Tuesday 15 April 2014

..."One of the finest pen & ink drawings in the world"...

... to - undeservedly - paraphrase Alexander McCall Smith in his famous reference to the one and only 'Topping & Company Booksellers of Ely'...

When I decided to make the 2015 calendar - or for that matter that there might be a 2015 calendar - a Downham Market and Ely calendar, apart from the obvious wealth of material from Ely Cathedral (which could arguably fill a calendar at the rate of at least a picture a week...), my first thoughts were of drawing the irrepressible Topping & Company Booksellers in Ely. 

Coincidentally, it was June 21st, the Summer Solstice of 2003 when we brought Cara, Laz and Emily in full Harry Potter attire to a wonderful Toppings book launch at midnight, for the release of the fifth J K Rowling novel - 'Harry Potter and the The Order of the Phoenix'. While children up and down the queue could be seen and heard waving wands and invoking one Potteresque spell after another, we 'adults' were offered that most marvelous of elixirs - wine by the glass! Oh happy night and day!

When we finally crossed from the pavement over the threshold into the bookshop proper, we may as well have have been stepping into Dumbledore's sanctum sanctorum itself, steeped as it were in subdued lighting and appropriately dressed shop staff. I'm sure I could hear the classical strains of 'Hedwig's Theme' seeping through bookcase upon bookcase.

Is there any doubt that Toppings & Company Booksellers of Ely could be anything other - day or night, book launch or no book launch, glass of wine or no glass of wine - could be anything other than a truly magical destination?

Pen & Ink illustration of Topping & Company Booksellers of Ely.

Up from Bath University for a reading week last year, Cara and I attended the Toppings evening at Ely Cathedral featuring comic writer and novelist Neil Gaiman. In the incomparable - and Hogwarts like - setting of Ely Cathedral, Neil regaled us with stories and anecdotes and read from 'Fortunately the Milk and 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane', before heading into the night signing myriad copies of his latest novel.

Despite a brief and amusing question and answer session, Neil never did tell us what Watchmen's Alan Moore hides in his beard...


Thursday 10 April 2014

...nine rings to rule them all...

...OK, maybe not to rule them all, but just to show the wonderful artistic talent and community in Downham  Market - maybe to cool them all...

While collecting my artwork from Downham Market's Art Circle November exhibition at Framin' Art, proprietor Simon asked me if I'd like to take part in the following year's Norfolk & Norwich Open Studios 2014.

As it happened, Simon at Framin' Art would be host to four local artists', Denver Windmill in the able hands of Sam and Graham would be home to another four artists, and a ninth artist would welcome visitors into her Ryston home studio. 

I'd always been interested in taking part in the Open Studios and thought 'Why not?' If Framin' Art were taking the lion's share of the organisation and administration, I'll just turn up with my work and see what happens. 

What could be easier?

Some time later I got an email inviting me to the first of a handful of meetings at Framin' Art regarding the organisation and preparations required for the Open Studio. Also an opportunity to to meet the other artists and in fact ceramicists, textile and mosaic artists, writers, silk painters, acrylic painters, illustrators and silversmiths taking part - phew.

We were required to produce a flyer for what was now being called the 'Downham & Denver Art Trail with Ryston'. The three fold flyer would have two sides - the interior spread would display the nine artists work and their contact details, the cover and exterior to also to show examples of the nine artists work, plus an art trail map! 

It appeared to me that this would be no little job - both to produce the map and the design artwork. Almost involuntarily I could feel my arm going up - and as if it were an out of body experience - heard myself volunteering to design the flyer, draw the map, and do the dishes?!

What the...?

It wasn't as if I didn't have have my drawing and designing hands full producing all new artwork for the forthcoming 'Ely & Downham Market 2015 Calendar' and more than likely did not have additional time to apply to this extra job.

Still, at the time I had a reasonably clear vision of what the flyer might look like, and it had been suggested that my particular drawing style might lend itself to the production of the map. 

Fortunately my clear vision did not entirely prevail... 

Thanks to the regular - and constant input - from Simon and only the eight other artists and designers. You know who you are Rebecca, Sue, Catherine, Julie, Elizabeth, Izzy, Sarah and Perri - how did I ever think I was going to get away with it by myself? - we have a flyer that is miles better than it might have been, and certainly ticks and kicks, all the boxes!

With the 'Norfolk & Norwich Open Studios' imminent - and since we don't want to miss anybody - here's the aforementioned map of the Art Trail. Hope it all makes sense, the location of each participating artist is clearly marked in each box, as well as contact info, addresses and those handy post codes for fans of satnav. Me, I'm still using my trusty heel compass from my 'Get Smart' shoes...?! 

King's Lynn is North!

Let me just check my maths - two textile artists, one silversmith, two ceramic artists, one silk painter, one acrylic artist, one writer, one mosaic artist, two illustrators, one pen & ink artist, two designers and someone who draws a lot - sure there's areas of overlap - but I still make that a magical nine...

Must be something special here for everyone.

The fabulously weird 'Euphoria' by Ceramic Artist Rebecca Elliot - appearing at Framin' Art. I can't help but be reminded of comic artist Steve Ditko's nightmarishly bizarre 'Mindless Ones' in Doctor Strange circa 1966.

Please join us for what promises to be a great sixteen days out. Coffee pots will bubble and herbal teas will brew as artists across the county throw wide the doors to their studios to all and sundry. Without a doubt wonderful wares will be up for sale such as original artworks, pottery and ceramics, textiles and mosaics, jewellery and sculpture.

Not to mention greetings cards, prints, posters, calendars and bookmarks of all shapes,sizes and stripes!

Please visit the Framin' Art 'Art Trail' page and our facebook page for additional information on artists appearances,events and workshops.

Look forward to seeing you all,