Monday, 31 August 2009
We'll be back on Wednesday. Until then… Keep smiling! Continue reading...
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Where: London, UK
Website: Urban Upholstery
Power pair…Patrizia Sottile: We are the co-owners of Urban Upholstery in London. Andrea has over 20 years experience as an upholsterer. His clients include the Gianni Versace Group, Harrods and a wide range of antique dealers and designers. I am a design consultant, formally trained as an architect with an MA from St Martin’s in Scenography.
In the beginning…Andrea Simonutti: About five years ago I saw a very nice, abandoned chair (in horrible condition but with great potential) just a few meters from our house. It wasn’t the first time we’d seen a piece of furniture abandoned in the street. So I decided to strip it off and reupholster it. This first piece ended up being a Christmas present for Patrizia.
Initial inspiration…A: It started about 25 years ago. Every Easter, my family would go to visit my uncle in the north of Italy for a few days. But instead of playing at the beach like everyone else, I spent my time with him in his workshop, excited by what he was doing. And from there the passion began. My parents were very supportive and happy to let me go to a technical college after secondary school. And there, I was lucky enough to meet the most influential person of my life, Angelo Busnelli, a talented man who taught us the Art of Upholstery once a week. He taught at the college for free and made me love what I was doing. He was a wealthy man and didn't need to teach. He did it simply because he was passionate about the subject and filled his students with that same enthusiasm. One day I’d like to follow in his footsteps and do for others what he did for me.
P: It’s very important, especially in your early years, to learn how to do something perfectly, like the way Angelo taught Andrea. When there’s an emphasis on perfection, you learn to produce a flawless piece of work and continue to strive to produce high quality pieces. Likewise, if you learn to produce something that just looks good but is badly constructed, it’s hard to break that habit. You need a teacher that will make you do something over and over again until you’ve perfected it.
I started drawing when I was very young. I drew the portraits of everyone who visited my house. I also decided that I wanted to be an architect early on and when I was 18 I pursued a career in architecture.
Influential family…P: My family and friends were always very supportive although they didn’t try to understand what I was doing because they were doing very different things. They just saw that I had passion and that was enough for them.
A: In my case, when I was at school, my peers were all going to university and colleges to become doctors, lawyers and that sort of thing. At the beginning, people would look at me and say, ‘Oh, wow, you’re doing upholstery,’ subtly conveying that, in their opinion, it was a lowly job. But, I was always confident and passionate about my choice. And my parents were very supportive. My uncle was and still is an upholsterer so they knew I’d be able to make a living from it. Upholsterers are always in demand. Wherever I’ve been, I’ve had a job.
The allure of London…A: I arrived in London 10 years ago. And two months later I met Patrizia. I left Italy because my life had turned upside down – my father died in 1998 and I broke up with my then long-term partner. I just needed get away and start all over again somewhere new. My plan was to go to London and eventually get to Australia. I still feel like Australia is the promise land and eventually, who knows, I might get there.
P: I read about England in books and it was always my dream to live here. The final push was through my sister. She travels a lot with her work and told me that London was the place I needed to be, exciting things were happening here, so I took her advice and here I am.
Talents…A: Patrizia is talented as an architect and artist. She’s good at finding solutions – colour combinations, designing and visualising what works well together. She’s able to find creative ways to make the most of fabrics so we don’t waste anything and meet our goals to recycle endrolls.
My role in the company is the handcraft of upholstery. I do the physical upholstery and Patrizia provides her design skills. We work together to come up with the initial ideas; how to tackle a piece of furniture. But I decide whether an idea will work in reality because I'm more aware of the limitations.
The business side…P: I have managerial experience so I can handle the marketing. I enjoy making contacts and networking with people that we could potentially work with. Accounting and administration, however, are not the most enjoyable parts of the job for either of us.
A: Even though it’s a small business, there are so many things to check and be aware of. We’ve only been going for 14 months but in time it would be great to employ a secretary/accountant for the office and an upholstery assistant for the workshop.
P: We’ve been lucky to work with a great consultancy team – a web designer and his wife, a multi-talented copywriter. She guides us in setting business goals and produced all the copy on our website, which he created. Their goal is to help small businesses like ours. They’ve been there since the beginning and helped set up Urban Upholstery.
The recycling/reclaiming philosophy…A: To have a personal connection with the customer is helpful to both parties. Before starting a job, we like being sure that they are happy with the design and colours they’ve chosen.
P: We like to give people time to think. Most of the time, people buy things on impulse, which often leads to waste. If something is inexpensive, we buy it, decide we don’t like it, then throw it away. Ideally, we like the customers to do some of their own research and bring in pictures of what style they like.
A: Every piece in our showroom was originally dumped in a skip or left on the street. We’ve also rescued chair frames from frame makers and end-rolls that would otherwise have been dumped.
We’ve recycled timber and metal frames to create storage and shelves in our workshop. All the metal posts that make the mezzanine were just left in our courtyard.
Recycling takes time. In the beginning we didn’t have much money and we had a lot of time, as our customer-base was growing, so we made the most of what we found in skips and on the street. But even as we grow, we continue to stick to this principle of recycling. Recycling doesn’t mean sacrificing quality or aesthetics.
Collaborating with artists…A: We’re looking to work with artists and designers that are environmentally friendly, who produce original pieces that aren’t too big as the space available is limited. The relationship we have with artists is mutually beneficial – the artist gets a space for their work and people who come to see what they’ve done are often interested in what we do.
P: We’re open to work with textile designers, painters, people who want to use the window display or anyone whose work fits with our philosophy.
Inspiration…We read magazines to see what is out there. But we don’t stick to trends because we use reclaimed fabric, which has a look of its own. We go to fairs, art exhibitions and we have a subscription to the World of Interiors – one of the most prestigious interiors magazines.
Relaxation…P: Well, we’ve started restoring an old house that we bought in Italy, which isn’t very relaxing but it’s very fulfilling. Our plan is to use recycled materials as much as we can, not just for furniture but throughout the house.
Besides that, we like cycling, walking in the mountains, barbequing, cooking for friends and having big social gatherings.
A: Right now though, business takes up a big part of our lives. We’re working six days a week and time just seems to disappear. We work about 10 hours a day, Monday-Friday, sometimes more, and four hours every Saturday so we don’t have much time for relaxing.
At home…P: It’s mostly made up of reclaimed and restored pieces. We’ve restored tables, chairs, drawers and all sorts of things. My hobby is restoring wood and Andrea does the reupholstering.
Dreams for the future…P: I’d like to maintain our independence and be a small business in essence.
A: In decades to come, we’d like to be the equivalent of a shop in Saville Row.
P: We want to stick to our principles – recycling fabric and making high quality pieces. Like when people visit Saville Row they want a tailored suit, we’d like people to visit our shop for when they want to upholster furniture. We can’t and don’t want to compete with mass producing companies.
A: We want our customers to understand what we’re trying to achieve with recycling. There are thousands of companies throwing away fabrics and we want to recycle their waste.
P: Quality and precision, along with recycling and reclaiming, form the basis of our philosophy. That’s what we’d like to take with us into the future. Continue reading...
Monday, 24 August 2009
Where: London, UK
Website: Death Ray Trebuchay
In a nutshell…I’m a musician. I’m a drummer. I’m about 6 foot 3 and a half and I’m from Yorkshire. I've trained as a drummer for about 10 years seriously, and about 23 years not-so-seriously since the age of four. I am now in the current location of Dalston, in my studio.
The starting point…When I came down one Christmas morning, my folks had bought me a bright yellow Remo Junior Pro drum kit, which was like the best thing I’d ever seen in my life. They were instantly elated that I wasn’t destroying the house anymore too. I probably had ADHD, before the term was invented.
Getting those drums was where it all began and I got involved in music. From that moment on, I noticed drummers. My mum would take to me to the theatre and opera. I went to see Tosca when I was about three. I was always exposed to music. We’d go to see a concert and I wouldn’t necessarily comprehend it's complexities, but I’d always visually connect with and start honing into that person playing the same instrument I had at home, it was infectious. I just became obsessive, absolutely obsessive. Through that and my mum driving me around Yorkshire to take advantage of every opportunity with schooling and lessons, I am now doing what I do.
Kabul Airstrike - Tickle me up by goodnessgreatness
The first gig I went to see, that really blew me away and made me go, ‘I want to do that’, was Dire Straits in Faro, held in some massive football stadium when I was seven. It was great. We used to go to the Algarve on holiday and my mum got these tickets. We arrived ridiculously early, like six hours early, and the whole place was shut. We couldn’t get in anywhere so we just sat on the steps and had a picnic and got in the press as we were the first people there. The gig was amazing. They had this drummer called Omar Hakim and another drummer, not sure who he was, but there were 2 of them with massive drum kits. It was 89’, full on stadium rock, Dire Straits, smashing it! It made me go ‘I want to play on a fucking stadium stage on a drum kit! I want to be them!’
Obsessive compulsive…My mum is obsessed with Theatre and Entertainment. We’ve always had a kind of flamboyant household, which has definitely sculpted my energy for music and drumming. My mum’s always had big parties. She once had this charity party where an entire Circus came and camped in our fields in the country for about four months. Hanging out with them and the bands that came to the house created an energy inside of me, which is partly responsible for how I see myself as a musician today. Now that I’m older and have found a path, my voice as a drummer is that of entertainment mixed with art. Being a performer you have to give out that energy. That’s why I make the choices to play with the bands that I do. At the moment I value the gift of entertainment and the act of giving energy.
Home is where the heart is…I grew up near a little village called Stamford Bridge, which is between York and Bridlington. It’s a beautiful place called Scoreby Farm House. I was blessed to grew up there. It was like a little country retreat. It got to thrash the shit out of my drums as much as I wanted without anyone complaining at all. It was a complete haven that affected who I am. If grew up in a terraced house in the middle of York, I wouldn’t have necessarily been able to play the drums all night long, so I was really lucky. I was schooled in York, which is a wicked city but I’m glad that I’m not there at the moment, in the most beautiful way – I love it and a lot of my heart is there but it’s a city that I wanted to break free from. It allows you (as someone living there) to let go of it. If you know somewhere is a great place and it’s given you a lot but you’ve moved on, that’s not a bad thing. I feel I have a strong foundation because of that, because of the steps I took. I feel comfortable about not living in York. The world is a huge place I get to explore, which is in my nature.
Under his belt…Band-wise, I’m working on a project called Death Ray Trebuchay, which is a band of six very merry men that play psychedelic thrash, disco, punk music. We've been going for about two years. It’s formed of three horn players (trumpet, trombone and alto Sax) and then bass, drums and keyboards. There’s loads of crazed shouting and Beastie Boys-esque style rap going on. It’s a completely flamboyant boisterous band and it's amazing to be the drummer. I get to live out my dream of thrashing the shit out of a drum kit while it still being dance music and being humorous in some way. It’s pretty advanced serious music and it's challenging to play but at the same time it’s got kind of a light-hearted element to it. It’s not trying to take itself too seriously. It’s meant to be dance music, that’s the reason the band was formed. Originally we played a lot of Balkan covers and Balkan music, in our East London sort of way, taking a folk music and working out how to put our own vibe onto it, it's nice the way those things happen. Given that there are six people, all trained 'working' musicians, going into an original project, believing in it and forming a strong unit, is a really special thing to keep and to be a part of.
Deathray Trebuchay - Im Gonna Kick You in the Ass by goodnessgreatness
Quite quickly, the six of us became obsessed with the band and put a lot into the music and everyone is putting their personalities into it. We are slowly generating our own sound. It’s getting there. We’re just about to start recording our first E.P in the studio I run, which is another side of my life.
The other side…I work with a fine musician called Jo Wills and we have a studio in Gillett Square, Dalston - we call it The Dalston Broadcasting Company. We have set up a company called A Fish Called Wampa, which Jo and I began about a year and a half ago and formalised, writing music for media, visual arts theatre and commercial clients of any sort. We have worked for the BBC and Toyota, we’ve just done some sound design for Dizzee Rascal's new music video and we have just signed up on a job with a Japanese karaoke company. So our client list is becoming quite broad-ranged and exciting and that’s great. It provides Jo and I with a financial bed and, in a sense, a routine. I think that’s been the hardest thing about being a musician – it’s this self-employed/freelance life, where there’s a lot of traveling and moving about and you kind of loose your roots quite quickly. We’ve been trailing around for a few years – playing, gigging, teaching, 'wedding' gigs galore and '£20 jazz gigs in some random pub in Chesterfield'. We had enough of that and we just wanted to hone our skills in one area, have an office and get a sort of day job.
School of rock…School, for me, was always amazingly supportive. I went to a wicked school in York – a junior school called St Olave’s and a senior school called St Peters. They where always supportive of music. As a kid, you want to do everything – I was really sporty. There were loads of rad chicks and dudes at school and I wanted to be out partying, not practising for seven hours a day when I was 14 – 15 years old. I’ve got to thank the school for helping to keep me focused, I don’t think that I would have had the 'teenage' willpower to do music all the time without the guidance. They had lots of small ensembles, jazz bands wind bands and choirs, which meant that I was playing every night of the week from the age of 12 or 13 during school and after school. It was constant.
First band…There were always school rock bands. I got involved with this band called Skirt. I was 13 and the rest of the band were older, at GCSE level. I was stoked as the older dudes had asked me to play drums for their band. I fancied all the chicks in their year so it was awesome, a total dream......ha ha. We played for ages. We got on the circuit, did Bright Young Things talent competitions and played at the Town and Country Club in Leeds. It was an amazing beginning to a sort of band career. I don’t see them very often now but we are still in touch. The bass player Ed Brooke is an amazing guy. He’s just had another kid and Andy, the lead singer, is now a teacher. We played right through to when we left school at St Peters. In the last two years of it's 'life' the band transformed and we renamed it - ‘The Constituency of the Rejected’, which was our post-teen angst-ridden alt metal, love child. We were into the Deftones and early Limp Bizkit. The music grew from very, very, very, homoerotic Gary Glitter inspired Brit Pop, writing songs about ice creams to writing tunes about Lyndon Baines Johnson and the conspiracy’s of the teenage mind. It was fucking awesome!
Sion - Get Your Knees Up by goodnessgreatness
Life after the school of rock…After GCSE’s, I had a choice. I was old enough to realise that I wanted to be a musician and also old enough to realise that I couldn’t continue being a musician if I stayed on at St Peter's because of academic commitments. It was a very liberal public school but at the same time driven by its ratings and Ofsted reports so was pretty highfalutin, which is totally rad, but I decided that I needed to spend a lot of time playing. The tutors that I had were great pros. One of them was a classical player, Janet Fulton that played in the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic orchestras and the other guy was called Damian Harren. He was my kit and contemporary percussion teacher and they are both responsible for helping me get into music conservatoire, and furthering my career. They where like ‘If you don’t do it now, you’re never going to do it. You need to start practising four hours a day. You need to learn all the repertoire’. I left school and went to Leeds College of Music to study my A-levels, and practise... alot... which was a massive step.
And... a massive step for my dad as he, my grandad, my great granddad and my uncles all went to that school, all the way through. My dad wasn’t the greatest academic but held on to the philosophy of carrying through tradition, which is integral to my beliefs. Music doesn’t run as a profession in my direct family. My dad's side of the family ran FW Wood and Sons, a chemist, with shops around northeast Yorkshire. That side of the family are essentially business focused, so for my Dad to give me the support to go off and be a 'bohemian' and leave St Peters was a huge step. That’s when I really began to develop my relationship with my dad on an equal level, no longer just a Dad/Son thing. He knew that he didn’t need to 'train' me up into his profession to follow in his footsteps, and so we both started to learn from each other. He’s like my total best mate. Allowing me to do that was the biggest part of my music career, because if I didn’t go, I would never have gone to the Guildhall School of Music to do a four year Bachelor of Jazz degree in drumming and then do a masters there. I never would have done that. I wouldn’t have been good enough to get in.
Play that funky musicI started at Guildhall as a classical percussionist. I was really into solo repertoire for marimba and vibraphone and late 20th century contemporary music and wanted to study that throughout the four year degree. But I thought within that as a percussionist I’d still be able to play the drums, as that was my main passion. However, I had this thing when I went to Leeds that I just got really involved in contemporary music and high art music. I think I wanted that intellectualism of being a late teen. Genuinely, some of that music is amazing but I got to Guildhall and, after about three months, I realised that the classical percussion degree, as far as I was concerned, was primarily sitting at the back and playing a triangle part in a Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique. You'd sit there for five minutes counting bars and then you have one hit of a triangle, which you'd probably forget because it took you too long to get off your stool to go over to the triangle and hit it before you went back to sit down for another ten minutes.
I realised that music was more creative, for me, and I wanted to write. I wanted to perform and play original music so I left the classical course and they took me onto the jazz course about half way into the first year. For the first two years you still have to do classical studies as well, which is really important, a great discipline and great technique training. I finished off the last two years of the degree doing jazz solely and drums as my major.
Working it out…I taught for the college on a community project, on their outreach project called Connect, the year after I finished. I was kind of a tutor. I did loads and loads of teaching mainly in east London. We’d do these mass multi-instrumental projects with kids from the ages of 8-16 years old that would be playing anything from a violin to shakuhachi to tabla to bass. The projects were all bespoke and the aim would be to write original music with the kids for a performance or recording session. It was wicked. I did that mainly for a year and through that went on to do a masters in leadership, which sounds like some military training, but it wasn't, it was predominantly about how to lead yourself as a musician, as a creative artist. I majored in composition for moving image and that got me into an internship with a company called Brains and Hunch. Chris and Tom who run it are wicked. They’re such beautiful friends. They’re a company who work for advertising and branding. I worked with them for a year and then through that I set up A Fish Called Wampa with Jo.
Leaving jazz behind…
Even while I was studying and playing jazz, I had a real issue with it's 'traditionalism'. I hate to say it because a lot of jazz players are my best friends but they are part of a very introverted and cliquey scene. It’s quite contained, which really frustrated me while I was studying. For such a 'free' art, it was weird that people looked down on working with artists from other genres.
It wasn’t until the third or fourth year that people started to open up and work with, say, a cellist from the classical course or do a project with an opera singer and use the resources available to them. It was all quite closed like we’re just going to play Bebop and that’s it and if you’re not playing Bebop like that, then you’re shit. It became quite bitchy and I lost sight of why I was studying jazz music. I listened to jazz as a teenager and the reason I got into it was because I didn’t understand it, it was mystical and had this captivating energy. So, when I was playing it every day, studying it's theory and analysing performances, the fascination and mystique and the reason for it's existence, kind of disappeared, but, most importantly the spiritual connection remained. The stuff I listened to (I was really into Coltrane and early 60’s Miles Davis) managed to convey this awesome power and had a magical quality. But I was surrounded by priviliged people (including myself) who were middle class, lived in a different country, a different demographic and culture and a different world of reason. It was really hard to see the purpose, in New York in the 60’s, even if you were middle class, music was created and was there for a reason – invented for a reason, political, social and all the rest and I couldn't really find that purpose at all while I was at college.
Electronic music has always been a massive passion of mine. Hiphop, skateboarding and drum and bass raves were looked down on while I was studying. I almost tried to forget that side of myself but all of a sudden I went ‘What the fuck is going on? This isn’t what I believe in’. I got sucked into that snobbery thing quite quickly, so towards the end of my degree I made a conscious effort to detach myself from that shit as much as possible and begin to find my own voice and my own way. I started writing a lot of music on computers and writing dance music and trying to find my own 'mid 60’s energy'... ha ha. I realised that we are our own people and we have our own things to say. We don’t need to copy all the time.
Likes and dislikes…It gets exhausting. I’m definitely not a no person. If you’re not a no person and you say yes to things all the time, you find yourself in a situation were you’ve got three hours to sleep in a week and people are shouting at you for not completing things. It gets a bit too much. I’m trying to learn how to plan a schedule but it’s a bit of a challenge. I just end up in chaos quite a lot. Then just traveling and not being able to see your friends means, essentially, I pine for a sense of community.
On the other side, I love the fact that I don’t have a schedule as it gives me an awesome sense of freedom and the opportunities that just arrive. For example, I can get a call tomorrow about doing a show somewhere for some rad musician or a great studio job might come through and everything's beautifully kinetic. I also get to work with my mates all the time. That’s pretty rad – the majority of my network is made up of my close friends.
Sion - Untitled by goodnessgreatness
Organised chaos…A couple weeks ago was crazy. On the Monday morning, I was in a field in Cambridge at the Secret Garden Party, camping in the back of my car. We had two shows on the Thursday and Saturday night and I was meant to come back on Sunday but couldn’t drive – I definitely couldn’t drive. We were meant to be going back for a rehearsal with Death Ray Trebuchay but myself and two other band members where still in the field so we cancelled.
We drove back to London in a sorry state, came home and had to go to the studio to sort some Fish Called Wampa business out for a couple of hours. Then we packed my drum kit back into the car and went to the Proud Galleries in Camden to play a gig with Death Ray on Monday night. We went back to the studio and unloaded the drum kit at 2am and got to bed at about 4am. On Tuesday, I got to the studio at about 10am to work on finishing the Dizzee Rascal job for lunch time. We then went out to pick up equipment, came back to 'cave' and finished in the studio at about 11pm. On Wednesday, I did a 10am – 6pm stint in the studio. Thursday morning was spent driving round London running errands for the studio and then I did a recording session on Thursday afternoon
All of Friday was spent in the studio. In the evening, I did a gig at Pizza on the Park for a jazz singer, covering for her drummer. The gig finished at midnight and we headed back to Hackney to unload the drum kit at the studio at about 2am. I caught up on a few hours sleep and went back to the studio on Saturday afternoon to wire in the desk. I picked everything up to go to the Hackney Wick Festival for Saturday night. And then, at 7am on Sunday morning I forced myself out of bed and came to the studio to pick up the band and drove through to Standon Calling Festival near Cambridge. We played a lunchtime show on the main stage and then came back to London and worked in the studio, ready for recording the Death Ray E.P. Then, I went home and died at about 9pm.
IAMWAMPA - That's Right Mother Fucker (remix) by goodnessgreatness
Excess skin…I collect drums and anything to do with them – cymbals, vintage maracas… If it’s got a skin, I’ve got it!
Obstacles and hurdles…The biggest obstacle is constantly comparing myself to other people, other drummers, others musicians. It’s taken me a long time to develop confidence in myself, not having to play like any other drummer. I think the insecurity was born at college and is quite a big hurdle.
Words of wisdom…What you do today is who you are tomorrow. Continue reading...
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Where: London, UK
Website: Rosalind Davis
Rosalind at work…I am a mixed media painter (a graduate from the RCA) creating melancholy dystopian landscapes that explore human experience and identity. Before the RCA I was at Chelsea College of Art and studied textile design. I left the RCA in 2005 and have been painting and exhibiting ever since. I live and work in London and got here through sheer determination!
I seek out buildings that on the surface might seem neglected. But for the individuals who use the them, they are a refuge and are of vital importance. Often, the buildings house communities in areas of widespread social deprivation that may seem hostile or full of pathos. I am interested in transience and survival, community and isolation.
In terms of the physical aspect of the works, I fuse painting with collage, print and embroidery. Embroidery is used as a form of paint – the qualities of textiles provide an opportunity to find new freedoms and expressions in painting. The meticulousness of the embroidery and its intimate and alluring qualities are used to emphasise the fragility of the spaces depicted.
Childhood…I was very melancholic as a teenager. My home life was an area of great conflict and trouble and I was often left alone at home during my adolescence, which was very lonely. My family are wonderful in their ways but we have had a very tormented and difficult past. I was estranged from my mother and father for a number of years when I was younger. My mother is an alcoholic and when she left my father she had relationships with violent and aggressive men and that all spilled over to me, my younger brother and older sister, with whom I have very close bonds. We lived on a council estate in Brockley and we were very poor, which did not add to the fun. When I was 17 I was also trying to look after my little brother, which was difficult. I did not have the purpose and meaning of painting in my life then so I felt lost.
It wasn't all bad though – I loved school and I did have a fantastic social life to make up for the emptiness at home! I also became a published poet – an outpost for all that angst! Things are very different now, thankfully, and I have also found my drive and purpose within my painting. So, I guess it was all this instability that made me fascinated by homes and communities as we had neither. I also feel a huge amount of pathos for these places and I hope to explore this side of humanity in my works. Also, in terms of me, part of my own recovery from my childhood is linked to my work, in the creative and physical expression as well as the concepts. And I am also happy to say I have a close relationship with both parents now.
Hurdles…Apart from the above there have been plenty of hurdles. I studied mixed media textiles at the RCA. When I went into painting I didn’t really fit in at the college. I had quite a lot of challenges in my work and practise there. I used to feel very conscious of the fact that I had not come from painting, officially. But now I am being taken seriously as an artist and painter so that no longer worries me. It also means that I have originality in my work – I embroider and use print and collage on top of painting.
Unconventional education…I come from an artistic family. My father is an artist, a sculptor, and my paternal grandmother and great aunts used to be painters, although I never met them. My maternal great grandmother was a model for Vogue and she married into the Pringle family (the jumper empire) and my maternal grandmother sings with The Bach Choir. All in all, it’s pretty creative. Art and creativity was always around us and we were always going to exhibitions with our dad and grandparents.
I loved drawing when I was very young and used to draw porcelain dolls from adverts in magazines and Disney books. I also had an amazing art department at my secondary school (Sydenham Girls). The whole art department was very passionate and we were using oils from the age of 13 and doing big paintings. We also went on incredible art trips to Barcelona and Nice which really inspired me.
But I think it was at the RCA I became an artist. I was actually in the Textiles department so I persuaded the professor of painting, Graham Crowley to teach me. I learnt a lot about painting, concept and theory with him. Since leaving the RCA I have had opportunities to be mentored by Trudie Stephenson and Paul Benjamins who have also been invaluable in moving my work forward. I am still learning all the time. I rely on a peer network as well as going back to former tutors and talking to them about my work.
Talented lady…I am constantly wanting to improve my painting and to be experimental. I find painting rather humbling as it is always a great challenge and acts as a constantly moving dialogue. My interests are architecture, the places that bind us together as well as the stories behind them, the social and political aspects of the places I paint, which are fascinating. Where possible I try and speak to people in those buildings and find out their stories.
Right this minute…I am finishing some new paintings for a group show called Floorspace at Phoenix Brighton, a great contemporary art space and public gallery, and I am also promoting my solo show at Projection at John Jones which closes on the 21st August.
Gradual build-up…The art world is a pretty competitive place but since I left the RCA I have managed to exhibit a lot. The shows I get into each year, or am offered to a place take part, get better and better and I sell a bit more every year. I take that as a good sign.
Last year I was selected for Salon 08, an exhibition selected by judges such as Andrea Tarsia fom the Whitechapel Gallery. I felt like I had finally gotten recognition as a painter in the contemporary art scene. It also led onto a solo show at John Jones, which was great! I also feel more confident within my work. I got the first reviews of my exhibition as well which was lovely.
On the side…I teach. I am a freelance tutor for Bedford College, teaching the textile HND. I also set up educational workshops and have worked with the Stephen Lawrence Centre teaching people how to paint and embroider. Right now, I am planning for a drawing workshop I am doing at The Tower of London in autumn.
I have also been working on a blog called ‘Artists Talking’ on a-n, which has been really interesting and enjoyable to write. I even made it as a choice blog in August on a-n, by Matt Roberts, quite a surprise! The blog has led to more dialogue with other artists and art professionals, which has been great.
Pros and cons…It is all consuming, in both good and bad ways. It’s an obsession! I love what I do. But I dislike the uncertainty of it all. For someone who craves stability I have chosen a career that has none, so I can feel fairly fragile at times.
London life…I’ve lived in London since I was very small. I utterly adore it. I know it is a cliché but it is such an exciting and diverse place – such a rich cultural place. There is always somewhere new to explore and I am never bored here. I’ve had access to fantastic universities here, which undoubtedly helped things. Growing up on an estate in south east London, I learnt to appreciate unconventional beauty in order to survive in what may seem, on the surface, hostile and ugly places. That fascination grew with me and into my work.
Average day…It’s ever-changing! I usually try to spend as much of my week painting but often this is broken up with the occasional meeting with a curator or gallery or meeting people about the workshops I do or teaching. There is always a lot going on. And so much more paperwork than you’d expect!
Confidence…I still have lots of insecurity at times and can feel rather shy. I just get better at hiding it! But I get a lot of confidence from various things I’ve achieved since leaving college. Whether it be an exhibition or a meeting with a curator or arts professional, particularly where people give positive feedback or engage with the works or, of course, if I sell a piece. I’ve begun to get confident in my skills over time although I always think I could improve.
Encouragement…I am very lucky my friends and family are my fellow travellers in this funny and difficult world and we go through all these experiences together, they always come to see my shows and support me and I do the same. My partner is very supportive of me and encouraging, listening to me agonise over my works! He seems to think I am going to be rich one day and it will pay off somehow!
As for my parents, neither my father nor mother ever really had a normal kind of job, so they had no judgements on what I should do with my life. They are very supportive of me and my father and I get together and have a rant about the art world, its pro’s and cons!
I also get encouragement from supporters of my work, the people that buy my works and invest in it are very lovely too!
Learning about creativity…It is a deep unending well, that occasionally needs help!
Best advice…Keep going! Being an artist is a complex and demanding job besides, of course, being a fantastic job.
Collections…My partner and I have actually started collecting art! We are very passionate about contemporary art and have a few wonderful (and very small I hasten to add!) pieces that we fell in love with. It is a very satisfying thing to collect and support artists. I highly recommend it! We have a piece by Jane Ward, a piece by Fiona Curran and Donya Coward. I am saving up for a Matthew Atkinson piece.
She re-inspires herself through…Persistence! I do research trips where I go and explore – a lot of the time I explore places in London but recently also in Margate, in Kent! I go to galleries too and look at other artists. I do lots of visual research basically, but just also to keep going – drawing and thinking and making it happen.
Favourite places…I love the Tates and their bookshops! They’re always good for inspiration. And, of course, the east end galleries too and the Modern Art gallery in central London. On the web, I use A-N, Axis and Artquest.
A little downtime…I love to read when possible. I read a lot of Pablo Neruda’s poetry and love Louis De Bernière and Isabel Allende, the mixture of tragic romance and political history is enthralling. I always used to escape into books when I was a child. Now there is never enough time to do much of that. I also like films and socialising with my partner and friends. And I really enjoy cycling and running.
Back in time…I don’t really believe in looking back at what could have been but just moving forward instead. I guess I should have formally applied to go to the painting school at the RCA but I am happy with my life as it is and where it is going.
Great people…I luckily have lots of inspiring and brilliant friends and mentors. My friend Matthew Atkinson is very inspiring to me as a painter. His works are quite brilliant and he has been great at talking to me about my work, challenging and helping me to see how I can move forward. He persuaded me to use oil paints again too and I am very happy I took his advice!
Also, in terms of painters, I am inspired by Michael Raedecker, Peter Doig, George Shaw, Nigel Cook, James Wright and Graham Crowley. Shelly Love is an inspirational film maker – my sister Miranda Davis produced her film ‘The Forgotten Circus’ which is a marvellous thing to behold.
I am also about to move into a studio at Cor Blimey Arts, which I am really excited about. I think it will be a great experience!
Dream life…I would like to be in a more secure position as an artist. I work largely independently with different galleries, projects and curators, which keeps things exciting, but I would one day like to be with an established gallery, such as Modern Art, painting away! Maybe I’d do a bit of teaching too… and who knows what else!
If not art, then what…I can’t really say what I would be doing. I can’t imagine anything else now. I guess I nearly became an actress or writer. I was also once a singer in a band, so I guess it would have been something creative!
Advice from the lady herself…You don’t just paint and then see stuff happen. It is hard work. You have to be very savvy, professional and organised. You have to learn as much about the art world as possible and be as knowledgeable about your subject. And be good at promoting yourself and create opportunities if there are none. Persevere and persist.
All three images of Rosalind Davis: Courtesy of Anastasia Taylor-Lind Continue reading...
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Where: London, UK
Website: Paul Bower
Back in the day…I was shit at school. Looking back, I think I faked it. I didn’t get most subjects like maths, science or French but when it came to drawing, I really enjoyed that. I remember once on one of those days when teachers put up all the students’ work, I was walking down a corridor and saw a bunch of people standing and looking at a picture I made. That was really nice and made me feel proud that I could make something that people would stop and take time to look at.
As a kid…When I was younger I always thought I was very timid and quiet. I wouldn't do sports or any of the stuff other kids were into. I remember that primary school was amazing. You went to school, you saw your mates, you played all day (it seemed), you had art lessons with paints and plasticine and clay and collage. And you didn't worry so much about getting it right or wrong. Very natural. High school was a completely different story all together! It was fucking awful. I had so many hang ups. I wasn't cool – a lanky streak of piss who had his mum cut his hair into a bowl cut (even at 16) because he hated hairdressers. I wasn't very clever and nobody picked up on any learning disabilities or problems I had. I was into comics and drawing, Prince, Guns 'n Roses and Salt 'n Pepper. A real geek. Looking back I think I just always knew what I wanted to do and what world I wanted to live in so I kind of just went on my way, even though I thought everybody else knew what they were doing and it was me that didn't have a clue. I had some great friends at the time but puberty was a bastard (as it is for everybody, I guess).
The art path…My art teachers said I wasn't really smart enough to do A levels and that there was no living to be made as an 'artist' so I should go and do graphic design at college. I'd never heard of it before but it turned out to be exactly the right path for me. My parents didn't really get 'art' and are very 'Yorkshire' in their attitude to things, but they totally supported me. Apparently my grandmother once told them that if they let me do what it was that I did, I would always be alright. She was right somehow. I'm really proud to be a Yorkshireman. Especially in London. There is so much fannying around and bullshit and fake drama around here. I obviously love it here but I often think that most people wouldn't do anything unless they could be seen doing it. They can't just get on with it and enjoy it. It's all fake whistles and bells a lot of the time. Up north, we know our muck from our brass! The same can be said about the art and also the design world. I'm not interested in joining either one. I'm quite happy doing what I do though I think you should always take any opportunity that comes your way from all directions.
Illustrated life…I'm an artist and illustrator living in south London where I have been for the past 13 years or so. I studied Graphics and Illustration at Lincoln University (a long time ago). I realised that I always wanted to draw and make things, but didn't like the way we were taught just one discipline. I decided to major in illustration because I wanted to do everything at the same time – typography, graphics, painting, drawing, 3D, photography. Illustration lets you do that while I felt (which isn't the case for everyone) that graphic design was more computer-based and less about art for art's sake.
Along the way…I worked in restaurants, shops, many years in bars and cinemas – whatever gave me the opportunity to draw in the day and work at night. My first creative job was as a window display designer for American Retro in Soho. I was a shop assistant there and one day Sue Tarran the owner asked me to have a go. She was pretty tough (she had to be to last so long in Soho) and I was as green as grass, coming from a small mining village in south Yorkshire. But she kind of saw something in me, I think, and it was the start of something new. Sue let me be very creative with her displays. Once we set fire to sheets of wallpaper and hung it in the window. It was great fun.
While doing that I was working stupid hours at the Dogstar (bar) in Brixton. I would work until two or three in the morning and then start work at American Retro at nine on a Saturday. It was crazy but I looked forward to it, to creating. The Dogstar had such a high turn over of staff and everybody would move on. Sometimes I felt left behind but it was the only way I could build up a body of work – gradually. It was a tough time I guess.
Obstacles…I didn't like the work I had produced at university. It was a good university but it had a very particular approach to art and design, which was great for some but not for me. But that was useful too because you need to know what you don't like in order to find out what you do like! In London I decided to keep the bits I liked and start all over again (I'm still trying to figure it out. But I like that). I started taking my portfolio 'round to magazines and places like the AOI (Association of Illustrators) but all of them told me 'Thank but no thanks'. I once got ripped to shreds and shouted at (in public) by a well-respected woman in the illustration world and told that my work was 'too schizophrenic'. She said I had ten different styles and used ten different mediums, way too many in her opinion. Looking back, I think she had some valid points but she scared the shit out of me! My work was often called schizophrenic. Publishers didn't want me but I found that strange things would come along, out of the blue, that would keep me going.
Confidence, slowly slowly…A gentleman I served drinks to in Brixton got chatting to me one day. He found out what I did and asked me to do art installations in his newly opened café called The Brixton Lounge. Maynard (the gentleman) became a friend and paid me to do whatever I wanted, to draw attention to the place. He never once asked me what I was going to do beforehand. I experimented with all sorts of things including sculpture, which I'd never done previously. My favourite installation was a cloud sculpture with lightbulbs. Every time I did something for the café it was totally different to the last. And each time I got more confident.
A lucky break…After working for years in my tiny bedroom (see the photos), I was encouraged by a boyfriend, artist Jimmy Robert, to hold a show. He worked in a cinema in Soho that had a small corridor for exhibitions and he had a vacancy to fill. I said 'Yes, I'll do it' and 'How long have I got to produce the work?' He said 'Two days!' That was great really because I was quite shy and didn't have time to think about how to do it. I just had to use the work I had built up over time. It got some good and bad reviews. I sold a piece, which I'd broken while cleaning for the show but instead of not using it, I'd written on the frame 'Sorry I broke it'. That became its title. As a result of the show I got an agent, Pocko, who I am still with and I love their style.
I don’t know how it’s all worked out for me. I used to work in my bedroom and then I got my studio because a friend gave it to me and I took over it. And in the end I started to afford it myself and did it up. I keep trying to do stuff and sometimes people like it and sometimes they don’t. That’s just how it is. You have to keep going.
Currently…I am making images, conveying ideas. At the moment, I am making a book cover for Random House, I'm painting a sculpture project for my agency to have a show and I've just got my first proper printing press and am trying to make prints to sell. That will hopefully lead me on to printing my own books and stupid stories for kids and immature adults. Eventually.
Learning…I learnt a lot of things at university but since then I have taken evening courses in animation, life drawing and screen printing to name a few. None of which I use on a daily basis at all but they help my brain to work from different angles and help me work with different mediums. A lot of the stuff I have taught myself which I think is the best way. You don't get to know everything but you also don't learn the 'limitations' that others get taught. One of my favourite designers David Carson was self taught and he just ignored the rule book because he didn't even know it was there.
Favourite work…One of the most important things that anyone has said to me about my work is that my sketchbooks are where my 'real' work lies. I'm still trying to get to the point where I have the confidence to go with my original work and not put it into the next step of 'over finishing' it. That is my goal really.
People, inspiration…All those people who just make stuff for the hell of it. I love it when people just get an idea and go with it. Some of my favourite artists are the unrestricted ones – Jean Michel Basquiat, Peter Blake, Sara Fanelli, David Carson, Eileen Agar, Tim Burton, Jim Henson (Muppets), Hat Show Print (their typography and posters are all amazing), Arthur Adams (Marvel comics), Leigh Bowery (a crazy performance artist/fashion designer). When I used to work at American Retro this guy used to be one of the customers. He had all these amazing outfits. I didn’t see what the point of it was but if you look at what he created it was just amazing.
At the same time, the really tight work of people like Jack Kirby, Mike Mignola, Lane Smith and Chinese paper cuts.
When inspiration runs low…Sometimes I'll spend the afternoon going around the Tate in 10 minutes flat, followed by the comic shops, followed by the record shops, and then Borders or Waterstones. I go to shops and treat them like galleries, especially bookshops. I love bookcovers so walking around a bookshop is like walking around a free gallery, with lots of free art work. If you rush through and let your eyes drift along you instantly know what catches your eye and gets your heart racing again. It gives me a little reminder about what I love doing and how lucky I am to do it. I also get to see all the things I don't like and that helps me clear my head and steer myself back to my own path and go in the right direction. I should do the same on the internet but I find that when I sit in front of it my mind goes blank and I don't know where to start.
Friends…I'm really lucky to have friends that inspire me. They all do such different things and every time I get to see them they seem to have done so much since the last time. Cara the illustrator, Loo the animator, Jo the painter, Katherine the textile designer, Jimmy the performance artist, Itxasne the photographer, etc. The most inspiring people I know are my best friends Clair Tivey (a mad Yorkshire lass down here in London who is a currently a civil servant and has such a positive outlook on life. You can't help but want to take the world on) and Charlotte Ratcliffe, mother of three who remarried her kids' dad after earlier divorcing, did a HND, then a degree, then an MA, while bringing up the kids (the oldest has aspergers, the youngest survived heart desease. I remember her writing her dissertation at the hospital bedside while the kids were sleeping). She's had many jobs, including teaching, even learnt sign language so she didn't miss anyone out. One minute she is cooking a Sunday roast for six, then she is out in the garden building an allotment while it's all in the oven. Then they're whisking the kids off to an art gallery and taking pens and paper along so we can all draw what we see. Very inspiring people. They have absolutely no regard for how things 'ought' to be done. They just do it.
Future…I aim to be more like my friends and people I look up to in the future, as there are loads of things I want to do but have a terrible habit of thinking too long about it rather than just doing it. As well as starting up a range of printed work (posters, cards, fabrics, papers, etc), I'd love to start getting into writing and illustrating my own children's books. I love doing book covers too. It allows me to do typography and illustration at the same time and I love the discipline of it. The famous three 'f's rule of 'Form Follows Function' totally applies here. I was really lucky in that the very first book cover I did won the Victoria and Albert Museum award for Best Book Cover back in 2007 (ooh, get me!), and now I sometimes think there is a bit of pressure to perform but there isn't really. It's all about the fun of it. That should always come through I think. Probably the most important thing I can think of for me. I know my work is sarcastic but it's usually quite positive in it's nature. Even when I'm taking a swipe at something. I want to make stuff and get a reaction from people, for them to say something, whether it’s good or bad. I just hate it when people don’t really say anything at all. That gets on my tits.
Advice…If you are going to spend half your life at work, you might as well try to do something that you enjoy. It scared me to think that I could spend the majority of my life doing something I don't like at all. What I'm doing now is perhaps more a result of that fear than of bravery!
You just do what you need to do. The only thing you need is to feed yourself and have a roof over your head and to be honest, most people in my position can do that. So, if you work to earn enough money to cover the necessities, what else are you going to do with your time? Continue reading...