Visit to the small but perfectly formed Cartoon Museum

cartoon-museum-logoLast week I joined in with the LIKE (London Information and Knowledge Exchange) visit to the Cartoon Museum.

For several years I had walked past the building in Little Russell Street, just around the corner from the British Museum, on my way to work. So I was curious to see what was inside.

After a short introduction from the director and some typically ‘info-pro’ questions relating to copyright of the collection, we were free to explore the exhibits.

Downstairs I took in the permanent collection of historical works from seminal cartoonists such as Hogarth, Gillray and Cruikshank. Coming up to date with some hard-hitting images relating to the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

Source Wikimedia

Next was the current featured exhibition Heckling Hitler, with cartoons and comic art from World War II. There were some classics by David Low which you can view on the British Cartoon Archive.

In addition were some famous government propaganda posters from the time, including Coughs and sneezes spread diseases, Careless Talk Costs Lives and Doctor Carrot the ‘children’s friend’.




On the way upstairs I stumbled across a short video from Simon’s Cat. This creature was a new discovery, but this example was a brilliant reminder of my own cat’s ruthless methods of getting my attention.

Upstairs was a wonderful collection of original drawings from the likes of Dennis the Menace, Dan Dare, Rupert Bear and Roy of the Rovers. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar sight from my youth. On closer inspection it turned out to be a page from the Trigan Empire, which appeared in my childhood magazine Look and Learn. An unexpected blast from the past.


I would strongly recommend a visit to the museum if you get the opportunity.

The Cartoon Museum
35 Little Russell St

Make it, Sell it in the Business & IP Centre at the British Library

Many thanks to Fran Taylor for this report on Make it, Sell it:

On Friday we ran the very first of our ‘Make it, Sell it’ events, designed to help jewellery and crafts makers to commercialise their designs.

Around 90 makers came to the Business & IP Centre networking area during the day.  In a ‘speed dating’ style format, they got to meet some great names from brands such as Etsy, Real Business, Tatty Devine, Folksy, Artquest, the Design Trust and Wolf & Badger.

In what was described by Time Out as “an Antiques Roadshow-esque” show and tell, attendees could also bring along their work. I loved all the products on show, but here were some of the ones that caught my eye:

Camilla Smith-Westergaard from Butterscotch & Beesting has designed an amazing range of circus and magic inspired confectionery. She has created a really distinct and strong brand through her own illustrations.

Butterscotch & Beesting Circus

Laura Brannon produces unusual, fine-art style pieces of jewellery under the theme of ‘Dead lights’.   She reuses household materials from shower heads to rubber and foam.

Laura Brannon lucy

Belinda from Bels Art World produces fantastic illustrations in the form of calendars, bags, cards and zines.

Bels Art World

Last but not least, Jo Cameron of Wild Fowl Designs makes contemporary earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets.  This was one of my favourite designs from her range, which Jo also wore on the day. It’s always good to wear your own products…

Wild Fowl Designs

Cool infographics that tell a story

Although I have never really believed in the old cliché a picture is worth a thousand words, I have been a big fan of effective illustrations for many years.

I started with the seminal works The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Envisioning Information by statistician and sculptor, Edward Tufte. Although, I have to say I was always somewhat underwhelmed by his examples.

Thanks to a recent BBC series on The Beauty of Diagrams, I discovered that Florence Nightingale (who is best known as the nurse who cared for thousands of soldiers during the Crimean War), was the first to use statistical graphics as to illustrate the causes of mortality.

More recently I have discovered the Cool Infographics blog, and have seen some excellent examples of effective presentations of statistical information.

The Conversation Prism 3.0 for 2010 shows  the major players in each of 28 different online conversation categories.

Although not strictly speaking statistics related,  How Would You Like Your Graphic Design? gets an important point across very effectively.

More Asian and African surprises from the British Library collections

Another year on and another show and tell from the idiosyncratic Hedley Sutton with more Asian surprises at the British Library. This time he added a few African ones to boot.

Hedley started the show off with an exotic quiz in the shape of a black and white photo of a European looking woman wearing a belly dancer’s outfit. After a short pause while the audience considered their options I blurted out, “is she Mata Hari?” I was rewarded with a knowing smile from Hedley and the appearance of an original letter from 1917 from an agent of the French secret service to their British equivalent. The letter identified her as a double agent for the Germans. Soon after in October Mata Hari (which was Indonesian for ‘eye of the day’), was executed by firing squad as a spy. It turned out she was in fact a Dutch subject and her original name was Margaretha Zelle.

Pat Shipman one of her biographers argues that Mata Hari was never a double agent, speculating that she was used as a scapegoat by the head of French counter-espionage. The fact that she was seen by some as a ‘wanton and promiscuous woman, and perhaps a dangerous seductress’, may not have helped her case.

International Dunhuang ProjectNext Hedley showed off what appeared to be an ancient religious text hailing from the famous Dunhuang Archaeological Sites in Xinjiang China. In fact it turns out this was actually a sophisticated fake, and part of a cottage industry which flourished in that part of China around the late 1800’s. The items were produced in response to an invasion of European collectors eager to get hold of historical documents from the area preserved for hundreds of years by the desert conditions.

This led on to a discussion about the the International Dunhuang Project, which is an international collaboration to make information and images of all manuscripts, paintings, textiles and artefacts from Dunhuang and archaeological sites of the Eastern Silk Road freely available on the Internet.

szyk-haggadah-family-at-sederNext we were shown a surprisingly recent publication, which turned out to be a new (and limited print run) version of the Szyk Haggadah.

The Szyk Haggadah is a Passover Haggadah illustrated by Arthur Szyk in Poland in the 1930s. According to the The Times it is ‘worthy to be placed among the most beautiful of books that the hand of man has ever produced’.

What makes the beautiful illustrations so unusual is Szyk’s approach of portraying contemporary political issues in medieval style. His first set of illustrations were clear and unfavourable references to the Nazis, including such detail as Nazi armbands on the Egyptians oppressing and murdering the Israelites, and the faces of Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Göring on two snakes.


The art of business and the business of art

My Business Advice clients vary enormously in their business interests to the point where I rarely get surprised by their ideas.

rachel_whiteread_-_houseHowever last week I saw an artist and her partner, who’s project (an ‘intervention‘ as she called it) involves building a multi-million pound house (with a significant twist). Although houses as art are not new, with perhaps Rachel Whiteread’s House, a concrete cast of the inside of an entire Victorian terraced house completed in autumn 1993 and exhibited at the location of the original house in East London. It drew mixed responses, winning her both the Turner Prize for best young British artist in 1993 and the K Foundation art award for worst British artist.

My client was concerned that her idea, which in some respects is even more simple in concept, if not in construction, would be stolen by rival artists. Unfortunately the nature of intellectual property is that the less tangible the idea the weaker the protection. For example the storyline for a novel is much more difficult to protect than the finished book, printed and bound.

During the advice session she recommended a visit to Roger Hiorns latest work Seizure. This show the results of a giant science experiment in a derelict flat in south London. After reinforcing the walls and ceiling and covering them in plastic sheeting, 80,000 litres of a copper sulphate solution was poured in from a hole in the ceiling. After a few weeks the temperature of the solution fell and the crystals began to grow. The result is spectacular to say the least.




The artist admiring the fruits of his labour