Thursday, July 29, 2010

HOUSE CALLS with Pea and Lesley from Aardvark

Well, here it is folks! The latest round of House Calls is being kicked off by the talented duo behind Aardvark. Lesley Crabtree (Pea) and Lesley Greening Lassoff live in St. Leonards on Sea, "a veritable Bohemia on the south coast of England." Their work first caught my eye at the Keep Calm Gallery, and since then I have seen their fabulous Manifesto posters all over the place. You know I am a sucker for letterpress, and these girls create posters with a strong sense of folk tradition that I adore. So naturally I wanted to know more...

Over to you ladies!

Describe the work that you do. "Our practice is diverse, but we are mostly in love with letterpress, typography and printmaking. As well as our own stuff we do commission work for a variety of clients. Our newest design is O Happy Day…"

Recent commissions include…

Frome, Somerset Manifesto

What was the career/education path you took to get to this point? "Pea has a BA in 3D Design and trained as a blacksmith. Lesley has a BA Fine Art. Previous jobs have included art technician, driving instructor, teacher, community artist and charity shop manager. Our art and design practice evolved from running a tearoom and gallery which was a creative hub in our neighbourhood. We sold legendary home made soups and cakes, and art and craft. Our own work sold so well that we passed the food business on in order to concentrate on printmaking."

Where do you get your inspirations? "Lesley is a voracious reader and remembers a lot of weird stuff. Pea loves industrial and machine-age aesthetics. We’re both enthusiastic about skills and crafts such as typesetting and sign writing which seem to be on the edge of extinction. We like to visit small obscure museums, village halls, country churches, seaside towns and anywhere we might find folk art, ancient and modern."

Describe the creative process in designing and constructing a particular piece. "The concept usually comes from Lesley, who gets excited/enraged/infatuated quite easily. We talk about words and phrases, write them in lots of notebooks and then forget where we put them. Lesley is strictly analogue and prefers paper, but Pea is digitally oriented with great design ability, and hones the wilder ideas into achievable and pleasing forms on an ancient computer. From there we decide on the most appropriate medium for the work – could be linocut, could be woodtype, maybe a bit of both. Lesley draws the design for lino and Pea carves it, then we print it together on our tabletop press. The letterpress designs are made by Pea with Derek and Ian, the highly skilled compositor and printer at Adams of Rye: the best old-school printshop in the world."

Where do you create your work?

"Our studio is behind our house, but quite a lot of the creative work is done while we’re out and about in East Sussex tramping through fields and across beaches, and sitting in pubs and tearooms."

Would you share with us just a few of your favourite artisans, whose work you most admire? "This is a tough question, because we’re crazy about lots of people. We love Margaret Kilgallen, who sadly died so young, for her integrity in using vernacular lettering and commercial paints.

Margaret Kilgallen installation, "To Friend and Foe" 1999, Deitch Projects

"Printmaker Jonny Hannah, is one of our favourites because of his super-handmade look and his use of folk art imagery."

Johnny Hannah prints from Cake and Ale Press

The Gang's All Here

Mystery Action

"Rachael Matthews is always an inspiration, championing crafts in a modern, humorous and unsentimental way at her shop/gallery Prick Your Finger"

Where can we see and buy your work? "Our online shop, plus Etsy and Folksy. We are carried by Keep Calm Gallery, Pedlars, Castor & Pollux, JunkFunk, Nelly Duff, Amongst Other Things and the Victoria and Albert Museum."

What/who are the things you love most in your life? "We love each other, our families and children, our two lurchers, Stockholm, East Sussex, Lancashire, walking, country pubs with local ale, playing 6 string banjo, tweed, Lighthouse Bakery bagels, knitting, Lukas Moodysson films, Margaret Rutherford, Beryl Reid, jam, pyjamas, Larry David, Cagney and Lacey, singing in a choir, Eccles cakes, Hastings fish, English apples, oysters, smoked eel and pie."

What would you do “in your wildest dreams”, if there were no restrictions (like money, or responsibilities!)? "We dream of buying a piece of land near our favourite pub, and building a house with views of the sea from one side and the countryside from the other. We’d have a whole pack of assorted rescued lurchers, a donkey, and enough space for all our friends to come and build their own houses nearby. Also we’d take over Adams of Rye to continue the letterpress legacy."

What is your greatest professional achievement to date? "Being invited to design an exclusive print for the Victoria and Albert Museum."

What is new with you and your work? "At the moment we’re experimenting with more pictorial work about modern rural landscapes."

Do you have a motto for life? "Switch off and join in."

I just love the simplicity and directness of this motto. We can all use our time, energy and skills more effectively for the positive benefit of ourselves and others, don't you think?

Follow the girls and their latest news on FACEBOOK and see previews of their latest work. I am confident that this is only the beginning of Aardvark's stellar successes! Thanks to Pea and Lesley for letting us into their fabulously creative life! I am off to create my very own manifesto for my life!

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