Sunday, 9 December 2012

Studio Christmas Print 2012

IT IS DECEMBER! No.... honestly,.... I promise. Yep, the December at the end of the year. Yes, yes I know.

For us in the studio and workshop, it has meant lots of mince pie eating (as of November he 27th) and all sorts of other indulgent activities - citing 'the season as the reason' every time.

One of the events that kicked off the month for us was a workshop that we ran at the Turner Contemporary for their Christmas 'Late Night Live' on the 30th November. We brought along a load of specially made wooden disks and showed everyone how to screen print them to make baubles and decorations. A great night! We even made a tree for the occasion, from scrap wood of course.

The other seasonal thing we've been getting into is of course printing our yearly Christmas card! I liked 2012's design so much that we've decided to produce it as larger size in a limited edition fine art print.

We have hand screen printed 'Winter Sun' as a run of 100 copies only, using black and metallic gold acrylic ink on high quality art paper. Each print is signed and edition numbered, with a letter of authenticity, and presented in a smart cellophane sleeve with recycled mount board back.

Stop in to the shop if you would like to pick one up for £35, and have a lovely December everyone!

Monday, 20 August 2012

'Print the Past' workshops - Cooke's Creative Heritage project.

It was great to pay another visit to Cooke’s studios last month and work with the volunteers in a new ‘printing the past’ workshop. After the fantastic images that were made in the last sessions, creating computer-generated patterns based on Cooke’s history, I was really keen to get us doing some printing! Once again, drawing inspiration from the colourful and rich timeline of the building, we put together some shapes and images that related to the former use of the studios. Some taking part wanted to continue the same theme that they were working with before, others wanted to try a fresh subject and chose something new to illustrate. The up to date computer equipment at Signal Films meant that we could create shapes and patterns in the design program ‘photoshop’ and print these out to make stencils. Everyone did a brilliant job cutting all of their detailed computer designs out of stencil vinyl (a plastic sticky paper) and we mounted these to the back of silk screens in order to print multiples of the designs. We had fabric to print onto that will be turned into shopping bags to accompany the exhibition for the project. A lovely little reminder of what the building used to be!

Some generated images of the tools that would have been used in the top floor workshop; others illustrated the dress sales and haberdashery link to the building. We even printed some of the designs onto paper, and used the negatives of the stencils to make screen prints too! A really productive couple of days where everyone had a go with the modern technology as well as the traditional printing method.

After two weeks of image-making up at Signal Films with all of the volunteers, I have more than enough designs to start putting together a really special item for the end of project exhibition. Not only are we going to have a collection of shopper bags with the Cooke’s designs on, but I’ve been commissioned to make an extra piece that will reflect the building's history and contain all of the artwork too. After spending so much time in a store that used to house a cabinet maker's on the top floor, you might imagine what I'm planning to make....

Monday, 13 August 2012

Pushing Print 2012 - Festival talk

 For the last few years Margate has been running it's own independent festival -'Pushing Print'- that celebrates all things... printed! Although it has only been running since 2009, this growing event has become an unmissable few weeks in Kent's creative calendar and draws visitors and submissions from all parts of the country.

As this year's theme for Pushing Print is 'applied print', I've been deemed appropriate to give a talk about whatever I like. (I make a daily habit of applying print to unusual things you see)

I've entitled my talk 'The Potential of Print', and intend to only briefly touch on my own work before moving on to discuss what I feel are the fantastic ways that this process can be used outside of paper or fabric, and those who are diversely wielding it in 2 and 3D. Some of this information I deliberately don't even know yet, and am excited about researching for the next few months. More than ever I was keen to give a contemporary talk that was more than just the life and work of Z.Murphy.

The article below will feature in the Pushing Print newspaper and is an introduction to my talk. Please join me - 11am on the 13th October at the Pushing Print festival - to see what I have found out!

Details of tickets can be found on the website for Pushing Print.

The Potential of Print. 
By Zoe Murphy

As a person who makes things for a living, I have always been indifferent to surface in the very best of ways. This might seem a strange notion, as craftspeople are usually remembered for their ability to value a particular material. They will work to highlight the individuality of their chosen medium and attempt to distinguish it from other metals/wood/textiles. Oddly enough, I contrast to this in having a very unbiased approach to the surfaces I come across. This has turned out to be a driving force for my work in print.

It is thanks to this sort of material-blindness that I have developed into a designer that subconsciously ignores a lot of the conventional uses for materials. One that doesn’t initially see the difference between fabric, metal, and timber, - I credit them all with the same potential and possibility. I print onto fabric, on to wood, glass, and on to laminates and Formica, using them all for anything from furniture to jewellery. It would not be an obscure idea to me to think of applying the same process to a floor, or a wall, or a car, or a person. Although it is always compulsory to refine the process after exploring the material, I still think this kind of ‘well why not?’ approach to a newly discovered surface has been fundamental to my work.

When I was studying for my BA in Textile design, I realised that I often included found objects or surfaces in my design work. This then quickly turned into using my design work on found objects or surfaces, and I finally created a series of re-used furniture and textiles that were entirely decorated using screen-printing. There followed a wonderful amount of interest from my graduation show and it allowed me to set up my own design business in Margate creating more of the same kind of furniture and textiles.

This love of indiscriminately printing onto everything that sits still, marries perfectly with the other driving force behind my work – my huge compulsion to try and reduce waste. Armed with the notion of ‘I don’t care what it is, I’ll print on it’, I have used this favourite process of mine to recycle chests of drawers, silk from wedding dresses, kitchen tables, and all manner of other surfaces and objects. It is paramount to me that consumers have a stronger relationship with the things that they use, even more so that these objects might be ones that are in existence already and not being appreciated to their full potential. So I try to use my printed designs as a life saving tool to re-use surfaces that seem to have exhausted their current function, either because they are damaged or because they are dated.

Print, for me, allows that wonderful injection of colour or image that can recapture the attention of a consumer, usually because they are chosen specifically for that consumer. All objects should be designed timelessly and well in the first place, but most 21st century homes are full of surfaces that weren’t. I have long been struck with the idea that print can be a way of getting these items closer to a situation where people don’t want to use them up and throw them out.

My talk at Pushing Print this year will illustrate some of the pieces I make, but will also look at the possibilities of the process of screen-printing. Paper and fabric are what is associated with this very traditional oriental method, but I will be looking just how broad the application can be, and giving examples of contemporary makers who are truly ‘pushing print’.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Great British Creativity

I am a pretty enthusiastic person at the best of times, but I had no IDEA I would catch Olympic fever to quite the degree that I have in the past week. To be honest though, why did I ever think that I wouldn't? To see a person, young or old, be the very best at something, and representing all of the people that they share a nation with in doing so - I could grab a flag (I have one, very near) and cheer right now at the very thought of it. The connotations of such a strong will to support talent and develop personal skill has spread right into other areas for me though. I want to work harder at what I do, to an Olympian level even, and get behind everyone in my country who has had the same kick up the bum! I guess that's part of what they are talking about when they refer to the 'legacy' of the games.

I think the lovely folks at We Heart had the same spark of this feeling long before I did, as they interviewed me a few weeks ago for part of their 'Create GB' feature.

"Aiming to celebrate Great British Creativity, our Create GB project will see the pages of We Heart brimming with up-and-coming British creatives in the four weeks leading up to the London 2012 Olympics. From illustration to fashion design, art to food and drink, Create GB will showcase our tradition for convention-prodding creativity…"

I'm posting the interview here because it's a great opportunity for me to talk about the inspiration I've had from living in a host nation, and it's also a lovely little article with some good questions you might not have heard me answer before. Enjoy!

(Go team GB!!)

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A sparkly new studio opening

It was over a year ago now that we moved out of the wonderfully supportive and friendly Pie Factory in Margate, to set up our own independent studio and workshop.

The new workspace was the storage and warehouse side of what used to be (we think) a distribution centre for the local brewery. That was some 100 years ago, and it has since been a furniture stripping workshop (oh really?!), part of a tattoo parlour, and at one point possibly even a squat - nice.

Spread out over two floors, and with a good space for storage as well as woodworking and sewing etc. I thought it would be a great opportunity to have the space that we so needed for all our diverse activities. It can be tricky having a meeting about a textile design when you are sitting in a pile of sawdust and underneath some future furniture projects.

Studio 24 before.
The unit was internally connected to the neighbouring shop, and the hardest thing to do in the past year has been to disconnect the two on paper! 'Studio 24' was born, and we have spent 12 months re-wiring, re-glazing, woodworking, painting, demolishing, plumbing, tiling, plastering, cleaning, restoring, weeding - the works.

Had we been able to suspend work on furniture for a few months, our fantastic new workspace would have been finished with speed. But, happily, people really need Margate Drawers, and we've fitted our renovation in around our daily furniture work.

We are finally near the end of all of the changes, and plan to have a little celebration to mark the new studio opening. Our WONDERFUL neighbours from Block Colour (another welcome change to the street in the last six months) will also be opening to show off the latest work of their very own Heidi Plant, so there will be lots to see on our street at the weekend.

If you find yourself anywhere near Margate on the 26-29th July, or even if you bring yourself here on purpose, we would love to see you. We are right next to the Barbers on Hawley Street just two doors down from Morrisons and opposite the old town. There will be work to see, some to buy, and all started with a Thursday late night opening where we might even have something to feed and water you with. See you soon!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Back to Barrow! Further workshops @ Signal Films

This month I'm heading back to Cumbria to hold some more workshops with Signal Films and their creative heritage project - The Cooke's department store. Before, we worked on the computers and in dry art materials. This time I'm keen to get the participants messy with some screen printing practice, and use some of the shapes and images we discussed first time around to decorate a textile or to make an art print.

I love the idea of linking the function of what we print on, to the store itself. Perhaps some adverts that would have looked at home in the front windows, or a shopping bag that can reference the retail history of Cooke's. With a bit of graphic design plotting and some cleverly cut stencils it's got all the potential to look really good!

If you would like to know more about Signal Films and the hard work they are putting in to reviving this building, then check out their website and that of the project. And of course if you are any where near Abbey Road, Barrow, then stop in and see what we're up to!

Friday, 29 June 2012

From Kent to Cumbria

For a while I've been toying with the idea of leaving my southern seaside town for a few days in order to learn a little more about other UK coastal communities.

Then by pure co-incidence I was contacted Signal Films, and heard all about the amazing work being done on reviving the histories of the Cooke’s building (an old department store) and it’s neighbouring businesses in Barrow-in-Furness. When they asked if I would like to come and help with the creativity - it was a straightforward ‘yes’!  

As a designer I take inspiration from the histories of my hometown, so I found the Cooke’s stories were the perfect topics to inspire some really interesting imagery. The accounts of the people who used to work in the department store tell tales of dolls and fabrics, socials and deliveries, furniture and upholstery, good days and bad – all things that can inspire some fantastic shapes, colours, and patterns.

I visited Signal Films to run a few days of workshops back in May and had a chance to meet some of the very creative volunteers. We had a whole selection of Cooke’s adverts and collected information to work from, and everyone involved came up with some fantastic design ideas based on the history of the store as well as Barrow itself. 

We used the notion of old adverts or retro textile designs as a template to work to, and everyone seemed encouraged by a different element of the store’s past. Some taking part chose to draw elements of their design by hand before scanning them into the computer, while others were happy enough to start working in a program like ‘Photoshop’ straight away. All in all the results were a great start to my side of the project (see one below) and I’m looking forward to working with the volunteers in some further days next month. We hope to make a striking piece of art or design that can represent some of the oral histories in a new way.

A repeat pattern inspired by the haberdashery floor in the Cooke's buildings.

 One discovery was that the store had it's own furniture workshop in the attic, which used to ship it's produce down to the sales teams - how amazing is that?! Considering we’ve got the manufacturing and upholstery history of Cooke’s top floor to live up to… I wonder what we’ll make!! 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Zoe Murphy for Liberty Print

I found myself taking a brief holiday from my 'Margate' illustrations for some new pieces that were launched this spring. In collaboration with iconic British department store Liberty, I have recently designed a series of drawers that are lined with the heritage brands latest fabrics, and are covered in screen prints inspired by the content.

Liberty’s 'William Morris' print of 'Strawberry thief' lined a seven-drawer chest whose lid I have printed with my own arts and crafts inspired illustration. The colours on the pieces also matched the plush padded fabrics that are used inside the drawers, to make for a high quality homage to the stores rich history of designs.

The arts and craft movement believed in doing things properly, fairly, by hand, by people, and with care and attention - something that means a lot to me.

The provenance of products is becoming more and more important to users, and the beliefs of people like William Morris are even more alive than ever. It was fantastic to be able to look to him and his work for inspiration on some of these pieces.

This collection sees a new set of colours for the furniture, as well as a lid design that has been printed exclusively for the store, and use of both contemporary and traditional Liberty Print fabrics. Great fun to do and a refreshing change!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

From a concerned social media addict...

I was SO pleased when I heard the news that our Margate Town Team had won their bid for the Portas Pilot money to spend on their campaign for turning the high street’s fortunes around. Growing up here in the 80’s and 90’s meant I spent every Saturday in Margate high street, and cannot believe the decline it has seen even in my short lifetime. I want to see it busy again and be able to actually use it like I know lots of people in Margate do as well.

Like a lot of people probably, I’ve been just as worried this week when news has been coming out about a Channel 4 TV program planned around four of the Portas Pilot towns – one of which is Margate. Since one of the contracts for town member involvement has been made public, there has been a justified amount of concern about what it means to be on this TV show. Will the silenced/contracted town team not be able to promote or inform about their campaign on social media? (that'd be crazy surely?) Will the aims of a quick turnaround TV show be at odds with a community campaign to sustainably and permanently turn the high street around? Will the town and the people who are going to be passionately volunteering be portrayed in the right way for their efforts?

This is all a big concern and definitely something, I think, to be born in mind and monitored. My even BIGGER worry is that Margate won’t grab this opportunity with both hands and make something of it. That silencing clause needs to be checked, true, and I am dubious about the involvement of a probably less than altruistic TV show. However, it goes without saying what a huge opportunity it is to get even more drive behind, and attention for, the work that the town can do for itself.  Not to mention a chance to show the government and councils what can be done when the funding is put in the hands of local people.

As a community full of scores of residents and businesses, Margate now has a stellar opportunity to take this (in the end quite token) amount of money and use it to make as much good as possible. If a TV show wants to film? Let them! Grab it, use it, take every bit of promotion they want to give it, and regardless of their involvement – lets actually turn our high street around, in the way we want to. I have faith that this can remain a community project, because no matter if we are seen on the telly or not, I feel everything the team does (and will inspires others to do) is going to serve the community in the end. Let whoever wants to be involved film the progress, keep an eye on them – yes, and more than anything don’t let that put the rest of the community off. I wanted to try and remind everyone that this can remain Margate’s campaign, and this is a great time for all of us to get behind a project that has well intentioned people at it’s very core and make it bear fruit.

I always think a party is only as good as the people that go to it. I’m joining this one and I’m going to bring all my friends. Film away, all I care about is being able to go to the shops again and having a town I’m (even more) proud of.

If you would like to know more about Margate's Town Team you can find them here:

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Slow Coast

This new year we took a trip up to Edinburgh for the Hogmanay festival - a VERY long way from the southeastern seaside. Edinburgh is a fascinating city, much taller than I ever knew, and has been wonderfully preserved - feeling very historical. Funnily enough, one of my most favourite parts of our long weekend was the trip up to another part of the UK on the train. Some of our journey ran alongside the northern coastline which would show fields butting right up against sandy bays and violet seas. Quite different to what I'm used to seeing from a train in Kent and the Midlands. It reminded me of just how contrasting British scenery can be, even within a different part of our own island.

Nick Hand
, a photographer and graphic designer from Bristol, would know a great deal about this. He is a keen cyclist who spent a lot of 2009 and '10 on a lone bike trip around the coast of the UK interviewing makers, craftspeople and artists. I met Nick when he arrived in Margate from Whitstable and was looking to chat to local makers about their craft and history.

Nick is already the nicest and calmest man you'll ever meet, but his project 'Slow Coast' was such a wholesome and engaging one that I was thrilled to meet up with him and be interviewed about my set-up in Margate. We had a great afternoon in my Pie Factory studio and I got to hear as much about his fascinating journey as he did about my work.

I could talk a lot about the interesting people and beautiful scenery that Nick saw in his two trips, but he (and the people he interviews) do it a lot better. So I would HIGHLY recommend taking a look at his SlowCoast website and the sound slides he created from his photos and recordings. He is one of the best and most unassuming photographers I have ever worked with, getting beautiful shots from putting people right at ease. You can quickly tell from his blog and website content that he is a man who cares about good production, craftsmanship, and the importance of discovering new people and places. This reflects wonderfully in the photographs he takes and the projects he embarks on. In my mind his activities are well worth a follow, and I'm so pleased my own trip up the coastline has reminded me of his.