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Meet the maker: Merrick Angle (aka Double Merrick)

23 Jan

It was a strange set of coincidences that first led me to discover the work of Merrick Angle, a British born illustrator living and working in a renovated farmhouse in France. Several years later, when Joe and I were choosing designers to work with on products for Decorator’s Notebook, I knew straight away that Merrick was the perfect person to create a screen print that would capture our nostalgic love of the great outdoors. And so our exclusive Campfire Screen Print was born!

We caught up with Merrick to find out more about his life in France, his passion for retro advertising and why one in ten of his designs stays shut in a drawer.

Merrick Angle

Campfire screen print from Decorator's Notebook

How did you come to be an Englishman living in France?

By accident really. I met my wife when she was studying in Paris. After a whirlwind courtship we got married, lived in Yorkshire for a bit, then Paris. Finally, we ended up in The Limousin because she was offered a job down here. Ten years and two kids later we are still here!

double merrick house in france

double merrick house france design sponge

Can you remember the moment you discovered illustration?

I think it has always been there. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up always surrounded by art and interesting things. I was always drawing and collecting as a kid.

Where did you learn your craft?

I’d like to say Art College, but I only really went there to meet girls. Everything useful I have ever learnt about the creative process came from my Mother, who is an abstract painter. The business side of things pretty much comes from one year I spent working for my Dad in the early noughties. My Dad is basically like Alexi Sayle crossed with Tony Soprano, but he is a sales genius. It was a crazy year, but everything I know about negotiation and running my own business can be traced back to that time.

Double Merrick kitchen design sponge

piano double merrick design sponge

How would you describe the Double Merrick look?

I usually say, scuzzy pop art. Something from an advertising hording that got propped up against a wall in a barn. It got forgotten about, all mildewed up, doesn’t really make sense in the way it was meant to anymore. Bam! You have the essence of Double Merrick.

Talk us through your design process when you work on something new…

Most of the time it starts with a ‘find’. I spend a good deal of time going round trocs and brocantes. Some things just strike a chord with you, most of the time you don’t know why, and the print is often the by-product of trying to work out “why”? I take it back home, scan it, mess around with it. When I finally get something I will put to one side for a few weeks until I can view it again with fresh eyes. This time spent “shut in a drawer” generally decides if something is worth putting out. Because my style is quite simple, it doesn’t really take me very long to complete something. Yet, I have to generate a lot of ideas to find the good stuff. For every ten pieces I do only one or two will get saved.

double merrick house in france detail

double merrick bathroom

How has living in France influenced your designs?

I was thinking about this the other day. Would it be the same if I lived anywhere else? I am not sure, really. I would still like the things that I like. Be inspired by the eras and objects that inspire me. Yet, there is something romantic and compelling about the French visual culture of the 20th century and a little of that seeps through into Double Merrick.

Describe your workspace…

My studio/office is the old dining room in our house. I was in what was the old toilet upstairs, but I ran out of space quite quickly, so I graduated to a proper office. In it there are a couple of desks (one for my computer, one for packaging up orders) an armchair for the dog, a bookshelf with all my finds on, and a notorious tin box in which I keep my stock.

What can we see from your window?

As views go, it isn’t bad. I look out over fields and a couple of cows.

Double Merrick workspace 1

Double merrick workspace 2

What’s the most satisfying part of your work?

There are loads of satisfying parts to what I do, but I’d have to say people parting with their hard earned cash to live with something I have designed. I thought it would be a feeling I would get used to, but I never have. I consider it to be the ultimate compliment… someone making the decision to make your work a part of their everyday lives.


Merrick’s A2 Campfire Screen Print ‘Feux de Camp’ costs £60 and is exclusively available at Decorator’s Notebook.

{Room photographs ©Merrick Angle / Product photographs ©Decorator’s Notebook}

Down to earth drawing by artist Natasha Clutterbuck

23 Sep

While at Yeo Valley this summer I picked up a leaflet advertisting workshops run by Somerset artist Natasha Clutterbuck, who uses charcoal, mud, rocks and tea to create fantastically expressive drawings of just-picked vegetables. I loved the idea of trying my hand at a natural pigment drawing of my own but was sadly too slow off the mark to snag a place on the course. I put the leaflet to one side, hoping there might be another chance next year.

Anyway, last week I was looking for something completely different when I stumbled across Natasha once again, this time the beautiful photographs Andrew Montgomery took in her studio for Gardens Illustrated. It reminded me of the raw, natural quality I’d loved about her work and it was a real treat to see inside her workspace.

Natasha Clutterbuck studio by Andrew Montgomery{Andrew Montgomery}

Natasha Clutterbuck artist by Andrew Montgomery{Andrew Montgomery}

beetroot by Natasha Clutterbuck artist{Natasha Clutterbuck}

Vegetables Andrew Montgomery{Andrew Montgomery}

charcoal Natasha Clutterbuck studio by Andrew Montgomery{Andrew Montgomery}

shallots and bay by Natasha Clutterbuck artist{Natasha Clutterbuck}

vegetables drawn by Natasha Clutterbuck Andrew Montgomery{Andrew Montgomery}

artist Natasha Clutterbuck by Andrew Montgomery{Andrew Montgomery}

squash drawn by Natasha Clutterbuck artist

{Natasha Clutterbuck}

I love discovering new local artists and Andrew’s photographs really bring Natasha’s work to life… he really is one of the most fantastic photographers around in my eyes. I’m embracing the natural beauty of autumn right now and these drawings perfectly capture the colourful bounty we should be enjoying and preserving for when the nights draw in!

If you like what you see here, click to see more of Andrew Montgomery‘s stunning portfolio and more of Natasha Clutterbuck‘s drawings.

If I was a cool kid…

13 Aug

In my youth my bedroom walls were plastered in posters of the Backstreet Boys painstakingly extracted from Smash Hits magazine.

I was not a cool kid.

If I was, I might have had these…

avett brothers poster status serigraph

band of horses poster status serigraph

flaming lips band poster status serigraph

avett brothers band poster status serigraph

Cincy_Phish poster status serigraph{Justin Helton / Status Serigraph}

They’re all designed by Justin Helton, a graphic designer based in Knoxville, Tennessee who blends illustration and typography to create these hand printed poster designs. You can see lots more (and buy one) at Status Serigraph.

Oh, and please feel free to share any embarassing teenage fanclub stories below… we’re all friends here ;-)

Getting creative at Art in Action

24 Jul

This weekend I spent a brilliant two days exploring Art in Action, an annual festival of art and crafts in the grounds of Waterperry House near Oxford. Artists were there demonstrating everything from oil painting and printmaking to pottery and metalwork – plus we signed up for a couple of practical classes to try our hand at some new skills for ourselves.

art in action at waterperry house oxford

We spent our first day exploring the artists’ work on show, in between ducking into patches of shade to escape the blistering heat. Here are just a few of my personal highlights…

sarah spackman

sarah spackman still life in oil

In the painting tent I fell in love with Sarah Spackman‘s subtle still lifes painted in oil on linen. It was fascinating to chat to her as she painted, mixing up beautifully chalky colours on her enormous palette. Her paintings would have been the perfect thing for the living room in my old flat!

ian phillips linocut

reduction linocut ian phillips

I was really taken with Ian Phillips‘s linocuts in the printmaking tent – lots of his work features the Welsh coast, which might explain why I liked them so much – there are lots of examples on his website. He uses a reduction technique, gradually cutting away areas of his drawing and printing each layer with a different colour of ink. He’s done a step-by-step linocut tutorial here so I’m going to give this a try sometime.

helen murgatroyd printmaker

Helen Murgatroyd printmaker

Another printmaker who caught my eye was newcomer Helen Murgatroyd, who had a selection of fruit and veg inspired linocuts and lithographs on display. Opposite, we were drawn to the whirr of Harriet Riddell‘s sewing machine and watched mesmerised as she machine-stitched portraits of visitors completely freehand in just 15 minutes.

stitched portraits harriett riddell

institchyou by harriet riddell

portrait sewn by harriett riddell

Mum and I decided we had to have a go and came away with a portrait apiece. If you fancy one too, Harriet sets up her machine in Greenwich market most weeks and you can even book her to perform at an event! I totally loved her… check out InStitchYou (geddit) for more.

On the second day we’d signed up for a couple of practical taster sessions (book them ahead if you go along next year because spaces fill up fast). First up, we had a go at sculpture, which I’ve never tried before. We headed into the tent and were faced with this lump of clay on a pole, which apparently we’d be turning into a sculpted clay head in just an hour and a half!

clay head sculpture

Needless to say I was pretty sceptical, but the tutor (from The Art Academy in London) showed us how to measure different parts of the model’s face and quickly build up the shape with clay. Halfway through, the cocktail stick markers made the whole thing look a bit like a very lumpy voodoo doll…

sculpting head from clay

Ninety minutes flew by in a flash and in no time we were desperately rolling eyeballs to try and finish our heads!

sculpting heads from clay art in action

art in action sculpting clay head

Ok, so I don’t have a photo of it next to the model, but even if there’s not much of a resemblance it at least looks like a person! I was amazed that for a group of beginners everyone managed to create something really impressive in such a short time. After lunch, we’d enrolled on a woodblock printing session with Rachel Sim.

sketch of feathers

woodcut printing

We sketched out some quick ideas then used these beautiful tools to carve the design out from Japanese plywood. I thought it would be hard work but the tools were sharp and the wood was soft so it was easy to carve nice shapes. I did one block with some feathers…

woodcut printing block feathers

And another one with a funny leggy chicken-type thing…

woodcut printing block bird

woodcut printing blocks art in action{all Decorator’s Notebook}

The weekend was so brilliant I’m definitely going to make it an annual visit. If you’re at all interested in art and crafts I’m certain you’ll love it. Next year’s dates aren’t online yet but keep an eye on the Art in Action website to find out when it’s happening in 2014. I’ll be there!

Trying my hand at pottery at West Dean College

14 May

West Dean College Chichester

West Dean gardens

I love ceramics and always enjoy having a go at new crafts, so when my friend Amy suggested we try our hand at pottery, I agreed straight away. We decided to make a weekend of it and signed up for the throwing pots taster day at the beautiful West Dean College near Chichester. After a sneak peek of the house itself (former home of surrealist art collector Edward James) we headed to the pottery studio.

pottery studio at West Dean college

head sculpted from clay

pottery studio details

glaze sticks

art pencils in craft shop

There’s always something so lovely about craft studios and now I’m getting used to my camera, I couldn’t stop taking photos of all the little details around the place. To begin with we were shown ram’s head kneading, which gets rid of any air pockets in the clay and can lead to wobbly pots. Once we were ready our tutor Alison Sandeman demonstrated our first task: a simple cylinder.

Alison Sandeman pottery demonstration

how to throw a clay pot

cylinder thrown pot

Simple as that!

There were eight of us in the class and pottery was new to nearly everyone, but after seeing how effortless Alison made it look we were all confident about our chances as we started the wheels.

learning to throw pots on a potters wheel

cylinder pot on wheel

It soon became obvious that it’s most definitely not as simple as that! Thankfully, Alison was really encouraging and always on hand to share her 25 years of experience. Even though I was far from a natural, I fell in love with the challenge and it was hard to tear myself away from the wheel at lunchtime. The little bowl above right was my first attempt… unfortunately it kind of went downhill from there. Here’s a couple that didn’t make it!

failed thrown pot

failed thrown pot on wheel

By the end of the day we all had five or six pots of varying size and shape to show for our efforts. They’ll be glazed for us in the next few weeks and hopefully some will survive so I can show you the finished articles.

beginners thrown pots
beginners thrown pots{all Decorator’s Notebook}
I definitely want to go look into doing a longer course and have to admit I’ve been searching for secondhand potters’ wheels on fleabay. I’m hooked!

52 Forms of Funghi (aka: a year of knitted mushrooms)

8 Apr

There’s only one thing I like more than a good photo project. And that’s a knitted photo project! Fibre artist Leigh Martin from Oklahoma is on a mission to yarn bomb trees with knitted mushrooms. One species every week for a year. Brilliant right!?

knitted funghi art installation

knitted funghi project

yarn bombed tree mushrooms

knitted funghi project

knitted funghi

bracket fungus knitted{Bromeleighad via The Jealous Curator}

I’m definitely going to be following the progress of this mycological adventure …and if you’re wondering (as I was) how on earth such an idea comes about, read Leigh’s mission statement for a full explanation.

Time for the picture round… a quiz!

4 Mar

I have a reputation amongst my friends and family for being the least competitive individual on the planet. They’re nearly right, except I love a quiz!

So I’m kicking off the week with a little treat for you (well ok, me). Litographs make lovely posters where the design is made up from the complete text of the book it depicts.

But can you work out which books these are?

Book poster made from words Litographs1

Poster made from words of book2

Image made from words of book3

Book poster made from words by Litographs4

Balloon picture made from words of book5

Answers in the comments – or cheat and buy one of these for yourself by visiting the Litographs website.

New builds on the bloc

6 Feb

Those clever girls at My Friend’s House have a fantastic nose for quirky design, like these diminutive skyscrapers popping up on the streets of Berlin.

Berlin buildings by street artist Evol  Berlin street art Evol

Stenciled city Evol Germany

Stencilled cities by Evol street artist Berlin{Photographs Evol / Yatzer via My Friend’s House}

Street artist Evol uses detailed stencils to turn drab city structures like telephone junction boxes, bins and concrete blocks into miniature buildings. I’m not usually a fan of street art (and I strongly object to graffiti) but there’s something so unassuming and appropriate about these urban sculptures I really like them.

Beautiful boro textiles

21 Jan

I’m fascinated by folk crafts – wherever you go in the world you find art born out of necessity and hardship. It seems that it’s an innate human desire to beautify and embellish the things we have around us, however functional and humble their origins.

I recently stumbled across the tradition of Japanese Boro textiles and I think they’re as interesting as they are beautiful.

Japanese boro textiles

Japanese boro cloth

In the years before WWII many people in rural areas of Japan lived in extreme poverty. Boro means ‘tattered cloth’ and is the term given to heavily patched and repaired indigo cotton – mostly bedclothes, futon covers and fisherman’s jackets. Some have been repaired so many times that the original material is barely visible.

boro cloth fishermans vests

indigo Japanese boro textile fabric

Women would sit down to sew in the evenings when the men returned home, and the hands of the makers are traced all over each piece of cloth. This kind of running stitch is called sashiko and had both a practical and decorative purpose – as well as joining the scraps and adding simple embroidery, the fabric was also made stronger and warmer as the layers built up and up over the years.

Japanese boro cloth futon cover

Japanese patched boro cloth{all Siri Threads}

After the war, boro cloth became a sad reminder of the desperate times people wanted to leave behind, and using or wearing the fabrics was something to be ashamed of. More recently though, collectors have recognised their beauty and importance and original pieces now fetch hundreds of dollars.

Owning one of these would feel like owning a little piece of someone else’s history and I’d love to feel I had a little of this sad and inspiring story woven into the fabric of my home.

The art (and politics) of laundry

9 Jan

I’ve used Flickr a lot less since Pinterest came along, but it’s worth remembering that in addition to photos, Flickr is home to some incredible archives. I recently came across the Boston Public Library photostream which contains scans of the most amazing historical artwork, ephemera, advertising posters and photography.

You can spend hours getting lost in the collection but I picked out this little selection of nineteenth century laundry adverts. Feminists are advised to look away now!

vintage advertising poster laundry

vintage laundry advert

nineteenth century advertising poster

nineteenth century advertising

{all Boston Public Library}

Dare I ask who does the laundry in your house?!

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