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Last week in Tranås – explorers’ map and bird patterns

22 Aug

In time for this weekend’s art festival here in Tranås I’ve completed an illustrated map of the antique and second hand shops in town. It folds down to A6 size – and out into a one sheet map locating 10 shops to visit. There’s also a rating system so visitors can colour in stars depending on how much they like each shop, and a notes area to jot down what bargains or treasures they discovered. These are being printed for the tourist centre, and also distributed to all 10 of the shops on the map. I am pleased to be able to leave something useful for the community alongside the workshops in book binding and screen printing that I ran during my stay. Transition Tranås will also be using the map. Here are some pictures:





Here is a photo of my first customers for the map – a German couple who were visiting the Eriksberg Museum for a tour of the fur exhibition with Gustav. I loved their matching jumpers.

german visitors and map

Here is a geometric bird design – screen printed onto fabric last week. I’m looking forward to working with this design some more.
geometric birds

T shirt printed with the bird design – it also looks like Matt here has a feathery front, out in his natural habitat….


So, today is my last day in Tranås, where I have been living and working as an artist in residence for just over 5 weeks. Here I have had the opportunity to create, explore and develop my practice as a printmaker and designer, as well as take in some very beautiful surroundings. I’m therefore very grateful to Kultivera, to Eva, Peter, Colm and Elisabeth for such a warm weclome here; to Carl and Soren at Epic Youth Centre for letting me use their screen printing facilities; and to the antique and second hand shops for allowing me to draw the objects in their shops. I’ve got many more ideas for patterns and illustrations to create when I get home. I’m bringing some examples of work back home to Wales and am planning an exhibition next year. What I’m also taking home is a renewed creative mindset – to making time within my practice to play. I’ve found that I’ve been most productive when  experimenting with new ideas, new techniques, rather than trying to plan a design from the start. The pieces of work that grow by themselves, more spontaneously, have often been the beginning of stronger designs. I have some exciting projects on the way this Autumn – including an interactive children’s book and another map design. More news on this soon. 


Here we all are. It’s been a blast – thanks guys x

Dispatches from Tranås: open day, exhibitions & experiments

16 Aug

There’s a noticeable freshness to the air this week. The lake feels a few degrees colder and in the forest nearby the rowan berries and rosehips are glowing a rich red. Autumn is on its way – and it is not long until the end of the Residency so I’ve been eager to make the most of the time left here. Working to deadlines has always benefited me creatively – wherever there’s a constraint, time, space, colour – then my designs become more playful and less forced.

So it was helpful last Saturday to have an open house here in Kraftverket – and the night before I was busily screen printing more patterns to display at the event.

Here is a picture of my exhibition – a collection of pattern prints inspired by second hand and antique objects.

open day1


My work is now on display for a week in the window of antique shop Inspiration ab. The screen prints are surrounded by the objects that inspired them – from an old kettle to a traditionally painted cockered to a globe that lights up. This little exhibition will be up for a week – so for those of you reading who live in Tranas, please take a look. Otherwise, enjoy this picture:


This week I have been playing with other techniques, now that the second hand patterns project feels complete. Here are some things I’ve made using water pens to draw with watercolour paints, and also some paper cut designs.
lamps pattern
geometric birds
houses jetties
birds for Emma

I’m also working towards creating an explorers’ map of the second hand shops – loppis – in Tranås. Pictures coming soon. It’s just one week left here now – I’m planning to make the most of it!

An adventure to Malmö

9 Aug

On Tuesday Amanda, Hanneke and I took a fast train to Malmö. It’s a small and creative city where a lot of artists, designers and creative people have moved.  We visited the Form Design Center on Lilla Torg, run by Svensk Form (the Swedish Association of Crafts and Design). There we saw an exhibition called What’s Up North? which features a selection of illustrators from across all of the Scandinavian countries.

Visiting the design shops in this central area was also like attending a gallery, as we admired the patterns, styles and colours used to create bold and functional pieces of clothing, kitchenware and jewellery. It was a joy to visit shop of Finnish designers Marimekko – who have long been one of my favourites for their vibrant, nature inspired patterns!

Then we made our way to the Davidshall area where the independent and second hand stores are located. There was so much there that I loved – but of course am unable to take home (shakes fist at Ryanair luggage allowance). So I took a few sneaky photos to remember the places by.

petite violette

I think my favourite places was a shop called Liebling on Davidshall 8 – wonderful dresses and cosmetics and handmade shoes…  I was also lusting after a brilliant array of Villeroy and Boch Acapulco china found in an antique shop, which was  too expensive / heavy –  so I’ll be keeping an eye out for some when I get home.

Then we wandered through a beautiful park, past the Castle where the city museums are located, to the Hamnen / harbour, where we could see Copenhagen and the Øresund Bridge across the sea as it was such a clear day. We also went to look at the Turning Torso apartment block – which is very tall and looks like it’s falling towards you when you look up at it! Below is a typical cheesy visitor snap to give an idea of scale. I came away with a lot of ideas and inspiration, and shall definitely return, with more time than just a day to explore further. I would certainly recommend this friendly and vibrant city to anyone.


Third week in Tranås: screen printing and sketches

9 Aug

There have been some spectacular thunder storms here over the past week – and as much as I like going out in them some rain-days have given me time to reflect on and develop my big pile of on-site sketches. I work with the windows open during a storm – the sound of the rain and thunder is energising!

Following my observational drawings of objects, I have now began to bring them together into patterns that can be repeated and also work as stand alone images. Here in town there’s a youth centre – Epic – which has brilliant facilities for screen printing – perfect! Last night I was there setting up the photo stencils / exposing my third and fourth screens ready for printing this evening. We are having an open day here at Kraftverket tomorrow – so I hope to have these prints ready to display.

Here are the first two screen prints – some dancing Dala farmers, inspired by a cake tin and the forest, and a pattern featuring the extra Swedish letter keys on a vintage typewriter. I have purposely printed them onto fabric purchased from second hand shops.

dancing farmers for web


Here is a sneak preview of a paper cut design and an illustrated pattern, both of which I will be screen printing onto fabric tonight.

old things thumbnail for blog


I have also spent some time sketching people. Last Saturday we took a trip to Vadstena, a pretty older town at the edge of lake Vättern, the second largest in Sweden. It was a blisteringly hot day so most of the time was spent sitting in shade in the park, and then hopping over the wall to jump into the lake.

sketch Vadstena


This week we attended a talk by two men who used to work in the fur industry here in Tranas. One was an expert in preparing the fur, and the other a designer who had made garments for the queen of Sweden.

Men who worked in the fur industry


Here is a character sketch of some of the men who worked in the machine factory, which is now Kraftverket. I’m going to play with this some more digitally to add some loose colour to parts of the image.

I’ve been working in a few different spaces to create work – within shops, in my studio here, and also in the garden. I’ve found that my work looks more precise, or evocative, or loose depending on where I’m sat, It’s pretty windy out there today – perhaps another storm is on the way – but I’m hoping to get outside with my sketchbook for a bit. And if the storm does arrive I may even attempt some painting out there anyway – to experiment with new techniques incorporating the rain drops…

Tranås week 2 – antiques, allotments and a flat pack cabin

1 Aug

I have spent the last week photographing, drawing and colouring objects from the shelves of second hand shops. The placement of the objects around the shop is sometimes intentionally interesting and other times accidental or dependent on the space available. So sometimes a sewing box will sit near to a deer skull, a scary plastic doll not far from a potato masher, and so on. I love these combinations! They raise questions and are the beginnings of stories – how did these unwanted, valuable or curious things from different places end up sharing a shelf, or shop floor?

second hand items1

I am grateful to Udda Ting and Inspirationab for their hospitality – and to the Swedish artists at the residency for teaching me some basic explanations to ask to draw in each shop. Christina and Christian who own Inspirationab were so kind – they made me a cup of coffee and space to draw, as well as introducing me, and my project, to their customers.  I’m going back there on Friday and hope to visit other shops across Tranås throughout my stay.


I have several washing lines of these images! From them I am designing patterns, using various media – paper stencil, gouache and even some screen printing at the Epic youth centre at the end of the week. Every day I’ve been noticing patterns – in the combinations of these objects, in the windows of buildings, patterns on birch tree bark, reflections in the lake and of course the constellation of insect bites building around my knees. I am drawn to both their simple repetition and more complex constructions.

I also visited the fur museum and drew some of the machines, tools and coats created at the height of the industry here in Tranas. Here are a few sketches. The models in the photographs look like paintings, with their smoky 60s eye make up.


Kraftverket, the building where we are staying, was a factory to make machines before it housed the fur production. The grandson of the man who built the factory in the early 1900s came to the building to visit us and brought with him photographs of the workers sat outside the building as well as the mechanics and work inside. The original window arches are beautiful (the building is now plastered). The men sport fantastic moustaches. I wonder what they are thinking – I’m planning a few character studies here. It’s fascinating to learn about the previous incarnations of the building – now that the industry and founders are gone, it is important that its stories are remembered. From copies of two of the images, I created the this collage which combines the outside and the inside of the building.

photo manipulation

This week we went on a road trip and visited Vandalorum, an exhibition venue for Swedish and international contemporary art and design. The building is designed by Renzo Piano, creator of the Pompidou centre and the Shard. It is three large barn-like buildings, joined with glass corridors to allow for time to reflect between exhibitions. There we encountered the work of Swedish designer Mats Theselius in his solo show, The Universe of Mats Theselius. He is an avid collector of objects – lego, saucepans, drums, spoons, Braun hair dryers, National Geographic Magazines…and these objects have inspired his design of furniture in unique ways. A Yamaha drum, and a chair that shares many of the stylistic features are displayed together; a cabinet made to measure for a collection of magazines; a coat based on the patterns of birch bark. He has also created a ‘flat pack’ piece entitled The Hermit’s Cabin. Photos below.

IMG_0104 adult lego for blog Mats Theselius exhibiton for blog Cabin for blog small Cabin for blog IMG_0102

It was perfect timing for my project with objects (and my enthusiasm for typography, packaging and functional design). I have some ideas for new work inspired by Theselius’ approach.

Last weekend we went to Colm’s allotment. The sheds here are as beautiful as the houses, with some people having a full on painted cabin on their patch. We harvested peas, raspberries, blackcurrants….and on Sunday afternoon I made some body scrub from the lavender collected. Oats, lavender and olive oil…a complete guess but it works a treat.

allotment for blog

For the rest of the week I’ll be preparing some images for screen printing and developing the pattern work.  I’ll be running a workshop on book making at the Tranas Library next Thursday 8th August and going to Malmo next Tuesday to explore. Our morning swims are continuing – as are our meetings with the cat who seems very keen on our breakfast.


Dispatches from Tranås – week 1

23 Jul

Last Wednesday 17 July I arrived in Tranås, Jönköping County, to be an artist-in-residence for almost 6 weeks. For someone who works full time, I see this as a wonderful opportunity to devote my time to creating new art work in a country that inspires me. I am joined by 7 other artists and it’s going to be interesting to see how we all respond to the experience, developing connections and exploring the area.

Tranas House

Above is where we are staying. The stage is quite a new addition, and I love the yellow benches! Eva and Colm are our hosts from Kultivera have given us a warm welcome here, to our home and studio for our time here. It is located near to the train line where long and very fast trains whoosh through and you can feel it on the windows. The noise really doesn’t bother me though – it’s dramatic!

There are a lot of lakes around here, from small secluded jetties stretching into deep pools in the woods, to the magnificent Sommen lake about half an hour’s drive away. Sommen has 365 bigger and smaller islands upon it, one for each day of the year! The lakes are clear and not so cold during the day time and there are many places where you can swim. Every morning since arriving, Hanneke and I have been walking up to a little lake called Trollsjön, which translates as Troll Lake. It’s magical! It’s quiet there and completely refreshing. I’ve now managed to swim to the other side (it’s pretty small, mind) and have found that the exercise has made me very productive during the day, not to mention working wonders to balance my blood sugars.


Jetty Cat

As we’ve been eating breakfast there, for the last two days we’ve been joined by a very friendly cat!

Last weekend there was a music festival in one of Tranås’ parks called Pop i Gapet, featuring local and more nationally acclaimed bands. We all went down both days, I particularly enjoyed Kristian Anttilla and Lissi Dancefloor Disaster – follow the links here to check them out. Although I missed her set, Amanda Selinder was also playing and she is one of the residents here at Kultivera.

IMG_0078My fellow residents

The parks here are so clean – litter really doesn’t seem to feature – and there’s a stunning walk taking you along the river and then back through the woods. We discovered a little cabin yesterday!


A big highlight and inspiration for me, so far, has been the second hand shops! I have counted 7 so far, ranging from antiques and more ‘curated’ shops, as it were, to rooms piled high with curiosities, crockery, old tools, radios and toys. There’s also a Red Cross shop where old men drink tea. My favourite goes by the name of ‘Udda Ting’ (translates as Odd Things). It’s got everything – a lot of vintage kitchenware and textiles incorporating Swedish designs.

I have therefore decided to begin an illustration project drawing the array of objects that end up in second hand shops – people’s possessions and collections that end up there when unwanted, or when those people have moved house or passed on. I’m exploring a few themes and ideas, as well as hoping to do some pattern work inspired by the older / classic Swedish motifs found on objects. We’ll see what happens with that!

Tranås was once the fur capital of Scandinavia although the industry has now declined. The place where we are staying, I think, was a fur factory, and pelts were shipped in from across the world. What is left in the town is a museum that documents and displays the tools, machinery and techniques used within the process. I’ve called in briefly, and plan to go back to look at this in more detail and learn about an important part of the town’s history. Here is a rather nice old map of where the fur was sourced from.


Today has mainly involved a road trip in Elis’ car to Sommen, where we watched some young people put on a play about Pirates. This Thursday I’ll be drawing in Udda Ting, and then on Saturday doing much of the same in Inspirationab where there are more antiques. There’s so much still to explore, and to learn (more Swedish phrases!), and I’m enjoying myself so much already.

I’ve joined Instagram too – have a look here for some more photos. There’s also my Facebook page too where I’ll be posting up artwork and links. I’m going to try and blog each week with images of my work and adventuring.

Now, to eat in the garden and try to avoid getting bitten by midges!