interview

Sarah King

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We talk to British Columbia-based illustrator and artist, Sarah King, about the importance of words in her work and the fascinating new techniques she's using. You can find more of her art at www.sarahaking.com and @sarahkingart. Could you tell us a little bit about your background – where you trained, how you learned and what inspired you to become an artist and an illustrator when you were younger?

I have always loved to draw and make things. I was part of a book-making group with friends when I was five where we wrote, illustrated, printed and bound small books. That was probably the start of me wanting to be an illustrator.

When it came to university it was between marine biology/zoology illustration, animation or graphic design. I didn't get great grades for the marine biology/zoology side, but I had a full portfolio of artwork to get in to Brighton for Graphic Design.  Brighton was an amazing experience, with talented and inspiring class mates and tutors who were great designers and illustrators themselves.

When did you make the move from London to Canada?  What drew you to British Columbia?

I moved to Canada in 2010.  Initially the plan was just for 6 months to snowboard and explore but as soon as I arrived I knew I wanted to stay. BC has an incredible landscape - winter is amazing when you have mountains to play in, and summer opens up even more to see. The hiking, surfing, mountain biking and snowboarding made me fall in love with the country.

Sarah King

You’ve travelled to some interesting locations, and produced work relating to travel – have your travels influenced you significantly?  Do you have a favourite country that you’ve visited?

Yes, travelling has influenced a lot of my work. I visited Canada 5 years ago and never left, so I would have to say BC is one of my favourite places. I also worked as a scuba diving instructor in Asia on coral reef conservation projects. Spending time observing the underwater world was an incredibly special experience, and something everyone should try.

What subjects or themes do you feel have been a draw for your work?

Nature, history, literature, travel, music.

You’ve worked across a number of different mediums and techniques – can you explain a little about the mediums/ techniques you use? Do you have a particular favourite?  Do you find that working in one medium/ technique helps, or feeds into working with another? 

Pen and ink is what I use most often - I love incorporating objects into my work, such as the type on fruit. It’s a tricky technical element to get right: the texture of the fruit skin, trying hard not to bruise the fruit, photography and editing.

Pyrography is quite a recent technique I picked up after seeing some beautiful etched leather shoes. Burning wood is very satisfying, you are limited with the tools, and the way the wood burns, so this dictates some of the style of the artwork. I love the permanence and solidity of the pieces.

Sarah King

You've worked for an impressive number of publications, and also produced some beautiful personal projects - do you have a favourite piece?

The snowboards for GNU are a personal favourite.  Having the opportunity to work for a great company, on a design for an Olympian, Jamie Anderson, on a product that I get to use and enjoy, and see other people using on the mountain, is pretty special.

Your work frequently combines text with art – how do the text and art work together to form parts of the whole illustration?

I use the words as a texture - you can create different flows and shades with different sizes and styles of text. People viewing the work always try to read and piece together the words, so what is written adds a whole new element to the image.

Do you write all the text for your pictures?  Where does the inspiration for the words come from?

Not always, commissions often provide text. Some personal projects are taken from poems and books. On some pieces I come up with the words myself, relating to the artwork.

A lot of your work features the natural world – how do you feel about the environment and the preservation of the environment?

I love nature and the outdoors, and spend as much time as possible exploring it. Hopefully we humans figure it out, and preserve as much as possible.

Sarah King

Ellis O'Connor

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Scotland Photographer Ellis O'Connor has an eye for the dramatic - soaring peaks dotted with snow, valleys that appear endless, gunmetal seas and a grey scale you can't help but adore. So it's rather fitting that she frequently makes dark and dramatic Scotland her subject. We had a chat to Ellis about her work, Hebridean focus and love of travel.

Can you tell me a little about your training and artistic background?

I am a Fine Art graduate with an honours degree from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. I am currently studying my Masters Degree in Art and Humanities based in Dundee, Scotland, where I grew up. I am a visual artist and specialise in photography, painting and drawing. I have exhibited widely and have recently undertaken artist residencies in the Northern Isles of Scotland, Iceland and was selected for the RSA Scholarship to Florence last year.

How would you define your style?

My style is based on the aesthetics of remote landscapes. It deals with different elements based on the land; the spirit of place, traces of the land and the sublime. All explored through a series of prints, photographs and paintings.

Within certain remote places there is a powerful atmosphere and through my work I invite the viewer to feel the [landscapes] presence ... and the textures and marks that we do not necessarily notice. My process of mark making, the washes and layers explored through my work are a direct way of showing how the unforgiving elements wear away the land. It all ties together to highlight the underlying meaning of the landscape and elements these vast places are exposed to. I also would say that my style is very bold in terms of capturing the overwhelming presence of the landscape and sublime mountains.

Scotland

Scotland

What inspires your photographs?

My photographs are inspired by travelling, mountains and remote lands. As long as I am travelling and venturing out to places that are unknown to me and far away from cities, then I will constantly be inspired. The intricate detail of the land, the atmosphere of the remote places and the feeling of being surrounded by nature and the wild environment is the main motivator that fuels and enriches my work.

What do you love about your job?

I love being able to go out to new places and capture them. It is a great thing being able to connect new people to a place just by the visual imagery that I put across in my work.

There is a certain drama to your work - is this intentional and where does this come from?

Is this intentional? Yes and no. I aim to capture the drama found within overwhelming landscapes, being out there surrounded by the mountains I feel a sense of heightened intensity and powerful atmosphere so I aim to put this across to the viewer. Also because these places are so staggeringly beautiful and present, it happens naturally that the photos end up with such drama; the place overall determines the outcome of the photograph.

Scotland

Scotland

Does travel influence your work in any way?

Travel is the only thing that influences my work. Without travel I cannot capture. As my studio is in the city, I find that every now and then I go on a road trip of Scotland here and there, to get new images, a new perspective free from the constant stimulation of being connected in a city and create new work! The wonderful thing about Scotland is that most of it is still very much untamed land up North, you don't need to travel far to get away from a city or even civilisation.

You've shot quite a lot of work around Scotland - is there something special about the scenery here?

Yes there is definitely something special about the scenery here. I was lucky enough to grow up in Scotland and with it's dramatic peaks and mountain ranges, layers of dramatic history embedded within the places and the magnificent lochs and valleys, it is simply stunning. I travel a lot to other countries and parts of the world and find a lot of inspiration to make work there but I am very much connected to Scotland.

Scotland

Scotland

Has there been a project (past, present or future) that you’ve particularly enjoyed?

I've been involved in a lot of amazing and inspiring projects but one of the best projects I've enjoyed recently being a part of was working on the Isle of Eigg (one of Scotland's remote small Isles) as Artist in residence with The Bothy Project at the very start of January. You can read my article and find out more about the Bothy Project on the blog here.

I found this very engaging and an amazing place to work. I was located in a beautiful bothy right on the North tip of the Island surrounded by cliffs and looking out to the magnificent peaks of Rum, I made a lot of new work there and most of my new photographs have come from being within that place. The thing I found most important was being off grid. As I had no distractions, it gave me the chance to just fully explore and connect with the island and make a brand new body of work. Also as it was right at the very start of this year, right in the middle of Scotland's winter, the weather was wild and there was not much light so it really pushed me out of my comfort zone in engaging with a place. Simply stunning.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

My advise for aspiring photographers is to find your niche. Find what it really is you are passionate and inspired by and create a new voice for that. Capture what it important to you and find your own style so people will be able to recognise the work. It is also very important to have a level of depth and meaning to the work, find what the calling is. I have come to realise that work with a significant meaning connects and resonates more with the viewer. Lastly, never give up on something you are truly passionate about!

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Interview: Claudia Guariglia

Claudia Guariglia We had a lovely chat with Italian-raised, London-based photographer Claudia Guariglia about her love of the lens, her subjects and the general power of photography. You can see more of Claudia's stunning shots in issue 2 of Lodestars Anthology, due out in March next year.

What do you love about photography?

I like capturing instants. I love how photography makes it possible to freeze something as a picture and keep it forever. It’s just an image, but still whenever I look at it, it will tell me something about that particular moment of my life, what I was feeling, maybe bring to my mind something I forgot. Time scares me a little, somehow, and with photography I feel like I can stop it every now and then, and get to keep memories, both of important steps in my life or just those everyday little things that maybe made me smile, or simply stop and think.

Digital or film - which do you prefer and why?

Definitely film. I do like digital of course, it’s convenient and quick, and allows you to do all sorts of things that I cannot do with film (considering I don’t develop it by myself).

Still, the feeling with film is completely different. I wouldn’t know how to explain it. I've tried many times but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’m just so much happier and satisfied with my film pictures as opposed to when I shoot digital, I feel like they convey better my own vision of things. There’s something romantic to it, like film could actually really capture the atmosphere of every different moment, and this is actually particularly obvious with polaroids, as the colors tend to change depending on the temperature in which the pics develop. So, if for example you’re shooting outside and it’s winter, you’ll get colder colours, and that’s such a nice touch to it. It just adds some more value to the picture.

Claudia Guariglia

Can you remember the first photograph you took?

Not really, but I remember that when I finally got my own first camera, I was about 12. I used to take a lot of pictures of clouds. And the sea. Not very original, for sure, but I was born and grew up by the sea so I always felt some sort of connection with it.

Before that, I used to steal my dad’s camera whenever we went out just to look through the lens and play a bit with it, but it was so heavy and I was so little. I don’t think I ever did more than just that.

What inspires your work?

It depend. What I like most is taking simple, natural pictures, true depictions of what surrounds me, so I’d say I’m inspired by everyday life. I love capturing light, and I like interiors, so I’m inspired by new places - other people’s houses and the different way natural light acts in different environments or times of the year.

I also like fashion, so sometimes I’m inspired by that. New clothes, shops windows, something catches my eye and I either just want to capture it or feel the urge to create something out of it. I don’t always follow the same pattern.

Claudia Guariglia

How would you define your style?

True, I guess. I like taking care of composition, I like looking for the perfect framing and the perfect light, but at the same time I want my pictures to look real, true. The pictures I usually like the most (which are not necessarily the ones other people prefer, it goes without saying) are the ones I didn’t even plan to take, and they’re usually film, so there’s no post production.

I like taking self portraits, so those are important to me as well, but I have a different approach when it comes to taking pictures of myself. I still try to convey what’s going on through my mind and in my life, but they’re, obviously, less spontaneous, there’s more work behind them. Still, what I always try to have in my images is simplicity.

What do you love to photograph most?

I like taking pictures of whatever catches my eye. What I love are details, tiny little things that would maybe normally go unnoticed. So whether it be a portrait, still life, or whatever, I try to focus on those little things: hand gestures, maybe the particular way someone sits, details in the window of a shop or house, that tiny crack on a mug. Photography makes me focus more on what surrounds me, and I always had the weird habit of noticing apparently useless things. Capturing them in an image makes the picture alive, it helps telling a story.

Claudia Guariglia

How does travelling influence your work?

I’d ask “how does my work influences travelling”, actually. I probably give too much importance to taking pictures while visiting a new place, some people might think I don’t really enjoy myself, that I’m too focused on photographing everything rather than living an experience, and maybe they’re right, who knows. But I think photography helps me take in everything I see when I’m travelling, especially if I’m alone. I love taking my time to observe everything, slowing down when I want to, shoot some maybe useless, maybe not, pics, and so on.

Travelling is so inspiring, you get to see places that look nothing like the ones you’re used to, meet different people, generally take in something that’s new and exciting, and that somehow changes and enriches you. If I had the chance I’d be travelling all over the world non stop, and possibly I’ll be doing so sometime in the future.

Have you taken a particularly memorable photograph while travelling?

All the photos I take while travelling are memorable for me as they obviously remind me of a beautiful and exciting experience. The most memorable ones though usually have little or nothing to do with the place I was visiting, rather they focus on what I was doing or who I was with.

This photo (click here) for example, is a pic I shot in Seville, and even if it was a couple of years ago I still like it and find it an important and memorable picture as it reminds me of a certain, not necessarily amazing but still important moment in my life. Yet, I could have shot the same picture anywhere. Same goes for other pictures I took in England, Scotland, or other places I’ve been traveling to. It’s totally subjective, completely personal.

Claudia Guariglia

What is your dream subject?

When I say 'if I had the chance I’d be travelling all over the world' I mean it, so I guess my dream subject would be the whole world? I know it sounds silly and very generic, but as I like taking pictures of real life. I’d love to be able to travel the world, meet people, visit their houses, maybe taking portraits of them in their personal spaces. Seeing something new everyday, stop every now and then in a cafè or a small restaurant, capturing and making mine everything around me, carrying around just a film camera. That would be simply amazing.

Where can we see more of your work?

I have tonnes of pics on my Flickr page, even very old ones no one would probably want to see. You can find them here. I also have a tumblr, that I try to update as regularly as possible and a small portfolio on cargocollective.

Claudia Guariglia

Claudia Guariglia

Claudia Guariglia

Claudia Guariglia

Claudia Guariglia

Claudia Guariglia

Claudia Guariglia

Claudia Guariglia

Claudia Guariglia

Quilliam Brothers Teahouse

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Quilliam Brothers Teahouse

England, a nation that is pretty downright fanatical about their tea and known for it across the globe. And yet, it is not so easy to find an establishment that offers much else other than your usual Afternoon, Breakfast or Early Grey, with a few herbals thrown in too (we hope). Locate a teahouse and you have stumbled upon a rare treasure. Find one that opens until 1am, swarming with over 60 varieties of tea and offering free movies and art on display? Well, you’ll never leave. That’s precisely what the Quilliam brothers – Tom, Patrick and Sam – brought to the North-Eastern town of Newcastle just one year ago.

Tell us about your business; what is the Quilliam Brothers Teahouse?

Patrick: We are a teahouse that serves a wide range of loose-leaf tea. We think that we’re a bit different in that we brew the tea for the customers, so that the tea that’s left in the pot doesn’t over-brew, get bitter, so that our customers can enjoy a whole pot without it going bad. We serve all these teas in a beautiful building near the centre of Newcastle, and unlike a lot of places serving drinks in Newcastle, we open late but don’t serve alcohol, giving an opportunity for people to sit back, relax and chat into the wee hours if they want to. We’ve also got a little cinema, and a little gallery space, too, to augment your tea drinking experience.

Tom: In a nutshell, we are a café with a difference; an alternative nightlife experience, where you can hear what people are saying, you can talk to your friends, without fear of being in obnoxious company - hopefully! - and making sure everything is quality.

Quilliam Brothers Teahouse

Can you explain the tea-making process? How do you brew it?

Patrick: Normally in a panic. Using a glass jug so we can see the colour change, and to keep an eye on how much tea we’re putting in, we brew them for the recommended brewing time. That’s either recommended by our tea grower themselves, or from our own discovery. We give them the relevant mixings and stirrings, and when the timer’s gone off we pour the liquid through a sieve into the teapot.

Tom: It’s important to know the different times, temperatures and quantities of tea, which makes a huge difference. A lot of people when they buy their green tea from the supermarket will brew it at far too high a temperature thus leading to a horrible taste. We’re not brought up on green tea in England so we treat it as though we would treat our normal black tea teabag, when really it should be treated a lot more delicately.

We give many options of tea here, some for people who don’t like to be adventurous, but some to be able to kind of educate I suppose, without sounding too preachy, to teach people the right way to be drinking these really fine teas.

Sam: But on that point though, by no means do we see ourselves as experts with tea, we’re more like enthusiasts. We like to show our experiences and what teas we know with other people.

Tom: And we’re always open to any information they have for us. We hate this kind of snobbery on the independent café scene, and a lot of independent café owners have this idea that they are there to thrust their views. For example, coffee shops who don’t like you having sugars, syrups or even milk in your coffee. We don’t want to do that. We don’t want to preach to people on how to take their tea but we like rather to instruct if they don’t know how to, and equally to take instruction from people who know more than us.

Patrick: A brew is a personal thing and we like to cater to that.

Tom: And if anyone wants their tea stronger, weaker, with more or less milk, they just need to say.

Quilliam Brothers Teahouse

So how and where did you learn about tea, when did this all begin?

Tom: For each of us it was at different points. The foundation is that we were always brought up, as so many British families are, with our day being punctuated with tea. Not only is it a way of quenching thirst; it’s a way of bringing your household together at different points of the day, where you all share a pot.

Sam: A nice excuse to stop work!

Tom: Yes, nice procrastination. But it’s a social thing, it really is. Whenever you go round to see a friend, just like in a lot of countries for example in Italy, they’ll throw food at you: here, we’ll throw a cup of tea and a rich tea biscuit at you.

So we obviously loved tea and the next step with that was our experience with teahouse culture, not tearooms, but teahouses. So this cool, underground feel in the likes of Eastern Europe and other places where there’s no advertisement or anything: you go in there and you have a huge variety of tea and you drink with quiet music on and you talk to people. That was the next thing where we fell in love with tea as a sort of social lubricant I suppose, different from the likes of beer, since tea invokes a feeling of quiet calm and reflection.

It’s something about the steeping process, it’s very different. For me, the steeping process for tea is so different to the likes of coffee. Because with coffee you need high-tech machinery, really high pressures, it’s really noisy.

Patrick: Bish, bash, EUHH!

Tom: Yeah! But with tea you can actually watch the colour and the flavour come from the leaf, and then at the end of it it’s like a quiet, calming process and for some reason, I know it sounds wanky but, that gets reflected in the kind of people who gather over tea drinking. It makes a feeling of calm, reflection and trust.

So that was the next thing. After that the idea was floated that we should start something in Newcastle like these teahouses that we’d seen elsewhere. That was five years ago when it was first suggested, then it was four years ago that we started getting serious when we started the Quilliam Brothers. We did a trip to India, where we stayed in a few plantations, and then to Germany where we get all our fruit teas from. We spent a few days there drinking copious amounts of liquids. Since then we’ve had a trip to China and other educational experiences, including meeting with a couple of tea sellers in England as well.

So yes, the education in tea is never ending, we’re learning everyday. The biggest thing we learn everyday about tea is that nothing is quite as it seems: there are no set rules for anything. People have different opinions on production, brewing, serving methods, everything. And you can never say that you know everything about tea. That’s why we won’t ever consider ourselves masters.

Quilliam Brothers Teahouse

What does the teahouse bring to Newcastle compared to other cafes?

Tom: What I do think that we bring to Newcastle, which I didn’t realise was so unique until this place evolved into what it is, is that we give this feeling of community. The kind of service the staff give everyone here is very human. Yes, ‘The customer is always right’ and all that, but we like to take the approach which is more, ‘We’re all humans, let’s kind of talk about it’. If there’s a problem, if everything’s good, let’s talk about it – we don’t like the traditional separation. So as soon as you come there’s a feeling that you’re welcome and we want you to be yourself.

Patrick: Yes, there’s no front: we are what we are. It’s inclusive not exclusive.

You mentioned earlier you also have a cinema and gallery space downstairs. Could you tell us more about that?

Patrick: One of the initial ideas behind the teahouse was that we wanted it to be a hub for the arts. Having all of us gone to visit various capital cities, coming back to Newcastle there seemed to be not as much grassroots support for that side of things. So the idea behind the gallery is to help local artists have a bit of an opportunity to show their work and to hence show local residents what is happening in their city.

Sam: We’ve tried not to make a big deal of it really, so that more people can get involved with it. The gallery is also a space where we sit lots of covers, we have people going to eat lunch down there and in turn will be able to look at the art rather than be scared to go down and check it out. It’s the same with the cinema, we don’t charge so it’s free entry. We screen films a couple of nights a week, it’s just there.

Tom: It all adds to the idea that the place is for the customers: everyone comes, everyone’s contributing, people who exhibit here are generally either staff or customers who’ve been here and realised that they can put work on – we’ve gone along those routes. Same with the cinema, people can suggest movies they want and then we’ll talk to the staff, the ones who are choosing the movies at the moment.

The place is always going to be about the customers who come here. It’s the mood they bring, the conversation they have, the board games they play, the art they put on and the movies they suggest. Hopefully without it being disorganised, it’s like a community project – you can contribute and we understand the importance of their input.

Have you enjoyed working together? Do you work well as a team, being brothers? Sam: A formidable team! It’s great because we all understand each other, we’re on the same wavelength, it’s not often that happens and it’s harder than it seems to find people with the same ideas. We’ve got the same kind of mindset and focus.

Tom: We’ve had every argument under the sun so any further arguments are nothing.

Patrick: There’s always the pressure to have made up by Sunday Dinner so mum isn’t in the middle of any arguments!

Tom: Had any one of us opened this as a solo project, would we have been able to cope?

Sam: Not a chance in hell. I don’t even think two of us! Three of us had to do it. For man hours, for strength and mental sanity…

Tom: To have someone to vent to, someone who understands no matter how niggly the point is. It’s so beneficial to have three of you, three people initially that you can trust to manage a place.

Images and interview by Emma Douty.

tea house