Birds, Blocks & Stamps

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On 22 July 2011, a little delegation of Two Riverlings – Sally Mortimore, Karen Mosman, John Froy and me – went to Norfolk to visit wildlife artist Robert Gillmor and his wife Sue at their home. Robert had been commissioned by the Post Office to produce a series of linocuts for four sets of Post & Go stamps featuring native birds of Britain, and, to our delight, had approached Two Rivers to see if we wanted to work with him to make this into a book.

I think it’s fair to say we were all a bit starstruck. It felt surreal to see the studio where it all happens, to find myself sitting in Robert’s conservatory, original artwork spread out on the dining table.

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Robert is a quiet man, courteous and soft-spoken, a warm and welcoming host who quickly put us at our ease, regaling us with wonderful anecdotes of bird encounters, of his time teaching at Reading, of his grandfather Allen Seaby whose love of birds and art he inherited in equal measure, of doing colour separations in his head while sitting in the bath. Then Sue made him pack it all away again to delight us with a home-cooked meal.

We set off back to Reading armed with three folders’ worth of Robert’s drawings, sketchbooks and notes, and Robert’s only set of the prints, which I took home to digitise them for the book.

Then I spent many terrified weeks worrying I might get burgled, hiding those invaluable prints under my bed (because burglars would never think to look there), and pulling them out every day to check they were all still there as much as to admire them.

Going through Robert’s original artwork to make a selection for the book was the most enjoyable and the hardest of tasks. Every now and then a postcard or a letter would arrive from Robert, an avid correspondent who refreshingly shuns email, in his even and beautiful hand, to give feedback or make suggestions on my latest designs.

Relieved as I was to return his things to him at the launch of Birds, Blocks & Stamps (which coincided with the opening of his an exhibition of his work at the Museum of Reading), I found I missed having them. I would have loved to see the Magpies on my living room wall.

Shortly after the launch, a thank you card arrived from Robert, congratulating me on ‘a good job’ – and if you know Robert, that is high praise indeed.

I might not have got to keep the Magpies, but I framed that card and put it up in my kitchen.

Keble College signage

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University of Oxford Keble College commissioned me to design a wayfinding system to direct external visitors around the site during their Easter and Summer conferences.

The design needed to be sensitive to Butterfield’s polychromatic brickwork architecture, the buildings’ Grade II listed status, take into account existing fittings and fixtures – and, not least of all, the fact that to most of its students, Keble College is home.

Working with custom signmakers The Signworks, I designed a modular signage system consisting of a wall-mounted back plate and a face place that dovetails on it. Rubbings of the brickwork taken at each sign location provided templates for custom-located fittings to align with the brick courses.

The signs were spray-painted in a dark grey to match existing metalwork on the grounds. The signs are easy to take down at the end of the conference season – but secure enough to discourage the casual thief or trophy-hunter when in use. When the signs are removed, holes and wall plugs are covered with caps painted to match the brick joints.

The World in Reading

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The World in Reading is a thematic introduction to the rich and diverse collection at Reading Museum. The brief for this museum guide was to convey the sense of inspiration and enjoyment that can be derived from studying and handling real objects, whether they relate to Reading’s local historical and natural environment or other cultures around the world.

The design combines a contemporary palette, clean sans serif and flexible grid to show off the collection at Reading. Juxtaposition of different image treatments provides variety of colour, texture, shape, and scale.

The cover illustrates the breadth of the Museum collection and provides ‘teasers’ which hint at the treasures to be discovered.