Relaxing With a Felt Pen

A single pen has been the catalyst to a series of new designs. It all happened a few months ago while walking down Queens Street in Glasgow. pen drawing

I stopped at a shop window full of paper and carefully stacked pens and the smell of freshly sharpened pencils wafted towards me – irresistible.

Pencil Sharpens

I had stumbled across Cass Art , a shop similar in feel to an Apple store, but instead of selling tech, it’s full of art materials. I’m quite sure it could coax anyone into becoming artistically inclined.

At this point I must tell you I am a total sucker for felt pens. I adore coloured pencils too (so long as they are waxy  – Caran D’Ashe  being my favourite). I could literally spend hours choosing a unison pastel from a drawer (in that choosing a patisserie sort of way) but there is something about felt pens that strikes straight to my core. It’s a childhood thing. I’m sure it will be the same for many of you.

You probably know that felt pens were invented in the 1960’s by Yukio Horie. He worked for the Tokyo Stationary Company at the time but went on to set up his own company Pentel – as in a ‘pen can tell a story’. I feel so indebted to this man and his invention – can you imagine a childhood without felt pens? I would like to go to Tokyo one day and buy a Pentel right there in Pentel HQ.

I had a treasured pack of 5 – blue, green, red, yellow and black. My friend however had a long transparent floppy case with a white popper stud. It contained 24 heart stopping colours. She was good at sharing. Of course we had our favourite well used colours and when they ran dry, we would spit on their tips to squeeze a little more ‘juice’ from them. When that failed, we would pull them apart and squeeze the cuboid felty innards to coax some more fabulous colour out onto our drawings. Inevitably our afternoons ended with us sporting gaudy coloured lips and fingers. Knowing now what chemicals these early pens contained, it’s a miracle we are both still here. Oddly enough the only parental instruction I recall was not to get the pen on my friends white round dining table, felt pen lips apparently no big deal…

I could go on for pages about felt pens and childhood – the joy of putting them away and in which order to slot them on their plastic cradles, the design of the lids (which for no particular reason I suctioned onto the end of my tongue rather a lot) and the ones that came with artificial smells like apple and bubble gum, again, rather a worry with hindsight :/

Anyway, fast forward 2016.

I bought a Tombow  pen and armed with a lot of blank paper, I literally ‘let go’ of any plans and allowed the pen tell a story. That’s harder than you think by the way. I asked a friend to do the same and she said she felt shy and inhibited and the pen bumped and crashed in a stumbly line and stopped. I however found the exercise liberating (I was alone, that helps) and couldn’t stop making lines. It fascinated me watching what shapes were forming in front of my eyes. I was producing nice shapes without any conscious thought. My hand had its own mind and I was the audience. I got through a lot of paper that week.

Have you heard of the stress busting exercise of going to an empty Scottish Glen (or any other vast empty space) and shouting at the top of your voice? Just allowing yourself to make whatever noise you want but as loud as possible? That’s pretty hard too – it really takes courage, believe me. Well, my pen drawings gave me a similar sensation. It’s all about letting go. But lucky for me, I found the shapes rather pleasing and after working on them more cognitively, I have created a new set of designs which will soon appear as silk scarves – no spoilers, I will show you them when they are finished 🙂

Do you have felt pen memories? 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Clothes Our Parents Wore

Having recently embarked upon designing my own textiles, I asked Mum and Dad to look through their photo albums and send me any snaps they had of Mum’s dresses in the late 1950’s. Well I wasn’t disappointed. Mum and Dad appeared looking out of the vintage, slightly crushed photos looking massively stylish…and look at the printed textiles.

These photos were all taken before I was born but I clearly remember the colours, designs and even textures of the cloth Mum and Dad both wore while I was growing up. It made me think how we all subliminally influence our children. The designs Mum and Dad chose are imprinted in my mind and have certainly affected my own taste as an adult (interestingly my eldest teenage son has just bought spectacles which are exactly the same as the ones my Dad, his Grand Father, wore in the late 1950’s).

How clearly I remember interior textiles that surrounded me too. The curtains that hung in our houses tended to be flat blocks of colour in varying but simplistic shapes, something I still crave and indeed base my own designs around. They favoured Danish furniture, something I do too. And then I started thinking a bit harder about my childhood interior and I remember a cylindrical copper suspension lamp shade that Dad (who is a scientist, not a designer) made for the dining room – all before Tom Dixon was even born!

The 1950’s and 1960’s were of course extremely creative decades where people had the confidence to experiment, customise and have fun with clothes and interiors. A time before the dominant big huge brands  that many seem to crave now. However, a wave of bespoke and individual designers which have global platforms like etsy and t.v programmes such as The Great British Sewing Bee have shown the public a glimpse of how much talent is out their and believe me, if you have any spare time, surf through etsy and be prepared to be amazed.

Do you remember the textiles your parents wore? If so, do you think they have influenced your choices as an adult?