Last year one of the designers that really caught my attention whilst visiting one of the MK Handmade and Vintage extravaganzas was Debbie Kendall of The Enlightened Hound. Both her subject choice and deceptively simple aesthetic appealed to me and I wanted to find out more. As a dog owner myself I could identify with the concept of “Canine Wisdom” and recognise the special bond that exists between dog and human.
Debbie very kindly agreed to do an interview for the blog and has given a fascinating insight into her creative process:
My design history is quite varied. I attended Chelsea College of Art in London where I studied interior design and Amersham College in Buckinghamshire where I learnt a variety of printmaking techniques. I am also a self-taught furniture painter and have up-cycled furniture on and off for around 20 years as a both a hobby and business. I have also worked in marketing and advertising for several brands and retailers however it is only recently that I have the time and support to focus on my printmaking full time. Although it was a hobby to start with I have always wanted to sell my work. I thrive on the recognition that comes from someone liking my work enough to part with their hard earned cash and choosing to hang it on their wall. That is a great privilege and I love knowing that I am producing work that others can connect with.
You use fonts from the Wild West and American Civil – what attracted you to these?
I wanted my prints to have a sense of nostalgia and vintage appeal. I have always loved the fonts used in the American Wild West Wanted Posters. They were designed specifically for posters so that the message was clear and stood out and they manage to be both bold and striking yet curiously ornamental. The way the fonts were used, combined with other decorative elements (like the pointing finger), gives the ‘wanted’ posters a strong sense of identity and heritage which I felt would be perfect for my prints. The old ‘wanted’ posters were mainly produced from woodcut letters by letterpress, a relief printing process that has many similarities with linocut. My hand printing process creates a softly distressed effect, which further echoes this vintage look.
Tell us more about your relationship with Figo
I think that unless you have a dog it is very hard to put into words the special bond that develops between humans and dogs. I always loved dogs but was not sure if I wanted the commitment involved in actually owning one, however I was under a lot of pressure from my boys (I blame Enid Blyton’s Famous Five as I used to read the stories to them and they loved Timmy, the dog). I eventually agreed when I felt that I could give a dog the time and focus it deserves and I can now not imagine the family without Figo. He is always there for me, devoted and loyal, incredibly calming and very difficult to be anything but happy in his company.
What do you love and hate most about the creative process?
This is a great question because it acknowledges that the creative journey is not always an easy one. It took me over a year to develop the Enlightened Hound prints and they are deceptively simple. When I look back over my developmental sketches and layouts for the prints I am reminded what a long and sometimes tortuous journey it was and it is this, precisely that I both love and hate about the creative process. I believe that if it is too easy then the work probably isn’t good enough! Being a bit of a perfectionist it is sometimes difficult for me to relax into the creative process and not be afraid of trying things that, in my mind, might not work out. But when I manage to let go of my judgemental side and just truly play and experiment with my work it is very rewarding.
Can you tell us more about your choice of colour palette?
I wanted to reinforce the American Vintage inspiration for the prints with the colour palette. I therefore researched the American Shaker and Colonial Buttermilk paint colours. I played with this palette to find combinations that worked for the prints – 2 bold complementary colours for the typography and a more subtle tint for the background element. I hand mix all my colours and make ‘recipe cards’ for each one so I can repeat the colour another time, however each time I make up the batch there is always some variation.
What is your personal favourite piece of dog wisdom?
Start Each Day with a Wagging Tail is my favourite because for me it totally encapsulates daily life with a dog. It is so easy to start the day in a negative frame of mind with the stresses and pace of modern life, however Figo always reminds me to put these into perspective when he greets me in the morning.
Do you have a favourite spot in your workspace?
I am very lucky to have just finished creating a new studio for my work in our loft. I have created a seat under a huge velux window there, where I can look out over the tree tops and hopefully be inspired!
Do your walks with Figo influence your work – where is your favourite walk?
This is an interesting one! Spending time with Figo and watching how he reacts and adapts to life is a constant source of interest to me. I find my walks are the best time for me to clear my head and think about where my work is going. I always come up with my best ideas on a walk, even if they are not related to the walk itself, as it is the perfect time to free my mind from the detritus of everyday life. My favourite walk is one that I only get to do on holiday as it is by the beach at Daymer Bay in north Cornwall. Figo’s coastal heritage means that he is completely at home on the beach and in the sea.
Tell us more about your love of typography
I think typographic art is here to stay. The re-discovery of the original “Keep Calm and Carry On” wartime government poster in a second hand bookshop sparked a huge surge in popularity of slogans and mottos as wall art. In today’s fast paced world these light hearted, humorous reminders can help ground us when stress levels run high. However I felt that the glut of these types of posters had become a little cliched and I wanted to make my prints more personal and meaningful. Celebrating the timeless and unshakeable bond between humans and dogs was, for me, the perfect way to do this. When we hang our chosen words on the wall we are sharing a part of ourselves, and our view on the world, with others. It taps into the trend for sharing our views and desires with the world at large, epitomised by facebook and twitter. Typographic motivational art can be uplifting and personal and is a witty and relatively inexpensive way to personalize your homes or work space.
What can we look forward to from Enlightened Hound in the coming months
I have been delighted and hugely grateful for the positive response to my work that has struck a real chord with dog lovers. A card company has made my designs into greeting cards (on sale in my Folksy shop) and they are also being licensed for reproduction onto mugs and tea-towels.
I have a total of 8 prints in the Canine Wisdom series however I have only cut lino plates for 4 of these, so I want to develop all eight designs into prints. I do have some other typographic dog inspired art ideas which are at sketchbook stage, and for these I am planning on using totally hand drawn fonts – the antipathy of computer created perfection. I also have a table top letterpress – an old Adana 8×5 – and I would like to get this working.
The demand for original handmade work is also very strong as an antithesis to mass produced, computer generated goods. A handmade print fits the bill perfectly in the quest for something unique, different and individual.
The light-hearted “I love you anyway” lino prints by The Enlightened Hound were inspired by a comment from my husband when I (in his opinion) gave our dog one too many cuddles! They make a perfect gift for Anniversaries, Birthdays or Valentine’s Day to remind your dog-smitten loved ones how you feel! They are also available as greeting cards.
The design and typography is influenced by original 19th century show posters and fonts, but these are combined with a playful folk art vibe and some more modern typefaces. The letters are all hand drawn and hand cut into the lino plates so the prints have a naive, homespun feel which makes them uniquely personal.
The prints are available in two under-stated colours – a soft grey-brown taupe or smoky blue. They are printed by hand using traditional linseed oil ink (hand mixed) on heavy 175gsm printing paper in limited editions of 250 prints. All prints are numbered, titled and signed by the artist.
If you are as smitten with Debbie and Figo as we are then here are all the details of how you can find out more or get your hands on their beautiful work: