Flowers, frivolous and opaque, Hide themselves like a bicycle bell. They, like many, Cannot control other’s admiration, Their assumption, How they dilute the image of you in their minds, And try to print you like a pattern, Like wallpaper. But flowers are not wallpaper, They are seeds, That crushed can nourish, That wild can overtake, That allowed to can be the whole damn system, Every cog, And every beauty in between.
The reputation of the ‘flower’ precedes the thing itself, yet it has few synonyms in the English language. Perhaps the flower’s popularity doesn’t necessarily denote a multifaceted understanding of it. Flowers are ubiquitous, mythologised on the one end as symbols of misbehaving women during the witchcraft trials and imagery for love and hate in fairy tales, and on the other end classified by the Victorian practice of Floriography and through the science of botany.
Yet, from the flower children of 1960’s America to women holding peonies as feminist protest in present-day Mexico, flowers have shown their potential as more than apolitical figurines. Beyond the pen, the courtroom or the computer, the flower retains a ‘usefulness’ as a social symbol, as a form of non-verbal communication, or as a way of questioning what being ‘useful’ is through its connection to rest, thoughtfulness, and playful environments. By launching a ‘flower festival’ through Assemblage, we can think playfully about the flower as a visual medium for reimagining social change.
To think of a flower manifesto might be to explore aims and objectives in a different way, to approach a manifesto as a constellation of poetry, collage, creative writing, and as a digital space assembled from a central floral focal point.
To prepare for the Flower Festival launch, Assemblage headed down to member Elena’s Whitechapel art studio to discuss flower manifestos as a way of collecting ideas about what we might want the festival to look and feel like.
We first went around the group and collected a floral stream of consciousness, asking ‘what comes to mind when you think of a flower?’. The theme precipitated answers of such a range that it felt like we were developing a collective flora. Members had strong personal associations to plant life, discussing buttercups and childhood, the gentle disappointment of receiving flowers, and decorating their kitchens with blooming vases. Ideas dropped petal-like onto the page, with conversations about preserving flowers, resin, and plastics departments, to debates about the temporariness of flowers, flowers in protest, and flowers as resource or medicine.
We collected these flower themes and came up with our own flower manifestos, thinking about what we might want represented through the festival. Our manifestos materialised into a collaborative zine, each page filled with collage, ink, and mark-making, creating a mood-board garden. Contained within the pages were libraries in bloom, evergreen vines growing out of technicolour dots, DIY lyrics overlapping hydrangea.
We hope to reimagine the flower as it stands today, helping us to consider the multiple branches of what a floral future might mean. Our flower manifesto is moving and growing and will be shaped by the events and artworks that develop in the next two months.
Keep up to date through Assemblage’s Instagram for info on upcoming activities, including a ‘flowers and feminism’ poetry workshop, a ‘this will get you lost’ flower tour, creative writing and design, and lots more. And of course, daisy stickers!
A superhero- singular, ‘a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers’. We tend to imagine superheroes as typically lonesome, cape billowing in the wind, eyebrows arched in a pensive state. We don’t see the power of invisibility that is held by the endless groups of people caring for the ‘hero’, such as the foster family, the friends that embrace their ‘outsider’ position, the community making it possible for them to act ‘heroically’.
A similar notion characterises the ever-elusive ‘artist’, either completely out of view or totally centre stage, the concept of the extraordinary artist and their muse denies the existence of a creative community making ‘art’ possible. It denies the caring, learning, and teaching that happens collectively, giving way to a cycle of ideas.
Through an Easter Sunday spent at the Foundling Museum’s ‘Superheroes, Orphans & Origins: 125 years in comics’ exhibition, followed by a themed workshop, Assemblage Youth Collective spent the day distilling the assumptions around what the term ‘superhero’ means. The Foundling Museum’s history as a hospital for the care of abandoned children, founded by Thomas Coram in 1739, set the perfect stage for an exhibition around care identity and comic book hero histories, the exhibition focusing on how orphans, adoptees and foster children are depicted within comics and graphic art.
The exhibition room itself felt like stepping into the pages of a comic book: plush with baby pink polka dots, strawberry red and electric blue walls. The display held vintage comics, contemporary pieces specifically commissioned, and graphic art from all over the world. Personally, I was struck by the originality of contemporary artist Bex Glendining’s piece, Begin Again, a digital illustration designed specifically for the exhibition, exploring themes of growth and emotion in new environments. The mesmerizingly vivid blocks within the piece could be read in any order, playing with the idea of sequential art and questioning how we order time and space. This mirrored the Foundling Museum’s approach to the conversation around care, where they replace the term ‘care-leaver’ in the descriptions with ‘care-experienced’ and ‘care identity’, expanding ‘care’ out to include different spaces beyond the foster home.
Reactions to the exhibition informed the creative work that followed. Assemblage founder Tasch led a workshop centred on designing and crafting our own superhero symbols, playing with the concept of superpowers. A member of the collective, Justin, considered how powers could move beyond the visual: ‘one of the things I took away from the pieces on display was that power can be much more internal and metaphorical as well – it’s resilience, it’s accepting change, it’s staying focused, and all of that. I took the basic motif of a wing/wave shape to symbolise that ability to ride out changes’.
Other members thought about how the illustrations on display distilled classic depictions of a hero, and of a foster child. Hannah took inspiration from Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom’s drawings, that ‘focused on ‘the harsh othering that can and often does occur as a result of being an adopted child’ and ‘her use of muted, selective colours, and the textural quality of her pieces that looked almost tea-stained’. Hannah’s symbol played with conventional notions of femininity, merging bright pinks with geometric shapes to capture ‘the endless realm and range of what a woman looks like and can achieve’.
Tasch drew ideas from Lars Horneman’s illustrations of warrior queen Zenobia, impressed by how the comic ‘combined traditional feminine and masculine emblems to constitute a sense of power, breaking with more classic representations of superheroes and superpowers’.
During the workshop, I led a brief talk about how poetry writing could help inform our symbol-making. Poetry is how I care for myself and expressing feelings and observations through creative writing helped us to expand out our symbols beyond the visual, thinking about how we might symbolise our identity through sound and smell, noticing how it has changed and been informed by others.
As I made my own notes for my symbol, I wrote, ‘writing is drawing’, as I felt the bends of the letters grate against cardboard, my illegible handwriting resembling squiggles more than words, prompting my own technicolour symbol to express how what may seem directionless can fulfil an emotional or creative purpose. The exhibition itself is based on an original work commissioned by the museum in 2014, where care-experienced poet Lemn Sissay made a poem that is sprawled over the museum’s walls entitled ‘Superman was a Foundling’.
The idea of being found, instead of being made or being new, sits at the heart of the Museum’s themes and Assemblage’s workshop. Member Josh captured this through his fascination with the characters in Taiyō Matsumoto’s illustrations in the Manga series Tekkonkinkreet, who wear clothes made from found materials, emphasising how we can re-use objects and surroundings to create new identities. Similarly, member Amy’s symbol played with the recycling logo, expressing how creativity and identity exist as ongoing processes.
We continued re-imagining superhero and superpower tropes in the reflection portion of the session. Usually, evaluations after workshops can feel quite clinical, but by discussing the session in real-time, the participants created a comfortable space to share thoughts and feelings. Luisa explained how her drawing of tear drops symbolised her connection to her own vulnerability and how she cares for her friends, and Tasch drew inspiration from the raindrops in her emblem to consider how judgements and moods, like the weather, can change and flow.
As the sunshine warmed our journey home, we were left thinking about the ‘everyday superpowers’ that mark our identities, and how care becomes an ongoing and collective experience.
Begin again, Go home, Do not pass Go, Do not collect £200. Don’t leave a note, Await orders, For the next time, For the last time? No, settle in, Make roots, Don’t look back, There is nothing to look for, You might not like what you find. Only forward matters, Look to the horizon, The city you protect, Backwards always falls through. The mask is warm, It has no past, No name. The mask is yours, The mask doesn’t wonder, About before, Or about after. Be alone in the moment, Untouched, unmoored. Then, now, later. Wonder, wander, Wonder, wander, Begin again.
Ioana Simion is the creative brains behind Artizine UK, a not for profit initiative which aims to connect communities together through zine-making workshops, kits, and creative activities.
She kindly agreed to join us at our latest meeting to share her insights into collaboration and the vision behind her zine-making initiative. Below we’ve shared some of her insights:
“First, just think around you. Who can you immediately contact, and then their friends, and then the friends of their friends. And that’s kind of how I sparked my collaborations. And then Instagram is great. But with Instagram you do have to build a relationship with people. So the workshops I do now were just based around following each other, being active in each others feeds and stuff like that. I really love seeing stuff, so I pretty much follow everyone back who is a creative. And I really I’m just generally interested. So like, I comment I, I share on my stories… And I would like to think that Instagram is about building genuine connections and communities. People would be surprised that you don’t really have to come from the same industry to actually make something together.“
On her live Artizine workshops:
Reusing and recycling:
“In our real life workshops, everything is sourced from donations. We will usually have like a pile of scraps. So we will never really use magazines and stuff like that. It will just be scraps, really, packaging, anything that we can reinvent and reinterpret. It’s all about hacktivism and craftivism.“
Creating a safe space/environment:
“It’ll be quite a safe group. I like more intimate sessions. So we’ll be maybe 5, 6, 7 people. Because then, you know, the storytelling is a very important part of the workshop. I want people to feel like they belong and just be together, because I think just the act of getting together is quite political, in a way. Sometimes people really don’t want to talk and it’s okay because when you’re zine-making you’re quite into your own creative process, and a lot of people are very just immersed in that. So I just like letting them be like and saying “yeah, you can chill, it’s fine.” Some of the workshops will be quite long, actually. If there was someone that really enjoyed being in the space, I would just sit there for like three hours, you know, if I had the time.”
The Artizine ethos:
“I would say at the beginning of the session, “everything is free, you don’t have to give any money. But if you want, you can leave your zine at the end”. As in, “this is my creation. It’s part of Artizine now”. And You can come and create, you can bring back donations, or you can leave your zine. So we have this little archive of scenes. And it’s kind of like every workshop is a time capsule. When I look back at them, I know the person. You know, I remember Chloe – she did that beautiful zine. And it kind of just sits in my memory. And it’s very beautiful. It’s very close.”
On what’s next for Artizine:
“I’ve just started on these artist collaboration kits, which I’m super excited about. So I invite an illustrator to create a piece of art and then we sort of create a story around the artwork. So then you get an original art work and zine kit together, which I thought was quite cool. The first one that I’ve created with my good friend and illustrator Karolina Trhonova of 3 Angles Art is based around folklore and myth. I don’t want Artizine to just be about zine-making. I want it to be about music, anything that my friends are doing and people are interested in, but related back to zines of course.”
On the value of zine-making:
“What I love about zine-making is the accessibility. Everybody can make a zine and feel empowered. I love it because it’s based around unheard voices and unheard narratives, and I think this is what we need nowadays.”
Our final Assemblage meeting of the year was full of festivities and we made this very speedy collaborative poem about our feelings surrounding Christmas time.
It brought up tradition as well as trepidation surrounding Christmas occurring in these strange times. Some of us reflected on the nostalgia surrounding the end of the year, others on familiarity and homeliness. We’d love to know what you think!
Highly rated is the A5 Leuchtturm 1917 dotted notebook (a firm favourite among journallers) with ink-proof paper that pens won’t show through.
Any new bullet journaller or avid fan of scrapbooking will also need pens, such as this dual brush pastel set from Tombow. These have a fine liner and brush heads for highlighting and underlining.
3. Culinary and home-growing gifts
Many creative people find an outlet in cooking, or in creating flavour combinations in drinks. This literary themed recipe book, Tequila Mockingbird has cocktails inspired by great books.
Sous Chef also has a range of cookbook and ingredient bundles such as this pack by Dishoom – modern Indian cuisine, which is a hit in its restaurants in London, Edinburgh and Manchester.
For the green-fingered among us, a growing kit for herbs which accompany tea is ideal – this set includes fennel, chamomile and peppermint. The site also has this coffee plant for caffeinated friends and family.
Other horticultural gifts include personalised tools which are perfect for indoor and outdoor growing.
4. For artists in need of inspiration or encouragement
For sketchers, budding painters and established artists, 365 Days of Art is a book of creative prompts from illustrator, designer and author Lorna Scobie (@lornascobie on Instagram)
A good stock of stationery is key to being prepared to make art on paper, and the London-originating company Cass Art stocks a range of sketchbook options for all budgets. Their gift collections vary from lino printing sets to oil paints, and they also have vouchers for indecisive gifters.
And for an owner of pens, pencils and implements this canvas pencil roll may be just the gift to store these compactly, from Present and Correct.
Help Syrian refugee women in Lebanon by buying any from this selection of prints from Across Borders (available until the 20th of December on acrossborders.es)
6. For photographic fun
Fujifilm Instax Mini polaroid cameras are popular for their ease of use and portability, allowing you to capture important moments whenever they happen and however you choose to display your printouts. This Sage colour is a lovely addition to the range, an Urban Outfitters exclusive.
8. For soon-to-be lovers of a good ‘stitch n bitch’
These embroidery kits from UK-based Cotton Clara are a great entry point for beginners and a nice gift for seasoned sewers too.
And for the craftivists, Feminist Cross Stitch, the “ultimate subversive cross stitch book” available on Bookshop.org (remember Lorna Scobie from earlier? It’s in her shop!)
Also these two Christmassy kits featured in You Magazine would be a great way for someone to make their home festive.
9. Abstract Lampshades for all your interior design needs
From Sparke Designs (Minnie Sparke Peck) or @sparke______ on Instagram, these hand painted commissioned lampshades are a beautiful addition to any room.
10. The most comfortable dungarees you may ever wear
Lucy and Yak’s range is produced sustainably in India and have become synonymous with casual eco chic. With classic corduroy in pastels and neutrals to loud statement limited edition pieces these are an autumn/winter (and spring!) wardrobe essential for lovers of comfort.
For people who like galleries, heritage and generally wandering around an airy or historic space, there are annual passes from.
Along with a range of memberships available for individual institutionswhich are just a quick Google search away.
Luthiem Escalona is a freelance graphic designer who currently works mainly for the online knitting and crochet store Wool and the Gang. In this meeting, she introduced the collective to what graphic design is, as well as her career path, projects, and creative process. Below we have summarised some key points from her presentation:
What is Graphic Design?
Creating visual content to communicate a message
By using hierarchy, typography, colours, photography and illustration you can communicate a feeling or message
You see it all day every day, even if you might not realise it in:
Luthiem graduated with a BA in Graphic Design from the University of Herfordshire in 2017.
She subsequently ended up getting an internship and later a full time job at Liberty London’s graphic studio as a junior graphic designer. Here she worked on mainly campaign identities, posters, signage, and window graphics. Above is an example of one of these designs.
After a year at Liberty Luthiem decided to go freelance and now works predominantly for a company called Wool and the Gang, who focus on sustainability and slow fashion.
What does a graphic designer do all day?
“I currently work 4 days a week at Wool and the Gang from Monday to Friday. While I’m there my day starts at 9am. We have a daily catch up at 10am, where we talk about what we’re working on the day, now that we’re all working from home. Then I’ll work on what I’ve been briefed in, paid ads, a newsletter, etc. Depending on the day I might have a meeting where we will talk about upcoming campaigns, how we think it should look, etc. I finish at 5:30pm!”
“It depends on the brief. Some clients are really set on what they would like, some others are a bit more open. But it’s always very important to know what needs to be communicated. Based on that it always helps me to write down a few key words that summarise the message.”
Step by step:
Write down some key words. What is the message and who is it coming from?
Create a moodboard of your references and inspirations
Make sketches, testing our your initial ideas
Present to the client and get feedback
Amend and create the final artwork
And finally…some lovely creative advice!
“Don’t be scared to ask for help or try things. Find people who inspire you and encourage you and keep them close. Give yourself space to do whatever you want. Draw, paint, sculpt, read, take photos. Go there, do that thing you’ve been wanting to do for ages, don’t be scared to go all the way there cause it’s easier to edit back than to add more.”
Want to discover more of Luthiem’s gorgeous work? Why not give her a follow on Instagram or check out her website?
Kat Chojnacka is the creative director, editor, and founder of Bulb magazine. Founded in February 2020, the main goals of the magazine are to gather various artworks made by young creatives, to build a community where aspiring artists can showcase their work, and to create magazines full of art that feels fresh and relevant.
In this meeting, we were lucky enough to hear from Kat about the concept behind Bulb, how the name came about, and the failures and successes she’s experienced along the way.
On why she decided to start Bulb Mag:
“In January we had like a series of networking events organised by our university. And what amazed me is that I actually got to professionally meet people from other courses at my university. And it was kind of like, the first chance to do so in university with our tutors included. I just felt like I was missing out before on the full university experience, because I feel like, as an Art University, we should collaborate a lot and have some sort of platforms to share our work and motivate one another. So I wanted to help build that community. And I was just thinking about what I could do to, you know, help that. And because of my latest interest in InDesign, I thought maybe a magazine is the way to do it.”
On the name ‘Bulb’:
“The initial idea was to name it in a way that it would evoke feelings of freshness. So, at first, I wanted to name it ‘fresh’ or ‘raw.’ But those names were already taken by popular magazines. So I couldn’t settle on that. So I was literally using like a random word generator and just refreshing it all the time to see what names popped up. And there were a lot of that I kind of liked, for example ‘kettle’ ‘milk’, or ‘flesh.’ But they were all taken. I was just checking everything and everything was taken. So the actual name, the name ‘Bulb,’ is not my original idea. Basically I was telling my friend, my flatmate Veronica, how I was struggling with the name and she was like, ‘let’s look around the room, maybe we’ll find something interesting.’ And then she was like, ‘why not Bulb?’ And I was like, I kind of like it. So I settled on ‘Bulb.’ So basically, if you know, the symbolism of bulb, it’s supposed to be intention, or ideas. So I feel like it really gives away that fresh, creative mindset, in a way. And it’s short and catchy, which I also wanted it to be. So yeah, for me, it’s perfect.”
On the main goals of Bulb Magazine:
“The main goals of Bulb are to build a community of young artists, just young creatives wanting to share their work, and to promote them in a way, but also to motivate them. So initially, it was supposed to be for students of the Leeds Arts University, but now it’s more about just young creators in general. I didn’t feel like I should limit anyone and also I actually didn’t know at first that it might get popular some time. And so actually now my friends from Poland are submitting as well. But yeah, to be honest, one of the goals was also to motivate myself as well because I was struggling with motivation to produce more work. And I know that a lot of people from my course, and not only my course, had a difficult time as well, especially in quarantine. So it was, you know, it was just supposed to get us going and keep us on track.”
On failure and success:
“For the first official issue of Bulb I made an open call poster for submissions to the magazine, but I had to redo it, because for the first deadline, I didn’t get any submissions, like any at all. And once again, I was really heartbroken because of that. But I figured that maybe it was just it was just bad timing. So I redid the poster with different dates after university submissions. And then I got a lot of submissions. I mean, by a lot I mean, around 15. It doesn’t seem like that much. But for me, it’s quite a lot. And yeah, I went through three stages, basically. So at the beginning, because of the number of submissions, I was very motivated, and had really high hopes. And then I felt pressure, because there’s so many submissions. And I just felt the need to do it perfectly. And at the same time, it kind of motivated me as well. So at the end, I kind of felt fulfilment, because it’s so much longer than the previous ones. So I really feel like I did everything I could to make your work. And also I’ve created a website alongside, which I didn’t initially intend to do. But then I thought, why not try? Why not give it a go and just create a website?”