Creative conversations – Anna Blandford from Able and Game

The creative process has always intrigued me. As a writer, I rely on lots of different tools to help me stay focussed but there have been moments in the recent past that have made me doubt my ability to be creative and productive. Working solo is definitely a draw back in times like these. Without people to bounce ideas off or just engage with it can be difficult trying to move past the block. So I wrote down a list of makers who inspire me and they’ve agreed to share some insight into their creative process. I’ll be sharing a new creative conversation every Friday until December 29th so be sure to pop back in each week.

Let’s get to it shall we?

I’ve written about Able and Game lots and lots of times on the blog over the years. I’m a big fan of their funny cards. I love the illustrations and the messages – they are always quirky and unique and fun. The team behind the brand are Anna Blandford (illustrator) and her husband Gareth Meney (technical stuff behind the scenes) and judging by the followers and reviews they have on their Etsy store they make quite the team. Anna was kind enough to take some time out of her busy day to give us a quick peek into her creative world.

What’s on your desk at the moment?
A new book I have illustrated that is out later in the year, a breast pump, hand cream, phone pumping out white noise for a sleeping baby, sticky tape, our catalogue, Keep cup and drink bottle, piles of paper and mess.

When did you first realise that you wanted to pursue a creative career?
I’ve wanted to do it since I was really young. When I was a teenager, my sister and I had a market stall at a little country market selling stationery made from handmade paper. We also sold sheep manure. I think the manure outsold the stationery.

What do you if the creativeness isn’t coming?
Push through. Write down things that are coming into my head, keep working even if what you’re doing is crap. Later when I come back to this crap work I often see a seed of an idea that I can turn into something really great.

What advice would you give to someone contemplating a creative career?
Just start. Start and then work out problems. Often you think you need to have everything all perfect before you start and I don’t think this is true, I think you need some things worked out, but you don’t need everything.

What is the hardest part about being a designer?
That being a designer is only a really small part of the whole business. You have to do so many other jobs, and be motivated to do them. Taxes are not fun, book keeping isn’t fun. To be fair I don’t actually do these things, but my partner does. I think he enjoys them more than I do though.

You can follow Able and Game on their website, their blog, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Etsy.

A little chat with Gracia & Louise

A few years ago I stumbled upon the work of Gracia & Louise. The Aussie duo create artists books, zines and prints that are full of striking images. I can stare at them for hours and always find something new on each page.

I think this quote by Fiona West, the Senior Curator at Latrobe Regional Gallery, sums up their work perfectly.

“The world of Gracia & Louise is an elaborate fairytale that transcends all logic of time and truth. Images bounce from past to recent, reality to fiction and come together in a perfectly constructed world, rich in narrative and wonder.”

I was lucky enough to ask the lovely ladies a few questions about their work.

How long have you been creating your artist books and zines?
We’ve been making our artists’ books and zines for many a year now. Casting a quick eye over own site, many a year turns out to actually span a decade and a nose. Sometime in the year 2000, we completed our first artists’ book, This morning I went into the garden. Two years after that, on the back of a trip inspiring to Budapest, we made, together with Gaby Bila-Günther, our first zine, Is there any kunst in the house. Things have changed a great deal since these early works of ours, and our footing feels more assured. Recent artists’ books have found us Sleeping during the day, and up in the air with The first aerial travellers. We’ve discovered something we love and are pursuing it still.

Where did the idea to create your books and zines come from?
Bookmaking, working with paper, small editions and the like, these are things that for a long while have interested us. We were drawn to artists’ books because they are something you hold in your hand, and they present a delicious challenge to exhibit. Ours, for the present, are generally smaller than they are large in terms of size, and there are so many possibilities that it is hard not to fall for them, in truth.

What sort of imagery inspires you?
Ideas for our artists’ books and in turn our zines and other small publications come from everywhere and everything. Sometimes it is not so much where the idea comes from that is important to us. Sometimes the reverse is true. Ideas come from films seen, books read, thoughts had, dreams peculiar, conversations overheard. You never know when a good idea will tap you on your shoulder so we’ve found it is best to have pen and paper on standby always.

Our most recent collaborative zine, An even distribution of weight was inspired indirectly by Graeme Murphy’s Romeo & Juliet (which we saw performed twice in the month of September by The Australian Ballet), and later as we cut out the Diana monkey’s form and balanced him atop a circus plinth, Prokofiev played in the background.

As to imagery we are drawn to, it varies though it is safe to say the animal and nature feature near to always.

How would you describe your work?
We enjoy making our work and hope this comes through. This would be how we would describe the paper things we make.

We enjoy the freedom of working with paper, be it collaged postcards, drawings, artists’ books, lithographic offset prints, or zines photocopied, cut-down, glued and editioned. As often we’ve said before, and in fear of repeating ourselves, we are besotted with paper for its adaptable, foldable, cut-able, concealable, revealing nature.

Are there any other artists that inspire you?
Yes, many. Hundreds. From those working in film, to dancers, to those who create music, write prose, paint the canvas. There are so many people whom we admire and stand in awe of their skill, work, and dedication. In the theatre, in the gallery, in the cinema, in the museum, these are our favourite places to be.

Through each of our blogs, Louise’s Elsewhere and Gracia’s High Up in the Trees, we have been fortunate to get to ‘meet’ many great artists and wordsmiths too.

Here are but a few:
Alexandra Hedberg
Camilla Engman
Thereza Rowe
Hila Shachar
Fanja Ralison
Anna Emilia
Lisa Solomon
…and many others.