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Archived posts: February 2013

The Story 2013

Last Friday we were lucky enough to go along to The Story 2013 – a rather wonderful little one-day conference about stories and storytelling organised by Matt Locke. The Ministry of Stories were doing a short presentation about their work, and a portion of the proceeds from the ticket sales went to the Ministry too.

Matt asked us to create a small gift to give away to all the delegates on behalf of Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, so we put together these pouches of Witches’ Brews:

“Featuring some of the very rarest ingredients, our Witches’ Brews deliver perfect potions every time. This classic blend includes Scale of Dragon, Wool of Bat, and Scraping of Lipstick; wonderfully enhanced with Roasted Toenails, Plucked Fairy Wings, and of course, Blackberry Leaves. For each brew, simply steep one bag in a cup of boiling water for about 5 minutes, while chanting the appropriate spell or incantation.”

The back of the packs featured the running order of the event:

(We’ll be producing the Witches’ Brews as a product for Hoxton Street Monster Supplies in the near future, so stay tuned.)

The conference itself was really fascinating, with many highlights.

It opened with the wonderful Edwyn Collins discussing his life after suffering a devastating stroke in 2005. He was chatting with director Ed Lovelace, who is putting together a documentary In your voice, in your heart, about Collins’ journey back after the stroke.

A bit later, Laura Dockrill exploded onto the stage to talk about her new book Darcy Burdock. Laura’s fantastic, and her reading from the book was electrifying.

After lunch, animator Ben Boucquelet spoke about the genesis of his totally brilliant TV show The Amazing World of Gumball, which airs on Cartoon Network. Based around a kid called Gumball Watterson (is that a nod to Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes?), and his family and friends, it’s a glorious mish-mash of animation styles, all anchored in really brilliant storytelling – heartfelt without collapsing into sentimentality.

“The Wattersons are a totally normal family. Dad is a big pink rabbit who stays at home while Mom works at the Rainbow factory. Their kids are pretty standard too: there’s Gumball, a blue cat with a giant head. Anais, a four-year-old genius bunny rabbit and Darwin, a pet goldfish who became part of the family when he sprouted legs.”

Around them live a host neighbours and schoolfriends, who include Anton, a crumbly piece of toast; Alan the balloon who’s in a doomed relationship with Carmen the cactus; Tina the T-Rex, who’s the school bully; and Banana Joe, the happy fool. Here are a couple of short clips:

If you’ve more time though, check out this episode, where Gumball’s dad gets a job, a situation which threatens the very existence of the universe:

Quite wonderful.

A bit later we were treated to more animated brilliance by Mikey Please, with his Bafta-winning short film, The Eagleman Stag:

Just brilliant.

Huge thanks to Matt for pulling together such a brilliant set of speakers. Already looking forward to next year.

Mummy!

She showed you how to tie your shoes. She showed you how to do your teeth. How to do your times tables. How to iron a shirt. She held your hand when you were feeling scared, and she mopped your brow when you were feeling ill. She listened to you, she laughed with you. She fed you, encouraged you, hugged you and held you.

Maybe send her a card?

Mother’s Day is Sunday 10 March (in the UK) – so how about you grab one of our Mummy! cards from Hoxton Street Monster Supplies? Beautifully printed from woodblock letters by the folks at New North Press, profits from the cards go to support the Ministry of Stories.

Poster Art 150

We dropped in to the London Transport Museum over the weekend to check out their truly fantastic new show, Poster Art 150.

Put on to celebrate the 150th birthday of the London Underground, the densely packed show is a collection of 150 of the best posters produced for the tube. It features a stack of brilliant designs from the big names in poster design, including Abram Games, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Frederick Charles Herrick, Tom Eckersley, Edward Bawden, Fougasse (above); as well as a few fine artists, including Man Ray and Howard Hodgkin.

The show is split into six thematic areas, which neatly sidesteps the possible problem that might have occurred had the exhibition been chronological – namely that the more recent designs just aren’t as good. Partly this is due to the rose-tinted nature of nostalgia, but it’s not just that – the earlier designs have an energy, simplicity and wit that seems to have faded away from most of the contemporary designs we see now on the tube. Hopefully this show might serve as an inspiration though, both to the commissioners at the tube, and also to designers.

And you know, it’s interesting to stop there and linger on that word ‘designers’.

It feels like most of the contemporary commissions on the underground are given over to fine artists rather than designers. Witness the Olympic and Paralympic Posters for London 2012, Mark Wallinger’s Labyrinth, and The Roundel: 100 Artists Remake a London icon – all commissioned through the Art on the Underground programme. Where are the commissions for designers? Surely a show like this demonstrates just how brilliant a tradition of design London Transport has – it’d be great to see them embracing that by commissioning more contemporary designers, rather than just fine artists.

Anyway, here are some of our picks from the exhibition:

‘A train every 90 seconds’, the first poster Abram Games designed for London Underground, in 1937.

‘Behind the seen’, one half of a pair poster by James Fitton from 1948.

‘The lure of the Underground’, by Alfred Leete (the chap behind the Britons: Lord Kitchener Wants You poster) from 1927. This is a glorious poster – a fantastic economy of line, with wonderful characterisation, as you can see in the detail below:

Austin Cooper’s poster advertising the V&A’s first major poster show in 1931, and depicting Mercury, the winged messenger of the gods.

One of the highlights of the show is the fantastic array of different and frequently bonkers typographic styles. Here are some lovely ligatures from Frederick Charles Herrick’s ‘The lap of luxury’ poster from 1925:

And two Os getting up close and personal in Charles Paine’s ‘Boat Race’ poster from 1921:

And Alan Rogers’ lovely styling of the word Underground from his 1930 ‘Speed Underground’ poster:

Tasty stuff.

‘For the Zoo’, from 1933, by Maurice A. Miles, one of many posters for London Zoo featured in the show.

‘Away from it all’ by M.E.M. Law in 1932 – has a tube train ever looked so dynamic?

And finally, ‘Cup final’ by Eric George Fraser in 1928, which puts you right in the heart of the action.

The show runs until 27 October, and is really outstanding – do get along if you can.

Towards a new iconography