THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Inspired by... blog

Fashion, film, design and all things creative at the British Library

Introduction

Spotlighting collections you would’ve never thought would be in a library and the creative people who use them. Follow us @BL_Creative. Find inspiration for your next creative project in our exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK - 2 May – 19 August 2014. Read more

18 August 2014

From the felt Cornershop to Marinetti’s Futurist Tin Book

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Lucy Sparrow’s felt Cornershop project is all over the news at the moment, and it sounds so fun. She raised £10,000 on Kickstarter to create a cornershop in Bethnal Green with products made entirely out of felt. And I mean everything. Chewing gum, fish fingers, Irn Bru, cat litter and instant noodles.  Even the cash register is made of felt!  It’s open until 31 August if you fancy a visit.

Cornershop felt product
Image: Fish fingers from the Cornershop

It got me thinking about some of the books we have in the British Library collection that are not made of paper. They fall under the category of 'artists' books' and we have items from around the world. Our Curator, Carole Holden, has written in the past about Andy Warhol’s Index Book which includes a balloon and Klaus Scherübel’s Mallarmé: The Book, which is made of styrofoam.

With help from The Art Fund, in 2009 we acquired Marinetti's metal Futurist book Parole in Libertà, also known as The Tin Book. Its full name is Parole in Libertá Futuriste Olfattive Tattili Termiche (‘Futurist Words in Freedom - Olfactory, Tactile, Thermal’). It is about rejecting the current format of sentences and words and moving towards "words in freedom".

The production of the book is fascinating. Its designs are lithographically reproduced over 30 pages. It was manufactured in a tin can factory in Italy. And of course, the tin pages reflect the Futurist love of the machine.

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Image: Marinetti's Parole in Libertà

Futurism was an artistic movement celebrating the beauty of technology, with the belief in looking forward, rather than the past. Marinetti even went so far as to say “destroy the museums, the libraries...” A little ironic in that his book is now in our collection, to be preserved in perpetuity.  I’m very glad we do have it, as it is visually stunning.

Marinetti British Library  4
Image: Marinetti's Parole in Libertà

If you’re a fan of his work, you’ll be interested to know that the British Library has over 70 books written by Marinetti (1876-1944), as well as a number of his manuscripts and sound recordings. It’s a fantastic collection.  You can find out more about how you can use our collections on our 'Help for Researchers' page for artist's books, fine presses and book art. And I've done some of the hard work for you - here is the catalogue link for our Marinetti Tin book.

Marinetti British Library 1
Image: Marinetti's Parole in Libertà

12 August 2014

What’s the creative process in visual merchandising? Arantxa Garcia on Comics Unmasked

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Coming back from maternity leave, one of the first things I noticed is that the British Library Shop has had a major refresh and is looking fantastic. The displays leap out and grab your attention, it’s full of shoppers and there are plenty of products I have got my eye on (I like Alison Hardcastle’s Map of London and our Beano greetings cards). I find the process of retail and visual merchandising fascinating. I like the careful balance between creativity and sales figures.

British Library bookshop Comics Unmasked 1
Photograph: Anna Bakosova

I got in touch with Arantxa Garcia, our freelance visual merchandiser, who has a wealth of experience in the museum sector. As well as designing our Comics Unmasked displays, she has worked with the National Portrait Gallery, Royal Museums Greenwich and Historic Scotland.  I asked her a few questions…

Hello Arantxa! Just to start off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got into visual merchandising?

I guess it was a natural process for me to become a visual merchandiser. I was born into a family retail business and from an early age I worked for my pocket money. I helped my dad checking off delivery notes and assisted my mum with the window dressing, (who by the way is my fiercest critic, being a VM herself) and as I got older I took part in buying and visiting fashion and trade shows. In Spain I freelanced for high street retailers, where I gained most of my experience.

I moved to London when I was 20 to study fine art and always worked part time in shops during my degree. After graduating, I worked at the National Portrait Gallery shop, where I helped to set up of exhibition shops and visual merchandising until one day, while scanning postcards as you do, I had a moment of clarity and decided that this is what I needed to do for a living: visual merchandising for cultural enterprises. It was the perfect blend for me, just like the perfect marriage, between my retail background and my interest in art and history. It just felt right!

British Library bookshop Comics Unmasked 3
Photograph: Anna Bakosova

What is the process involved in creating a display for an exhibition like Comics Unmasked?

We always start with a kick-off meeting with the buyers. It is crucial to understand what’s behind the ranges and to buy into their vision. These meetings are full of adrenaline, catalogues, samples, and lots of: “have you seen… Just like that…I wish we could….”

The approach I took was to recreate a comic scene in itself.  A fun and humorous space almost like a caricature and exaggeration of the elements. The exhibition ends handing over to the public, almost saying: “here you go, we have given you the inspiration and the tools, now you go and create your comic”. The public exits through the shop, so somehow the shop needed to be a continuation of this message.  So I did some research on what a comic artist studio might look like and the common elements between them: reading lamp, drawing table, a stool of some sort and lots of paper everywhere.

The Reading lamp had an important stake in the setting. It could not be any lamp; it had to be the lamp, that timeless design that would embody the right reading lamp of all time.  That’s when I thought about collaborating with Anglepoise, who very kindly loaned one of their giant lamps to us for the duration of the show. I guess the symbolism of the lamp, the light or the bulb, can be interpreted in many ways.  A popping bulb encircled in a cloud pointing at a character’s head always makes us think about that great idea, and so on.

It is important to remember that visual merchandising is a commercial resource used to drive sales through creating spaces that enhance the customer to interact with the product and purchase.

British Library bookshop Comics Unmasked 7
Photograph: Anna Bakosova

Do you have any particular favourite displays or shops in museums and galleries?

Well, that’s when my mind goes blank. I love Museum shops in general. I´m an easy person to sell to. I loved the exhibition range for Elizabeth I and her people, which was hosted at the National Portrait Gallery last September. I especially like souvenirs with Queen Elizabeth I on them. It can be from a fan to a spectacle cloth!  I enjoyed working on Georgians Revealed at the British Library; that was a great range to work with.

What makes a museum shop good is the buying, product development and the use of collections in doing so. I find it really interesting how you are able to describe an era or a personality through product, and in this way you bring it closer to the visitor. So my favourite shops are those that are true to their collections. Those who do it well! Inspiration comes from everywhere: art, architecture, theatre, colour, interior design, conversations, History books, junk shops. And from walking around with your senses fully open.  

British Library bookshop Comics Unmasked 6
Photograph: Anna Bakosova

Are there any trends for visual merchandising for museums and galleries at the moment?

I’m not sure if it is right to talk about trends in the museums and galleries sector, as the trends are given by the shows they have on at the time, or just by the nature of the institution itself.  This is part of the beauty of the job, which allows you to travel through time: one week, the Elizabethan era, and the lavish Georgians the week after. It is true though, that as Museum and galleries become mindful of their retail resources and income generation, they look outside - at how the high street does it, and the techniques they use to drive sales. Nonetheless, it is crucial to keep up-to-date with the general trends in art, fashion, current materials used in interior design, colour combinations, contrasting textures, and general ways of creating ambiences and spaces. 

British Library bookshop Comics Unmasked 5
Photograph: Anna Bakosova

Arantxa will also be helping us with the visual merchandising for our Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination exhibition in the autumn.

06 August 2014

Hello Frances, Goodbye Kissley

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Hello Frances Taylor...

Wow, it doesn’t seem like a year since we wrote our last joint blog and I said goodbye to the Library for a while to go off and have my lovely daughter Holly. I'm going to be taking over our creative industries programme and, of course, this blog. The good news is that Kissley isn’t going to be leaving the Library: she will be promoting our exhibition and events programme: Gothic literature, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, anyone? The autumn events programme is shaping up fantastically – look out for a very creepy, spooky LATE.  Where better to get scared at night than in a huge library?

It’s been so lovely to come back and hear about all the great projects Kissley’s been working on.  Her highlights must include Spring Festival, YMC fashion show, creative writing workshops and her Artsthread x British Library competition on Comics Unmasked.  I’ll be picking up where she has left off – it’s great to be back!

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Image: Fran (on left) and Kissley posing with our Comics Unmasked cut-out

Goodbye from Kissley Leonor…

Dear Readers,

It’s been a pleasure sharing with you all the cool stuff happening at the British Library. Here are my highlights. One million Flickr images of our collections made free for anyone to use, remix and repurpose.  Here are some of the gems I found:

Gems and Precious Stones
Image: Gems and Precious Stones of North America, KUNZ, George Frederick, shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 7105.ee.14.", "British Library HMNTS 7106.i.12." Page 85

My Little Chinese Book

Image: My Little Chinese Book, POST, Mary Audubon, shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 11645.e.57.", page 12

Hastings albums tapirImage: The tapir sent from Bengkulu to Calcutta in 1816.Shelfmark: Add.Or.4973

Songs of a Savoyard
Image: 1890 Songs of a Savoyard, Gilbert, W. S. (William Schwenck), shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 11651.k.42.", page 102

Spring Festival. It was great to see so many new people working in film and fashion come to the Library and discover our collections. We welcomed some great speakers including screenwriter Tony Grisoni and fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart. And we danced. Dancing is always a good thing.    

Our Made with the British Library suite of videos highlighting how people have used the Library. From an illustrator to a record producer, author to entrepreneur – I love these inspiring stories. 

Over and out
x Kissley