Monday, 29 June 2015

Brit Decor: Talks to HeraldBLACK

Whilst at University one of my favourite things to do on campus was mooch around the Fine Art building and explore the various studios, where I would always find a hive of creativity as artists worked with various media.  I loved soaking up that creative buzz, even though my own choice of artist's tool was a computer, it all felt very organic. 

In this setting I was always drawn towards print-based works, fascinated by the sense of process that goes into, for example, screen printing. I also used to spend time gazing at the finished pieces of artwork and visualising these framed and hanging in my own home - and this thought process is still with me today. 

There is no doubt about just how easy it is to pick up a stunning mass-produced print but you can't beat the sense of satisfaction from acquiring  a unique version, fresh from the artist's studio. And this is how I came to discover the work of Stephen Dow aka HeraldBLACK, when I recently became the proud owner of one of his works Arches II, which now takes pride of place at the cottage (see 'below'). 

Intrigued about the artist behind the work, I decided to catch-up with Stephen and find out more...

Why HeraldBLACK?

I wanted something that was a bit more anonymous, a nom de plume but for artists I suppose. I didn't want to use my name, although HeraldBlack is based on it. My first name is derived from the Greek for crown or garland, symbols used in heraldry. My surname comes from the Irish for black so indirectly I am using my name. 

HeraldBlack is something that feels very personal and connected to me. To me it also sounds like a font or a paint colour, or even a printing term so these connotations sit fine with me.

Where did it all begin?

I studied printed textiles and photography at art college almost 20 years ago. After graduating I undertook an internship with John Rocha in Dublin but did not pursue printing after this. I didn't have the self confidence at that time to set up as a freelance designer.

I ended up in retail & worked as a home accessories merchandiser for the last 10 years but always yearned for something more creative. Eventually I gave that up at the end of 2013 and stepped on to a new path in 2014 at Shadwell Print Studio. I set up my website 6 months later & have been printing, learning & developing since then. 

What inspires your work?

Sometimes literature. I was very inspired by the descriptiveness of François Mauriac's novel Thérèse Desqueyroux and used this as a reference for years. I'm often inspired by my surroundings and avidly photograph and Instagram as a means of keeping a visual diary. I've also kept notebooks for years so a sketch or collage there may end up being translated into a print.

Which other artist do you most admire?

That is such a hard question, it's very difficult to narrow it down.

I really like the work of photographer Eadward Muybridge who did studies of locomotion of humans & animals. I love the notion of a series, repetition and slight differences between each image. The strange arenas and rooms that Francis Bacon painted his subjects in always fascinate me as does his handling of colour. The Beckett Suite of etchings by Diarmuid Delargy are works that I have always loved since seeing them in a gallery in Belfast in 1996. His depiction of Beckett reminds me so much of my grandfather that I have wanted to own a print ever since then.

How does a typical day begin in the studio?

The day usually starts with gathering up the previous day's work off the drying rack and laying it out, reviewing it. A break from looking at the work you've spent hours producing can be very helpful. If the muse is present then I'll get set up & working on some new prints straight away. If not then it's probably time for a coffee and some critique with one of the other printmakers in the studio. Depending on the process I'll set out inks, paper, printing plates & cloths on the workbench and get going. I tend not to have too rigid a plan of what outcome I want, I've learned that this can lead to a certain amount of frustration & disappointment. Being more flexible and open to the possibility of 'happy accidents' generally makes for a more rewarding day. I'm typically at the studio three days a week for between 4-6 hours. I will work the rest of the time from home, working on notebooks & plans for prints, updating the online shop & responding to queries & queuing in the post office sending orders out.

Do you have a favourite piece of work? If so, which one and why?

I don't have a favourite piece of my own work. There are probably elements & sections of a print that I like so I suppose that's what keeps me printing, trying to perfect my craft & achieve that perfect print (if such a thing exists!). I'm constantly re-evaluating the composition, colour balance & overall sense of a piece that there isn't one print I prefer the best. I am rather pleased with the Arches: Sun & Sea series I recently added to the shop. This was a development of a previous series of prints but in response to a customer's request for more colour in my work. It was a pleasing outcome. 

If I had to pick one piece of someone else's work I greatly admire it would be Picasso's 'Girl in a Chemise' c.1905 from his Blue Period. The sense of melancholy from this painting proved a source of inspiration for my final year degree, and I'm still haunted by the painting almost 20 years later. 

Images/ Mike Ahern & HeraldBLACK

What does the future hold for HeraldBLACK?

HeraldBLACK has had an online presence for one year. I'll reach out to new customers by exhibiting and participating in art fairs later this year. The face to face engagement and discussion about a piece of work and the process sometimes gets lost online so its always good to have direct feedback. I'm working toward having a stockist this year too. 

I'm considering applying some of my print designs to other products, I'd love to see how my work would translate onto textiles, or a stationery range. Working collaboratively with someone that could do this would be wonderful.

You can view & buy works by HeraldBLACK by clicking here and follow his progress via his Instagram page.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Brit Decor: Coastal Colour / Tenby, Wales

All images / Copyright Mike Ahern

Well it's Friday and Summertime - so I thought it highly appropriate to share these vibrant and  colour-happy shots I took whilst on a recent visit to the Welsh seaside town of Tenby. It's difficult not to become completely enchanted by the array of candy shop coloured homes which line the sedate and pretty streets, framed by pale golden sands, deep blue seas, and a picture-postcard harbour.

Tenby also holds a strong sentimental connection for me as it evokes memories of childhood visits. Also, this was a place where my Mum used to spend family holidays when she was a child, and it's that sense of re-living old memories and creating new ones, which is so powerful.

It was also great to play the interiors geek and take a moment to photograph the old lifeboat station (with the bold red roof 'above'), these days a converted home for two lucky owners, as featured on Channel 4's Grand Designs back in 2011 - just imagine the awesome views.

Unfortunately this was only a whistle-stop visit lasting just a few hours but @simonwatsonpt and I did make time to stop for a mouthwatering bite to eat at The Mooring restaurant and cafe, followed by a quick stop at a traditional sweet shop - it would have been rude not too!

We were so inspired by our Tenby adventure that we couldn't help but pick up two brightly coloured Pantone mugs, in homage to the colour-perfect buildings that we'd seen. I hope you too can take inspiration from this beautiful setting.

Get well soon Mum - you can do it!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Brit Decor: Loves / Cauldron light from Mineheart

ImagesMineheart/Young & Battaglia

This brand new collection from eclectic British design company Mineheart has really caught my eye! The Cauldron light is designed by Young and Battaglia, and are inspired by centuries-old traditional cooking pots. However, the historic element ends there as these designs are worthy of any contemporary setting.

Each pendant is made from smooth black glass and creates a dark, dramatic and deeply alluring presence, particularly when hung in groups for maximum impact. Perfect for bewitching guests at a dinner party or for making a statement in a hallway or living room...

The Cauldron light takes inspiration from cooking pots and storage jars from centuries ago, turning this on its head to create iconic lighting pieces,” Young and Battaglia.

These lights come in four shapes - three pendants and one table lamp:

Curved Pendant Cauldron Lamp £320 Large Cauldron Pendant Lamp £360 Large Cylinder Cauldron Lamp £340 Cylinder Cauldron Lamp £300 Cylinder Cauldron Table Lamp £310

All available from

Friday, 19 June 2015

Brit Decor: Goes Coastal

All images / Copyright Mike Ahern

My #instafriends will know that I was busily shooting pics during my recent holiday on the stunning Gower coastline in Wales, in fact, I still haven't found time to sift through and edit all of these. Then of course, I will need decide if any images are striking enough to be made into prints for the cottage (I love to add original photo prints from my travels, as a constant visual reminder of fun times).

The changeable weather on this world-famous stretch of coastline, the UK's first ever designated area of natural outstanding beauty, made for some awesome images of contrasting stormy skies, swelling seas, dreamy blue back-drops and gentle shimmering waves - enough to tempt even the most reluctant of amateur photographers to take up lenses.

These particular shots were taken at Port Enyon and the world-famous Rossili beach, which was breathtakingly beautiful! I hope you enjoy these pics and have a great weekend, wherever you are.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Brit Decor: Livingetc House Tours/ Concrete Cool

All images / Copyright Mike Ahern

Last week was manic for so many reasons, but having Friday to look forward to, more so than usual, helped my focus to remain positive all week. Following an early morning drive from Bath to London, it was time for brunch at Made bar & kitchen with Hannah and the fab Arlo & Jacob team, and of course, some awesome bloggers - Style Juicer, Little Big Bell, Block Print Social, Museum Mum, Yes Please, and later in the day - My Interior Stylist, now that's a line-up!

Morning social aside, we had gathered together for a VIP version of the Livingetc House tours and subsequently we were whisked off by private coach to snoop, snap and survey a total of seven stylish homes across the capital.

Of the seven properties, one of my favourite homes is this four-storey cube house. A haven of contemporary cool concrete and mid-century modern furniture pieces, bold blocks of colour, and equally vibrant canvases, all seem to fuse together with an overriding sense of family. With an architectural style that is frequently associated with a cold and minimalist 'look', creating a family home in this context is no easy feat. However, I love how the homeowners have made no effort to conceal their kid's toys, which only adds to the character of the building and helps to create that important lived-in feel.

Similarly, the addition of vintage furniture pieces, rather than the obvious minimalist pieces, and copious amounts of books all help to embrace a sense of 'home'. It's also surprising how visually powerful the vases of freshly cut flowers look in contrast against the concrete wall panels - a material often associated with  brutal functionality.

Due to an open full height cross-section in the centre of the house, natural light floods down into the building, and with large windows in each of the rooms, this house seems much larger than it actually is - clearly with this project the architect understood the importance of maximising the sense of space. There is also something incredibly calming about the smooth grey concrete, which made this final home feel very tranquil.

Thanks again to the Arlo & Jacob team, and to Natalie from Block Print Social - thanks for being my #BusBuddy for the day!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Brit Decor: Giveaway with best4frames!

Images / (top) Brit Decor / best4frames (bottom) domainehome

Brit Decor Reader Giveaway!
I am currently working on a gallery wall back at the cottage because grouping together some of my favourite photos and prints is such a powerful way of making a creative and very visual statement about who I am, creatively, and it also makes for a fantastic feature in the home.

This is why I am really excited to be partnering up with the team over at best4frames to offer one lucky Brit Decor reader the chance to win a £50 shopping spree at their online store so you too can frame some of your favourite images - for free!

How to enter
All you have to do is click on the Rafflecopter widget 'below' and either visiting the best4frames Facebook page or by following them on Twitter - simple! The lucky winner will be selected at random on Monday 22nd June.

How would you display your frames?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions
One like per social media profile e.g. 1x Facebook and 1x Twitter. The winner will be randomly selected and will be able to place one order for any frame or set of frames up to the value of £50 (inclusive of VAT) from the best4frames website Open to UK residents only.

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