Meet the Makers: Kaylene Alder

Kaylene Alder holding an example of her illustrationKaylene Alder is a Brixton-based illustrator. Here she tells us how she came to create the banner for the Makerhood West Norwood website, and how you could share an aspect of Brixton with other local people and win one of her prints at the same time.

1.      What kind of creative work do you do?
I’m a freelance illustrator. I work on magazines, books and also personal work such as cards, screen prints, and special occasion work such as wedding stationery.

2.      What inspired you to get into this?
Initially I did a degree in fine art, but at that time I found the fine art world in Montreal, where I studied, very exclusive and almost deliberately convoluted and obscure. I found I took much more easily to illustration, as a medium which communicates strongly and allows room for a sense of humour.

I have been working as a teacher, but I realised how important making and creating are to me and wanted to get it more prominent in my life, so I began to take up freelance work. I now teach part-time so that I can pursue this.

3.      What brought you to Brixton, and what kept you here?
Desire to travel! I came here first in 2001 and then travelled for nine months in south-east Asia, and worked in South Korea for a time, but teacher training brought me back here.

4.      Are you still teaching?
Yes, I work part-time as a primary teacher, both as a general class teacher and as an art teacher. I am hoping to be involved in an interesting project soon, integrating arts subjects such as art, music and drama, with other learning such as maths and science. Most kids have a lot of energy and find it hard to sit still, so having something physical to do will help to keep their brains engaged!

5.      I hear you designed the banner for the Makerhood West Norwood website – tell us more about how you got involved with Makerhood?
I saw the website by chance, and did one of the Christmas stalls outside Studio 73 – from there it just snowballed. I volunteered at the ‘Making Uncovered’ event, which was a great day, very positive.

It was thanks to contacts I made through these events and sharing a Makerhood stall at the Urban Art fair that I came to do the banner. After Mark, my partner, gave me an old map of Brixton as a gift, I was inspired to use maps in my illustrative work – I really like working over them, they provide such rich backgrounds. As a result I’d done some work for the ‘new cartography’ project at The New Wolf, looking at four areas of London which included some work in the West Norwood area that provided a basis for the banner.

6.      So Makerhood has helped you?
Absolutely! Making Uncovered (I got a commission there, too!), the stalls at Studio 73, Urban Art etc, making friends and contacts, the Etsy mentorship project, and the Diverse ‘Makers in the Hood’ opportunity, it’s all been really helpful.

Kaylene_Alder-217.      Now we know what brought you to Brixton, what keeps you here?
London’s so big and still so small, everywhere has a community, you just have to seek it out, but Brixton feels like a proper community. I like its hustle, the fact that it is close to central London but has so much available locally – the park, the Ritzy, Brixton Village, the windmill – I love that it has a windmill, it is just so weird and amazing!

8.      What’s your hot tip for a hidden pleasure or treasure in Brixton?
Prima Donna (a Brazilian restaurant in Market Row) is one of our favourite places, they have an amazing sticky date pudding!

Also, community initiatives such as the Brixton Blog and the free Brixton Bugle paper. I am in awe of the people who run admirable projects such as these and Makerhood – they have boundless energy and enthusiasm for generating a community spirit in Brixton – so I help to distribute The Brixton Bugle on Friday mornings and do a monthly illustration for it. To involve local people in this, I invite them to tweet in their ideas for the subject of the next illustration. If their idea is selected, I send them one of the resulting prints!

If you’d like to see Kaylene’s work, take a look at her website. Many of her illustrations show aspects of Brixton, some of which are available from local shops such as Diverse Gifts, and if you’d like to inspire her with a subject for the next Brixton Bugle illustration and maybe win your own print, pick up a copy on a Friday morning and tweet your suggestions!

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Meet the makers: Rachel Stanners

After a bit of a gap, we’re resuming our interviews with Makerhoodies. In this first one, Rachel tells us why she switched from set and costume design to printing with Prickle Press – and where to get great-value flowers in Brixton.

1. You studied set and costume design – so how did you end up making and selling prints?
In 2009 I was a year out of my MA in scenography for dance and was getting some odd bits of work as a designer while holding down a full-time job, but I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired by the work I was doing. At the time my partner was visiting from Australia and he bought a letterpress printer. Neither of us had done any printing before, but we loved it! Instead of being told what to do by other people, I could do exactly what I wanted. And it’s very tactile – I use sets of metal and wooden type, often really old. Some of the cards I have on Makerhood are made from vintage wooden type loaned from a shop called Mr Magpie in Brighton.

2. So you are now a professional printmaker?
Yes, I work from home, printing four days a week. Now we have a much bigger press, about 100 years old, made in the US. It’s a massive piece of equipment and weighs a ton – I’m worried about it falling through the ceiling into our living room below! Although I don’t have any formal training I’ve always done a lot of drawing, and I like to combine type and illustration. So I draw up designs, turn them into PDFs and then get them made into polymer plates for printing.

3. And how did the name of Prickle Press come about?
I wanted the name to be quite personal – something that meant something to me. Prickle is my partner’s nickname, because his surname is Burr. And Prickle Press rolls off the tongue nicely and is quite cute but with an edge – rather like my work! I like to create something that’s not too twee, that makes people think.

4. Why did you join Makerhood?
Last Christmas I did a market at the Living Room, and someone came round giving out flyers about it. So I looked it up but wasn’t sure how I could get involved at that stage. But then earlier this year I decided I wanted to meet more people in the area and get more of a sense of community, so I went to a volunteers’ meet-up. I really like the fact that Makerhood is creating a network of local artists and designers – working at home on your own can be quite isolating. And I can print bespoke business cards , so maybe I could also make new business contacts!

5. Do you feel isolated living in Brixton?
Not at all! I’ve lived here for five years, almost longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. I came back from Canada and my brother was living here, so I moved in with him and have no plans to leave. I think it takes a long time to feel at home in London, but I know where to find what I need here now. It’s changed a lot, but it’s quite exciting to see those changes.

6. So tell us about some of your favourite Brixton insider tips!
I’m a big fan of the flower stall outside Brixton tube – they sell the most affordable flowers I’ve found in London and always have some more unusual ones. And my favourite restaurant is Elephant in Brixton Village – the freshest, tastiest curry in London. If I could be guaranteed a seat I’d be there every Saturday evening!

You can buy Rachel’s  quirky, limited-edition letterpress prints at http://brixton.makerhood.com/prickle-press

Makerhood at Urban Art

Next weekend is Urban Art, Brixton’s popular annual open-air art fair, held on leafy Josephine Avenue. For the second year, Makerhood will have a pitch, featuring four very different Makerhood artists. Mike Fell is a Brixton-based painter and print maker who also makes unusual pieces out of old cassette tapes and found boards.http://brixton.makerhood.com/mike-fell

Ray Stanbrook is known for his locally inspired screen prints, featuring recognisable landmarks around Herne Hill and Brixton. You may have seen his menu in the Ritzy Café! http://brixton.makerhood.com/ray-stanbrook
Sweet View sells limited edition prints  of different London boroughs, including of course Lambeth, based on sketches of everyday life. http://brixton.makerhood.com/sweet-view
We’ll also have some plaster plaques by Sharon Kaye. We don’t have any photos of these at the moment – will tweet and post when we get some!

Meet the makers: Gillian Arnold

Textile artist Gillian Arnold makes beautiful textile prints of ferns and other plants on satin. She tells us about making 20-metre table runners for her wedding and why pregnancy has unleashed her creative powers

1. Your pieces attracted quite a bit of attention on the Makerhood stall at the Urban Art Fair. How long have you worked with this technique?
I started printing from actual plants when I was at art college in Liverpool. I actually enrolled for a fashion course but found I didn’t have the patience to make clothes! So I transferred to the textiles course, which gave me the freedom to experiment with printing.

2. So when did you move to south London?
I moved to London after graduating and worked for a prop-making company in Coldharbour Lane. I was producing “throw-away art” for window displays in House of Fraser stores, like Dickins & Jones in Regent Street. It was great fun – we would produce a Bridget Riley-style 1960s painting and then have to work out how to make 100 copies!

3. And now you work on community art projects?
Well, actually I gave up work about a month ago because I’m expecting a baby in a couple of months! But I spent the past eight years working as an artist with schools and the community, doing things like producing large-scale prints from kids’ drawings. But I’ve also covered jewellery, sculpture, mosaic and photography. It’s really stretched my own skills – but I’ve also gathered lots of ideas to work on myself.

4. It doesn’t sound as if you’ve had much time to work on your own ideas!
That’s true! When I got married last year I did make my own table runners for the wedding reception – four 20-metre lengths of fabric featuring feathers and ferns. I also printed on my own wedding dress and printed my husband’s tie as well! But now I’ve given up work, it’s wonderful to have time before the baby arrives to be able to create my own pieces. My website is http://gillianarnold.com.

5. What will happen after the baby is born?
I’ve got to carry on after the birth – I need a creative output, or everyone around me will suffer! Hopefully I will have enough pieces made by the time the baby arrives to be able to continue selling them online. My husband is incredibly supportive – he takes care of the website and the business side of things.

6. Tell us about the work you’ve done in west Africa.
I’ve been working for five or six years on a project in The Gambia, teaching women how to sew and make jewellery. It’s been hugely satisfying, passing on skills to people who really benefit from them – they sell their work in two hotels now. You can see photos on the website, as there are links to Flickr, Facebook and Twitter.

7. What’s the appeal of signing up with Makerhood?
I heard about Makerhood from a friend at Morley College and hot-footed it to the makers’ meeting at the Sun and Doves in Camberwell. It was just a few days before I gave up work, so I had to hurry up and make some pieces to put on my stall! I think it’s brilliant that Makerhood’s emphasis is on localness – from my community work I know that it’s better to work through connections with people rather than some impersonal online shop.

8. What’s your top tip for a bit of “hidden Camberwell”?
Café No 67 at the South London Gallery is brilliant. They do set menus of really well-made food, with a great balance of flavours. It’s got a glass ceiling and walls, so you can look out on the garden while you eat.

Café No 67, South London Gallery, 65 Peckham Road, SE5 8UH

You can see Gillian’s gorgeous textile prints at http://brixton.makerhood.com/gillian-arnold

Interview with Sweet View

This is the second in an occasional series of interviews with local people who inspire us.

Sweet View is a new company that offers a series of prints by artist Jack Noel. Rather than covering the usual touristic highlights of the Big Smoke, his work presents a Londoner’s view of life in our capital. Many thanks to Jack and Charlotte for taking the time to answer our top ten questions.

1 ) You meet someone at a party – how do you describe Sweet View to them?

We’d say Sweet View is a little company that sells prints of Jack’s drawings of each of the inner London boroughs.

2 ) Where did the idea come from?
Jack has loads of sketchbooks full of doodles of his surroundings. We realised that some of these sketches were actually quite lovely drawings of little slices of London.

One sketch – a Trafalgar Square panorama – he coloured and had framed. This became the basis for the Westminster print and the starting point for the whole project.

We love London and particularly our own little corner of Lambeth and knew others were affectionate for their local area too. We felt we could offer them affordable artwork that was unique, non-cliched and would allow them to display that affection on the walls of their homes.

3 ) Jack, how did you get into illustration and design?
I started by spending three years toiling through a degree in mathematics. I have always been a doodler and throughout my university time was no different.

I eventually emerged with a 2:2 degree and a pile of cartoons drawn in margins, and I decided to focus on the latter.

4 ) You’ve a very distinctive style – how did you go about developing this?
My sketchbooks have a loose, natural feel with lots of scribbly bits and half drawn people that I couldn’t finish before they moved.

I’ve tried to make this a positive thing and let things remain for the final prints. All the Sweet View drawings are done from life – there isn’t really any other way.

Brixton market where Atlantic Road meets Electric Avenue

5 ) And in terms of Sweet View, how did you decide to go about organising and selling prints?
We decided to make Sweet View a largely digital business, so we sell the prints online and most of our publicity comes from blogs and online publications.

But we do also attend the occasional market around London, so that people can come and see the prints in person before buying, if they prefer.

6 ) If you knew what you know now, would you do anything differently?
Financial records have been surprisingly challenging!

If we could turn back the clock we might seek more advice on recording our finances in a professional way. It turns out homemade financial spreadsheets can rapidly become very complicated.

7 ) What are you plans for the next year?
We will have the complete set of 12 prints finished by the end of the 2011. We are hoping to launch the eighth and ninth print in June so we are steadily getting there.

8 ) After you’ve done prints of all the inner London Boroughs, what’s your next challenge?
We could go on making London prints forever, there’s so much to celebrate. We’d also like to maybe look at other cities in England and the rest of Europe.

9 ) How do you think Makerhood could support your work and fit into your vision?
We love Makerhood’s focus on local shopping and trading.

Our mission with Sweet View is to provide artwork specific to a local area, so the whole concept of Makerhood matches perfectly with our vision.

10 ) I’ve read this and I love the sound of Sweet View. How can I find out more?
Do visit our website at www.sweetview.co.uk. You can also follow Jack on Twitter on @jackdraws and join our mailing list by emailing info@sweetview.co.uk.

Bonus question: If you were to share a top insider tip for someone new to Brixton and the surrounding area, what would it be?
In the summer go to Brockwell Lido early on a hot day and spend the whole day there. The water’s icy and you have to sunbathe on concrete but the atmosphere is pure holiday fun.