We have been producing a letterpress calendar for nine years but this year is really special for us. For the first time we have commissioned original artwork from one of our favourite artists, Mark Hearld.
Mark studied at Glasgow School of Art and then at The Royal College of Art; “Tinsmiths” first experienced his work as printed fabric produced by St. Jude’s. In the intervening ten years we have held biennial exhibitions St. Jude’s artists and sold hundreds of metres of their stunning and diverse fabrics. Our sewing room have made innumerable pairs of curtains, blinds and cushions using Mark’s texile designs, much to the delight of recipients.
The idea of commissioning illustrations for this year’s calendar surfaced when Mark commissioned Tinsmiths to make a pretty complicated curtain for the extraordinarily rich interior of his York house. It seemed a good opportunity for an exchange.
Martin Clark, who runs Tilley Letterpress in the neighbouring alleyway here, in Ledbury, has always printed our calendars. During 2016 Martin and Mark worked together to produce some large linocut prints and some smaller hand-coloured line prints for Tinsmiths’ “Spring Life” earlier in 2016, with this background the two were familiar and comfortable in working together on the calendar.
With a shared interest in British Wildlife we settled on a bird a month with a flock of pidgeons for our front cover. Mark’s twelve illustrations have an energy and fluidity that captures characteristics of each species. Thank you so much this collection, Mark and thank you Martin for the care you took in printing them.
To see more details of the calendar and to order on-line follow this link.
Sign-writer Hannah Sunny Whaler’s exhibition “Fairground” in “Little Tinsmiths” shows her incredible control of a simple sable brush and traditional enamel paints to create some very uplifting artworks. Hannah lives and works in Bristol, studied Illustration at Falmouth College of Art and originally hales from Malvern. She usually works to a client’s brief, painting shop signs in most part. For this show she has taken time “off the street” and painted stand-alone signs on mirror and board, using traditional letterforms, scrolls and flourishes and she has thought hard about the phrases and embellishments used traditionally in Fairground and Circus. The result is an explosion of colour and ornament, evocative of the 19th century. Several of the works on show are painted on glass, both mirrored and clear. This gives the painted areas another dimension, adding a “real” drop shadow to the clear glass pieces which are set into a simple metal frame which is easily hung on the wall.
We asked her why, when signage is so readily available at the click of a mouse, are her services so much in demand? “When I paint a sign for a business or for an individual there is a level of involvement that brings the process to life. Standing on a ladder, communicating an idea, the character and personality of the shop and its keeper simply makes a connection with passers by – immediately and in the long term. I think that shopping centres and the built environment have become stale, with signage mostly being impersonal and flat. Humans yearn to see the mark of another – especially if it is, in colour and style, uplifting. I think that’s why I’m so busy.”
To see examples of Hannah’s work, look on-line at Hannah’s area on our website or best of all, make a visit 10-5pm Tuesday to Saturday at 8a High Street, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 1DS 01531 632083, for more information about Hannah see our earlier Blog “Signs of the Times”
We arrived in London last week paint brush in hand and with a sample of Tinsmiths made to measure curtains and blinds, lighting, cushions, rugs, world and artisan textiles, artist prints, homeware and hardware. This area of London has a village feel and is well-worth a visit, away from the frenetic centre but a stones throw from the British Museum.
Our month-long Tinsmiths residency continues until 30th June in a charming little pop-up – a tiny version of our Ledbury shop – adjacent to Pentreath and Hall, 17a Rugby Street, London WC1N 5QT. We hope to welcome new faces and that our on-line customers, designers and press in London and the home counties will call in Monday to Saturday 11-6pm.
A Day Out in Bloomsbury
Here are a few ideas to add to your visit to mini-Tinsmiths this summer.
Textiles at the British Museum, Fridays til 8pm
Interiors at Pentreath & Hall, our very close neighbours
James Smith – it’s June so we’ll call this a parasol shop!
“Found”, Curated by Cornelia Parker at The Foundling Museum
Thomas Farthing Menswear – traditional or ready-to-subvert.
Our 2016 programme of exhibitions is starting with an exuberant flourish of British style and sensibility. ‘Spring Life’ features the work of Mark Hearld and Paul Young.
The exhibition at our Ledbury showroom opens on the 19th March and runs until the 23rd April.
Mark Herald’s fabric designs for St Judes Fabrics are firm favourites at Tinsmiths. For this exhibition Mark has spent some time printing linocuts with Martin at Tilley Printing in Ledbury; whilst he and Martin printed we made a short film of the visit.
We will be showing these prints alongside some of Marks wonderful collages and there will be a brand new fabric design for St Judes on show.
Paul Young like Mark, draws inspiration from European folk art and has an affinity with Staffordshire wares of the eighteenth century. Producing joyful slipware, Paul’s work includes both purely decorative pieces as well as extremely usable domestic ware; all with compelling lively charm.
Paul Young Slipware Dish
Paul Young Slipware Dish
Paul Young Decorative Slipware
Mark Hearld Mixed Media; print and ink
Mark Hearld Linocut prints. Mark came and spent a couple of days in Ledbury printing with Martin at Tilley Printing; here are some prints drying in the office.
Mark Hearld linocut printed in Ledbury for our exhibition.
Do visit over Easter; the exhibition opens on the 19th March which is the week before the Easter weekend and goes on until the 23rd April. If you would like to attend the private view on the 18th March do get in touch and we will ensure an invitation gets to you.
Tinsmiths. 8a High Street, Ledbury. HR8 1DS (Tel:01531 632083). Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10am -5pm (most Mondays but telephone to double check first!)
This year with our calendar we have gone for a different format; a folding desk or pocket calendar, each month with it’s own exquisite wood engraving. As ever the calendar has been skilfully printed by Martin Clark at the Tilley Printworks here in Ledbury.
The wood engravings were purchased at the local Flea Market in Malvern a few years ago, stacked in cardboard boxes under the traders table it was not immediately obvious just what treasure they were. When I got home and looked through the boxes it was obvious that hand cut print blocks were the works of an accomplished artist. Among many linocut blocks and Perspex cut blocks (I haven’t seen this technique before) were 3 cigar cases each full of exquisite wood engravings, about 30 in each box.
When Martin printed some of these wood engravings the mastery that this artist had over this most exacting of techniques was clear; there were no lines that didn’t need to be there, the very deft rendering of tiny features and expressions, the ability to convey an atmosphere to a one colour tiny illustration of a landscape.
John from the Whittington Press identified this mystery artist as Helmuth Weissenborn. Helmuth had been a professor at Leipzig Academy or Graphic and Book Arts, forced to flee his homeland by the Nazis because of his Jewish wife. On arrival in Britain he was interned in the Isle of Man as a category C prisoner. Once released from internment he worked for the war effort in the Auxiliary Fire Service in London. Before all of this Hellmuth had fought in WW1 from the age of 16-19, serving at Arras and in Serbia.
Throughout his whole life the daily practice of drawing and the desire to record and create was the strongest thread; in WW1 he sent illustrated letters home which became a war diary, his academic career at Leipzig Academy was focussed on graphic art and book art, during his time in the Auxiliary Fire Service he made sketches of bomb sites in London (some now in the Imperial War Museum and here is a link to an interview with the artist).
Hellmuth Weissenborn, ‘Thames from monument’ print taken from cut perspex.
After the war Hellmuth and his second wife Lesley ran the Acorn Press. It was good creative partnership publishing finely printed, hand-set and hand-printed books. Helmuth was an extremely versatile artist; he worked as a book illustrator for 30 London publishers as well as the Acorn Press, and from 1941-1970 as a guest lecturer at the Ravensbourne College of Art.
The three cigar boxes that I have were labelled ‘Sonnets’, and last year I was able to track down a copy of ‘The Sonnets’ which the illustrations were commissioned for. Printed by The Rocket Press and published by the Acorn Press with a limited edition of 350, the book of course contains the full set of prints, I do not have the complete set – somewhere out there are another two cigar boxes I hope as treasured as mine!
The ownership of these beautiful blocks has always made me uncomfortable, although I treasure them they are not my own but of course very much Hellmuth’s. This has made me reluctant to use them, however for this year we have selected 12 to illustrate our calendar. We will have 150 of our calendars for sale with all profits going to the Save the Children Syria Crisis appeal. We feel that this is appropriate, and whilst we cannot know whether Hellmuth would approve, it seems likely that someone whose life was so marked by the turmoil’s of the first half of the 20th Century would have much sympathy for those whose lives are being shattered by the turmoil’s of our own times.
Picture this! 18th century Lyon and a race is on to revolutionise the production of elaborately patterned fabrics.
This race, ultimately, was won by Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752 – 1834) whose name is familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in textiles and to many others with no interest at all. In 1801 Jacquard demonstrated his patterning mechanism, which transformed the production of fabrics such as brocade, matelasse and damask.
English Mantua, circa 1708. Bizarre silk in salmon-pink damask with floral and foliate pattern brocaded with polychrome silk and gold metallic file
Prior to this their production had been extremely labour intensive and relied upon master weavers working in conjunction with a ‘draw boy’ who would stand on a perch above the loom and manually lift warp threads, thereby dictating whether the weft sat above or below the warp and thereby creating a pattern. Jacquard, working off the backs of earlier weaver/inventors, created a loom whose warp threads, via their bolus hooks, were controlled by cards punched with holes. The existence, or not, of a hole dictated whether the bolus hook would raise or lower the warp thread via the loom’s harness, therefore creating a pattern. Each card would correspond to the warp positions for one row (i.e. weft insertion) of the design. For example a loom with a 400 hook head might have four threads connected to each hook, giving 1’600 warp ends and four horizontal repeats. However, the jacquard loom is able to create non-repeating panels that might have 1’000s of warp ends and therefore bolus hooks, for examples this design commemorating Jacquard, produced in 1839 and requiring an extraordinary 24’000 punched cards!
Left: Portrait of Jacquard woven in silk on a loom requiring 24’000 punched cards 1839, Right: A Jacquard loom
Nowadays jacquard looms (or more accurately jacquard heads on dobby looms) are used to create a wide variety of fabrics woven from any fibre. What sets them apart from other textiles is that they are often relatively expensive due to the fact that, although jacquard heads are now digitally programmed, the warping of these looms remains labour intensive. Indeed, looms are often only threaded once, with subsequent warps being tied onto the ends of existing warps.
We recently attended Decorex and were able to view a variety of contemporary jacquards. We were very impressed by the work of the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company, established in 1903. We had great fun riffling through their archive books. Every fabric they have ever woven has been documented, not only in terms of yarn and design, but also colour, with samples of one-off dyes kept for posterity. (They recently had to match the blue from the end of a Biro for a wealthy client – someone should have pointed out that it’ll look completely different once the lights are turned on!) At the other end of the spectrum we were inspired by the fleece blankets produced by Ian Mankin. These are woven from yarns that are 75% recycled cotton and 25% polyester from reclaimed materials (read plastic bottles!)
The Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company’s ‘Bed of Ware’, festooned in their silk damasks
Ian Mankin’s new range of fleece throws, made from recycled & reclaimed materials and woven on their jacquard looms
So why else might you have heard of Jacquard? Jacquard’s loom, with its punch card programming, is cited as an important step in the history of computing. The series of punch cards were the programme; change the programme and the machine will produce a drastically different result. Furthermore, instead of the process needing to be overseen by a master weaver it could be attended to by an unskilled labourer, highlighting the fact that in the realm of textile production the jacquard loom was key to the industrial revolution. In conclusion the fact that the term ‘jacquard’ is so ubiquitously used to refer to such a variety of not only woven, but also knitted textiles, is testimony to the extent of the revolution that was finally ushered in with Jaccquard’s 1801 demonstration. Styles of fabric that were once the domain of the wealthy became, with time, available to the masses.