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: