Friday, 6 September 2013

Mail Me Art

This year our gallery hosted the Big illustration show of little tiny artworks known as 'Mail Me Art'!

240 pieces of A5-sized postal illustration were commissioned from artists in 24 countries, organised by Darren, the man behind The Little Chimp Society, the world's biggest illustration blog. Work from illo-superstars to newbies alike was all here in one place, for a few days only.

Mail Me Art is in its third year, and the idea is that a pretty open brief allows chosen artists to flex a bit, and try out some new stuff (or go right into their comfort zones!) People who work digitally can draw; people who work big can go small. Beautifully-produced prints are sold, along with original art work at prices set by the artist, with all proceeds heading straight to charity. This year for the first time the cash was divvied equally between three separate organisations. Joy of joys, my original piece plus that of our friend and Moleaborator Robert Neely (bought by co-conspirator Ed Garland) were sold over the weekend, along with several more on opening night in alarmingly quick succession.

We began by asking Graham to paint the front door with a rude red post box, replete with opening times and letter flap (well that was already there actually). Cakes were baked, and a sign erected to warn the dirty humans off the grass in which hundreds of tiny frogs lurk (the dirty great humans obliged). We deliberately didn't look at the work as it was going up, as we wanted to engage with it fully at the same time as the visitors. So for four days we lived with minute detail, tiny faces, animals, brilliant colours, dark corners and a myriad of faces.

The pictures include some of the pieces we enjoyed the most...along with the cheeky giftastic flyer!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Mail Me Art 2013 - Short and Sweet!

Every year for the past few years Darren di Lieto, who runs the massively popular Little Chimp Society illustration blog, has put together a labour of love he calls Mail Me Art.

The idea is brilliantly simple: ask 200 of your favourite illustrators to create artwork on a C5 envelope and post it back to you. Any theme, any subject, any media - the only stipulation being that the art is what it is, without folding or other attachments, and whatever state it arrives in when Darren receives it, that's how it will go into the show!

First coming to our attention a couple of years ago when he was doing a book signing at the big Borders in Leicester, we popped in to see him and ended up chatting online a bit later. We kept in touch, and in the meantime, our gallery space was built here at 71.

It was therefore natural that when it came to thinking about a new space in the Midlands for the Mail Me show, whose traditional home is in London, Darren being a local lad thought of us. And thus, we are proud to announce that Mail Me Art 'Short and Sweet' will be opening here on August 9th at 6.30pm.

This year the show includes work by our own rookie partners in crime Brook Valentine, Bob Neely and Ed Garland, alongside more established illustration stalwarts like Melanie Tomlinson, Jon Burgerman, Linzie Hunter and The Boy Fitzhammond. Oh - and 193 more of course!

RSVPs this time will go to Darren: (But as usual, any questions can be directed to us!)

Monday, 15 July 2013

71 + The Little Hidden People.

Graham's just painted us a new 71 on the front door. We like to ask guests to do this for us sometimes - we had Richard Hogg make us a geometric turquoise one when he had his show here, and the last one by Brook Valentine was in vulgar gold in my choice of much-love Cooper Black.

Graham's was a nice surprise. If you come round to see his work currently adorning our walls, come and knock! And count the hidden people while you wait for us to answer.

Graham Robson.

We are pleased to introduce our new assistant Graham, who comes to us fresh if a little tired from an excellent degree show at Birmingham Institute of Art & Design's Visual Communication BA.

Graham is responsible for the terribly appealing Mole you might already have seen if you're been near my Facebook or Twitter page!

From the tedious to the horribly pressured, the everyday to the mucky-hands-at-the-coalface, Graham is already weaving himself info the fabric of our creative existence with his calm blend of flat-clean graphic illustrations and love of narrative. Coming to us with a high degree of technical prowess as well, he already has a folio which is eager to run off into the world of freelancing, which we hope to be able to ease him into during his time in our slightly chaotic, unorthodox studio.

His nicely organised website is here:

He likes 'making stuff' too, and we're selling his beautiful hand-bound books in our shop:

And he currently has a little show of work in our gallery space, including some first-time large-scale paintings. If you're in the area and would like to pop in and see it, just email us.

Rather than get Graham to talk about himself in the traditional way, we just asked him some probing questions. Here are his answers!

Would you like to be an axeman like your character? He looks like he has the most idyllic, if a little lonely, lifestyle.

In some respects yes - the freedom: to explore and adventure through a landscape where nobody has been before, to build a home with his own hands wherever he pleases.     But yes, like you say - It would be rather a lonely way to go through life.

Tell me about things you have made with your hands (ie, without a computer).

The way my work looks today in many ways was born when I was introduced to linocut, I loved everything about it - the way I had to design everything backwards, even to lifting the lino and  hoping I had a clear print. But I especially loved using limited colours. Although I don’t do as much linocut these days as I would like, it is still at the heart of what I do even when I’m working completely digitally.

I also enjoy book binding, although I have had no training, I love designing little sketchbooks of my own design. I like to give them a theme, e.g. ‘Nautilus’ for my ocean themed books and ‘Lunar’ for my moon themed ones.

And what have you found on eBay recently that took your fancy?

I have recently developed a rather strange interest in Soviet era Russian cameras. There’s just something about them that I love. They look quite different to any other cameras I have seen before; they have this awesome cyrillic script engraved in them and in true Russian style they are built like tanks. The only downside is they seem to have a strange musk to them, that, in the 50 years since my camera rolled off the production line, doesn’t seem to have lessened even slightly.

Why did you choose illustration and not graphic design?

Graphic design is something that has always interested me, and when I started my Visual Communication course at BCU I almost went for it. But I would have definitely missed designing fun characters and interesting landscapes that I’d want to explore, and I would especially miss working with narrative. In some ways I think my illustration has a graphic quality to it, so I think my love of design still creeps through without me choosing it as a career path.

Did you have a plan for after college, you mind that we are gatecrashing that plan (or lack thereof?)

As the end of university crept nearer It started to dawn on me that I might want to make plans for when I finished. I knew I wanted to be a freelance illustrator - and still do. But the finer details of this - working with clients, finances & all the other important parts that enable the drawing bit of being an illustrator were something of a mystery. So when I was asked to help out at Inkymole I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss out on.

What would you like to learn while you’re at Inkymole HQ?

Like I said, I want to learn what it takes to be a working illustrator - to actually make a living from doing what I enjoy. As much as I wish being an illustrator was just making fancy doodles all day, there are lots of other parts that are just as important. And the more that I can learn, from folks who have been through it all before, the better!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Buddy Wakefield - Gentleman Practice.

Writing the follow-up to the last show 'Buddy Wakefield - Gentleman Practice' has been a long-time coming, for various reasons like touring, going on holiday, catching up with the day-to-day stuff since returning from holiday and just being petrified of trying to encapsulate humbly a life confirming event - it's so large, that the write-up for Buddy and the artwork will be in separate blogs.

3-4 months before August 31st, the date Buddy was due to perform at Factoryroad Gallery, I'd asked him if he'd be up for me asking a few artists to interpret his words and create work based around it. To my immense pleasure, he agreed. I told him that I didn't want to discuss it with him any further and asked if that was OK, so that essentially it'd be a surprise for him and we could do what we want without checking in with him.
August 30th, Buddy arrived at Factoryroad Gallery having completed around two-thirds of his European tour. We were both tired (maybe not as tired as Sarah) from being constantly on the road and arriving home to a calm, quiet, warm non-pressured environment with comfy beds was much-needed.
I'd made a point on the tour (I drove him around the UK leg of his tour) to not mention anything to do with the show and to maintain radio silence regarding it, so when Buddy arrived, he thought at 1.30am that the artwork he initially saw on the walls were just pieces that we'd collected. But when he came down for tea (he hates tea) he noticed that a couple of the pieces referenced his work. He then asked, "so which pieces are based on my work?" I simply said "all of them". If he had a glass jaw, it would've shattered as it hit the floor - he'd clearly been practicing being quiet very well.
We then proceeded to slowly walk around the gallery examining each piece, Buddy applying ALL of the words that he has written to the image/sculpture/creation in front of him to work out which ones applied (at this point, the information boards had not been mounted); where he got confused, I filled in the gaps.
I could see small explosions kicking off in his being. He was more overwhelmed than I had accounted for, which is stupid as I'd been completely overwhelmed by all the contributors to the show. But, he held it down appreciating the ingenuity and beauty of each person's (sometimes very) personal interpretation of response to his work, until he saw Nigel Axon's. Nigel is the architect that designed our extension/gallery/studio. He's a problem-solver, and has a vision that goes beyond bricks and mortar.
Nigel had created a piece that included various elements of Buddy's poem 'My town' in a 3D rendering designed in Google's Sketch-up, then printed it onto 4 A1 boards. Buddy immediately saw this and was excited to see the different elements realised, but then... he saw the bridge that had been built in his hometown in his own lifetime, this pushed him to exclaim "this is my town...that's...Baytown, that's the bridge..." And the pressure valve was released.

He went to bed, tired, overwhelmed, calm, but buzzing.

The next day Buddy needed to spend some time alone while we and the rest of the crew finished off the details for the show, and from that point on until later that night, Buddy and I didn't really cross paths, though we were surrounded by friends, colleagues and keen warm people. The only time during that day that I really heard him speak was when he performed, it was then that it became clear that maybe I should've spoken to him a bit more about what he was walking in to when he arrived at Factory Road. His show-opening gambits were normally to greet and warm the crowd into listening to poetry, thanking the promoter and then getting into a performance that he would modify for each different type of crowd. This time though, he got stuck on 'thanks', so overwhelmed was he at the sheer amount of work, respect and truth put into the artwork. For a man who has performed in front of crowds more than twenty times the size of what we can squeeze into our small space, I was overwhelmed by his being overwhelmed, but once he got into 'We Were Emergencies', he was back in his comfort zone, and gently escorted a crowd largely unexposed to live poetry through hundreds of words, human experiences, breaths and postulation.
The feedback we received that night and the numerous messages we received illustrated that, that night, 'we were love'.

More pictures and less words to be seen here.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Gentleman Practice with Buddy Wakefield.

We have a new show starting on August 31st, it involves a variety of artists who execute their work in various mediums. The artwork will be responses to a US performance poet called Buddy Wakefield. He'll be joining us and performing at the event... we're really struggling to hold in the levels of excitement and the fear that follow after booking it all in... deep breaths are what help us to get on with the next thing.

For now, here's a quick look at the image for that we'll be using to tell people about the art and poetry show, the portrait is by Stan Chow, the line of text was chosen by Buddy from his poem Horsehead.

Buddy will also be touring parts of Europe and the UK around the same time, click here to see more.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The post-dinner analysis with Jed.

Sometimes it can be quite hard to write about an event after you've hosted it, so this time we've handed the reviewing reins to Jed Smith, the chef and reviewer!

Factoryroad Gallery did it again... After a stressful overhaul of their home and work space on June the 1st for the Flint and Food exhibition (I also provided the food for the Flint and Food show, click the link!), they then did it again the following week for 'Dinner with Jed Smith', entrusting me to transform Factoryroad Gallery into a beautiful and unique restaurant, for just two nights.

Everybody who came last week deserves a huge thank you for making the two evenings into a huge success. It was tough work for everybody involved, but that is all part of the fun!

Everybody who couldn't make it, there might be another on the horizon, so please do stay tuned!
There was a huge effort from the guests who did come, people came from places as afar as Birmingham, Suffolk and Wales and others not so far, some from the end of the road and as far as I could see (from a hot and steamy kitchen) everyone was having a great time and thoroughly enjoyed their evening.

The evenings proceedings kicked off around 7pm on Friday, but there had been much preparation beforehand. Not only had I been working in the gallery kitchen since Tuesday that week, I had had weeks of deliberation on the menu. Every spare minute I had, my brain was churning, over and over. Every time I was trying to get to sleep, every time I was on a train or a bus, scores of recipes and combinations were flying around my head. Dishes were being created, blended, baked, sauteed, boiled, roasted, grilled, flambèed mentally and then completely destroyed, the menu just kept evolving on the run up to the opening and continued to do so until the doors closed again on Saturday night.

I tried to encompass all of my previous experiences as a chef, be it in London or the English countryside, New York or Montreal, Mexico or Korea. The menu had a great many influences but had a great balance and personality. For those of you who couldn't make it or need a reminder of the menu, this is what you may or may not have eaten:

I really wanted to keep it as close to a restaurant experience as possible, so there were reservations being taken so you could choose when you wanted to eat, and what you wanted to eat with an 'a la carte' menu. I've seen so many pop up restaurants or supper clubs where you are told to arrive at a certain time and everybody gets the same menu. Another agenda was to expose diners to food or flavours that they may never have tasted before, apricot seeds, black garlic, burnt cucumber, kim chee, beef heart, genmeicha, tostadas etc.
I wanted to exceed people's expectations (obviously) and entirely satisfy each guest.

Everybody was greeted with a glass of something pink and bubbly and then their evening began...

Each diner was introduced to the evening's fair with a small cucumber and jalapeno juice, with apricot seeds, water chestnut and lemongrass oil.
Friday's diners were served with razor clams and Saturday's with mussels and samphire.

The master bread with a no-knead bread production for the weekend...

and then into the starters:

'Radish. Turnip. Tomato/Mustard custard' were radishes and turnips dressed in tomato pickle liquid with mustard oil served alongside a shiny mustard custard.
Thick home-made 'mustard custard'.

'Mackerel. Cucumber. Burnt things' was lightly cured mackerel galvanised in a burnt cucumber oil with pickled cucumbers and burnt baby onions and crispy mackerel skin.

 Ready to go out!


Burning 'things' over a red-hot hot plate!

'Beef cooked mayonnaise' was beef heart served in a tartare style with traditional accompaniments in a not so traditional way; pickled leeks, fingerling potato crisps, fine green beans, mustard oil and a cooked egg yolk mayonnaise.

After people had mopped their plates up with more bread, the main courses were as follows:

'Zeragosa vs Mexico 2000' was a mix of Mexican flavors influenced by a couple of my favourite bodegas in New York. There was a killer salsa verde, frijoles negros refried with fresh english peas and glazed with lime, queso fresco and of course some home made tortillas deep fried for a tostada crunch.

Having a joyous time squishing tortillas into shape!

'Cod Piece' came from the wild... after the cod was crisped up and slowly poached in butter a celery root puree seasoned with mussel stock was smothered underneath it, and a salad of celery and lovage (from the Factoryroad garden) and wild garlic capers (from Leicester's Castle Park Gardens) and thin slices of black garlic were smothered on top.

Served and ready to go!

'K-Town Pork' was all about Korea Town, a great spot to eat cheap and late in New York. There was roast pork, braised pork, kim chee, kochukaru (red chili paste) sauce, glass noodles (jap chae) and lots of ginger and spring onions. I just wish there was room for more.

Between the main course and dessert, some 'Ghost cheese': goats cheese with fresh orange, lemon and lime zest served with maple syrup and black pepper for people to enjoy at their leisure, between courses.

Then finally, desserts.

'Strawberry King'...where to start?
Strawberries were marinated in lime juice and strawberry olive oil, strawberry mousse, beet and maple syrup puree, Horlicks shortbread, burnt white chocolate and peppermint meringue.
One guest told me she didn't believe everything would taste good together but after she had tried she said she was in heaven!

'Chocolate Queen' was chocolate parfait with chocolate fudge and chocolate crumble a generous serving of genmeicha pastry cream and a sneaky little apple vinegar jelly.

Again plenty of big thank-yous to everybody who took a risk with a chef that most people hadn't even met before, came along with an empty belly and an open-mind showing their support, for what Sarah and Leigh referred to as 'an artist with a whole new medium' for their gallery.
Thank you to everyone who was involved, Tom (you were missed), Sarah's mum, Brook, Mark, Bear and next door for the pan.
And of course, a great big thank you to Leigh and Sarah for the opportunity to cook in a unique space, who of course, also had the pleasure of having me on hand to cook their meals over the week leading up to the event giving them a chance to catch up with planning the next events.

Until next time, here are a few more photos from the evening:

My art 'hanging' in the gallery..
and my art for the show.