Dogs provide the perfect greeting

If you’re an art lover like me I bet you often buy greeting cards for no particular occasion or person but just because you love the artwork. And if like me you’re a dog lover too, a large percentage of these cards carry images of dogs! 

Aside from sending cards to nearest and dearest, how many of us have cards stuffed in drawers or pinned onto pin boards, maybe even framed?  For artists, illustrators and photographers too, cards are a great way of getting their work out to a wider audience, with their details on the back of the card, you could say they were the perfect marketing tool. 

Cards also help to keep small independent shops and galleries in business; there is a brilliant campaign called Just a Card, which aims to encourage people to buy from Designer/Makers and Independent Galleries and Shops by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even ‘just a card’ are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses. The campaign is the brainchild of Artist & Designer Sarah Hamilton, who felt compelled to act after seeing a quote from the owners of a gallery on the closure of their business … “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought ‘just a card‘ we’d still be open”.

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In my day job as a freelance art director, I recently visited the dedicated greeting card trade show PG Live, held at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, and thought that it would be a great opportunity to write a post about a couple of the smaller exhibitors who specialise in cards featuring dogs.  The trade show which has been running for ten years, and takes it name from the trade publication Progressive Greetings is a great way for retailers from around the World to find the perfect cards for their shops.  Card publishers, big and small fill the exhibition space and newcomers even have a dedicated area called Springboard, from which to launch their product to prospective card buyers.

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One such designer / publisher is Nicole Orsi, from Red Berry Cards.  Nicole, a graphic designer, set up her card company seven years ago, after having worked for a number of years as a card designer for a larger publisher. 

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One of Nicole’s most successful card ranges is her range called “Top Dog”, featuring various dog breeds, which she launched in 2013 with 12 cards.  Nicole’s dog illustrations are very clean and simple images reminiscent of silk screen printing, in which close ups of dog faces fill the square cards and are presented without a caption.  The range now contains 28 designs, the most popular of which are the Dachshund, Schnauzer, Black Lab, Border Terrier and Westie.

Nicole isn’t surprised by the popularity of the black lab card, having a black lab herself.  Although Bailey, wasn’t the inspiration for the range having come into her life just under four years ago; however Nicole explained that she has always been a big dog lover, having grown up with dogs throughout her childhood and has been known to cross the road to say hello to a puppy!  Nicole supplies her cards to a variety of gift and card shops, they can even be found at her local vets and a dog groomers!

This was Nicole’s sixth year of exhibiting at PG Live and this year she moved from the Springboard area to Springboard Extra downstairs, which she found to be a much better location for her, providing a greater buzz and more orders than the previous year.

A first time exhibitor at the show was Kathy Webster with her company Dotty Dog Art.  Kathy, who had taken a stand within the Springboard section of the show, started her company in 2013 after being made redundant from her job at the Guide Dogs charity. Kathy explained that she hasn’t always been an artist, mainly because art wasn’t considered a ‘proper job’ when she was at school! So instead she journeyed along a varied career path including graphic design, veterinary nursing and Guide Dogs.  Interestingly they all had the same two factors running through them, dogs and art. So when Kathy was sadly made redundant from Guide Dogs she decided to set up her own business initially concentrating on dog portrait commissions and then later in 2016 she ventured into the world of cards. 

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Kathy’s fabulous illustrations now adorn both captioned and non captioned cards.  Like her commissioned portraits, the most popular cards feature the Terrier breeds. Dotty Dog Terriers range from the hugely popular Jack Russell Terrier to the less prevalent, but equally as gorgeous Glen of Imaal Terrier! 

As for her own four legged friends, Kathy shares her studio with, in her own words,  “two unruly poodles… Freya our poodle x springer and Dandy our special rescue miniature poodle”, which she says “keep me company in the Dotty studio… sometimes sleeping, sometimes noisily play-fighting and sometimes destroying something important while I’m not looking!!!!

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Kathy with her Poodle X Springer Dandy

Kathy’s first experience of PG Live was very positive, she says she will definitely be exhibiting there again next year.  She said it was fun to be a part of the show, where there was a very friendly atmosphere but more importantly she gained a number of new stockists and secured her first export order! 

As a nation dog ownership is growing, according to a recent survey by the pet food Manufacturers Association 6.6 million households own a dog, 300,000 more than last year! Therefore it should come as no surprise that greeting cards featuring dogs are becoming increasingly prevalent and popular.  It is also important not to underestimate the importance of greeting cards, whether it be from the value they serve as a communication tool or the economic part they play in sustaining small independent businesses.  As I write this post it is Just a Card Week, an initiative by the Just a Card campaign to celebrate their 3rd birthday.  So I will leave you with their inspiring words …

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“When you buy just a card, just a book, just a gift, just a pin etc. from an artist, maker, independent shop or creative business you’re not buying just a card, you’re supporting passion, skill, creativity, originality and community”.

Footnote

Here are some useful links for any budding card publishers out there: –

The Greeting Card Association, can provide lots of useful information on how to publish your own greeting cards or how to license your artwork to card publishers.

The Ladder Club is a not for profit organisation helping new publishers get on the greeting card ladder.  They hold seminars once a year and provide a community of other fledgling publishers to network with.

Wonderful Woofers by Samantha Barnes

Let’s be honest if you were recuperating after breaking your arm, drawing would not be the first thing most of us would think to do to alleviate the boredom.  But this is precisely what artist Samantha Barnes did when she found herself incapacitated with a fractured right arm.  This “lucky break” (pardon the pun) led to her selling her first series of ink drawings of dogs to a print shop in the Kings Road, Chelsea back in the 1990’s.  Although Samantha had an arts background, having graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with a degree in printed textiles, she had spent her first working years in London employed in a series of marketing and events management jobs, before this rekindling of her passion for drawing.   

Fast forward 20 years and Samantha, who has had a varied and successful career as both a gallery owner and an artist, can currently be found creating beautiful pieces of art from her idyllic studio The Art Retreat in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Today dogs aren’t Samantha’s only subject matter, but it was her dog art that caught my attention at the recent Art For Cure exhibition at Glemham Hall.  Her delicate simple line prints of Lurchers, which I later discovered are created using a drypoint print making technique, stopped me in my tracks and I had to find out more. 

I therefore arranged to visit Samantha at her Woodbridge studio, where she is currently busy preparing for her her solo exhibition, to be held at The Art Retreat, on the weekend of 16th & 17th June.  Both Samantha and her adorable Cocker Spaniel, Barney, gave me a warm welcome and we sat chatting in her friends’ garden, in which The Art Retreat is situated. It appears that Barney can take the credit for this wonderful workspace, since it was after getting to know the owners of 44 chapel Street through dog walking, that they offered Samantha use of this fabulous building at the end of their garden!  A garden, Samantha and Barney get to share with the owners’ beautiful hairy Lurcher Rex and some chickens!

Samantha outside The Retreat with Rex & Barney
Samantha outside The Retreat with Rex & Barney

Lurchers were the subject of the print I first saw at Glemham Hall, which Samantha explained to me is created using a drypoint print making technique.  A technique that dates back to the 15th Century, is created by drawing with sharp implement directly onto a copper plate, the ink is then applied and wiped off so that the ink remaining in the incisions creates the distinctive line on the paper.  Owing to the delicate nature of the incision in the plate, only a small edition of prints can be created from the one plate.  Samantha creates just 12 prints from each plate, and each of these are slightly different and unique, due to the varying ways the ink can be wiped from the plate.

 

Aside from the drypoint prints, Samantha also paints the most gorgeous dog portraits, in an unfussy style that is bold, full of energy and truly reflects the character of each individual dog.  Her textile roots show through in her confident and clever use of colour and this joyous, colourful vitality is also evident in Samantha’s non dog paintings, which often depict public places and landscapes in and around Suffolk.  Created mainly in acrylics, Samantha’s paintings are happiness on a canvas, and as Samantha says on her own website … “I am an artist that makes paintings, drawings and prints directly from my tummy, not my head”.

Buddy The Cocker Spaniel
Buddy the Cocker Spaniel

Samantha is available for dog portrait commissions and can be contacted via www.samanthabarnes.com or visit her Facebook page ipaintdogs for more information. 

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Samantha in her studio

And don’t forget if you can get to Suffolk, Samantha’s artwork will be on display at The Art Retreat (in the garden of) 44 Chapel St. Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 4NF on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th June.

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The Dog Show

If you love dogs, you’ll love this open house exhibition

An exhibition where, not only can you bring along your dog, but they are treated like a VIP guest is always going to be a winner; but add to that the work of terrific artist such as Sally Muir, Joanna Osborne and Lorraine Corrigan to name just three, then you you cannot fail to be wowed and impressed by The Dog Show, part of the Brighton Artists Open Houses and Festival. 

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Sally Muir & Joanna Osborne

Consisting of over 200 pieces of art, solely featuring dogs as the subject matter, The Dog Show is the brainchild of Joanna Osborne, in whose beautiful Grade II listed home the exhibition is hosted.  Every detail of this exhibition has been lovingly thought through, from the trail of pavement chalk dogs leading to No 33 Sillwood, to the informative and cleanly designed website www.thedogshowbrighton.com, through to the welcoming touches of homemade cakes and dog treats on offer.  There is also an inventive and fun programme of events taking place during the course of the show that include … On the Spot Dog Drawing by the very talented Sally Muir … Alma Haser’s unique pop up Dog Photobooth and even …a real Dog Show, where the winning dog has the honour of being sketched by Sally Muir.

All these fun initiatives do not detract from the quality of artwork on display from some familiar  and not so familiar artists working in this genre.  Sally Muir, possibly the best known artist exhibiting, has a large collection of paintings and drawings on display, including a wonderful collection of smaller framed potato print studies.  As ever, all of Sally’s work looks so effortless and yet captures the personality of each and every dog with such insight and passion for her subjects.  Ian Mowforth’s striking Lino cut prints are very impressive and also show an artist very much in tune with his subject matter.  No wonder one of his dog Lino cut prints was selected for the RA Summer Exhibition last year.  Another artist celebrating our unique relationship with dogs is Debbie Kendall, of the Enlightened Hound.  Debbie uses Lino cuts and hand-drawn lettering to make vintage inspired prints for dog lovers.  We just loved her quirky map showing the dogs of the British Isles. 

 

In addition to the paintings and prints adorning the walls there is also a superb array of 3D artwork on display.  Joanna Osborne’s clay sculptures are sublime, she utilises the natural properties of the clay to add personality and a tenderness to her subjects.  Lorraine Corrigan’s elegant paper & wire sculptures make a delicate but commanding presence. Whilst Holy Smoke artist, Helen Thompson’s, unusual mix of wire and layering of textiles and thread creates a most atmospheric and haunting dog sculpture that reflects the fragility and beauty of our canine friends.

Robin Parker’s elegant wire sculptures are also very striking.  Like loose sketches come to life, they are fluid, unfussy yet show such knowledge of the canine form.  Also of note are the simple wire dog sculptures by Bridget Baker, who apparently only started making her wire animals after she retired following an inspiring visit to an Alexander Calder exhibition.  With the minimal amount of wire work Bridget manages to capture great character in her subjects.  Working on a similar scale are the fun Felted Fido dogs, created by Dee McCracken using a needle-felting technique.  Dee manages to put so much intimate detail into these felted dogs that they look truly lifelike.

I cannot recommend The Dog Show  highly enough, there is something for everyone’s pocket, with reasonably priced artwork and a selection of framed originals and unframed prints; not to mention an assortment of greeting cards and prints of the fabulous show poster available to buy.

The Dog Show Poster

The Dog Show is on every weekend in May, so if you are mad about dogs and passionate about art, then don’t miss this exhibition.  And remember your dog is welcome too!  Ralph loved it.

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Ralph just loved visiting The Dog Show

 

 

 

Blame it on Ralph

Let’s face it most of us would like to give up the day job and do what we love instead.  So when I found myself in the position recently of having been made redundant, I took a good hard look at what it was I wanted to do with my life and decided alongside attempting to work freelance (in part, so that I could spend more time at home with my gorgeous Bedlington / Whippet cross Lurcher, Ralph), I was going to follow the experts advice and do something connected to my passions … which are art & design and dogs!  

So it seems quite auspicious in this Chinese Year of the Dog that I’ve decided to start a blog about precisely that … art and dogs.

Via my Bow Wow Arts blog I want to showcase all the wonderful artists and crafts people out there who are focusing on our canine friends; from professionals to small kitchen table start-ups and budding amateurs. Whether they are painters, sculptors, jewellery makers, or textile designers using dogs as their subject matter or simply making handmade products for dogs.

So if you are an artist, designer or craft person whose work mainly features dogs and would like your work to be featured, please do get in touch.  And if like me, you are just passionate about  art and dogs then please follow this blog to discover lots of doggie creativity.