Into the Wild

try I’m currently working on a series of designs for apparel, stationery and other home goods. These are now available courtesy of RedBubble.com and more new designs will be added frequently!

Click here to be taken to my shop on the Redbubble site or browse new designs in the collection.

The designs are inspired by folk art from the east and feature simple bright floral designs.

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Out With The Old, Out With The New

IMG_5737Sometimes it is essential to shake up the status quo, to question formality and tradition. If we don’t do this then progress is never made. One of the difficulties we find in education is a reluctance on open minds to other ways of thinking. In contemporary arts education, traditional materials and processes are looked upon as inferior or outdated, in more traditional fields contemporary use of traditional materials or minimal aesthetic is thought suspicious. Neither extreme is better than the other and a middle ground needs be embraced.

Traditional practices allow us to make works of good quality and longevity while the teachings of contemporary culture inform us to the most relevant images people want to see today. To deny progress is not a sensible move, since as human beings we are capable of so much more today than ever before in the history of the human race. And so for those insistent on being stuck in the past or those fixated on the future there is in fact a much more interesting, insightful and meaningful way to pursue the arts. By acknowledging and appreciating the traditions of the past and not being afraid of the unknown before us, we can progress forward with sound knowledge and an open heart to the new possibilities ahead.

 

Hand Made And Underpaid: The real price of cheap clothing

The video below was something I came across on YouTube. Posted by Journeyman Pictures its a stark reminder of the real cost of cheap clothing.

What worries me most is that we seem to be trapped in the expectation that we are entitled to buy goods at very low prices.

Its very hard at least for me, to remember a time when clothing was a ‘normal price’ my early memories of the highstreet are those of the cheap stores we are still familiar with today. In the beginning those stores were seen as rather down market and clothing was not good quality. Now they are top brands and rated in fashion magazines and online. What happened?

Without naming names, high street stores have been gearing our spending habits towards the very little for quite some time. We have struggled in this country with a serious downturn in the economy, a recession. That was and is a pretty rubbish time for all those involved. It made people have less expendable income, that meant people couldn’t buy as much stuff. That meant that these stores weren’t earning as much so they were letting off their staff because they couln’t afford them. That meant people had even less money, even less to spend, the stores earned even less. The world was spiralling.

To recover, many stores adopted and adapted their economy brands. That way people could afford to go and buy the things they wanted and the stores were happy because folks were spending their money again, things picked up.

But HOW did the stores manage to bring the prices of their goods down?

If you’ve watched the video you’ll see that these big powerful companies were demanding unreasonable and unfair prices for the garments they wanted made. The retail industry was suffocating its suppliers. The factories rely on those large orders to maintain their business, they did what they could to meet the price demands.

This however results in a major problem in terms of how to make those garments at the price of the retailers demands. So the workers are forced to work for little, forced to work in conditions that are unsafe and have NO ALTERNATIVE. The people that make our clothes are either earning what little they can from these factories or are starving to death with no work at all.

This video talks alot about transparency, that there is no transparency at the factories but what about at the end of the consumer line, with us, the customer? Now we have little labels stitched into our clothes saying “made in Bangladesh” but does this really give us knowledge that this is an ethical product? All it does is give us an option to not buy it. But to boycott the industry in its entirity I imagine would be even more detrimental to those poor workers at the other end.

I don’t know what the solution is. But I find it increasingly difficult to excuse my want for cheap disposable clothing, and am hoping to find some sort of remedy for this painful and disgusting conduct we find in the products we buy.

As a person who makes things I have come to understand the value of something that is made by hand. Cheap products we assume are being made by machines but clothes are stitched, and details sewn and fastened by the hands of a real person. It is our duty as fellow human beings that the treatment of the person who made the things we buy is fair and that they are able to live a life with the basics at least to survive. Ideally, with more than that.

It seems unimaginable that I would come to make say, a plate and only earn a few pence for me to have spent the time to make it. Regardless of me sourcing the materials, the sheer effort of making the thing is worth more.

I hope that there is a way we can find a solution of being able to afford these people the wages they deserve. I hope our greed and insatiable appetite for cheap products diminishes and I hope that the large companies forcing these conditions onto their suppliers start to reconsider what value actually is.

IMG_4502

All Wrapped Up: A simple hand made giftwrap

There are a couple of reasons why I like to make my own gift wrap, the first is that it looks nice and the second is that is very easy to do and costs less than buying it in the shops.

Below is a method of making simple wrapping paper that you can modify for any occasion!

IMG_4565

The first things you’ll need are;

Black handwriting pen

Old eraser with a flat edge

Brown kraft paper

A4 white paper

Printer/ copier

Method:

1) Take an old clean eraser and on an edge which is flat draw a simple

motif that you would like to make as the print on your gift wrap.IMG_4567

2) On a white sheet of A4 paper, stamp the design down
before the ink dries.IMG_4570

 

3) Re-trace the design on the eraser and stamp down again. IMG_4574

4) Repeat until you have covered the whole surface of the A4 sheet.

 

5) Next take the roll of kraft brown paper and cut into A4 sized sheets. Use a white sheet to help guide you.

6) Insert the craft roll into the printer and the stamped sheet into the scan tray.

7) Press the black and white copy button on the printer and watch your design print out on kraft paper!IMG_4583

8) Use your paper to wrap small gifts.

 

Other Ideas:

I also printed quite a few sheets of white paper with the design on, they look just as good if you don’t have the brown paper or you could try other coloured paper. Just make sure its not thicker than the usual paper you use for the printer as it could cause a jam.

I made a little ‘To’ stamp to go with my gift wrap and stamped on both little white labels and onto plain brown paper.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a printer you can repeat the stamping all over the sheets of paper that you need. This does take a little more time but looks just as good and you can make much larger sheets this way.

 

I hope you enjoyed this little making project, if you have any suggestions of what to make next or any improvements please leave them in the comments!

 

 

Value of Nothing

IMG_3665 (2)It seems so odd to me that the price of everything in shops these days is very cheap.

I mean generally, on the whole if you go to the high street, or shop online, we as consumers usually make our decisions on purchases based solely on price. But this approach to consuming is a bit of a black hole. The people at the top are making their money by “commissioning” (for want of a better word) rather shoddily made things in places, lets face it, third world places where they pay the workers pennies in buildings that are unsafe and in conditions that are unacceptable.

But we close our eyes and our hearts when we see that bargain, that overly under priced item that we actually need or want.

Don’t get me wrong, there is the side of the argument that says these people need a job they need the money etc etc. Sure of course they do. But our greed alongside our reluctance to pay the price of what something is worth in our consumer society is what is causing these people to suffer.

We have become accustomed to think that we can”find it cheaper online” find it cheaper in another store find it cheaper somewhere.

Aside from those in the developing world making our stuff for money so little we cant even imagine, the concept actually impacts on the artist or artisan as well.

If an individual potter makes a bowl, the time, effort and material costs are higher than those of a bowl made in bulk in a factory in China (for example) even if the bowl looked the same. Because bulk ordering reduces costs and the mechanisation of the process reduces time the shop can sell at a much lower price. But problems arise when the consumer encounters products in retail that are made to look as if they are hand made. Indeed there is quite the trend of having the artisan feel about an item, but the average consumer expects to pay a retail price. The retailer is in such a position where they can produce an item that looks handmade, but can sell it on much more cheaply.

When that same consumer encounters an item made by a professional potter, they might be surprised at the cost difference between retail and the artist. Its hard as an artist to explain to the average consumer why this costs x amount and why we can’t compete with big name brands.

What I think this comes down to is a need for re-education and a revaluation in the price of goods. Ultimately we need to remember that something that is made to a high standard and costs more money is likely to last much longer than the item made as a cheap fashionable item.

Its extremely hard to think of high art being made as throw away, these are things that people invest in. But the craft side lies somewhere strangely between retail and the high art ends of the market.

People want to be able to buy beautiful things and make their homes beautiful. People on varying incomes should all have this same opportunity, and I can see the appeal of cheap products in big stores. But what if the norm wasn’t to buy lots and lots of things cheaply, and instead spent the same amount of money on one or two things you really loved and valued. This approach would mean a shift in the mindset of today’s consumerism. It would mean not following the fast changes in fashion and it would mean not buying as much stuff.

Not an impossible task, but a very difficult one. A change in the understanding of what something is worth means understanding the lives of those people who make the products we use. Whether its an underpaid worker in the third world, or a crafts person nearer to home. We should have some basic knowledge about the things we buy in order to fully appreciate their real value and their impact on the lives of others.

“The excellence of every art must consist in the complete accomplishment of its purpose”

imageThis poignant phrase emblazons the front doorway of the V&A museum. A reminder that as the heart of the museums displays, design has a responsibility.

This view was shared indeed by the museums supporter William Morris who encouraged famously that art should be both beautiful and useful.

What this message reminds me as an artist is that what I do should not solely exist in my studio, nor as an idea in my head, but should, if it may be useful,  be brought into the world for the good of others.

It is good practice to remember that ultimately things are created to have a function in the world. There is in this digital age a lot of self indulgent and useless information. Things to waste our time with and it is increasingly difficult to navigate around what is good and matters and what really doesn’t benefit anyone at all.

What it does bring in to question however is the usefulness of the art form of social media. In its hands, it has the weight of responsibility of being a positive influence in terms of disseminating information and of educating. But what seems to appeal most, indeed what leads in popularity in the use of sites such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc is the self- indulgent nature of the content users upload and share. This self obsession can obscure a persons real-world view.

I believe that social media at its best can be an incredibly accessible platform for education, with many apps and content being completely free of charge. The knowledge we could share with the underprivileged and the quality of information we could give to those who really need education should be at the forefront of our intentions.