As a part of a new series I am now calling 'Sunday Fundays' Natasha and myself popped down to the Tate Britain yesterday afternoon for a spot of sign painting with London-based design studio Animaux Circus. I spotted these guys whilst at Pick Me Up this year where they were carrying out some tropical letter painting workshops, but sadly never got the chance to join in. They have done some great murals mixing vibrant colours, typography and illustration for clients such as Southbank, Lovebox and The Queen of Hoxton; so I was very excited to work alongside them for the afternoon!
We were part of the last group session of the weekend and sat ourselves comfortably down on a table of three others. There was a wide mix of people attending and good to see it wasn't just creatives there. Animaux Circus started off with a short presentation, introducing themselves, their work and their influences to get our juices flowing. We then had to discuss ideas based on a personal memory. Mine was based on when my Gran used to take me to the local funfair in my town, and take me on a specific motorbike ride called ' Easy Rider' that I loved. Natasha focused on a conversation we had earlier in the day in which was better, East or West London. (West is Best!)
There was the opportunity to use the pre-printed letters provided as a template or to draw your own. As they all seemed to be one size I decided to go with the hand drawn option, which proved to be more difficult and time consuming in the end.
We then could use a variety of colours to paint our designs and bring them to life.
It was great to sit down with other people and just paint and have a chat; even though the process was a bit basic for myself as I already do a lot of lettering work in my spare time. The workshop has really inspired me to seek out some more collaborative projects with others so do get in touch!
Here are Natasha and I's finished pieces from the afternoon! I can't wait to get back into the paint pot this week!
A quick update on some of the hand painted personal work I have been getting on with recently! I have just finished painting a skateboard for my friend Ben's birthday. Combining both his love of Vampire Weekend, hence the lyrics, and of skating! I took more of a different approach this time and started to combine simple illustration alongside the typography.
I seem to be spotting lovely hand rendered typography everywhere at the moment! I stumbled across some great pieces at Kew Gardens recently; as part of the Plantasia series they have going on.
The installation is called the healing giant, this 20 metre by 18 metre raised planting bed is in the shape of a human body and showcases how different plants can aid different parts of the body.
In amongst the plants and flowers are a variety of hand painted items from bottles, beehives and first aid kits, to teapots, teacups and a small sarcophagus. I took particular interest in the installation as I loved the range of items that had been artistically transformed and engaged the viewer in the learning process.
After exploring the gardens further I stumbled across the gin garden, where different plants enhanced the experience of drinking gin. Unfortunately this was closed but I still enjoyed the typographic treatment of the labels on the bottles. The delights of typography and nature!
I decided to indulge myself this weekend in a double typographic treat by booking myself onto the Ghost Signs tours as well was the Type Tasting talk in Stoke Newington, as part of the literary festival taking place this weekend. I had heard previously a lot of good feedback about the tour, and it has been something I’ve wanted to go on for a while due to my interest in hand crafted typography.
Sam, our guide, did not disappoint. His knowledge of the signs and their history was in-depth and well spoken about, and the two hours seemed to pass by very quickly with us visiting roughly fifteen signs in total. The signs varied from being barely visible to taking up the entire sides of buildings, and most seemed to be illegible but we were encouraged to decipher what they said. What I found most interesting was the photographs Sam brought along with him depicting some of the pieces back when they were created, meaning we could compare them to their present-day appearance. Considering some of these were over 100 years old it is impressive how well they have kept.
One question that was raised over the course of the walk was whether ghost signs are considered art or not? This was brought up after we were informed that before the Olympic Games the local council ordered that all graffiti in the area to be painted over as part of a clean up. A few ghost signs were included in this, but luckily they managed to be saved and preserved. Another point discussed was to do with how in places such as Bath and Cambridge the ghost signs are being redone, and whether this is good or bad? It is great to keep them alive and as pieces of art but at the same time you lose their originality and history? All very good questions to think about.
I don't wish to give too much away about the tour as I think this is a must see in London, and is a bit different to your usual tourist attractions. Not only is it for anybody who has an interest in ghost signs but also London history. You can find out when the tours are run here.
After a quick refreshment in Lazy Social, which has amazing iced coffee by the way, we head down the road to the chocolate factory where the Type Tasting talk was being held. These open studios were beautiful and right by the place I get my one shot paint from, sadly it was shut on a Sunday!
The talk I attended was run by Type Tasting, which is set up by Sarah Hyndman, who carries out a series of workshops and talks inspired by making typography accessible. They are well-known for their edible letter forms, creating various typefaces out of food and answering the question of 'what would this typeface taste like?'. She has created Comic sans out of sweets and popping candy, Helvetica out of water biscuits and Impact out of chilli chocolate!
We were taken through the basic history of typography; but showcasing it through the medium of ten album covers. It was strange to see that other than myself there were only a few others in an audience of about fifteen who were actually practicing designers, I imagine this was due to it being part of the literary festival. The talk was very engaging, asking us to participate in a music quiz and ending in chopping up letterforms to create a 'sex pistols' style quote at the end. Although I knew most of the things that were discussed I could see how this is a good way of teaching others about typography. Sarah spoke about the influence of typographic styles from various decades and how they had an influence on certain album covers, for example the AC/DC logo referencing black letter and taking a shock tactic of mimicking the typeface used for the Nazis, with Franz Ferdinand's album referencing Russian propaganda and breaking the grid.
At the end I spoke to Sarah briefly about sign writing and her work and also picked up a lovely neon sign print, inspired by the Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas. It glows in the dark! You can find out more about what they do and their workshops here.
I have visited most of the capital's museums now, but one still not checked off the list was the Horniman Museum in South East London. With the weather predicted to be quite nice this weekend I thought I would take the long journey down from the West to see what it had to offer.
Set up in the early 1900's the Horinman is essentially a taxidermy museum, with a few other changing exhibits on every few months, plus spacious pleasure gardens and a small farm animal walk and aquarium to accompany it. I first heard about the museum from when I interned at Hat-trick design a few years ago and they had worked on the branding for the museum. This is one of my favourite marks by them and it was lovely to see how it worked and developed in the flesh.
One of the main attractions of the museum is the gardens, which had fantastic views back over to London when you looked down at the top off the hill. There are also other hidden gems such as a band stand, sound garden, farmers market and cactus area. After tearing ourselves away from what the outside space had to offer we entered what seemed to be a 1970's biology class. The museum was not on the same technological level as some of the main London museums; but had a certain charm and wear and tear that took me back to my old science classes at school. A range of animals, fish and birds were on display including a huge walrus that was situated in the centre of the hall, there was a lot of pickled insides and cut up bits and bobs I didn't understand but all in all was very interesting and a very odd day out! The area surrounding the museum is a bit grotty but I did love the shutter painting I found at a butchers shop on the way back.
The museum is worth a visit, not only as it is free and unusual but also for the fantastic outdoor space. Take a picnic and go on a sunny day is my recommendation but eat first!