Series supporting the Creative Arts diploma. Looking at areas as diverse as the impact of music in fashion to corporate branding of the London Underground.
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The nature of selling clothes that look like they were ruins and rags
appealed with a certain fetishistic aspect to them,
created a new kind of subversive clothing.
The new fashion became known as punk,
and the slogan Clothes For Heroes appeared on the shop door.
Their most iconic creation were the bondage trousers,
an item that took heroic nerve to wear.
You've gotta have a trouser that first of all
must appear as if you can't walk in them,
and I realised that we needed to create a strap between the legs,
but a strap that could move.
And I decided I wanted a zip that would do something more obnoxious.
If you could have a zip that went around the crotch
and half way up the arse, that was more exciting.
So you'd open up this zip and all your goolies would fall out
and you could do the most obnoxious things in the street.
And this was just an ode to Tarzan funnily enough.
Actually it was a piece of towelling, and I just had this idea of something primitive,
so it's half of the Tarzan loin cloth is what,
in my wildest imagination, that was to represent.
The bondage trousers took Westwood and McLaren's punk look nationwide.
Their provocative ideas appealed to a generation of young fashion rebels,
stimulating them to create their own DIY punk style.
The whole ethos of punk was the do-it-yourself idea behind it,
and I would buy shirts from Oxfam and then cut them up
and reassemble them, and put plastic on them
and obscene messages that my mother was very upset by,
but it was great, I mean, it was a really exciting time
and it was about doing things that were new and that appeared, I suppose, shocking at the time.
They had achieved their goal - spreading anarchic style across Britain.
A key element in this success was McLaren's decision
to form a band who could model and soundtrack their punk designs.
It was natural that a band wearing those clothes was going to be
the sound of that fashion, so I created a look for the music.
What was the music?
Well, I felt the music should be as wrong as the clothes,
so my idea was I actually thought if they sound bad,
they're gonna be good.
You could send the cultural terrorists out into the hinterland
and have them pollute England.
It was again this wish to provoke,
which is crucial to the whole story of punk
and of that period in McLaren and Westwood's clothing,
which saw the most incredible outpouring of creativity.
It was once really possible to shock,
and to shock people to the core.
# I'm pretty vacant... #
Once punk had happened, it was no turning back.
You can't put your genie back in the bottle.
They were the ones that said you can do it,
you don't have to be a professional,
and let's mix it all together and make it fun.
Well, yes, that's what's going on today and that is what I think Britain has given the world -
this idea that everywhere you can do it,
mix it all up, we're gonna do it our way.
We started working with designers back in the '90s, first of all to allow our customers to be able to
buy designer collections they wouldn't have been able to buy
because they couldn't afford them.
So it was a way of allowing our customers a glimpse, if you like,
at a different aesthetic, a different style.
As collaborations with designers became more natural, High Street chains like Top Shop,
were able to attract the best new talent,
such as Jonathan Saunders,
seen here showing at New York Fashion Week.
We picked up on Jonathan Saunders about two years after he left St Martin's.
He was picked for the New Generation sponsorship.
One of his first collections had the most incredible graphic prints
that really stood out, and all the fashion press picked up on it
and said, this guy is going to be really something.
There is a whole other element of fantasy, which fashion is,
which I love to do, especially this collection.
It's more about detail and more structured than I've done before.
Usually I reference Corbusier or the Bauhaus or something like that,
and I think about how I can translate that into a print.
Saunders' catwalk collections may excite the fashion press
but it's his work for the High Street that will reach a wider group of admirers.
You know, there's a very youthful spirit about Jonathan and you could argue that it's best appreciated
by the young, and they can't afford the designer prices,
but they can buy into Jonathan Saunders at Top Shop.
In East London, Jonathan Saunders and his team are preparing a new Diffusion line for Top Shop,
where his high-end designs will be reinterpreted for the High Street.
Top Shop head buyer Karen Downy has come to discuss the look and the cost implications.
We don't want it to be overly constructed and overly worked.
The aesthetic of what I do usually is quite pared down and simple anyway.
-Yeah, but we have to think a little bit about the construction for a High Street store...
-..compared to your collection.
-How we translate it.
So I've brought out a couple of quite simple pieces here, which could translate quite easily,
you know, because it's expensive fabrics that have been used but you can work on that anyway.
If you imagine this dress with the body in black,
-then a strong blue on the shoulders.
-Keep the black stripe.
But also that they can recognise it as definitely one of yours.
Yeah. Would you still line the dress?
-I think we'd look at what it's like unlined first.
-To keep the price down.
You're putting your product out there to a wider audience so you need to kind of please more people in a way.
You have to take that with a pinch of salt, though,
because if it does affect your design process too much,
you end up oversimplifying or the dumbing down
of what you're all about, and you've got to be brave as well.
Obviously the finishing is really fine on these
and there's been a lot of work going into finishing this in that way.
-We probably wouldn't finish it in the same way.
-Right. But we can get close to it.
Something near to it.
I think it's a two-edged sword in that it's supporting the design process, it's appreciating
young British talent,
but it's also bringing to the forefront
how you can gain those pieces for a low price.
So all of those things made it really good on a long-term basis.
The flickering animations in this video of Kate Moss and Primal Scream
are the work of fashion designer Julie Verhoevan.
First and foremost, she's an artist who loves to draw,
what she draws, and for whatever reason comes second.
A lot of her filigree, yet curiously savage work is loosely called fashion illustration.
The process she follows to design a collection starts with research,
developing a general theme, looking at pictures and seeing what takes her fancy.
This phase could take...
I'll probably do about three to four
intensive days of purely photocopying,
and then I'll start the collection
and then I'll just sort of revert back to it later on
in the season when I need to revise my thoughts.
I'm just looking at random to start with, I don't know quite what I was looking for,
then I found the good luck charms, which I really like,
so I just went in that direction,
and then the sinister undertones are just something I can't get away from.
There's a sort of mood to the collection...
so let's lift up your skirt and fly,
which feels very optimistic but with this sort of sinister undertone.
It's all based on good luck charms and omens and the supernatural.
After weeks of accumulating a mass of visual stimuli, she puts all her ideas together as drawings.
She barely takes the pen off the page because, she says,
she doesn't want to break the line of her thought.
It's a good example of how I begin to start sketching.
I'll begin with a seductive face that is on the face of it quite a pretty...
And as I work down the body I tend to react to that character
and give it a little bit of a twist in some way or another.
I tend to alternate between pen and pencil, and crayon,
just in the hope that I make another mark that might provoke
another reaction and suggest another fabric or applique
or some special treatment. So it's a purposeful thing
that I just hope again for a happy accident.
So this is the dress that I'd like you to work on and it's going to be in this Pandora print.
-And it's basically coming from
-the four-leaf clover idea.
Very randomly placed, and, um...
-to feel as unstructured as possible.
And kind of 1920s flapper-type feeling,
sort of Peter Pan in panto.
Working from Julie's sketches, he comes up with a basic paper pattern.
Then he cuts a dress from a simple fabric,
which they fit on a mannequin.
He'd drawing too, but with a pair of scissors as well as a pen.
With constant reference back to the original designs, the dress gradually takes shape.
At this point, a model, Katya, arrives
and Julie can see how the dress hangs and moves for real.
For me, looking at her final catwalk show
is seeing Julie's drawings walk, live and breathe.
Her drawing, with its swirls and colours, really is at the heart of what she does.
Fashion designers like her are the exception to the new 21st-century design tradition
in not using a computer at any stage of the process,
and although that's proof that computers aren't essential
to successful modern design, they're the biggest difference between the Renaissance and today.
Type is saying things to us all the time.
Typefaces express a mood, an atmosphere.
They give words a certain colouring.
Everywhere you look, you see typefaces,
but one you see more than any other is Helvetica. There it is
and it seems to come from nowhere. It seems like air,
it seems like gravity.
Graphic design is the communication framework
through which these messages about what the world is now
and what we should aspire to, it's the way they reach us.
The designer has an enormous responsibility.
Those are the people putting their wires into our heads.
It's always changing, time is changing.
The appreciation of typefaces is changing very much.
Why you grab a certain typeface for a certain job
has a different meaning
than we grabbed a typeface in the '50s for a certain job.
It's... You are always a child of your time,
and you cannot step out of that.
What we have is a climate now
in which the very idea of visual communication and graphic design,
if we still want to call it that, is accepted by many more people.
They get it, they understand it.
They're starting to see graphic communication
as an expression of their own identity.
The classic case of this is the social networking programmes
such as MySpace, where you can customise your profile,
you can change the background, you can put pictures in, you can change the typeface to anything you want,
and those choices, those decisions you make,
become expressions of who you are.
You start to care about it in the way that you care about the clothing you're wearing
as an expression of who you are, or your haircut or whatever,
or how you decorate your apartment, all of those things, you know.
We accept the idea of identity being expressed in that way
through these consumer choices.
Well, now it's happening in the sphere of visual communication.
And there's no reason, as the tools become ever more sophisticated,
why this just won't go on developing and developing and developing.
This is the tale of 2 - of the BBC2 identification logo.
It's not so long ago that BBC2 was presented like this...
Or until 1991 like this.
So how was TWO elbowed aside by the wonderful 2?
I realised there was a problem
as soon as I took over the channel.
It was obvious the logo made absolutely no impact.
In fact it was something anyone could have told you.
It was singularly unmemorable and told you nothing about the personality of the channel.
So we decided to commission a corporate design company to do some research.
When the research came back we were surprised because what it told us
was that the audience thought BBC2 was "dull and worthy",
which was a bit of a shock to everybody involved.
So how did they set about changing people's perceptions? They invented an entirely new 2,
more in step with the programmes
and with a personality all its own, hopefully witty, decidedly unusual.
We took this 2 actually. You think, there's nothing special about this.
Well, there IS something special about this - it's a distinctive 2,
it has sharp bits on it and it's rather nice and fat.
The reason we wanted that particular 2
is because we wanted to do things with it,
so you need lots of 2, lots of body on the 2,
in order to achieve that.
The familiar greeny-blue colour was featured in the first batch of 2s
and became a standard component
in subsequent designs to aid identification.
But never mind the colour, how did they do this?
Well, they turned the camera and the model 2 on their sides,
then filmed paint dropping from a height
so that when the film was played the right way up,
it appeared to hurtle in from the side.
Simple when you know how, but the latest episode in the Tale of 2
needed a more complicated set-up to produce a steaming 2.
As well as the idea
of the surprise of the water turning into steam
on an object which didn't look hot,
we also wanted to have the water coming from every angle.
That was the main problem, really,
getting some kind of a rig which allowed us to release water on cue,
and we've come up with quite an amazing Heath Robinson device, I think.
The drops of water are controlled by opening and closing
a system of valves so that they splash down on cue. The camera lens
is in the centre of the action, but it's shielded from the water and this is what it sees.
Another new ident hot off the press is called Diary.
The final piece may be on screen for only a few seconds,
but it took days to produce.
Basically we have a piece of fish wire, which is attached to the 2,
with an undercurrent of air, so when we pull it, the actual 2 will come forward on a jet of air.
The original aim was to pull ten 2s off in rapid succession,
but things got in a bit of a tangle.
We ended up with a lot of crossed wires even doing it this way,
but with ten, it was like down at the lake on Sunday,
with everyone's rods going in. It was impossible to coordinate.
So they cheated, they repeated the original shot over and over again.
But how the 2s were filmed is not the whole story.
Every 2 has sound effects or specially composed music behind it.
How are these created?
Perhaps not exactly how you'd expect.
The music for each 2 was inspired by a particular theme.
We came up with a fantasy for silk, which was a seascape,
and the silk became billowing waves
and the 2 became a sunken ship complete with piping aboard.
And the ship's bell way underneath the ocean.
And ghostly feelings, like whales in the water.
So how successful has the new look been?
Six months after the first research, they tested the audience reaction.
The results were phenomenal because all the negatives that came out in the first lot of research -
"dull and worthy" - had disappeared entirely
and it was all "sophisticated and witty, and amusing"
and all these words started coming out.
Back at the Beeb, how do they feel about the 2 they've unleashed?
We feel it's taken on quite a character of its own. It's started to come alive.
We see it as the hero of the piece,
and it's definitely got its own little character.
Our lives are dominated by objects, disposable, practical, aspirational,
all designed for a specific purpose,
but the design icons of today have at their heart the principles of one revolutionary designer.
You might not know his name, but you can be sure that his work will look very familiar.
Dieter Rams designed products for Braun for 40 years
and his rigorous approach of less but better
paved the way for the designers of today.
When Dieter Rams joined Braun, they were a small electronics company making radios and shavers.
Within one year, he had revolutionised their products
and his epoch-defining 10 principles of good design were already taking shape.
What is the Dieter Rams' idea about what makes a good design?
It is when it is believable,
Glaubhaft in Deutsch,
yeah, and it should be not lying.
And I was always saying you can tell
the companies taking design really honest
on your ten fingers.
No change today, it's still only few companies.
Apple is one,
a lot of junk between.
Rams' principle of honesty in design
means a product doing exactly what it says on the tin,
something that's been embraced by Apple Mac.
Jonathan Ive, Apple's head designer, is one of
Rams' most ardent admirers, and even used the classic Braun calculator
as the template for the iPhone app.
One of the first time we had push buttons
which are electronic push buttons.
I hate all the words ending with -isms, functionalism...
Nationalism is terrible, a lot of words ending -ism.
But functionality, it's important.
And if you compare it today to an Apple iPhone,
-they've taken your design.
-They've stolen your design.
-No. No, it's a compliment.
Rams' designs stretch beyond the world of consumer electronics.
In 1960 he designed the revered 606 shelving system for Vitsoe.
which has been in continuous production ever since.
Its modular system allowed for endless variations and could be expanded to fit anywhere.
I even have a 606 at home.
The story starts, then I become more and more books
so I add something in this direction.
And later on I add this whole.
The idea of it to be a piece of furniture you keep for life
instead of just going to IKEA and buying something you'll throw away five years later.
You should design furniture not only for two or one or three years,
you should design that for your whole life.
The Atelier system expanded on this innovation.
The first hi-fi to offer its components in modular form,
it allowed you to create bespoke systems to fit your home.
And so when was this designed?
and the first one in components
that you also could arrange horizontal
or mount it on a wall.
And what was the thinking behind making it modular, breaking it up?
First, to make it modular was people could buy
only components what they want.
Maybe they don't want a tape recorder, they only want the amplifier or the tuner.
And the mesh, I love the mesh.
And the mesh also.
-Was that difficult?
The technicians was very proud that they had the solution because it's better...
Loudspeaker quality comes out.
Before, it was covered with some carpet,
a kind of carpet, you know, very...
The tone quality...
Rams applied his ten principles of good design to every one of his designs for Braun.
By 1995, when Rams retired from the company,
millions of homes worldwide contained a little piece of his design ideal.
I can't believe it, I had one of these and I never knew it was yours.
-And the toothbrushes for OralB.
-All your work.
If you look into the future, where do you see product design going?
The main thing is the people,
not the things which people use.
We have to look more on our natural resources...
More deeply our resources,
and we should more think what we use,
how we use things,
and how many things we use.
That is important in the future.
Wise words from a very wise man.
Despite living in a world of throwaway consumer excess,
Dieter Rams' ideals live on in all the best examples of product design.
If we make things functional and beautiful, they'll be treasured forever.
Reinvention doesn't have to be edgy to breathe new life into a classic.
The most recent phenomenon that rivals Laura Ashley for bringing
nostalgia-inspired country style to the High Street is Cath Kidston.
Businesses that are based on taking tradition and reworking it have always appealed to me.
In print, florals are classic, aren't they?
They're the kind of cream of print,
and I guess it enables one to work with
lots of colour combinations, shapes,
patterns. I have a very strange memory, I can hardly remember my own telephone number
but I can remember print and colour for some reason.
I've got a photographic memory for that kind of thing.
Cath Kidston has built her empire on reworking vintage finds.
Her team of designers regularly visit antique fairs looking for inspiration.
It's really fun, isn't it?
It's really important for me, working with vintage stuff,
that it doesn't look old in the sense of dowdy.
It's got to look fresh and cheerful to appeal to me.
This is cool, the planes.
What excites me is taking something like
an old small child's dress print,
taking the character of it and maybe redoing the colours,
and then perhaps having it plastic coated so it has a shiny finish.
But it's just that thing of how can one take tradition and rework it.
The only thing with a print like that, that's really kind of so pretty and all the rest of it,
it needs something to brighten it up.
I think it's a bit too sugary.
The only thing is we could make it more sugary
and really shocking pink, quite bright
and then it's quite interesting.
The product is very friendly, it is the sort of feel-good factor somehow.
There's a sort of humour and a slightly sort of
it fits in with Carry On films, all those kind of things,
and a cheekiness that I really like, which I have to say is totally British, isn't it?
What she's totally tapped into, though,
is the safety of the nursery, a nursery most people never had.
That interest and fondness for the state of childhood
is something that's quite a big factor in British style.
Romanticising the past has always been a big thing with the British,
this longing for when things were simpler.
They probably never were, but looking back it seems that they were.
Harking back to the past as a refuge from the realities of the present
is part of the British psyche, it's part of our fashion story too.
Classic country style is reassuring, comforting, and protective when ill winds blow.
Is it any coincidence that it's being rediscovered as global recession looms?
Times are hard, so people search
for comfort in looks and ideas
and people that are reassuring.
People are coming back to that quintessential British style
of things that are made to last, and especially in times of trouble,
I think people turn to that, people turn to things
that are comforting and that are lasting
and that won't go away.
55 Broadway was Charles Holden's vision,
but it was the brainchild of Frank Pick,
the managing director of the new Underground group.
These two men, Holden and Pick,
were pivotal in the development of London's transport network.
Together they undertook a massive modernisation of all its assets
to make them fit for the 20th century.
Frank Pick crucially understood the value of good design
and that the look of London Transport is its personality.
He had begun his modernisation programme
by commissioning posters that would persuade commuters
to use the trains in their leisure time.
In the 1920s, bright, colourful Art Deco designs
produced by the best artists of the day
were always given pride of place in the Tube stations.
Frank Pick understood just how effective they could be
in persuading the public that this was a modern, forward-looking transport system.
The posters commissioned from Pick's office at 55 Broadway were pivotal
in the development of the organisation.
So what were the purpose of these particular posters?
This was an example of promoting off-peak travel, essentially.
This, you can see, is particularly directed at women, promoting
the idea of going out in the day when the services were underused.
So where would these have gone, where were they exhibited?
This would have been inside the station, so it would have been
perhaps as you were leaving, it would prompt an idea of what you might do
at the weekend, because it was essentially about promoting leisure travel, this kind of poster.
And I suppose people would have known this was a fashionable image -
that would have been seen as the latest thing.
Yeah, and I think to some people it would have done, but I think
to other people it was the first sort of experience a lot of people would have had of these styles.
So it's their first kind of touch of Art Deco really?
Definitely, without necessarily even knowing that it was happening.
The posters were the starting point for one of the most
radical redesign programmes ever undertaken by a single company.
Pick and Holden were able to do this because Art Deco was a total style,
a style which was appropriate for all the company's assets from its headquarters building at 55 Broadway
to the smallest fitting on the station platforms, and so too,
the trains which ran on its tracks.
Do you know, this is just as I remember these trains.
When I was kid, I loved to go on the Underground train, it was so different
from where I grew up, and they are exactly, exactly as I remember them.
Well, although these trains stayed in service until the late 1980s,
they were originally introduced
during the 1930s, and this is called the 1938 stock, and it was
a revolutionary train at the time.
It was the first train that had all of its running gear underneath.
It was styled in a very Art Deco way
and had a lot of very nice features that we can still see on it today.
You have these sort of Art Deco lampshades, which are called
shovel shades by people who work for London Transport.
And also in the seating fabric, and the technical name for this sort of
fabric is moquette, and Frank Pick employed some
of the leading textile designers of the day, people like Marion Dorn
and Enid Marx, to produce this.
So the overall effect is a very comfortable and spacious environment for passengers to use.
This is so obviously Art Deco with this ribbed, sort of go-faster
stripe thing, and these very Bauhaus geometric patterns.
If it were treated separately, I'd see it as design, but as a whole I just think, yeah, it's a Tube train.
It's part of the whole fitness for purpose that Frank Pick was trying to achieve with the trains.
They're very modern. From a technical point of view they're a great improvement
on the trains that went before but they're also very attractive spaces for passengers to use.
The seats are pretty amazingly comfortable, you know.
Yeah, they're nice, aren't they?
Pick took a personal interest in the designers that were chosen
and the samples, and we know that from the posters he commissioned
but also from the moquette samples, he would personally sign these off.
Even though as managing director and later vice-chairman,
he was extraordinarily busy, he still put aside an afternoon a week to do that sort of commissioning.
-Do you think that kind of total control helped the system?
Pick brought order to what was a very disparate system
in the 1920s and '30s, and this sort of thing
reassured the passengers that they were getting a consistent service.
Everything that we see around us has been designed.
Design is about fitting the object to the human being.
The challenge for me as a designer
is to create beautiful and appropriate tools for living.
Out here in nature, this great expanse, I'm deeply inspired,
but this is what nature's about.
Nature can create forms which are beyond man's imagination,
Look at this one, for example, that's only old stone off the beach
but look at the way if fits the thumb.
It could be...
a remote control -
it could be a cigarette lighter.
Look around, look at the forms, everywhere you look
and that could be a telephone...
It's nature which provides the most direct influence on his work,
in structure as well as form.
They discovered that the undulating texture
on a shark's skin contributed to its hydrodynamic performance,
and they've related that to the wing of an aeroplane now.
You look at the honeycomb of a beehive, and it's spectacular.
When we were looking at plastics, the high-impact polystyrenes,
we thought, how do we create the stiffest structure we can
and the lightest - well, we take away the material.
Environmental impact is a central issue in organic design.
This office system with its ingenious raised floor for communications and power cables
combines three essential qualities - it's durable, has recyclable components,
but most impressively, it's totally modular,
so it won't be discarded each time the office needs a new layout.
Every aspect of a product's lifecycle, the complete lifecycle
from selection of the raw materials
to use and final disposal, everything in between, all the processing
and all the energy used, all the waste that's potentially created,
is minimised so that you can create
products that are as environmentally efficient as possible.
There's an amazing value in this profession
and there's a sense of responsibility
because we're taking these precious resources that exist on the planet,
a clay, an aluminium, a plastic,
and we're turning them into objects.
If, as a designer, you can trim off
the fat on a product, you're delivering something of value.
This Bent chair by Ross
is an example of how he's able
to provide the most with the least.
He's handled the material in a minimal way and has removed anything
that's extraneous to the function.
For instance, he's obviously made this large cutout here at the back,
which is unnecessary for full support, he's removed material
here and achieved this wonderful sweeping curve,
which kind of echoes this cut-out at the back.
The top of the back, which is fitted to the seat,
pan with these wonderfully resolved snap fittings, is transparent,
which adds to this minimalist aesthetic.
If you can make a product with less material but
enable it to retain its...
physical values, then for every 100 cameras you make,
you might make another one for free just by being quite frugal with the use of materials.
There's a lean and efficient
relationship there with products, and everybody benefits.
Lovegrove's economy of form is a definite advantage to manufacturers,
who appreciate the cost-saving implications.
What Enrico likes about this is that this surface
is usable, OK?
Did Enrico appreciate the idea of the liquid, of the juices?
Ah yes, actually he found very practical the handles.
Tri Arde, the avant-garde Italian design company,
have commissioned a range of tableware whose ergonomic lines
demonstrate Lovegrove's ability to tailor objects to the human form.
If we look at the cutlery for a moment,
take the spoon, what interests me is just the way you eat with a spoon.
You don't eat with a spoon like this, you eat like this.
So really what I've done is I've placed this element here to create a
direct relationship with the body, the human body.
In many ways I design for myself,
and I hope that the qualities that I imbue my designs with,
the sort of love and emotion and tactility and usefulness,
is something that people appreciate, and when they pick up
this object and use it in their life, that they think
whoever designed it, regardless of the name,
really cared about me and really thought about the human being.
The mass reproduction of art is now big business and one of the biggest players in town is the Art Group,
which supplies art galleries, shops, and superstores around the world from its factory in Northampton.
The Art Group started off with just a single stall on Camden Market
25 years ago - its slogan was "Art for All".
Now it runs a 24-hour production line and is a multi-million pound business employing 300 people.
When people think of art they think
of these perfect white spaces, silent, contemplative,
and here you've got the thunder of machinery, a warehouse...
-I like it actually.
-This is art on a big scale,
it doesn't matter if you make 10 a day or 10,000 a week, it still has to be perfect.
Maybe how recognisable all these images are, I don't have any, I don't own any,
but they've sort of seeped into my consciousness from trips to IKEA or Habitat or Argos, or wherever.
So what's the effect of the price of this sort of art coming down?
The real effect is that it's now in more reach of everyone.
People now afford this and it becomes disposable artwork. People tend
to decorate and change art more frequently, which is great for us.
Because they can. I can see Klimt hanging on the walls, is Klimt a big guy for you?
Yeah, he's a very successful artist, very well known, a good seller.
Do you think Klimt would ever have thought as he anguished over that
picture, that years later people in a factory nailgunning it to a piece of MDF?
It's art as lifestyle, I guess.
But it's not Klimt or Matisse or Picasso who top the bestseller lists,
it's lesser-known artists whose work really makes it into the big galleries.
One of the top five is Brighton-based artist Sam Toft.
Sam's whimsical characters, such as Mr Mustard, are drawn from real people she sees on the seafront,
and they are popular all over the world.
Sam turned to art when she was in her 30s and has only been working
full-time as an artist for the past 12 years.
I like to really pare things down into quite simple shapes, I like triangles, squares, circles.
This is what I'm doing all the time, I'm trying to put the figure in an interesting place.
This is like the golden section here,
so the interesting bit is always in the place that the eye would automatically be drawn to.
You find it in all the great painters, they put the important thing in the golden section.
Those trees will be here, which is a nice golden proportion, and you also have the golden spiral,
I'll attempt to draw on here,
that's the golden spiral.
Around 2 million Sam Toft prints and cards have been
sold in the UK alone - originals go for up to £6,000.
Sam creates her pictures using several layers of oil pastels and coloured inks,
and uses a scratching technique as well as fingers and thumbs.
To make a really good Sam Toft, I'd say it took
about 45 years and half an hour.
I love watching people on the benches looking out to sea. Mr Mustard does that a lot.
-So, even though it's the same walk, it's constantly regenerating in your imagination?
Oh, definitely, definitely, and when I get back to the studio, I kind of almost feel, er...
so enthusiastic about trying to capture the colours I've just seen.
It's so hard. I mean, what colour's that sea?
-The colour of your eyes, Sue.
-That's very sweet. If only!
I always think it's like milk and I try and get that look in my seas.
I don't know, I love things to be the same again and again. I love habit.
I'm comforted by the same thing happening over and over again, but something a little bit different.
Do you think that's why people are comforted by your work, though, because they sort of know...
they love what you love and you're giving them a slice of the familiar?
Yes, well, I hope it's kind of old fashioned,
it's, er... there's nothing spectacular,
it's just like you wake up every day, you take your dogs for a walk,
-have your Cornish pasty, go to bed type of thing.
-That's my life.
'But the Art Group doesn't just publish Sam's work,
'it also commissions it and tries to broaden its appeal and take it into new markets.
'Commissioner Katy Elliot works in close collaboration with Sam.'
This is the book I took to Africa and I was, um...
drawing when I was on the bus, so there's quite a few nice little characters.
This is really nice, because you've got
the long thin panel there, which is a really nice format anyway.
In the home, it can go
over the settee, it can go over any nice bits of furniture, whatever.
We work with a vast spectrum of different artists, from illustrators, graduates,
people that do it for hobbies, to leading photographers, artists, painters, you name it basically.
'Working in collaboration with an art publisher has helped Sam's career go global.'
How many copies of your work have been sold to the Art Group, do you know?
Oh, I wouldn't know, just kind of loads, just kind of loads, yeah.
It must be a lot, cos you don't know the figures any more.
Kitsch is extremely difficult to define.
It's a word that gets bandied about a lot, but what does it really mean?
This is my favourite hotel in Venice - the Danieli -
just a few hundred yards from the Doge's Palace.
If I save up for a few decades,
I could just about afford to stay here,
and this would be the room I'd choose,
because I'm particularly fascinated by that chandelier.
I suppose it is over the top.
That's what you get with Venetian chandeliers.
Its colours are a touch sickly and sweet,
and some people will certainly dismiss it as a piece of kitsch.
But I like it. And I like it in a way that seems
to have quotation marks around it, as if I like it despite what it is.
I'm struggling with all this, it's not my natural territory,
but the struggle is important...
..because kitsch is a quality that modern art goes looking for deliberately.
It pushes it in our faces, puts it up on a pedestal
and confronts us with the vulgarity and tawdriness of our own tastes.
No-one more so than this intriguing aesthetic troublemaker - Jeff Koons.
He's just about the most notorious artist at work in the world right now
and his art certainly divides people.
But it seems to me that any attempt to understand the art of today
needs to deal with the allure of kitsch
and needs to deal with the allure of Jeff Koons.
You know, I really don't like the word kitsch,
because, for me, it's really a judgmental word,
it's creating like a hierarchy of things.
I believe in acceptance, and the highest state,
the highest realm that art can take you, is to acceptance of everything.
So kitsch is really, it's a way of segregation, it's a way of belittling something.
It's much better in life to be open to everything.
You sound like someone who's thought about this in personal terms.
Are you a sort of shy guy who ended up having to make your way in the world?
I think of myself as somebody that had no idea of the power of art
or what art was, and that I was able to, over a period of time,
start to get an understanding of its ability for empowerment.
And I like to think of myself as kind of generous
and I'm trying to make work that really can empower other people.
Art is something that can disempower, it can make people feel insecure
about their own history, about their own being,
or it's something which can give them confidence, can let them know they're perfect.
Everything about them to that moment is absolutely perfect,
and, from that moment forward, they can just have expansion.
So I hope people interact with these things and the art happens within them,
that whatever their curiosities are in life,
whatever their desire for expansion is, occurs within them.
Talking to Jeff Koons is a tricky business.
Everything he says seems to slip through your fingers like sand.
His art looks dumb, but it isn't.
It looks cheap, but there's so much modern culture invested in it.
Koons has identified something in us all which he exploits ruthlessly,
and that thing he's exploiting is our deep appetite for shallow things.
Turner Prize winner, Grayson Perry, is everyone's favourite transvestite potter.
He creates his work with fairly traditional values - craft and ideas of beauty.
Why is it that your pots are art rather than craft?
They're art, because I'm an artist and I show them in art galleries
and they're bought by art collectors,
and I don't just make pots, I think that is actually quite important.
You can learn craft. I could teach someone to make my pots as well as I could,
but whether I could teach them what to put on them is another matter.
-Do you worry about that, that people might...?
-Isn't painting a craft?
-It's more of a craft than pottery now, practically. Christ almighty.
I think it's more painters who are actually craftsmen.
No, but you do have it, though, don't you?
Because what I was saying was I'm just wondering whether people try to perhaps pigeonhole you.
I always say I'm a conceptual artist masquerading as a craftsman.
I'm interested in the content, I'm interested in the images that are on them and in them.
I want to use the cultural baggage that comes with the tradition.
When I'm making something, I'm thinking always
about tiny micro-decisions that are about art,
about the finished art content of the piece.
That's where an artist is, I think, they make their own tradition.
Jackson Pollock became very good at dripping,
you know, whereas in the tradition of painting, he was rubbish.
This is the big pot for my next show, though.
The working title is Jane Austen in E17,
because it's about the background. All this green part here is
all going to be completely covered in photographs and imagery mainly from Walthamstow.
This is a tapestry he's made for his new show. It shows his ability
to combine references from high and low culture.
He didn't weave it himself, but he agonised about every single detail.
It looks like the Bayeux Tapestry, in the same way it deals with issues of cultural identity in crisis.
But rather than being overrun by foreign armies, we're being overcome by consumer culture.
Reading it from left to right, it contains an epic story of birth through to death
via the perils and preoccupations of modern life,
Starbucks, IKEA, even the BBC.
It's called the Walthamstow Tapestry,
a reference to William Morris, who lived there
and was also interested in the relationship between artists and craftsmen.
You could write essays about this if you wanted to,
but on another level, it's just beautiful, it seduces you.
I think there's a real nobility to do something that is truly beautifully decorative.
I want to get visual pleasure, visceral visual pleasure.
I want to walk into some Moorish palace or gothic cathedral.
I want to titillate my neurones, you know.
It's almost an intuition that something in art is...
is transferable without a lot of learning, that there is something...
It's because we undervalue the visual, that's why.
It's because it's very difficult to learn a language or a musical instrument, and so people...
It takes many thousands of hours, so they think that somehow...
Whereas looking is easy. Look, I'm doing it now, look, I'm looking!
That's easy, but really kind of, I think to actually have...
you know, to be soaked in art takes a long time.
But when was it better and what did that look like?
People who were interested in art and had a kind of more...
reflective, aesthetic, continuous appreciation of art.
It wasn't this sort of hop in and see the freak show, hop out again thing.
It was something about a relationship that I think was deeper with it.
And I think that there's this idea in art that, if you understand it, you've appreciated it.
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Series supporting the Creative Arts diploma, focusing on fashion, textile, graphic and product design. It looks at areas as diverse as the impact of music in fashion to corporate branding of the London Underground.