Sunday, 11 August 2019

A Dancer

Trying to lose the long frock I started considering what types of employment might be available to a woman without a skirt. I thought about the circus, acting and music hall. Music hall developed out of entertainment in public houses during the time frame I’m looking at so it seemed apt.

I thought that a music hall dancer (not the sort of thing a nice middle class family would consider acceptable for their daughter) could be used in teetotal literature to present a character that had started on the slippery slope of drinking and had to take such employment or alternatively as someone whose choice of employment might have set her off on that route.

Actresses and entertainers, in some respectable circles, were considered as synonymous with prostitutes but I thought that they could be written/talked about in a way that ‘fallen women’ couldn’t. On a frivolous level I thought visually they would be more interesting and after all I am making children’s toys (sort of).

I’ve developed a dancer, dressed as a soldier, monoprinted,
 then scanned and overlaid the black drawing lines on the computer.
She works.
Toy puppets of music hall dancers don’t necessarily fit the brief of ‘teetotal’ but I think I can manage that.

The teetotal movement made use of both printed ephemera, (certificates to the band of hope etc) and morally improving literature to get their point across. So my dancers will come with a booklet or broadsheet telling the story of Gentleman Jim’s Daughters.

Hillaire Belloc wrote his cautionary tales as a tongue in cheek tribute to Victorian moralising children’s literature. I’m aiming at that sort of style though I think it’ll probably end up more like William McGonagall

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Jumping Jacks

Last week I went back to thinking about what I wanted to make as an end piece for this project.I liked the interactive nature of the thaumatropes but I was not happy with the amount of empty space I needed to leave around the figure in order to make it fit into the tankard.

I had started to investigate board games and had also thought about card games but this would mean an awful lot of work both in the art work and the development of a whole game. In the time frame I have (exhibition at the beginning of October and images needed for the associated book even earlier) that isn’t practical. 

On an instagram post I saw Pollock’s toy puppet theatres and was very tempted (I may well come back to these at a later date). The thought of puppets made me think of Jumping Jacks, they are interactive, contemporary with the teetotal movement and have the benefit of being stand alone, they don’t need scenery or other extra pieces.

So I had a go at turning my drunk into one
And then I started to think about female figures. Somehow the idea of the rolling drunk gentleman as a mildly amusing, if salutary, children’s toy is acceptable in the way that a drunken destitute woman isn’t.

While researching I had come across the story of Mary Anne Pearce, who was at one time mistress to Lord Barrymore but it didn’t end well . You can find the image of the broadsheet telling her story at the National Library of Scotland DigitalCollection

I’m not sure at what point she started drinking but thought she might serve as a lesson to young Victorian women. I decided to portray her in party mode (but perhaps after a few glasses) before she fell too far down the social scale.
I thought she needed skirts down to her ankles for her party frock but for jumping jacks to be effective all four limbs have to be seen moving so I added a layer of complexity and she moves her skirts to show off her legs. It sort of works but she does tend to get the edges of her legs stuck behind the washers on her skirts.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Expanding the idea

I like the thaumatrope idea but I’m also considering other types of childhood ephemera such as playing cards, toy theatres and jumping jacks.

At the moment I’m taking the imagery from charcoal studies based on Victorian illustrations. So far I’ve concentrated on those that emphasised the effects of alcohol on the drinker and their families but the temperance literature I’ve been reading also talks about the 'beneficiaries', the publicans and brewers etc. 

So I thought I’d have a go at an image suitable for ‘Miss ......., the publican’s daughter’.

If she benefits from the proceeds of alcohol sales I figured she should be well dressed so I made a drawing based on a Victorian fashion illustration. But I thought she should be a bit over the top so I went back to a process colour pallette for the monoprint.
Far too garish. She reminds me of Grayson Perry's Claire on a bad day. And she lacks definition, she needs some linear drawing.

I bit of experimenting with photoshop and I've managed to change the charcoal drawing into a  halftone screen and lay it ontop of the scan of the monoprint. The line improves the image and the half tone dots are reminiscent of the appearance of the chromolithographic process.

And I've done the same to my drunk man on a chair.

Sunday, 14 July 2019


I finally found a way forward with the studies and prints that I’ve been making. 

Chromolithographic printing came into its own during the Victorian era. This printing process meant that it was possible to print colourful multicoloured ephemera quite cheaply. It led to an expanded market in children’s books and toys. Board games were often made with an educational or ‘morally improving’ content.

I reckoned that overprinting of several different colours based on a key drawing has echoes of this process.I liked my prints of figures in vessels but as a response to the theme I felt there was something missing.

I thought about devising a pastiche board game but during my research for this I came across a thaumatrope. It’s a scientific toy invented in the beginning of the 19th century. It’s a disc, with a different picture on each of its two sides suspended from two loops of thread. You wind up the thread by turning the disc than when you pull them apart the threads unwind, the disc spins and the two mages appear to combine. A light bulb moment!

I made another drawing
and print,
 and print of a tankard
Then scanned and sized them, and put them into circles.
Cutting ,sticking and threading
And it worked.
Sort of.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Weaver of Words

My recycle/reuse book for NWBA is finally finished.
Initially it was going to be three opening hexagons on a woven base but the base was a bit floppy. When I started to reinforce it with the cover of the book I’d cut up to make the weaving I decided that I like the framing effect of a black border round the base. Then this grew into a proper cover.

I'm pleased with it though I don't thnk I'm going to edition it.