereotype against them. You need to let others inspire you but you should never copy them. You'll only be successful anyway if you can translate these impressions and use them to create something new, something that's yours and not somebody else's.
2. Always make some time for yourself to get away from commissioned projects and indulge in some self initiated ones. Turn off your computer, grab a box of crayons or a pair of scissors and some colored paper and experiment! These little rituals can have an unbelievably refreshing effect on your work. You can even try stuff like open a new tumblr blog and publish your analog experiments (this is something I'm actually planning to do) or start a new project like you do a new poster every day for a given period of time (this is something I've already done).
3. Learn to say yes and learn to say no.
Learn to say yes to situations that might not look beneficial for you at first. Like let's say a magazine approaches you because they need some illustrations but they have absolutely no budget for the project. So this means you do the work for free, but:
a: this can be a fabulous opportunity for you to try something new as they probably won't restrict your ideas too much.
b: your work can reach many potential readers and bring new and unexpected opportunities plus it looks good in your portfolio. The same thing applies to competitions and projects for a good cause.
And you definitely have to learn to say no (it's working very hard for me) if you're overbooked and see little chance to deliver quality artworks in such a short time or you feel that the client and you have very very distant notions of the project and the end result will be a compromise you will hate.
Can you tell us what projects you’re working on currently?
Well, there are a couple of illustration projects for large brands that are a secret. But something I can talk about is for example that I've been illustrating the Diagnosis column in the New York Times Magazine for a while now that comes out every 3 weeks I guess, so you might be able to see my works there for some time. I'm also working on a book cover for Syle Press for their newest novel, The Bride for Bedivere. You'll see a couple of my illustrations in the upcoming issue of Monocle too. And I'm trying very hard to make some time to work on my own projects that includes painting, drawing and many different handmade media.
You’ve worked on some fantastic projects with clients from The New York Times to the BBC. Of all the projects, which one are you most proud of?
I'm really proud of all of them but honestly the kindest to my heart are the projects that I've done for myself or my daughter, for example the Hungarian Alphabet book. These were the projects that brought the most appreciation for me from the art world.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would this be and what impact would you hope to make?
It'd be fun to collaborate with a clothing brand to create prints for their garments. I don't really picture t-shirts here, rather something more abstract like scarves or fabrics.
And what plans or dreams do you have for 2014?
Well, my biggest dreams for this year are definitely revolving around the arrival of our baby son who is due to be born in early November. So far I haven't had any time to prepare for his welcoming so I'm definitely planning to go for maternity leave as soon as October begins and immerse in the lovely act of blanket knitting and crib assembling. I'm also planning to do a small series of artworks during this period of time and after his arrival that would be dedicated to him / us and preserve the memory of these incredible times.
When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?
I spend all of my free time with my small family. My boyfriend works a lot too so we really treasure every hour we can spend together. In Cyprus summer lasts practically 9 months a year so we usually go down to the sea every evening after we finish work. There's a small secret beach close to our home that lies at the bottom of a beautiful huge cliff wall. It's covered with fine sand and huge flat rocks and absolutely no one visits it apart from us. We watch the sun turning red and the three of us swim out to the open sea together. It feels so great to be this close to nature and this is why I couldn't imagine us living in a big city. I'm happy to see my daughter as she's immersed in playing with driftwood and pebbles instead of watching tv or playing on an iPad. At other nights we either go out to have dinner at the local communist cafe or drive to Nicosia, the island's capital to enjoy an open air film screening or concert.
WOOP! This is how I feel after watching the wonderful Do Lecture by Gavin Strange. Spring loaded with ideas and energy, Gavin works as a Senior Designer for Bristol’s own Aardman Animations and goes under the alias of ‘JamFactory’ by night. His excitement and energy is infectious - Great talk. Great guy. Great ideas. Watch it and WOOP!
Odd Pears is an Australian company with serious sock game. These guys are far from ordinary, they make great efforts to make socks with stoke, clashing colours and patterns whilst dazzling us with bizarre and utterly brilliant photographic compositions with the help of set designer Leta Sobierajski. And amongst the sock craziness, with each Odd Pear sold, one dollar is donated to the non-profit One Dollar Day campaign, who fund programs that help to reduce the global inequities in children’s health and education.
Toe tinglingly different. Wonderfully Odd.
Thanks to my sister I got to find out about this little lady, six year old, Quincy Symonds, otherwise known as The Flying Squirrel. I'm blown away. Her spirit, pluckiness and determination, not to mention her incredible talent. An inspiring little star this one. Go, Quincy, go!
Today I learnt that Photographer & Film Maker Mickey Smith - the first gentleman interviewed for The Plucky Ones - will be releasing Decade, a photographic book reflecting on ten years of 'wild youth and revelation'. From his dedicated Instagram feed you can get a taste of things to come in Autumn this year. I will leave you with a few awe-inspiring photographs that capture the magic, power and mystery of Ireland's ocean and those who bravely revel within it. For news and updates of Decade, be sure to sign up here.
After a small Plucky Blog holiday - head down, working on illustration deadlines - I am happy to be back sharing the work of the Australian studio, Inaluxe.
Artists Kristina Sostarko and Jason Odd are the colourful minds behind the beautiful acrylic, gouache and ink abstracts. Inspired by nature, they work with bold textural colours enclosed within serene forms that can be found upon canvases, prints and products. Selling independently, their wares can also be seen with their collaborators, Kate Spade, John Lewis and Earth Greetings.
Inaluxe: Our philosophy when it comes to design is simple - Make it beautiful, use the best materials possible, and be responsible and sustainable in production practice.
Hannah Waldron's woven artworks are not only fascinating visually but physically, with the tactile quality and intricate process that forms her vision. Triggering that human instinct to reach out, touch and understand it that little bit more. An incredible talent, Hannah works between Sweden and the UK, exploring textures, patterns, forms and structures of her surroundings.
Asking what motivates Hannah, I was warmly welcomed with:
"I guess I just feel a need to visualise and materialise certain thoughts, I find images build up in my mind and I don't feel satisfied until they are out of my head and worked through with my hands. It's a way of thinking and exploring the world that best makes sense for me."
Her latest piece, Cloud in Hand (below) is an intricate weaving based on the poem The Coral Sea by Patti Smith.
Hannah - "I believe that there is a need now in contemporary society for greater material knowledge. This work aims to put value into making and investigate interdisciplinary approaches to sharing material knowledge."
Since the 1970's Majuli islander, Jadav Payeng has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park. This incredible film reveals his journey and passionate story, where he tirelessly plants tree by tree to transform what was once barren wasteland into a beautiful oasis.
" If one person, at his own effort, can do this kind of plantation, then why not the others? "
It's people like Jadav Payeng that stop me in my internet clickety-click tracks. Shake me into pulling the computer plug and just, well, do more. A touching and humble film that certainly provides hope and reassurance that one's efforts, however small, can over time, make a significant dent. Or forest.
Found via This is Colossal
Spyros Kizis' beautiful Artichair was developed from a desire to create products holistically and resourcefully. By combining agricultural waste, specifically artichoke fibres, with a biological epoxy resin, Spyros returns to skilled craftsmanship to produce a purposeful and 100% biodegradable chair. Although they're not yet ready for sale, they are currently in development by Schaffenburg and to be released next year. One to watch!
Playtime. A buzz of excitement and anticipation whilst looking at a table of coloured papers, paints, a head of ideas and no schedule, plopping your paintbrush into the neon paint and working your creative and intuitive magic. Yes! This is what comes to my mind when I peak into the fantastical world of Chiaozza. They appear to have never stopped playing. Or experimenting. Having fun, getting lost in the moment and others watching and wishing they could join in.
Chiaozza is a Brooklyn based design studio of Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza, fascinated by their work and approach, I asked if they could share their story and creative magic with Plucky, and lucky for us they did.
Hello Terri and Adam, could you share your story?
A: I always knew I liked art but I didn’t think of it as a job when I was a kid. It was just what I did. When I first went to college as an English major I failed out. I spent most of my time doodling on top of my notes. Later I realized I could go to college for art and I started taking my doodles seriously. I went from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL for undergrad to Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia, PA for post-baccalaureate, to the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL for an MFA in Drawing & Painting. I came to New York in 2007 and met Terri in 2011. We have been working together ever since.
Our collaborations started in the kitchen cooking together. One accidental project was a stew we were making. We made way too much of it, and it was taking forever to cook. We joked that it was the Eternity Stew, which we saved a bit of in a container that still sits in our refrigerator 3 years later like a living sculpture (don’t worry, it is sealed pretty tightly;). After working on more projects together we wanted to get a shared website and decided eternitystew.com was a nice umbrella for our collaborative process. It is not really a name we call ourselves, more a philosophy we work by; the notion that our ideas and work can forever marinate with one another.
T: When Adam and I met, I had just started calling myself an artist. I was working mostly as an architectural designer for several years, and at some point I realized what I really wanted to do was just that — to do what I wanted to do and not what someone else wanted me to do. So our meeting was quite fortuitous even before we started collaborating because it encouraged me to embrace this new path. A Cabin in a Loft was one of my first independent projects, where I built two structures in the loft where I was living in order to divide one giant room into several different living spaces and bedrooms without sacrificing the openness of the loft apartment. Now Adam and I live there together. We’ve hosted many out-of-town guests and roommates in the last few years, and now we are discussing turning it into an extension of our studio.
A: CHIAOZZA is one project which is more like a studio-within-a-studio. We make painted geometric wooden wall sculptures and early on we saw their potential as functional aesthetic objects. However, we weren’t immediately comfortable calling them artworks, so we combined our names and treated them more like a design object. It was nice to create a little bit of space between our art practice and our design interests. Since that time we have embraced CHIAOZZA as an art project itself, allowing even more freedom for those works to grow with our art practice. We are currently working on large scale CHIAOZZA sculptures for a show at Vox Populi in Philadelphia for December 2014.
What’s your bravest moment and funniest memory?
T: My bravest moment may have been jumping in a volcanic lake when I was afraid of deep water. Or swimming in the ocean for the first time. I’m not a very good swimmer.
A: Bringing my Cabbage Patch Kid to school for Show & Tell in the first grade required both blind courage and spontaneous humility. The funny part is I did not think I was being ‘courageous’ and I had no idea so many people would make fun of me. The girl I had a crush on came up to me and asked me why I brought a doll to school. I thought it was cool. Add my sister’s pink frilly embroidered doll cradle and it was almost heroic.
What’s the core purpose and motivation behind what you do? And what project are you most proud of?
A: I think the guts of our work exist within a focused and rigorous dedication to PLAY. In this way, EVERYTHING we do are things we work at to make playful: cooking, cleaning, watering the plants, grocery shopping, going for a walk, making a sculpture, writing emails. A big question I always have in my mind is “How much fun can we have with this!?” And the most fun is generally had when we make something we really love. I don’t have a project that I’m most proud of yet. I’m still working and playing. I’m proud of that.
T: For me, it’s very important to have a good life, where I can be present and enjoy what I do in my day-to-day life and in the bigger picture. I try not to have any regrets. We try to bring things into the world that we would like to see or experience, and we try not to produce anything that we are not proud of in some way. It’s been very inspiring to work together with Adam.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would this be and what impact would you hope to make?
A: Well, collaborating with Terri is pretty great ;) I also think collaborating with different craftspeople would be wonderful. I would love to meet and work with creative people across a variety of mediums: boat-builders, clothiers, printmakers, ceramicists, paper makers, etc.
T: Ditto! We like to learn from many different disciplines and people. Ultimately we feel like this enriches our own work.
What are your dreams/plans for the future?
T: Making a good life. Being able to sustain ourselves doing the things we love.
A: We are going to be building our first public art piece at The University of Florida this fall. It will be a large stack of brightly painted stones, known on a hiking/biking trail as a cairn. A dream of ours is to continue seeking out interesting public art opportunities around the world. The idea of creating playful, engaging, interactive large-scale public work makes a lot of sense to both of us right now. We’ll keep dreaming and see what happens.
A local craftsman, Tom Raffield, is a furniture designer and sculptor who lives and works in the neighbouring county of Cornwall.
Tom's work is fascinating. With his experimental approach and traditional skill of steam bending, he is not only breaking new ground, he's producing products with a refreshing signature style.
I admire Tom's philosophy and - sorry for the pun - going against the grain, not rolling with fashions or trends, yet standing firm. Producing sustainable goods with a story. Designs that spark conversation and gutsy enough to stand the test of time.
To inspire you further, Tom shares his story and charming woodland studio in the video below.
The Putter, is a film that observes the skill and attention-to-detail of master craftsman, Cliff Denton, who literally is a 'putter togetherer of scissors'.
Shaun Bloodworth, the film maker, has allowed us to see how this practical tool is in fact a reliable and exquisite work of art. Ernest Wright & Sons a family owned company founded in 1902 is one of the last remaining hand manufacturer of scissors in the UK. A video that not only makes you thankful for those who make, but also gets your hands itching to do the same.