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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Ties Launching at NYTartan Week

I am happy to report that Edinburgh is most certainly riding a creative wave. Being an 80:20 kind of person (specialising in almost ‘getting there’ but often not being able to see the wood for the trees for the last 20% of a project) I have discovered that collaborations are most definitely the way to go.

'Chalk' print on linen designed by Niki Fulton available from Printed and Co

‘Chalk’ print on linen designed by Niki Fulton available from Printed and Co

I met sisters Solii and Zoe Brodie from BeFabBeCreative fabric print bureau in Edinburgh over a year ago and they have proven to be the catalyst for turning my designs and aspirations into physical products. They print my patterns onto a variety of natural fabrics (locally sourced Fife linen being one of my favourites) in the most astoundingly efficient manner. They also own Printed and Co, a carefully curated collection of textile designs stemming from ten U.K based designers, of which I am delighted to be one. Customers can purchase lengths of any of the designs on any of their fabrics allowing the patterns to be used in dressmaking or interiors. Wonderful flexibility and it is all printed to order so no waste either.

'Pear Drops Tan' on linen designed by Niki Fulton. Available from Printed and Co

‘Pear Drops Tan’ on linen designed by Niki Fulton. Available from Printed and Co

So I have a smooth and enjoyable means to produce textile designs but I also wanted to manufacture products. Enter Nina, a Swede living in Edinburgh with an armful of design related Degrees, a Swedish fashion label behind her and honed seamstress skills.

Botanical DNA and Falling Apples available from Printed and Co

Botanical DNA and Falling Apples available from Printed and Co

She is the Creative Director at Kalopsia Collective, an agency that works with textiles from concept to manufacture. Nina knows what I am describing before I even reach the end of my sentence so our collaboration is working like clockwork and I now have silk scarfs, linen make up bags, mens ties (more on that in a sec) and some silk tops in my range, some of which are available from my Etsy Shop (more being listed very soon).

'Chalk' on silk. Designed by Niki Fulton. Available per metre from Printed and Co

‘Chalk’ on silk. Designed by Niki Fulton. Available per metre from Printed and Co

 

'Lines' on silk designed by Niki Fulton. Available per metre from Printed and Co

‘Lines’ on silk designed by Niki Fulton. Available per metre from Printed and Co

But my biggest focus is currently on a niche market, a micro market I suppose. On a trip to Rome last October, I was searching for a replacement watch strap. I popped into a shop selling leather luggage and asked them if they sold watch straps. The manager literally took a step backwards and looked at me square on and said, ‘No! I sell luggage!’ My stupidity seemed to offend him but when I looked rather sheepish he softened his voice and said, ‘you need to visit Marco‘ and directed me to a tiny slim shop with a wise old man sitting under a vintage task light replacing watch straps. Attached to the wall were literally hundreds of shades and widths of beautiful watch straps and of course I found the perfect strap. Mission accomplished. I doubt if anyone would go to that shop and not find precisely what they were looking for. It was therefore very well known and a ‘go to’ destination – nobody would even think to waste their time shopping around. Job done.

With this new mind set I asked where I could buy a pair of leather gloves for my friends 50th birthday, Sergio di Cori, Piazza di Spagna of course. Again, every conceivable colour and length of leather glove were there displayed on beautiful panelled walls. They sold nothing else. Don’t complicate the process, they sell gloves, brilliantly.

So I finally reach the point in telling you this tale. I want to sell linen ties. Linen I hear you say. Yes linen, not silk. I want to design ties less ‘officey’  than silk which will convey more individuality and hopefully more spirit. Laid back formal. I want a ‘Slow Food Movement’ kind of tie. In other words I want a tie that is designed, made and stitched locally on locally sourced linen. Designs that have slowly been forming over, in my case, many years. And this is what I’ve been working on and by the end of this week, six patterns will be finished and be safely delivered into the hands of Scot Street Style who is kindly launching them in New York City during New York Tartan Week. My ties are not tartan in case you were wondering but Tartan Week celebrates all kinds of Scottish business and I am thrilled to have them represented there.

Linen Ties designed by Niki Fulton

Linen Ties designed by Niki Fulton

Below are other bolts of fabric waiting to be made into ties – cloth is cut on the diagonal for ties so these designs will look quite different when they are made up.

So more on the tie development soon and look out for NYTartan Week pictures on Facebook and Twitter.

Do you go to a specialist ‘go to’ shop for anything? 

 

'Eclipse' print designed by Niki Fulton

‘Eclipse’ print designed by Niki Fulton

Richter Red designed by Niki Fulton

‘Richter Red’ print designed by Niki Fulton (as in Richter magnitude scale)

'Cog' print designed by Niki Fulton.  A new take on pinstripe.

‘Cog’ print designed by Niki Fulton. A new take on pinstripe.

 

The Story Behind The Design

After having a conversation with a customer today it dawned on me that there is often a reason behind a design – unless of course you are like one of my all time favourite artists Agnes Martin who claims her head was like an empty vessel which captured external artistic messages which she then applied to canvas – she doesn’t seem to take much credit for her beautiful paintings as she claimed she was just a receiver and her hand automatically carried out the work. Wow.

pencil sharpens

You may well find yourself connecting with a piece of art or design but be totally unaware of the inspiration behind it. That’s great but I find if I am able to speak to the artist and hear their story, the art takes on a new depth or an extra layer.

I was lucky enough to meet artist Sandra Robinson at the Waterside Arts Centre, in Sale, close to Manchester last month and I made an instant connection with her ‘21:00 From London Euston’ train window series. I found them immensely atmospheric as each painting depicted dramatic and ever changing natural lighting conditions on a journey. She explained she was on a train from London to Manchester and she made written notes of what she saw from the window. She took these notes back to her studio and painted from her written instructions and the result is a very intense series of beautiful paintings full of movement.

A series of ten paintings by Sandra Robinson

A series of ten paintings by Sandra Robinson

The designs I have on my mugs also have a story attached. I was working in Iceland last January and as you can imagine there was very little light and it was brutally cold. I was watching the birds at the central lake, ‘Tjornin’, in central Reykjavik when I spotted some tiny low lying flowers growing on the banks of the lake. They made me smile that despite the very harsh conditions they were still determined and gutsy enough to grow! I knew straight away that I wanted to use these brave flowers in a design. The finished design is screen printed onto bone china mugs because I liked the idea of a hot steaming drink (obviously there are lots of steaming hot geothermal pools in Iceland) being enclosed by these tough little Icelandic flowers. The sky changes very quickly in Iceland and within a few hours I witnessed a stunning pink sunrise, intense clear blue skies, grey, snow laden skies and was hoping for a green Northern Lights sky – hence the colours of the mugs…

Tjornin Mugs

I also found the town and the Icelandic people very colourful so the two tone set of mugs represent the brightly coloured houses of Reykjavik, the black one the dark winter sky – nobody would know this but I thought you may like the reasoning behind the design!

Two Tone Tjornin mugs

T

house facades Reykjavic

The powerful, strong and elegant birds I was watching are depicted on these mugs.

Flying High Mugs

My ‘urban’ series of linen tea towels were inspired by the huge brightly coloured cranes and loading machinery at Leith Docks, Edinburgh. It’s a gritty, industrial and efficient place where tonnes of cargo start and finish their massive journeys across the sea. A magical place actually, full of intrigue. I really wanted to convey the bold, brash, powerful bright shapes and screen print the designs onto linen.

urban linen tea towels DSC_0019

And lastly, my Botanical DNA scarf was inspired by my Dad who was both a geneticist and a gardener. When I placed the plants in long rows, they reminded me of DNA helixes! The design is printed on a semi- sheer, floaty silk cotton blend.

Botanical DNA Scarf

Well I think that’s probably enough about my own designs for now (!) but you can see more (like my Sol LeWitt inspired cushions) on my shop

What are the stories behind your creations?