Sunday, 16 October 2011

Three heads are better than one!

My vintage scarf inspired these little cuties. When wearing the scarf one day with red lipstick (as you do) my Dad remarked that I looked like a Russian Doll. One thing led to another and I started working on the design.

After some research I drew the image in Illustrator. I needed to keep it simple to suit the die-stamping process and the small image size when printed on a correspondence card.

An earlier version of the Illustrator Drawing

But, the illustration really came to life when die-stamped from an engraved die in my favourite colours - gold, red and blue. Available to buy from Mount Street Printers (£13.95 for a pack of 10 with tissue lined envelopes).

The finished correspondence cards with blue tissue lined envelopes

If you are big into the Russian Doll theme check out Hazel Nicholl's designs on her blog  She has prints and cotton totes printed with a Russian Doll - I love the wording that accompanies her doll "Its whats inside that counts".

Sunday, 17 July 2011

You say Steinberg, I say Steinway...

Saul Steinberg - various drawings

I was very excited when I got to design a jazz inspired invitation last week. My client had requested a moody image featuring a pianist. Later, just as I was knee deep in atmospheric, smoky shots of jazz musicians and blue note covers they decided to change tack and use a line drawing, suggesting maybe a Steinberg? and I scoffed, don't you mean "Steinway"?...No! they meant the famous, and very cool illustrator Saul Steinberg. (Incidentally the Steinway piano brand started out as Steinweg...just to confuse us even further).

A quick google search revealed one of those artists that some how seeps into your brain without you even knowing it. I was immediately reminded of the doodles my Dad loves to do of men with strange shaped heads. And, in particular I remembered the electrifying day when he drew a moustache and glasses, in blue biro, directly onto my three year old sister's face. You know the type of moustache and glasses you draw on po-faced politicians, or glamorous women in the Sunday newspapers. I remember feeling terrified but thrilled at the possibility that maybe he had made a terrible error of judgement. Kate seemed to enjoy it at the time, but I think it was one of those seminal moments in her life which eventually led her down the path of makeup artistry. My mother was not present for this particular moment of madness, you only have to turn your back for one minute, and before you know it your toddler has an avant-garde tattoo of a moustache and glasses on their face...

Saul Steinberg 1944 - Kate's Revenge?

I couldn't find a Steinberg piano player (although I'm sure he must have drawn one at least once!), so here's my attempt. Not a patch on the real thing, but if you squint your eyes and look from a distance it might fool you for a second. It turns out it's really hard to achieve a fluid, spontaneous, minimalist drawing, that at first glance appears quite naive, but on closer inspection reveals that it was actually informed by years of studying and observing form, shape, line and human nuance. Who'd have thunk it!

Jazz Pianist, after Steinberg

Among other things, Steinberg was famous for his illustrations in the New Yorker. I have acquired a quantity of old New Yorkers from the late 40s, which I am going through at the moment. They are fit to bursting with wonderful illustrations and cartoons by various artists. I will post them here soon.

For more information on Saul Steinberg visit this site:

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Delectable Things That Bring Me Cheer! No.2

I have been very disappointed with chocolate lately. Even my Leonidas Easter Egg was lacking. So imagine my joy when someone produced this box of chocolates at work one day - a present from a very kind benefactor with impeccable taste. The beautiful box was full of chocolate promise, but I had been down that road before, with a beautiful tin from Carluccio's which turned out to contain acrid cherry liquors. This time the promise was fulfilled. The box pictured above was filled (for a very short time) with three tiers of the most joyful, melt in the mouth chocolates. Small, bite size morsels with subtle and divine flavour.

We knew the box hailed from Vienna. A little google investigation found that the Demel Café and Bakery in Vienna was a connoisseur secret. I believe the pictures below are of Demel - you never can tell with the internet, nevertheless, they conjure up the idea perfectly. The Demel shop in Kohlmarkt was founded by Ludwig Dehne in 1786. I imagine a visit to Demel must be very atmospheric, starting with a large glass window containing a display to rival Juliette Binoche's Easter window in "Chocolat". With architecture and decor steeped in the Baroque style preserved over the centuries and the sweet aroma of pastries and chocolate filling the air - It's definitely being added to my travel wish-list.

And it is the gift that keeps on giving! As I got to keep the empty box afterwards. In true "Chocolate Box" style the quaint illustration on the front of the box pictures a perfect innocent world, the children in their Sunday best must be off to visit the Demel Shop for a special treat. Will they leave the dog behind? You can see he is a fan of Demel too! The pale blue is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette and Tiffanys, both icons of luxury. But my favourite element of the box has got to be the repeat pattern with the Demel logo lining the box, there is something so pleasing about the simplicity of the hand drawn script.

Interestingly until 1965, Demel was involved in a drawn-out legal battle with the Sacher about the origins of the Sachertorte, as both claimed it started in their pastry kitchens. The legendary hotel won, though Demel still sells its own version. Apparently the Sacher torte has a thin layer of apricot jam in the center, while Demel’s has its right underneath the dark-chocolate glaze. Quite frankly, I'd be happy with either...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String

My new correspondence card designs have hit the shelves at Meticulous Ink! The range features five designs letterpress printed onto luxurious cotton rich paper at the Met Ink HQ in Bath. Featuring a limited colour pallet of dusty sky blue and coral red. Packaged in brown paper boxes foil stamped with the Meticulous Ink logo, each box contains eight cards of one design with envelopes lined in red and blue tissue (four of each tissue per box - chose a lining on a whim). The motifs illustrate some of my favourite things; Dorothy's Ruby Slippers, The Ubiquitous Little-Red-Number, Jet Setting, Playing Your Cards Right (or keeping them close to your chest!!), and no range would be complete without the Cherry On Top! I'm working on a new range right now - watch this space!

Available to buy at Meticulous Ink now!   01225 333 004

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Xocolatl - An Epicurean Delight

Apologies to Jesus, but my favourite things about Easter are the ubiquitous little fluffy chicks that suddenly appear and multiply (presumably made by elves in the Easter version of Lapland) and of course my favourite thing all year round, but especially when egg shaped - CHOCOLATE!

Like all the best things, chocolate was introduced to Europe in the 16th Century through carnage, bloodshed and ruthless exploitation. It’s first incarnation, a sacred Aztec drink called xocolatl, was ‘discovered’ by Columbus. But the bitter, scummy and peppery drink had been intensely disliked by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, so it never made it past the first round of auditions. Luckily for us, Hernando Cortés thought it a product worth pursuing and modified the mixture with sugar and vanilla making it more palatable and wowing the Spanish court.

At first it was very expensive, the reserve of aristocrats, and not universally liked. One critic proclaimed the mixture of cocoa beans, sugar, cinnamon, red pepper, cloves, fennel and aniseed a “wash fitter for hogs” - and he might well have been right! But xocolatl was here to stay and went through various modifications as it traveled from Spain to Vienna, then onto France and England before reaching it’s current well-loved status and Milton Hershey’s vision of the “snack of the future”. Boy, am I glad I'm living in the future...

My favourite chocolate experiences are:
  • A cup of extra thick hot chocolate at cafe chain Apostrophe, I like to pretend it's close to the Aztec original, which if course it isn't. But, it is delicious and really thick!
  • Visiting Selfridges chocolate section beside the food hall, the moving conch display at Artisan du Chocolate is worth starting with, to get your mouth watering...Other notables are the Maison du Chocolate stand, good old Godiva and those round boxes of champagne truffles from Charbonnel et Walker.
  • Bags of broken Easter egg from Leonidas after Easter weekend - for some reason it tastes even better than the intact egg (I always get both - just to be sure).
  • Leonidas's cherry liquor - literally a whole Cherry (with stalk and stone) infused with cherry liquor and all enrobed in dark chocolate. Truly divine!
  • The Film 'Chocolat' with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.

    For further reading on this subject I highly recommend “The Connoisseur’s Guide to Chocolate” by Chantal Coady, where I gleaned most of the information for this post. It features lots of interesting facts about the history and production of chocolate as well as a directory of the best chocolate makers in the world.

    Friday, 1 April 2011

    Delectable Things That Bring Me Cheer!

    This will be an ongoing series, as I have a bit of a thing for delectable things and regularly buy them on a whim. No. 1 in the series is this tin of White Tuna in Olive Oil that I found in Waitrose. I think what really drew me in was the way it was displayed; tins of varying sizes stacked together, with some turned on their side, like a good old fashioned 1950s grocery store. There is something lovely about lots of the same thing stacked together in a pleasing arrangement - which harks back to my earlier post "Tidy Up Time" about things arranged neatly...(there is a bit of a theme emerging here!)

    The good thing is, it will keep while I mull over what to do with it - I'm thinking a nice Tuna Nicoise Salad...

    Saturday, 19 March 2011

    Mad Days

    I have been working on a Mad Men themed invite this week. The wonderful Mo, a friend of Mount Street Printers, lent me these great original Lucky Strike adverts to scan in. I am waiting for my order of Mad Men series 4 to arrive from Amazon at the end of the month, and I am so looking forward to it! I might take up drinking scotch, but I think I'll leave the cigarettes.