B and B blog
B&B interview poet Serena Malcolm March 11, 2020 12:00
Serena is an amazing gorgeous person and fellow creative. She was born to write and loves poetry, creative writing, reading, interiors and up-cycling. We recently bought a copy of her poetry book and were so impressed we had to find out more about her.
What year were you born?
I was established in 1982. Just like Next!
Where are you from? Do you still live there or have you moved on somewhere else?
I was born in Tooting in South London (but my heritage is a mixture of Sierra Leonean, Ghanaian, Bajan, French and Spanish). Even though I will always call south London my home, I now live on the outskirts of the city, on its border with Essex.
Tell us a bit about your background…
I am the daughter of a teacher and a nurse so I had a very disciplined upbringing. Even though I have a mixed heritage, I grew up surrounded by my dad’s African family, so I have strong roots in the culture and traditions of his homeland. I am the youngest of three children, but with my older brother (and dad) also writing poetry, I am certainly not the only creative one.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was younger, I used to tell people “I just want to help people when I grow up”. I started off wanting to be a social worker, then a teacher, and then a police officer. I guess finally becoming one of three isn’t bad!
What sort of music did you listen to when you were younger, and has that influenced your work in anyway?
I have always had a massively eclectic taste in music. My dad is a huge country and western fan and my mum was literally obsessed with Elvis, so these genres were a big part of my early childhood. As I grew up and became more independent, I started listening to a lot of hip-hop, R&B, gospel and soul. I also love a bit of 80s, and big band/cabaret (see, eclectic!) but my favourite artist of all time has to be India Arie. Her music does something to my soul, I’m sure of it! It makes me think, it makes me feel good, and sometimes it even makes me cry, but it always makes me feel something, and that is exactly what I aim for with my writing; making people “feel”.
Do you identify with any tribe?
(e.g. teddy boy, rockabilly, mod, punk, skinhead, rude boy, b-boy/b-girl, goth, acid house, skater, gamer, emo)?
My tribe? I am a gaming, tech-loving, nerdy bookworm.... is that a tribe??
What did you do before becoming an artist/creative?
I don’t think there was a “before” with me. I wrote my first poem, aged seven, in the library of the school where my dad taught. I printed it out on one of those old dot matrix printers, I remember because the paper had those holes down the side that you had to tear off. I think that that poem is still in my parents' house somewhere... anyway, I’ve been writing poems and stories ever since.
Do you work alone or are in you in a partnership/creative collective?
My poems are usually quite raw and personal. They are an expression – an extension - of my feelings and so for me writing is very much a solitary affair. Having said that, my oldest friend, Kingsley, is a poet too. Sometimes, if either of us has writers’ block, we will bounce ideas off each other via Facebook messenger. We’ve been doing this for years, even though he known lives in Prague.
Do you have a style that you stick to or has it changed over the years?
I like to experiment with styles of poetry. Anything from short Haikus, to sonnets, to three-page epics. Sometimes I rhyme, sometimes I don’t. I do feel like in recent years I have settled on a more consistent style though, one that is almost lyrical or songlike. One that sounds good when your read it out loud. I am yet to perform any of them, but maybe someday.
How did you develop your signature style?
I mostly draw inspiration from the likes of India Arie, who often tells stories with her songs. I try to tell a little story, or teach a lesson in each of my poems, and I use fast flowing rhythm and rhyme to emphasise my point. This has led to a bit of a quirky style, but one that feels like “me”, and I hope that over time, people will be able to identify it as mine.
What medium do you work in? What is your design process?
I guess the choice of medium for a writer is a pretty much pen and paper, or some kind of screen. I feel like my most honest work happens when I put pen to paper. I like to see the hurried scribbles and messy crossings out. But most of the time, an idea for a poem, or an opening line, will pop into my head at the strangest of moments. I could be on the bus, or in bed, or at work, so more often than not I use the notes app on my phone. I will type the line, or sometimes it is just a couple of words. I will then close the app and carry on with whatever it was that I was doing. Then, sometime later, I will come back to it and use that as the basis for a poem. When I have a finished draft of a poem it will be edited dozens of times before I am happy enough to upload it to my blog. But honestly, not everything makes it. If you were to look in that notes app, you would see so many unfinished works, or single lines, that just didn’t make the cut. Maybe I will go back and finish them some day. Maybe not. That is my process.
Do you have a favourite piece of work that you have done so far, and why do you like it?
When you have written over 200 poems, it's so difficult to choose a favourite. I would say, at a push I could narrow it down to two. Londoner and Underground. I think Londoner makes me feel happy every time I read it because it was written in the car on the way to may parent’s house. It was written as a kind of love poem to London and to the “home” vibes that I get every time I pass through the city. Underground, is also a nod to London (or rather commuting in London), and although it has negative connotations, I just love the rhythm of it and the metaphors that I used. I think (I hope!) both are very relatable.
Who is the person behind the persona?
I am very much an introvert. For the most part I spend my time trying not to disturb or negatively affect the people around me and I care a lot about other people’s feelings – and sadly, at times, their opinions! I do like to make people smile if I can and will often go out of my way to do so, but I also really enjoy my own company, or the company of a good book. I am down to earth, laidback, and I guess ultimately, pretty ordinary. But that suits me just fine.
Who are your heroes?
India Aire (I know, I’m obsessed but she is amazing). But also, my dad and my brother. My dad because he taught me to be kind and open minded, to not be afraid to dream, and to stand up for the little guy. And my brother, basically, because his poetry is better than mine (don’t tell him I said that). Seeing his successes makes me strive to do better myself. He is super talented and I am very proud of him (don’t tell him I said that either!)
What has been your career defining moment?
I don’t think I’ve had it yet! But the moments so far that will always stick with me, are when I finished my first novel, and when I published my first poetry book. These are achievements that seven-year-old me, sat in that library, waiting for that relic of a printer to finish, would never have thought possible.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
My goal is to write a new novel and have it, in print, in the likes of Waterstones. That would be incredible.
Have you got any advice for other artists/creatives?
Poetry is expressive, so there is no right, and there is definitely no wrong. Have faith that if you felt it when you wrote it, others will feel it when they read it. And don’t be afraid to go away and come back to a poem that isn’t sitting right with you. Sometimes it takes time for a piece to “ripen”. And that usually produces much better results. And lastly, us creative types are our own worst critics. It took me many, many years to start sharing my work, but I will admit that since then, I’ve found the feedback to be more uplifting and encouraging that I could ever have dreamed. So don’t be afraid to share.
Poem by Serena Malcolm - 'Londoner'
through the slither of open glass
as a concrete landscape
Skirts the path of
into my sight
with hues of bright red
Objects slink into the mirror
than I think and I
a little deeper into the faded threads
and rest my head,
and the evening paper
in the door,
Vibrations through the floor make happy feet,
And people spill across
Phones in hand,
the city’s tune,
A hive without a mind
Soldiers, drones and workers strive
while queen presides,
Millions of lives
like atoms that
Like passing ships
in the night,
remain in chains,
Slaves to doldrums,
in any zone
but our own,
And still we call it home,
Poem by Serena Malcolm - 'Underground'
And so it starts
Anthropoid lips reluctantly part
and suck me in,
They chew me up
and I stand suspended,
Digesting in the belly of the beast,
My senses feast
on fat and sweat and coffee breath,
On coughing deaths,
groins that press,
and grating voices unsuppressed,
And as the undulation
of another victim’s mastication
sways me to and fro,
I don’t let go,
I fight to keep hold
in the folds of staccato rocks and rhythmic rolls,
To maintain control,
But I know,
break the mould,
Shake the unholy farce
of the road ahead,
and my eyes;
They sit heavy in my head,
And sleep constricts me still,
Ekes out every drop of will,
And I watch it spill
and pool at my feet,
Leaving me weak and drained,
just another pawn
in their game,
Off to harvest Massa’s cane,
all over again,
will be just the same.
And no escape;
by the train.
B&B interview vintage obsessive Emma Davies November 20, 2019 12:00
Emma is a woman after our own heart - a lover of tattoos, vintage, rockabilly and all things stylish. We met through her love of our butterfly skull logo, and bonded instantly. We love all she does and wanted to find out more about her.
Tell us a bit about yourself...
I’m Emma Davies a 42 year old mum, wife and vintage obsessive. I freelance write and blog and for actual proper money I work as a children’s nanny and as a receptionist in a local hairdressers. I love my family, dogs, tattoos and cake!
You always look fantastic! Where do you get your inspiration from?
Thank you very much! Coming from you both that’s one helluva compliment, and I’m very, very flattered. My inspiration is a bit of a 1950’s/1980’s mashup with a teeny sprinkling of goth thrown in for good measure. I love the rockabilly pinups, Debbie Harry, Siouxsie Sioux and Helena Bonham Carter, these ladies are my idols!
What would you say your style is?
It really varies from day to day depending on what I’m doing but I always try and get a bit of vintage in there somewhere! Saturday for work was a Collectif tartan swing dress, yesterday a original 80’s dress complete with shoulder pads and today I’m nannying so I’m wearing a oversize customised bleached denim shirt, leggings and Converse. Everything is topped off with a slick of red lipstick though, I don’t feel like me without it.
How did you first come across Brennan and Burch?
About 5 years ago I was staying in the AMAZING Hotel Pelirocco in Brighton and fell in love with the beautiful wallpaper in their bar area ( butterfly skull and madworld print). It was exactly the sort of art that I love. Bright, quirky, but not too creepy. I did a bit of research when I came home and learnt more about Brennan and Burch and wanted everything!
What made you decide to have a tattoo on your hand of our butterfly skull?
I had wanted a hand tattoo for a while and knew it had to be something a bit special. I fell in love with the butterfly skull so emailed B&B and tentatively asked if they would mind if I used their design. You guys were so lovely and even sent me the .pdf file to give to my tattooist! It’s one of my favourites and I’m so grateful to you both.
You have some lovely tattoos, which are your favourites or mean something to you?
Thank you very much! I love my ink and it’s a constant work in progress. They are a big old jumble of everything I love, from my kids names to Tim Burton movies, flowers and butterflies. My favourites change but I love my pug in a teacup (I have two pugs and they are my babies!) and my butterfly skull on my hand. I recently got my first tattoo that I had when I was 18, a ropey looking 90’s dolphin, covered up, and I have to admit I felt a bit sad about it. They are all special in their own way.
We know you are passionate about your thrift shop finds. Does your home reflect this?
I love thrifting and this has definitely spread into my home. I’ll trawl markets and even skips for unusual pieces that fill my home. I love colour and graffiti art too. None of it is expensive. We have too many kids and dogs to be too precious!
Baboon wallpapers at Design Junction September 18, 2019 12:00
The Nomadic Cafe for Metropolitan designers has been designed by Matteo Bianchi Studio and is located in the Canopy Market section of Design Junction.
Brennan & Burch are part of the international creative collaboration that is Baboon Wallpapers and have designs 'Scallops' and 'Trees' on display.
Kings Cross, London, N1C
Thursday 19 September 2019 11:00 – 20:00
Friday 20 September 2019 11:00 – 19:00
Saturday 21 September 2019 11:00 – 18:00
Sunday 22 September 2019 11:00 – 17:00
Zag zag zig wallpaper March 19, 2019 12:00
This graphic black and white image was first hand drawn (no ruler) and then repeated digitally. I am not a fan of straight lines, they are too regimented for me. I'm a bit of a rebel and want my images to show the wibbles and wobbles, I will not conform!
Three head bird wallpaper March 12, 2019 12:00
This wallpaper has been an ongoing project for a few years. I took an image of a sparrow and wanted it to look wooden, like an ancient tree. There were a lot of attempts to make it look right and I ended up discarding it for ages, something wasn't right about it. Recently I was going through my archive and came across this image again. I had a fresh mind and a clearer idea where I wanted it to go and it finally paid off...
Ice cream you scream wallpaper February 26, 2019 12:00
This is my favorite of the new wallpapers. I was so pleased that I could draw a rabbit that looks like a rabbit! Everything about it gives me joy as it all seems to marry so well. Mad, fun, bright and surreal.
Boom wallpaper February 19, 2019 12:00
Sometimes I put aside a chunk of time to do some sketching of any old thing that I fancy. Some of this work ends up in the bin and some of it sits on my computer under new ideas for months, even years, until I am ready to look at it again. I may not like a sketch but something about it makes me keep it. Some of my best work has come out of a drawing that I have done and forgotten, and then I revisit and realise its potential. This is when I produce my best work I feel.
Lola Crest Bedroom update January 1, 2019 12:00
We love this beautiful bedroom update using Lola Crest wallpaper. It's such a great feeling when someone takes the time to send in pictures of the finished room where they have used your wallpaper. The Lola Crest wallpaper was used by a long term customer Charlotte, who became a friend. We call her our number one fan because she has loved and supported our brand for many years, from when we started in fashion until today doing interiors .
This design means a lot to Charlotte and her husband, as she purchased a top from us with the Lola Crest on it and met her husband wearing it. They now have this wallpaper in their first home bought together.
Networking 2018 style with Shapr January 12, 2018 12:00
We've had our business for over 17 years. When we started up, we were young, childless and could work till crazy o'clock 7 days a week. Nowadays getting to networking events at 5 a.m. or schmoozing at a bar late into the night can be tricky. Shapr enables us to network on our own schedule.
It's super easy to set up a profile and get started on Shapr. If you use LinkedIn, you can quickly pull in your picture and bio. You can also upload a picture from your phone. I decided to create a custom Shapr biography to make it ultra effective, as a well crafted bio is your chance to sell yourself. The app uses your interests to make suggested matches more relevant, so it's worth putting some thought into the hashtags you choose. Once you start matching with dream contacts, you can refine tags based on the ones your target matches are using.
It also pays to specify exactly what you are looking for on Shapr. It has pre-set categories you can choose from. Our main focus on Shapr is business development, but we are also interested in potential collaborations and meeting other creatives, so our choices reflect this. You can be very specific so if you just want a co-founder, or a job, you can make this clear. If you just moved to a new town and want to make friends, you can use Shapr to speed up this process.
It's also worth taking time to set up external links, including your LinkedIn profile, and contact details. Potential matches may use this information to decide whether they are interested in meeting you. Existing matches can use this to research you/your company, or to get in touch with you outside the app.
We have been using Shapr since the summer of 2017, and have had countless meetings and calls leading to great connections and opportunities. The Shapr community is full of friendly helpful individuals who want to meet people like you. We recommend Shapr everywhere we go, as it is a fantastic way to meet people in a fun and accessible way. And who knows when that Shapr match might turn into a collaboration, sale or new best friend!
Brennan and Burch Pop-Up in The Retailery December 7, 2016 12:00
The Brennan & Burch pop-up at exciting new business venue the Retailery is showcasing our supa-dupa vintage upcycled footstools along with a selection of mens' and womens' streetwear samples from previous collections. The Retailery has been launched with the support of Made Public and Havering Council and aims to nurture creative businesses in Romford.
The Retailery, 82-84 Market Square, Romford, Essex RM1 3ER
The Retailery Xmas Window Display November 23, 2016 12:00
Brennan & Burch were commissioned to create a Twisted Nutcracker window display scene to echo the weird and wonderful vibe of new creative hub The Retailery in Romford.
The window display was launched at the official Romford Market Xmas lights switch-on 17 November 2016 and featured a live nutcracker character dancing in the window. The mayoress of Havering came down to launch the new business venue on 19 November 2016.
The Leather Satchel Co. x Brennan and Burch collaboration August 10, 2016 12:00
We have both admired The Leather Satchel Co. for some time, because the design, colours and quality of their bags is outstanding and they are a traditional heritage British company. We have both bought satchels and always get great feedback wherever we go, and the neon ones are right up our acid house street.
We were thrilled to meet Keith Hanshaw, the Managing Director of The Leather Satchel Co., at an exhibition in London. We had a good old chat and talked about the possibility of putting our heads together to do something in the future. A year or so down the line, our The Leather Satchel Co. x Brennan & Burch collaboration was born.
We are very excited to have been given free reign to choose from all their designs and to select two of our prints to use. One print 'New Forest' was chosen as it has been graffitied onto a wall by Romford station and Keith loves it. The other print 'Let the Music Play' is full of our usual mad characters and colour. To start the range we plumped for the gorgeous pixie bag and a roomy leather tote bag. Here is a preview of them being made by hand by master craftsman Keith.
Havering Resident August 2016 article August 3, 2016 12:00
Thanks to Sara Odeen-Isbister, editor of Havering Resident, for this fabulous piece on Brennan & Burch and our New Forest wall painted as part of Colour in Romford project.
Princes Trust x Asda June 10, 2015 12:00
I was doing a shop some months ago in Asda (as you do) and I came across the homewares designed by businesses supported by Princes Trust. Saw some really lovely products with super cute illustrations on. Was really pleased to see these as we ourselves were supported by the Princes Trust many moons ago when we started our ventures. It's so good to see that such high profile high-street companies are getting involved and helping to support the Princes Trust. The collection is ongoing and theree are lots of lovely products in stock at the moment.
Princes Trust also have a shop called Tomorrow's Store in Liverpool Street where you can purchase lots of goodies and see all the work from up and coming designers. It's on a busy street with plenty of footfall just near the station.
We were very grateful for the help that we received and it's so nice to see Princes Trust continuing to offer support and opportunities to those at the start of their creative careers.
Pick Me Up exhibition Somerset House 23 April - 4 May 2015 April 29, 2015 12:00
We popped over to Pick Me Up graphic arts festival to see what all the fuss was about and liked what we saw. All sorts of art on sale with prices from £2 to £500, well worth a visit.