Starting out (again) but this time for real

My name’s John Bloor, and I’m trying to make a big career change from working for people as a graphic designer to becoming a designer and maker.

In the dim and distant past I used to make fonts and I always used to get crazy emails from bands (usually metal bands) asking if they could use them – then I’d forget all about it and things used to turn up in the post like 7” singles with my fonts on accompanied by lovely notes from the artists.

I studied a degree in film and we also used to make promos for musicians which was a lot of fun. One time we went to Dungeness to make a promo for a metal band – we were there ages before they turned up and then when they did arrive they promptly headed for the pub!

I’ve always been into music in a big way, always hunting for interesting new bands and sounds. Initially I tried offering free graphic design for bands and did a few logos and album covers, then I got into doing gig posters. I loved the posters of designers in the US like Strawberryluna, Methane Studios and Cricket Press. I loved the feel of screen printed posters – so bold and bright yet each obviously a one off – hand crafted with care.

So I wanted to print my own posters and for a while I hooked up with a nice promoter called George Gargan and created artwork for artists like Shonen Knife, Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina, Dick Dale and my friend’s band Lazarus Clamp. Although these gig posters were printed conventionally I really wanted to screen print them but things got put on hold for a while when I took a full time graphic design job for three years.

I should say that, after leaving that job, I had been suffering from depression for some time and after a diagnosis of Aspergers I realised that working for clients was contributing to my problems and that I really wanted to make a jump to creating my own products I could sell – where I was not having to deal with people all the time.

It suddenly struck me, while we were shopping for lampshades and not finding any that we liked, that instead of screen printing gig posters for no money and having to do it in my spare time, I could design and print homewares – perhaps even as a full time job.

I had already created a few pattern designs for my wife, who is a textile designer in her spare time. I realised that a really successful range of homewares would depend on coming up with a great pattern range which would work well across a variety of mediums such as fabric, paper and ceramic.

So the idea started to take shape. I would design three or four ranges of homewares, screen print them and try to get them into the more boutique homewares shops of which there seems to be an abundance at the moment. I would do things like lampshades, tea towels, cushions, prints and maybe further down the line, ceramics. I would need to convert the garage into a proper print studio too.

Since then things have been happening quite quickly. We converted the garage to a print studio by putting in some kitchen units with a surface on top, buying a large sink and having that plumbed in. The workbench would serve as the printing bench.

At the same time, I started sketching ideas for my ranges. I knew I wanted to do ranges which were personal to me but also that nature really sells. I discovered that the destiny of thousands of photos I had taken over the years which had seemed without any purpose was actually to help me at this point in developing my ranges – so I chose themes which reflected what I love about this country and what I had grown up with, like countryside, beach, childhood secret places and bluebell woods but from the very start I put in ideas which were personal to me.

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Because the ranges would be such a large ongoing project I also asked friends if they had any specific things they’d like creating, so I could do some much quicker pieces as well. One person asked me if I could do a leaf themed lampshade so that will probably be the first thing which gets finished.

I have started to take my sketches onto the computer and turn them into more finished ideas but at the moment I’ve only been using one style of illustration – what I call “digital linocut” where I draw in Photoshop using black brush strokes and then cut away from them using the eraser.

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The point I’m at right now is that I have created a first set of ideas using this digital linocut style and some of them work really well, but I’m very keen to explore some other styles I have in mind. In the meantime I’m hoping to finalise the leaf lampshade soon and get printing that. I need to also really practice my printing technique to nail it.

I have bought a complete set of WPS water based paper inks and I need to get the fabric inks next. I have a handful of WPS screens which are so much better than the wooden ones I started off with – they are so robust!

If this becomes a reality, and I do manage to make a career out of printing homewares, I still want to continue doing gig posters and maybe tshirts as a “fun” thing to do to balance the hard work of the ranges.