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Redbubble expansion!

More products available with more designs! Let’s have a look at what I have for you, shall we?

First, I’ve been doing some more logo work for ease of embroidering.

And you can get it on anything:

The tile is available on everything, including clothes, bags, duvet covers, and hardcover journal:

The Miffy Faun has made it onto a variety of items, including skirts, bags, journals…

What if people just didn’t know how much you loved cute things and music? Solve that problem with this:

If you’ve ever thought you’d like some of my line drawings on stuff:

Jonah, Levi, and The Real Greek are now available on most items. Mythologically our old friend Cernunnos can be found:

Just casually classing up some notebooks and whatnot.

Hyacinth and Apollo? You can even wear them on your legs.


Devoted to the god of wine? Aren’t we all! Show your affiliation:

More of an Icarus fan, with undertones of Batman? How often do you hear that sentence?

Still not sure people know you’re mad about music?

Pirates come in many forms.

More eclectic than all this?

What about Rocky Horror Pop Art Michelangelo’s David? On leggings?

Perhaps you need a memento mori: The skull always grins because death always wins. Now you can remind everyone else.

Also if there’s anything else in my portfolio you like the look of and want to see on a specific product Redbubble offer, why not drop me a note and I’ll see what I can do?

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Links Post July

Things other people have done

  • David Firth has put up several albums of his Locust Toybox work up for free/voluntary donation. I found his music via this fantastic Hannibal season 1 edit.
  • Create incredible bespoke books which I only wish I could afford to do a run of.
  • Collate a list (well, it is Buzzfeed, that’s basically what they do) of fun ways to customise t-shirts which don’t involve fabric paint, embroidery, or studs.
  • Determined how to create an emotional connection between the reader and characters, which involves using data from a couple of psychological studies whose major conclusion can be summed up as “people are dicks”.
  • Made what is possibly the most useful website ever, which finds recipes for whatever ingredients you have in the house.
  • Built an entire 2,000-person community underground. Alright, it was built underground a long time ago but I only found out about Coober Pedy recently (and the fact that it’s named after kupa-piti, which is a phrase in the local language meaning “white man’s hole” is straight-up hilarious). If I ever manage to overcome a disinclination to ever spend that long on a plane again and go back to Australia, I think I’d like to have a look.
  • Made a 3-D Food Printer, because why not?
  • Came up with this cunning little circuit-building kit, which I would dearly like to own; littleBits seems like a good solution for someone like me, who enjoyed the electronic engineering portion of the HNC I took in Music Production but who has the soldering capabilities of a fat-handed panda wearing Marigolds. Also I am all about modular everything, whether it’s clothing systems, houses, computers, furniture, or electronic circuit kits.
  • Continuing with my love of modular, DIY, easy-make-to-your-own-design stuff: in development are massive housing-specific Lego-type bricks.
  • Made a very handy tool showing you how people talked dirty in different eras of history. “Handy” if you write a specific type of fiction or just have an inquisitive mind.

Things I have done

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Embroidery: Pulp II, Pulp Harder

So I started embroidering Pulp lyrics onto an old lab coat which I possess for reasons relating to poor-decision-making while drunk (there is a funny story attached to this coat, but it is a certain value of “funny” and involves head injuries, being barred from a pub which no longer exists, and A&E at The Whittington in Archway and I’m not sure people would find it so much humorous as disturbing). Embroidery, while resulting in a lot of bloodshed, swearing, and squinting (like almost everything else I do) provides a pleasant break from other forms of existence, like “trying to pitch a book you haven’t finished writing yet to a person who is only sitting there because they’ve been paid to listen to your bullshit and they’re not even a psychiatrist”, “trying to write that book”, and “mindlessly buying more bookshelves because the tide of books through your flat is unceasing and unstoppable”.

Here, then, are the latest two installations in the ongoing “art” project: put all the Pulp lyrics I like onto a coat, which … has the important social message of … something something disposable culture and the link between private and public, etc.

Like a Friend, Pulp

Weeds II (Origin of the Species), Pulp

Like a Friend (video, lyrics)
Weeds II (Origin of the Species) (video, lyrics)

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100 Works of Art: (Audio) 1812, Tchaikovsky

The 100 Works of Art series of blog posts is a primarily positive slew of posts blethering in a hopefully intelligent manner about works of art which have some sort of personal resonance for me; 25 posts about visual art begin with Black Virtue by Matta, and the ongoing section on audio art opens with The Cure’s Let’s Go To Bed.

32. 1812, Tchaikovsky

Unlike most of the music included on this list, I have no memory of the first time I was introduced to this. It would be impossible to separate out a moment when I first became aware because Western culture is fairly heavily steeped in this piece of music. It has soundtracked endless films and adverts for Iceland, accompanied a thousand fireworks displays, and probably nauseates real connoisseurs of various periods of classical music with its inappropriate ubiquity. Certainly the relentless inevitability with which it is spooled out to provide a false sense of celebration can leave a sour taste in the mouth.

But it doesn’t have to be a degraded version, or a sad attempt at emotional manipulation through invoking the associated sense of victory and achievement. Listened to outside of the context of Bonfire Night, bad films, and the inexplicably popular frozen food giant’s old ads (what is a prawn ring and more importantly why is a prawn ring?), I think the overture retains its original fire.

There is also something to be said for any piece of music which, rather than relying on an excellent performance by an above-average individual (thank you Mozart for whatever the harpsichord equivalent of fretwanking is), decides to go balls out and hit you with cannons.

Written by Tchaikovsky (not that one, the other one) in 1880 to commemorate the victory of Russia against the invasion by Napoleon’s troops (no mean feat considering how much of the rest of Europe the mad little Corsican had successfully vanquished), the 1812 Overture or Overture of 1812 or whatever you like to call it is rightfully celebratory, victorious, triumphal, and full of fucking cannons. It evokes the spirit of relief and strength, and if there is one thing Russian composers love, it’s evoking strength: those two emotions, connected irrecoverably to the successful defence of the frozen motherland, are easily hijacked into daily victories:

Play it when you’re approaching the final word count of your essay; play it when you’re getting to the top of a hill on a long run; play it when, against all the odds, you have successfully tidied your hell-hole bedroom and found no dead animals under the mounds of mouldering clothing.

It is of course for this transferable quality of victorious joy that the overture has been so repeatedly press-ganged into services which are beneath the composition’s true potential and inadequate at securing an emotional response on their own, by a lot of very very lazy musical directors, or productions with a tiny PRS budget. I believe that music should be a personal experience; that is what this entire series of posts is about, and even when enjoyed communally and enhance through the communal experience, what is important is the connection between the individual mind and the music, and the emotion created in the space between them.

Therefore I think it is only reasonable to expect to be able to reclaim the 1812 Overture, and play it whenever you need the appropriate sense of military salute accompanying your achievement. The people at the bus stop may not appreciate that you’ve just jogged half a mile, but Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky does. Or he would if he wasn’t dead. And since he’s dead he can’t argue.


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Embroidery: I managed to write something which doesn’t contain the world “cunt”

I mean my embroidery doesn’t contain the word “cunt”. And actually, at the moment, neither does my novel. The novel is going relatively well, and despite being 91,000 words long and growing, it does not yet contain the word “cunt”, which is remarkable. I can’t speak for that long without saying it.

While writing is going well, I do need to break up the business of throwing up an entire book, and the parachute dress (I WILL POST ABOUT THIS) is not yet completed; however, embroidery is getting more fun since I watched a BBC4 documentary about opus anglicanum (the embroidery of pre-plague England which was famous throughout Europe for its quality and cost) and learned about some more stitches.

The project which has taken me the longest has to remain under wraps as it’s a present for someone, but I did also threaten to, and then go through with, embroider lyrics from a Pulp song onto a lab coat:

Lyrics from “Death II” by Pulp; photo by J. Reilly

This was done in split-stitch, which provides a continuous, unbroken line, and I think next I’m going to take lyrics from “Like a Friend”. One can never have too much Pulp.

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100 Works of Art: (Audio) We Hate The Kids, The Indelicates

The 100 Works of Art blog post series is, in the most basic form, me rambling about the personal connections to and appreciation for works of art that I like. It is not particularly critical or intelligent, more a way of cataloguing things I consistently enjoy and reminding myself, when the world is full of infuriating news stories and people having pointless flamewars on the internet, that humanity has also produced great things. It begins with 25 posts on visual art, which starts with Matta’s “Black Virtue” triptych, and has since continued on with a few posts about audio art (i.e. music), beginning with “Let’s Go To Bed” by the Cure.

31. We Hate The Kids, The Indelicates (2006)

The Indelicates are a band whose introduction into my life I forget. I know that I came to them via their sarcastic, bitter song Our Daughters Will Never Be Free, and was given said song because I liked (and still like) The Pipettes, being told “they’re sort of the anti-Pipettes”. It wasn’t until I listened to Julia, We Don’t Live In The Sixties (an anti-activist/death of hippydom anthem) and Your Money that I realised that sweet, pop catchiness (characterised by Julia’s clear, beautiful, almost childlike voice) with bitter and often nihilistic lyrics were characteristic of the band. Anyone who has read much of this blog series will know that I have an almost pathological love of the particular cognitive dissonance in “upbeat music, downbeat lyrics”, previously described as “triumphant songs about heartbreak”, and recently on Facebook outlined as “cheerful songs about death”.

Picking one specific Indelicates song for this series was quite difficult, as alongside literary references and an interest in failed messianic figures, nihilism, cynicism, and bitterness seem to be their stock-in-trade lyrically as much as catchy and uptempo is their stock-in-trade musically, leaving me with several albums of “existential horror you can dance to” to sift through. Magnificent.

We Hate The Kids comes in the vein of Last Significant Statement and to a certain extent Sixteen, in that it’s a song about music and music fandom and the adhesive quality of idol-worship; I enjoy songs about the music industry as experienced both by fans and by bands (Dinosaurs Will Die by NoFX, Behind The Music by the Vandals, especially the latter as it served as a brilliant adjunct to the “Music Business” classes I took as part of my HNC in Music Production a couple of years ago), and as with all songs, the more bitter the better.

This particular song is ecstatic in its form: it rises to a crescendo, denigrating along the way all the fans of the band, of all bands, all the hangers-on, the businessmen involved, and the entire mythology attached to the youth culture of music. It is blazingly destructive, eschewing the sacred cows of rock and roll with the same fervour that rock and roll eschews the standard set of achievements in “normal” living, a kind of energetic end-note to a youth spent in worship of the world of music.

Perhaps in some respect this is why it, and indeed the rest of their work, appeals to me so much; it is a powerful chapter ending to a specific period of life that normally receives no farewell, no recognition of being over, leaving it to either peter out unsuccessfully, or to never quite die – with stringy fifty-and-sixty-somethings kidding themselves that they still have it in them to pogo, while their adult children sigh and move to the back of the crowd.

The allusions to rock anthems are many (“every generation gets fooled again/and every generation is to blame” slams into the Who at least twice, while “dance, dance, dance to this radio tonight” more or less picks up Joy Division and hits the listener with them), the references to business bitter and bold (“no one discusses what they don’t understand/and no one does anything to harm the brand”), and there is even an echo of one of my favourite Radiohead songs, Anyone Can Play Guitar (“this gift is an illusion, this isn’t hard/absolutely anyone can playing the fucking guitar”), but ultimately it is the rise to the euphoric nihilism of “NO MORE MUSIC, THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT” which really sells the song to me. It is by way of being the hallelujah of the hymn, and, true to its word, right afterwards everything cuts out.

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July Links Post

Things Other People Have Done

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100 Works of Art: (Audio) Town Called Malice, The Jam

The 100 Works of Art series is still going, albeit slowly. There have been 25 posts about visual art and 5 about audio art so far. The premise behind this series of posts isn’t analytical writing but a kind of sloppy marriage between analysis and personal connection, which is exactly as dreadful as it sounds.

30. Town Called Malice, The Jam (1982)

The Jam provide solid-if-vague politically aware white-boy-with-angry-guitar music, ragged with sarcasm and generally quite danceable. Once, when I was 17 and in a shit nightclub in Plymouth, I slapped a man I’d been flirting with because he called Courtney Love a psycho bitch and opined that Hole weren’t as good as Paul Weller’s solo stuff, because I cared a LOT more deeply about music at 17 than I do now, writing essays about it. “Going Underground” is one of my favourite songs, although it went down in my estimation when my far superior mondegreen of a sarcastic commentary on manufactured outrage (“at this point shout! at this point scream!”) was revealed by Googling to be a much less inspiring standard-issue general anger (“make this boy shout, make this boy scream”).

Because I grew up in a household with bizarre and unfriendly musical tastes, I came to The Jam via unorthodox routes; I only found out about “Going Underground” because of the excellent Fitness To Practice spoof “London Underground” (which I still secretly prefer), and it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I only knew “Town Called Malice” because a friend gave me the soundtrack to “Billy Elliot”.

Once upon a time I worked in a demoralising and monotonous job. Well, several times upon a time, really. For reasons that don’t make a lot of sense to sane people, I used to get up between 3.30am and 4.30am and, via a series of strategic naps, make it in to work long before everyone else and avoid the rush. The problem with this tactic of people-avoidance, apart from the terrible sleep patterns and likelihood of running into foxes on the way in, was that I ran out of energy before the working day had even started.

And so I had to compile a playlist of songs that had the function of providing me with pep and vigour. This was one of them: just as it provided a perfect soundtrack to Billy Elliot exploding with the joy of movement through a dour and oppressive town, so it got me out of darkness and sleep every morning and gave me enough life to deal with eight hours of data entry. It seems like an abuse of a song.

It’s one of those songs where the lyrics and music clash, producing a contrast in concept or tone; by now readers of this series will be aware that I have a great love for that kind of cognitive dissonance in art. Town Called Malice brings together lonely housewives, impoverished children, boozy husbands, and the slow death of a town with a tune that inspires frantic, emotive dance. The tune is upbeat, a sing-along song for cold mornings and drunken evenings, and the lyrics are a sad, barely-hopeful description of life in a dying town.

Dying towns slipped by my periphery when I was a child in the 80s. We spent six months in a place where poverty was more visible, drawn in primary colours and a lengthy drought, and when I came back my horizons had shifted: as far as I was concerned the people in debt for their colour TVs were rich, and it’s only in hindsight that I can see the dead cities in the streets I used to run down, the grey faces surrounding the rainbows of the imagination. Songs like this one bring a kind of valour to what must have felt like slow rot to live with every day: when I was a child I didn’t know any different, but through the fearful eye of adulthood and the emotive transport of music, it’s easy to take on those miserable ghosts and just kind of … dance at them.

After all, the world does appear to be heading back into a dead-towns-and-lonely-housewives direction once more.

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100 Works of Art: (Aural) Crow on the Cradle, Sydney Carter

The 100 Works of Art blog series is to do with personal interaction with beloved works of art rather than impartial reviews or focussing solely on the relatable and universal qualities of the work. Because this is a blog, not a book. The first 25 are to do with visual art, and begin with Matta’s Black Virtue; the next 25 will be about aural art and begin with The Cure’s Let’s Go To Bed.

29. Crow on the Cradle, Sydney Carter & Jackson Browne

I grew up on a mixture of folk music and a little of the blues. My mother had what my peers characterised as “terrible” taste in music, and I adopted it: as I’ve got older her taste in music has become genuinely terrible (there was a point where it was all whale noise and Gregorian chant and then as I got into plainchant she managed to undercut me again and asked if I’d get her a James Blunt CD) and I’ve decided to ignore the judgement of a collection of Celine Dion-reared rejects from my childhood and embrace the inner folkie. A lot of the songs I listened to as a child were standard-issue folk music about girls with this or that coloured hair or one particularly brilliant song about an enormous pie – the title of which I’ve never been able to remember, to my great loss. But a lot of the songs, too, were protest songs: other contenders for this slot included Country Joe & The Fish’s Fish Cheer/I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag, a selection of Donovan songs including Universal Soldier, and the Fureys & Davey Arthur’s version of The Green Fields of France. Not surprisingly for someone who was taken to an anti-nuclear weapons protest at six weeks old, I grew up listening to various earnest people – both with and without beards and dungarees – requesting with various metaphors and degrees of urgency that the world consider maybe not nuking itself into oblivion.

Regular readers of this blog will be more than a little aware by now that I am morbid as fuck despite all my best efforts, and this began early, with a love of the aforementioned Green Fields of France and a collection of songs which were, bluntly put, guitar-led dirges about dead people. Crow on the Cradle is no different in that respect, and along with Universal Soldier and an untitled song about dead soldiers in the Vietnam War which I listened to so often that I wore out the C90 cassette it was on, got considerable use as a lullaby for me.

It is a little like a lullaby. There is something late evening, inevitable, and gentle about the version I am most familiar with. It puts me in mind of the festivals I spent all my childhood summers at: the sun low in the sky, the flies rising, a hubbub of voices and the smell of wood fires, music everywhere in the background, and hot, dry earth under bare feet. In that respect it is comforting, although you do have to wonder about finding a song warning of nuclear holocaust “comforting”. 

As with many a folk song, the lyrics work as a poem, and the whole thing is designed to be memorable and easily-recited. It’s a kind of troubadour tradition: make the information simple to pass on and vivid enough to stick in people’s minds. In the case of Crow on the Cradle it’s achieved with snatches of nursery rhymes and nursery-rhyme-esque phrase: hush-a-bye little one, never you weepwith rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes; in each case subverted by a fairly chilling closing part to the pattern: for we’ve got a toy that can put you to sleep; or and a bomber above her wherever she goes. As the fact that I’ve had a French nursery rhyme about wearing clogs stuck in my head for a week can very much attest, nursery rhymes are tenacious once crammed into the brain and arise as soon as a similar phrase is heard. So it is that this is a thing that I leave up to you immediately recalls the rest of the song, and while “Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross” is not the most oft-recited of nursery rhymes, it has been supplanted in my mind all the same by and a bomber above her wherever she goes.

Each verse in itself becomes bleaker and more morbid as it progresses, from cow’s in the corn to carry a gun (and the ominous omen of death in the crow on the cradle of the title and refrain), but overall they also become more and more ominous and threatening, like the returning passes of a bomber. Well-paced in this regard, it is the centre verse which repeats on itself, speeding up the onset of the fearful and the morbid (somebody’s baby is born for a fight / somebody’s baby is not coming back), setting up the remaining two verses with their violence and oppression at the start: your mother and father will sweat and they’ll save, to build you a coffin and dig you a grave. In these remaining verses the blame is attributed: the beginnings speak of the baby in the cradle and the doom overhanging it, while these tell the listener whose fault it is. The generation of the songwriter, apparently, is to blame. 

The song closes with an insistent demand for action delivered by the threat that must be eliminated itself, the eponymous crow on the cradle, repeating: this is a thing that I leave up to you. Even now the assigning of responsibility is palpable and in the context of the rest of the song the refusal to act seems like it comes at a chilling cost. It is not hard to imagine the crow as a mushroom cloud.

In light of all this, even more so, it is strange to find the song comforting, but I’ve always also found a certain level of comfort in nihilism and the idea of accepting the degree of powerlessness an individual has in the face of a very powerful force (in this case, mankind’s apparent yen for self-destruction).

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100 Works of Art: (Aural) Best Sunday Dress, Hole

The 100 Works of Art blog series is to do with personal interaction with beloved works of art rather than impartial reviews or focussing solely on the relatable and universal qualities of the work. Because this is a blog, not a book. The first 25 are to do with visual art, and begin with Matta’s Black Virtue; the next 25 will be about aural art and begin with The Cure’s Let’s Go To Bed.

28. Best Sunday Dress, Hole

For most of the turbulent and eventful year that was the first in the Gregorian calendar to begin with a 2 and carry three digits after it, the oft-lyriced-about 2000, this was my favourite song. It’s a B-side, which I can promise you is unusual for me these days, but in the height of my pre-torrents, pre-YouTube music fever collecting B-sides of bands I liked was an art form in itself, and involved petitioning virtual strangers on message boards to send me bad cassette tapes, and trips to various market stalls to acquire bootleg CDs. I had a weekly income of £22 from my Saturday job, which I was technically trying to save, and couldn’t exactly spunk money left, right, and centre on hunting down rare releases – especially when even finding what they were was such a hassle.

Reader, you will be glad to hear that I have since realised that it is not necessary to be a completist to appreciate someone’s oeuvre, and as such Hole more or less mark the point at which I never again put so much effort into investing my interest in a single band. I don’t regret it in the slightest, however: even a few years later, when I’d moved on and was mostly listening to techno, and a copy of America’s Sweetheart came into the offices of the student rag I worked for, I still snapped it up. Nobody’s Daughter, even more recently, still met with a doggedly loyal reception. Connections forged in the emotional overreaction that is adolescence tend to hold more firmly than those found later.

So why this particular song, of all songs? I didn’t come to it first – that honour goes to the title track of third studio album Celebrity Skin – and it probably isn’t the most lyrically or musically accomplished of all the band’s work (most people agree that Live Through This contains almost all the strong contenders for that title); what resonated at the time was, perhaps rather shamefully, the tragedy inherent in both the simple chord structure and the lyrics.

At 17 and 18 I was a fairly stereotypical Sixth Form Goth, and as for much of my adult life, preoccupied with death – this time with all the fire and fervour of youth – and with the tragedy of suicide and all that jazz. My Nirvana phase was squarely behind me, and I’d moved on to scanning the lyrics of Hole songs for Courtney’s obvious and ongoing agony regarding the death of her husband. The song is pretty much rife with references which either are or can be pressed into service as references to the departed:

Pale blue eyes so young
Pale blue eyes so far away
Watch me with his sorrow
Forgive me all his pain

And at the time I was still in thrall to the key-change as an emotional intensifier, having ridden through the first burst of puberty on the back of the Top 40, so the line at which this occurs (roughly around shone like a diamond) also cemented itself into my head as one with great meaning, although now, looking back at the song with an additional 13 years of life in the way, it’s this which seems the most poignant:

and I’ve come here all undressed
all the posion and pain and I take what is mine

possibly because these two lines to me represent adequately what has happened to Courtney in the eye of the beholder. She’s been repeatedly stripped of any right to mourn via rumours and accusations about her involvement or her emotional response (what is the correct response to your tempestuous and troubled love of your life shooting himself in the head while AWOL? Is there one? How do you respond to something so huge and so painful?), and exposed before all the world in the press as someone to be scrutinised at her time of greatest sorrow (much, indeed, as Yoko Ono was). A woman of strong, divisive personality and very powerful emotions, she would never have contented herself with a regal tear and the mannerly withdrawal required of widows: she was a rock star before she met him and she was determined to continue being one after he left. In the second line the poison and pain are as much the vitriol heaped on a grieving woman as they are the heroin and loss; I take what is mine could equally apply to retrieving the image of her dead husband from the media who declared him their property (I suspect she minded the fans slightly less) as to the acceptance of abuse (I take what is mine, I take what is intended for me, ie, poison and pain) from various quarters.

For what is a very, very sad song the sound is defiant. It’s not the sadness that curls in on itself and weeps quietly, but a kind of explosive sadness, a supernova of mourning or a howl of ongoing misery that acknowledges everything that’s fed into it as it pushes all of it outwards. Messier, and less acceptable than the accepted mode of widowhood, but then when I was 17 and 18 I was messier and less acceptable than the accepted mode of adolescence, trying to rescue my entire sense of self from five years in a lock-up and doing very poorly at it. It spoke to me, the way Courtney Love’s music spoke to several generations of unhappy and angry teenage girls and in fact continues to do so. The fans of it are still subject to the same derision and spite as its maker is, but that comes with the territory of being someone with too many uncontained feelings who refuses to beautify them for the comfort of others.

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