Thursday, 30 December 2010


To Every Seed His Own Body © Polly Morgan
After the over indulgence of Christmas I'm sure this is how the majority of us are feeling! Our turkey has long shuffled off this mortal coil and has been reduced to soup and sandwiches but it could have so much more beautiful and different if it had fallen into the hands of Polly Morgan.

Polly Morgan is a British born artist who uses the medium of taxidermy to put across her interpretation of life, death and beauty. She is a fully qualified taxidermist but isn't interested in recreating animals in realistic life like poses or habitats, instead she has a more poetic approach sitting somewhere between the Victorian love of taxidermy that saw large dioramas of human events rendered with animals, (the most recognisable being 'The Kitten's Wedding') and the Romantic paintings of Joseph Wright.
Bird in an Air Pump, Joseph Wright of Derby

Kitten's Wedding 1898, Walter Potter
The first time I saw Polly Morgan's work I was struck by it's directness and strength, it immediately recalled my own growing up in the country and the everydayness of  death.

One piece entitled "Still Birth" transported me directly to an episode where my little sister accidentally killed my pet duckling. She was only about 2 or 3 years old at the time and decided to pick it up and pet it, unfortunately she held it by the neck while petting it, and didn't notice it dying then simply placed it back in the nest. It was there that I found it later that evening when I went to feed it. It lay there with it's neck limp, it's beak slightly open and it's head lying on a bump of straw.

Still Birth, 2010 © Polly Morgan
It's strange to have a piece of art talk to you that directly to the point where I can smell the warm dusty straw and feel the 'dead weight' of the duckling in my hand. If you're intrigued by Polly Morgan's work then click here to access her site. Also as a foot note all the animals used in her work died of natural causes.
© Polly Morgan
Pyric Victors, 2009 ©Polly Morgan

Black Fever and Blue Fever, 2010 © Polly Morgan

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

TED Talks: Dennis Dutton on Beauty

Dennis Dutton gave this fantastic speech on the universality of beauty, it's a condensed version of his book The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution which I now need to track down after watching this.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Zero 10

Earlier this year I designed the identity for a new London Gallery called Zero 10. Founded by Johann Bournot the Gallery represents a fantastic handful of new artists and is hosting a solo exhibition of paintings by Nikola Savic at St James's Church in January.
For the exhibition Nikola has created a large drawing that will be put to a silent auction on the evening of the preview and the proceeds will be donated to St James's Church charity. For more information on Zero 10 and the exhibition visit their site here.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Bye Bye Captain

I woke up this morning to a landscape covered in a blanket of white and the news that one of my musical heroes had died. Don Van Vliet or Captain Beefheart was a unique  artist and muscian, always confrontational (some say tyrannical) but when you listen to his music you were in the presence of a visionary.

I still remember my first introduction to the Captain, a friend lent me a copy of Clear Spot on vinyl. I remember slipping it out of it's sleeve, placing the needle on the record and then just being dumbstruck by the craft and depth of the songs. The guitar loop of "A Blue Million Miles" was lodged in my head for days, (this wasn't helped by the fact that there was a jump in the vinyl at this point so it just kept seamlessly repeating!) And the lyrical poetry of "Golden Birdies" just wouldn't leave me. Then as it always is when you discover a special artist, author or musician I started tracking down the rest of his back catalogue. Some were gems others diamonds in the rough, but all of them were unmistakeably Captain Beefheart.

So farewell my Captain and thanks for being you.
Feather Times a Feather by Don Van Vliet, 1987

Friday, 17 December 2010

Christmas Concert

A bit late in the day I know but if you are in London and at a loose end and are feeling festive with all the snow fall and Christmas parties then pop down to Kings Place tonight to enjoy and experience the Arctic Circle Christmas Concert. It's becoming a bit of an annual event and this year sees the excellent Emily Barker, Ted Barnes, The Sleeping Years, Gill Sandell, Dom Coyote, Harry Escott and Sam Amidon provide the music plus a few projected visuals by me.

Go on it's Friday!!!

Friday Photo

Robin, Lyon 2009

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Meet Leonard Hussey…

Mr Hussey finds time to put his banjo down and pick up a large dog
I'm just decompressing from the last flurry of design activity for the year long project which has been the Explorers' Club. As I have mentioned in previous posts it has been a great project to work on, with an excellent range of musicians and having a new release coming out each month this year but it has been a lot of work. 

The Explorer's Club poster image
After I hit the send button on the last 'deliverable' I ran a hot bath and turned on Radio 4, by coincidence the programme that happened to be on was called "Vital Mental Medicine" which was about Shakelton's ill fated expedition to the South Pole in Endurance and the role music played in keeping the stranded crew alive and it seemed to chime with the Explorers Club.

I knew about Frank Hurley's amazing photographs of the ship, the frosted rigging making the ship look like a spectral apparition trapped in the pack ice, but I didn't know anything about Leonard Hussey and his musical role in the expedition! Hussey was the expeditions Meterologist but was made part of the crew because he could play the banjo.

The importance of music was made clear as the Endurance was sinking through the Antarctic pack-ice, Ernest Shackleton allowed each member of his expedition to take 2lbs of possessions with them as they abandoned ship. One exception was made; while Hurley was wading through the ice cold water saving his photographic plates Shackleton dove in and saved Leonard Hussey's banjo saying, "We must have that banjo. It's vital mental medicine."
So it proved; when Shackleton set off in a small boat to sail to South Georgia to get help, he left behind twenty-two men on Elephant Island. There they lived for months under an upturned boat and old sails. Every Saturday the banjo-playing meteorologist put on a concert. He composed songs about the crew members and whenever they caught a seal to eat brought out his banjo. He played, the men sang - and anger and depression were kept at bay.

Leonard Hussey survived, as did his banjo, now in the National Maritime Museum, its skin marked with a dozen signatures of members of the failed expedition to the South Pole.

Mr Hussey's banjo signed by the gang

Hussey was interviewed in the 1950's for radio where amongst other things he talked about his banjo having seen action in warmer climes, "having among other things been played to an audience of cannibals in Africa."

Ah the magic and universality of music!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Front & Followers

Justin over at F&F sent me through this link to Juke Box Heart who are doing a two part label review. The first part focus on the the first four releases and the second part on the LDWR project.

A nice mention for the design of the releases as well. Will keep you posted on part 2.

Modern mix

There are probably those among you who are reading this that are too young to have experienced the true magic of putting together a compilation tape. The physicality never mind time spent choosing the perfect opening song. Should it be a quote from a film? Maybe something from a kids programme taped live from the TV. I remember a good compilation taking weeks of contemplation to find the 'perfect' next song to carry the mood of the tape, and that's with out mentioning making the cover!

I recently came across this video from IDEO who are playing about with a new way to inject a bit of the warmth and tactility of "Mix Tapes"back into digital music. I'm not sure it will ever go into production but I like the idea that we can take the convenience of digital music files and make them  more human and interactive.

c60 Redux from IDEO on Vimeo.

The nearest I have come to it so far is this USB cassette, which has all the fun of putting a playlist together and a bit of retro packaging that's customisable to boot.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The last mile…

The 12 illustrations for the Explorers series
Ah the adventure that has been the Explorers club is finally coming to an end. 12 monthly releases that have featured 43 exclusive songs from over 40 artists. It has been a lot of work but it has been a great pleasure seeing the series grow and receiving a link each month to discover and explore new artists and new songs. Thanks to all those involved in creating the illustrations for the sleeves and the music that has been excellent and to Arctic Circle and LOaf for pulling it all together. It's still not too late to subscribe to the series, just pop over to LOaf where all the tracks are still available. This is the latest illustration for a bonus release called "Lost Luggage" which will be released next week.

Cover for Lost Luggage, a bonus release for the Explorers Club

Monday, 6 December 2010

Jen Stark Animations

I have been a fan of Jen Starks paper sculptures  for quite a while now,  so I was really excited when i went back to her website to find not only a redesign and new work but also an animation section!

"Streaming Gradient" by Jen Stark from Jen Stark on Vimeo.

The Highest Point © Jen Stark
If you don't know her work pop over to her site and take a look at her beautifully intricate paper cut sculptures. Here are a few examples of what you will find.
Recipricol © Jen Stark
Purple © Jen Stark

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Tis the Season

The Inside with fold out poster, card, badges and the CD
Another cold day in London, so it made me think of a little project I did ages ago with Pika Pika, LOAF records and AC. If your feeling getting in the festive mood give this alternative  collection of Christmas originals a go.

The front of the limited edition version with "snow"

The back of the limited edition version