Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Mark Makers | An Interview with Prickle Press

Image by Holly Booth, courtesy of Prickle Press. 
Strong marks, beautiful paper stock and an essence of rhythm and experimental techniques - these are all things that make up the wonderful world of design and letterpress studio, Prickle Press. Founded by the lovely Rachel Stanners, Prickle Press began life in 2010 and has since changed from pursuing a hobby in letterpress into a full time day (and night!) job. 

Having fallen in love with their stationery a while back at Pulse London, I've kept in touch with Rachel and followed the Prickle process via their InstagramEvery piece starts out life as an organic experimentation of ink and watercolour, something I admire the freeness of and that I wish to do more of myself. The finalised designs are then printed on to some of the most luxurious stock around and their patterns are screaming to be prints, although the wrapping paper would cheekily do the job too. 

With Rachel now eight months pregnant, you may expect things to be slowing down and while yes, she's looking longer term with her collections, she's still fully stocked (also in the likes of the TATE and Anthropologie) and ready with her 2016/17 collection so read on to discover more and get a few little life lessons in the world of business!

Image courtesy of Prickle Press.

You initially trained as a designer for dance and theatre. Is this still a part of your life? Has it inspired the Prickle Press ranges?

Yes, I studied theatre and set design and then did an MA in Scenography where I focussed on lighting design for Dance at the Trinity Laban in Greenwich. I no longer work in the industry because once I was a couple of years into Prickle Press I found I couldn’t easily balance the two and so I decided to focus all my efforts on letterpressing. However, the skills I learnt are invaluable to my letterpress business. I use my set design, scale modelling and technical drawing skills when it comes to planning and making market and trade show displays. It also taught me a great deal about design in general and how to manage my time and a design budget. I can also see influences of my lighting design in the watercolour wash cards. My aesthetic has definitely remained the same!

What was it that initially sparked your interest in letterpress and would you mind telling us a little about the process?

I hadn't heard of letterpress until my partner at the time decided to buy an Adana (a small bench-mounted letterpress) to play around with. I loved the tactile indentation a letterpress impresses into the paper but it took a lot of trial and error to get the hang of the machinery. I'm a slap dash kind of person and letterpress is all about precision and detail so I found it very frustrating at first. But once I got a handle on the machinery and eventually saw my own designs printed perfectly, I was hooked. 

I do some type work (using metal and wooden type) but the majority of my work starts as hand drawn illustrations or hand lettering. Every colour has to be printed separately so a lot of work goes into planning the design. I then scan and edit it before sending off to have polymer plates made of each part of the design. Then I can start the printing. First, I mix the ink to get the right colour before dotting a tiny bit of it onto the ink plate, then I attach the polymer plate to the base plate and sort the packing (this makes the indentation). The next stage is to get the design perfectly lined up and can take a lot of time especially with designs where the colours are closely linked, like my Little Prickle cards

Once I'm sure I’ve got the exact position, the right ink colour and quantity and the perfect impression I start printing by spinning the wheel and then treading the treadle by foot as I move the paper in and out of the press. After that I have to clean everything off, and start again with the next colour. It's very labour intensive but incredibly rewarding and once the press is all set up I can print quite quickly (as long as I’m not 8 months pregnant like I currently am!) 

Image by Holly Booth, courtesy of Prickle Press.

You're currently based in Brixton. Do you think the local area influences your designs in any way?
I feel really inspired by Brixton, by the people I have met through local organisations like Crafty Fox, Makerhood and Restart. There are new startups popping up in Brixton all the time and it's encouraging to see and meet others running small businesses they are passionate about. However, my style and aesthetic is much more influenced by experimentation and process - I love sitting in my studio and playing with paint, ink, pens and colour and seeing what happens. I know I am constantly absorbing life around me, my community, nature, family, art galleries, social media etc but I do try to not be too influenced by trends and other designers. My intention is to create lasting, timeless designs which are very much my own aesthetic and so I try to keep my head down especially while designing new work.

This year you produced work for Vogue and Manolo Blahnik which is obviously such an honour. Can you tell us how that came about?

Yes, what an honour! I was just approached by a PR firm and asked to do some work with a really quick turnaround. I don't normally work weekends, if I can help it, but when I heard it was to print the invitations for Manolo Blahnik's new London shop opening with Vogue I said yes right away. The design was already set but they wanted it to be beautifully printed on luxurious paper. So in just a few days I managed to source the paper, digital printing and envelopes and have a plate made of the design they wanted letterpressing. As I always do, I took as much time as I could to ensure the letterpress printing was absolutely perfect and I was really happy with the results. I felt honoured to be asked and impressed/pleased that such a big firm would chose a little letterpress business like me to do it. I was even more thrilled when I got some feedback directly from the Manolo Blahnik shop to say how delighted they were with the invites and would be in touch again in the future. 

Image by Holly Booth, courtesy of Prickle Press.

Of course supporting independent businesses is increasingly becoming more and more important. How do you cope with the pressure of running your own business and what can we all do to raise awareness of smaller companies?

Yes, it's so important to support independent businesses. I try as much as I can to buy whatever I can from small businesses and local ones if I can like the Turpentine in Brixton, small online independent shops like Scout Kids & Co or directly from designer/makers whenever I can - especially when it comes to gift giving. I also share my finds through my business newsletter, with my friends and on social media so I can do my bit to help support small businesses.

For my own life and business I’ve found a few ways to keep the pressure on my business under control. I’ve purposely kept my overheads really low - I generally try to keep just a small amount of stock, I’ve kept my studio at home (which is a pressure in itself but at least I don’t have to worry about rent!) and I try not to have any monthly outgoings which aren’t 100% necessary. Also, as a family we have structured our finances so they aren’t dependent on my income. That way if I do have a lean month or two I’m never worried about going bankrupt. I’m really privileged to be in this position and it means I do feel very free to try different things and keep pushing to create a business I am excited and passionate about first and foremost. 

I would say the pressure of having a young family at the same time is probably the toughest part of it, the split of focus, the unreliability of babies sleep and sickness and the emotional and financial burden of childcare. I’m trying to remember to have a long term view of these things. I want to create a business that’s still here in 10 years, rather than one that peaks in the short term but where I burn out and miss out on the very precious early days of my kids. So my business model has shifted - I now plan for the long, long term (for example for my next trade show in 2018!), I ask for as much time as I can to delivery on a project, I’ve learnt to say ‘no’ to projects that aren’t quite the right fit so I can focus on things that are, and I try to stay positive and focussed on the future rather than worrying about every little detail of how things are going today.

It’s been really hard to watch a number of small bricks and mortar shops, who had been loyal buyers of my work, close down over the years. I wish there was more I could do. The Just a Card campaign is also a fantastic idea, which I hugely support and hope more will too. I know it can be tough - just the other day I went into the Turpentine with a £10 budget for a present and couldn’t find anything. For a moment I was tempted to walk away and find something from a larger retailer to meet my budget but I decided it was more important that I supported an independent maker and so I stretched my budget - only to £15 but it meant I walked away having supported both the maker, the shop and given my friend a unique and special present she wouldn’t easily have got anywhere else. Everyone wins! Us independent businesses can only be here making beautiful, unique products and enriching lives for as long as we all get out there and buy them! 

Image by Holly Booth, courtesy of Prickle Press.

Finally, what's in store for Prickle Press for the latter part of 2016 and beyond?

Like I said, I am expecting our second child this October so in all honesty I am going to be very focussed on that. This will be the first Christmas in seven years that I won’t be doing Christmas markets and I’m actually really glad for the break and the space from it all. I’ve spent all this year preparing new designs and printing an enormous amount of stock which (apart from perhaps a few weeks post birth) will continue to be sold from my online shop and to trade for the rest of the year. I’ve done this so that any time or energy I do find can be focussed on planning and designing new products for my 2018/19 collection. I’ve only just finished my 2016/17 range but my brain is already buzzing with ideas of how to expand my products and designs. I can’t wait to get into it all!

Thank you so much to Rachel for taking the time out of extremely busy and very heavily pregnant to answer all of my nosy q's. I think there's some extraordinarily important tips in her answers as well as so much passion and dedication - a clear reminder of why we we should all be following these small yet savvy businesses. 

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Monday, 8 August 2016

The Mobile Citizens | An evening with citizenM & We Blog Design

'To all travellers long and short haul. To the weary, the wise and the bleary-eyed. To the suits, weekenders, fashion baggers and affair-havers. To the explorers, adventurers and dreamers. To all locals of the world from Amsterdam, Boston and Cairo to Zagreb. To all who travel the world with wide eyes and big hearts. To all who are independent yet united in a desire for positive travelling. To those who are smarter than a dolphin with a university degree and realise you can have luxury for not too much cash. To those who need a good bed, a cold drink and big fluffy towels. To all who are mobile citizens of the world, citizenM welcomes you all.'

Yes citizenM, YES. A couple of weeks ago I was kindly asked to stay after helping to put on an evening with design blogger network We Blog Design and after a hard day at work, weekend bag in tow, I set off to meet some of my blogging pals at the humorous world of citizenM.

Sound like a place you might want to stay at? Well read on as I've covered this shindig covered from head to toe and if you've got a penchant for that little ol' flag we like to call the Union Jack, this will be the place for you to call your temporary home. You've probably seen with my travel guides that I like to split things into categories and today is no different. In any case, citizenM seem to have the same attitude with each area of the hotel compartmentalised into it’s own specific area, just as I like it.

To Get Started:

Arriving at the 8-storey hotel, which is literally a stones throw away from Tower Hill station, you’re immediately immersed into the citizen culture complete with red glass box entrance and welcoming citizenM ambassadors ready with all the knowledge about the hotel and your stay. If you’re not immediately pulled in by the Julian Opie artwork, you’ll hopefully soon be in love with the Vitra elephants and Tom Dixon lighting that fills the lobby - oh so dreamy. 

At check-in, you're free to choose between a Canary Wharf or Courtyard view, subject to availability and breakfast and late checkout is also an option from the get go. Taking me back to the 'playing hotel' days, you get the chance to register your own key card and with just a simple 5-minute process you're all checked in and ready to explore the multitude of spaces and specially commissioned art citizenM has to offer. 

To Sleep:

For the bed bigger than your dreams, citizenM is the one. I've got a thing for beds nestled into walls and here citizenM doesn't disappoint - the huge cosy bed sits boxed into the full length window and I can assure you even with a bed hogger like myself you'll do just fine for space, or so the boy said in any case. It certainly made an amazing change from my lumpy mattress at home and although I did describe this category as sleep, I probably shouldn’t have, as actually you'll probably want to do everything but hit the hay. With a room controlled by your own iPad and hundreds of great free movies waiting to be watched, it is actually quite hard to shut those eyes and we took great pride in trying out every single room mode, flicking through every movie and testing out the blinds and curtains about a hundred times, just because we could. 

With the 'wild' wake-up call set, we woke up to animal noises and some pretty harsh lighting but all was forgotten when we opened the blinds for a room full of sunshine and a view with a difference. It may not be to everyone's taste but when you have a boyfriend who actually likes abandoned places and architecture, a behind the scenes of a building site actually worked in the hotel's favour on this occasion. I'm sure that not everyone would be so convinced by their Canary Wharf view but remember guys, we are in London, where this is all part of the growing city charm. Other guests did have a view over the Tower of London, so it literally is pot luck and in any case that view will remain permanently at the bar, which in my own opinion is by far more important. 

To Eat:

If you can do a mean veggie breakfast, you will always have my heart and boy does CanteenM hit the jackpot with this one. Buffet breakfasts are never an easy one to do yet citizen filled my plate with vegetarian sausages, bubble & squeak, eggs, tomatoes and fresh sourdough. We arrived pretty last minute at 11 (all those movies ya see) but there was still plenty left for us, along with yoghurt, fruit and fresh pastries.  I’ll quite happily say that the meat option also looked just as tasty, if that’s your thang. Oh and lets not forget about the freshly-made coffee that helped us say goodbye to the wine-fuelled evening and prepped us for a busy day exploring London.

Lunch and dinner also take on a buffet-style with the option of filling your boots with anything from sushi to tofu curry. All in all a great selection, a little on the pricey side but worth it for the hotel ambience, especially if you’ve been on your feet all day.

To Work:

Having worked at citizenM a couple of times prior to my stay, I can firmly say it's near the top of my list for places to work that aren't my own bed. Of course it's still new so could become slightly busier but every time I have visited so far it has been pretty damn quiet. Subtle music, an abundance of wall sockets and delicious coffee and juices (as well as natas) on offer from coffeeM help to make your working day just that little bit better and if you’re staying the night you can also benefit from the free use of macs and printers.

To Chill:

And now for the showstopper. Situated on the 7th floor is the pinnacle of citizenM. Why stay with your feet firmly on the ground when you can be up with the birds in the gloriously designed CloudM? As with the rest of the hotel, design classics from Vitra Furniture fill the space, creating an eclectic yet cosy and comfortable setting. With a Downing Street theme, vintage memorabilia sits everywhere and it’s impossible not to get snap happy with props, as all of us fellas from We Blog Design so kindly demonstrated on our social media.

But really outside is where it’s at on this floor. If you do one thing only, head upstairs for sunset, grabbing a G&T sourced from the East London Liquor company on the way and head outside for the ultimate panoramic view of the city – you ain’t ever seen the Tower of London, Shard and Gherkin like this before.

To Discover:

As much as I could have stayed in the hotel for a few days without leaving the bed or that view, exploring is of course important and luckily for citizenM, there’s a whole bunch of local amenities around. I’ve rounded up my favourites below – let me know wha you think, will you be becoming a mobile citizen any time soon?

With citizenM embracing all things regal, it would be a shame not to visit the source of inspiration if you haven’t had a chance to make it before. Sometimes it’s super nice to do stereotypically tourist things and actually the tower is pretty up there when it comes to a good historical London attraction. Time to get into character and explore, just make sure you hold on to your head.

Tower Hill, London EC3N 4AB

St Katharine’s Docks is central London’s own mini marina complete with shops, restaurants and a few bars. Just a short walk away from the hotel, this is certainly worth a visit and perfect for a sunny London day.

St Katharine Marina, 50 St Katharine's Way, London E1W 1LA

About a 20-minute walk away from the hotel lies contemporary art gallery, White Cube. The stunning architecture takes all the spotlight here but with exhibitions normally free, you may come across some pretty snazzy modern art too. The bookshop makes it hard to leave with money still in the wallet, but if you somehow manage it there are still plenty of independent boutiques nearby to blow your dosh on.

144-152 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3TQ

If you manage to make it to White Cube, Maltby Street Market should certainly be on your list of places for lunch - a bustling food market hidden away in the streets of Bermondsey. This place has everything from tapas to tiramisu, all with tempting smells, a street party vibe and plenty of doggies to cuddle. Note that it’s only open on the weekends though, so don’t start drooling on a weekday or you’ll be leaving hungry.

Ropewalk, London SE1 3PA

INFO: citizenM, 40 Trinity Square, London EC3N 4DJ, Room rates start from £109 and there are worldwide options for you to tay in.
DISCLAIMER: My stay was provided for free of charge by citizenM for the purpose of this review. I'll always be honest about any stay, product or experience so all of the above love of crowns, soldiers and big comfy beds is truly my own.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Compositional Urbanite | Eleanor Bailey Studio

It's kind of a big deal when you find yourself coming across someone on the world wide web who appears to share the same aesthetics, inspiration and goals as yourself. Not in an 'oh, shit' way but actually in the interest of creativity - there's enough room for us all out there and supporting those with a similar vision to yourself can normally lead to a bigger movement later on down the line. When I first discovered Eleanor Bailey on one of my daily Instagram hashtag "spirals", I knew we were meant to connect and after discovering she was actually still studying I jumped at the chance to ask her a few questions and find out her plans for third year at the seemingly inspired Leeds College of Art. 

Eleanor's work is bright, loud and bursting with pattern, featuring blocks of colour and a hell of a lot of mark making. As she is still studying a lot of the pieces are experimental but in my own personal opinion, this is what actually makes her work so successful. She stays very true to herself through all of her projects but she has the capacity to experiment with anything from digital printing to paper-based processes and beading. By combining her range of interests, Eleanor has created a style that ultimately doesn't really fit into one 'trend' box and within her work I can see references to the Bauhaus, Memphis and Pop Art movements but there's also clearly inspiration from architecture and her city surroundings - the culmination of all of these things move her work from decorative to slightly more conceptual.

It's a hard feat to be original in the loud and proud world of textiles these days, especially when there is so much amazing work to subconsciously draw stimulus from yet I think Eleanor's managed to do her own thing while still taking in everything going on around her. Ultimately this will allow her to flourish in the 'real' design world and if you keep on readin' you'll soon see that this gal is definitely ready to hit the town with her designs. 

Firstly can you give me a little explanation about yourself and why you chose to study Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design?

I am currently going in to my third year at Leeds College of Art where I study Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design (Ba)Hons. My style of work and design tendencies are still developing, and I have loved watching the evolution of my work over the years. A bold use of colour has remained thematic throughout my folio of drawings, digital collages and collections of printed textiles.

I did my Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at the University of Falmouth. I loved having a break from London and spending my year in such an idyllic sea-side town, but I ended up missing city life more than I would have ever expected. Leeds couldn't have seemed more appealing, and to this day I still love it! I fell in love with the Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design course at Leeds College of Art as soon as I heard about it. Unlike other Textile courses at other universities, the course at LCA offered something more- a dedication to the love of print, colour and form.

Can you tell me a little about the inspiration behind your designs?

I have been so lucky to grow up in such an amazing part of South London; tucked in between Peckham and Brixton, I have been able to experience some of London’s most multicultural delights (from food markets, restaurants and nights out!) but the thing that has always caught my eye the most are the African haberdasheries and markets, narrow and heaving with fabrics visually rich in bright colour and traditional pattern. Walking through Peckham and Brixton regularly, you can’t help but avoid these full-of-life designs, and they really do help bring a smile to anyones face! 

During my last year of sixth-form, I began looking more closely into African textile design, VLISCO and the dutch wax fabric trade, becoming increasingly interested with the work of Yinka Shonibare. This led my love for African textiles on to more of a contemporary twist on traditional African design, and the likes of London/Moroccan based photographer Hassan Hajjaj, known as the 'Andy Warhol of Marrakech'. Although the influence of African Design isn’t always obvious in my own work, studying and falling in love with African textiles gave me with such a huge boost in creative self-esteem and provided me with confidence in colour.

In recent months, I have been extremely fortunate to gain an internship with London based designer Yinka Ilori, who’s bright, bold work and passion for chairs has been gaining great global interest. Working closely with him over the past few weeks has given me a great insight into the world of design and it is something that I truly admire in him and his work. 

Who influences your design process? 

I am influenced by a wide variety of sources, from artists and designers to places and galleries. In recent months, I have found myself influenced by the work of Camille Walala and Jonna Saarinen, alongside some of my longterm favourites, Henri Matisse, Zandra Rhodes and David Hockney. 

I find myself enthused on a day to day basis by companies and brands too, with some of my current interests revolving around the aesthetics and design of Risotto Studio, Atelier Bingo, Dusen Dusen, Habitat, Muji and House of Hackney. 

I also gain influence from flicking through design magazines (Wallpaper, Dazed, Vice, Elle Decoration), discovering new Intsagram accounts such as Patternity, Minimalzine, Bricksmagazine, Colourwars, Emmajanepalin, Tamarattiadesigns, Clairesherston, Esthercoxskiosk - to name a few! 
(EJP NOTE: Thanks Eleanor, Make sure you check us all out!!)

Any plans for your third year? What can we expect to see from you next?

The beginning of third year unfortunately for me means dissertation, a lot of coffee and a lot of late nights. I have decided to explore how the principles of The Bauhaus have influenced the minimalist aspect in contemporary art and design. I am super excited about this one, as I have been a fan of The Bauhaus and its design tendencies for years, but have never used it as a starting point and I’m not entirely sure why! I shall be travelling to Berlin for some additional research (so if you have any travelling tips, or can recommend any cool places to go, hit me up!), so I am really looking forward to that as it’s so far probably my favourite city! (EJP note: You can find my own list of Berlin tips here!)

Although I’m currently using my time at uni to really explore a wide variety of design styles and processes, I am heading towards a very bold and bright design style that I believe works for me. Alongside uni, in my spare time I have been trying to create some designs totally unrelated to any themes that I have been exploring at the studio. I have loved this and have created some designs that I am really happy with, it has also been quite refreshing to find inspiration in something, and creatively act upon it without the pressure of having to research and adapt any initial ideas. Just go with the flow! 

What's the ultimate dream?

If I’m honest, I know that my ultimate dream will change from year to year. As I can’t put a finger on what my ultimate dream would be for now, I will give you a few little ideas that have popped into my head! 

Within the next couple of years I would love to move to either Amsterdam, Berlin or New York and work there interning or working alongside an interior stylist or a textile based design company for a year or two. Eventually I would love to have my own company, Interior styling and selling interior products that I have designed and produced myself.

Having gained experience at a consumer magazine and digital publisher company, Time Inc. UK (formerly known as IPC Media), I have since been extremely interested in the publication of magazines and digital print. It is something that I would love to get involved in again, and perhaps publish my own design-related magazine.

Thanks so much to Eleanor for taking the time to let me be nosy (even while she was working late at Wimbledon) and for allowing me to use her beautiful imagery on her site. Please do pop over to her Instagram to say hello and give her some lovin' on her own blog. I absolutely cannot wait to follow this lady's progress and find out what the future holds for her - bagsy the space in your suitcase Eleanor!

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