B and B blog
B&B interview poet Serena Malcolm March 11, 2020 12:00 1 Comment
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!
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.
B & B interview founders of Katy Blades May 20, 2015 12:00 1 Comment
B&B: Charlotte Blades, we met donkey years ago when we used to have our store in Carnaby Street and you championed our oddball streetwear as it matched your kooky personality. Now you have opened your own tongue in cheek quirky online shop Katy Blades selling super cool gifts with your bestie Kate Simpson. We know you are super busy at the moment, thanks for taking the time to have a catch up.
How did the idea of Katy Blades come about?
Kate: For me, it came up after a life changing event, I ditched the dross (i.e. ex-husband) and, with some financial help and a gorgeously hairy and generous new fiancé, I was in the position to put my proposal for world domination to Charlotte, my oldest buddy.
Charlotte: For me it was just about getting off the gin...
Kate: Seriously Charlotte... people are reading this.
Charlotte: OK, I’d been made redundant after daring to have a second child (thanks for that). I was merrily making my jewellery to stop myself from being bored/weed on, picking up lego/Weetabix, when Kate mentioned the idea of starting a shop. It blossomed out of a need for independence, something to invest in for our future and we just did lots of research into things we like. We’re still learning. but it’s been invaluable to have made mistakes as we’re gradually learning our market.
How did you two meet?
Charlotte: We met through mutual friends, and I can recall seeing a sweaty Kate in the basement of the now defunct Wine Cellar ‘club’ in Woolwich… frankly we all took our life in our own hands there. She was as vivacious and full of vim then as she is now…”
Kate: Yeah, through a toxic haze, this beautiful petite thing came into my life. We've been through parties, boyfriend break ups, house removals, Glastonburys, several England football matches and a whole lot of Gin together.
Where are you based?
Saaarff East London/North Kent borders… follow the Thames far enough and we are just past Charlton.
What's your most popular product?
Kate: Without a doubt, Pink Flamingos and Beard Wash Kits. People are hairy and kitsch, what can we say?
Most important of all, will you have any more pink garden flamingos for the garden, as Lisa is not quite ready to purchase yet till her garden done?
Kate: Definitely, not only do we have flamingos, we also have a darling set of three swan planters. Charlotte thinks they are better suited to using as elaborate punch bowls…oh and the new plastic pineapple pots we’ve got coming are great too.
Charlotte: Yeah, they would be great filled with pimms! Loads of ice and some fancy straws! No? Just me then….hah they are probably not watertight. I shouldn’t recommend people do that.
Kate: No Charlotte, you shouldn’t!
David Hasselhoff (The Hoff) or Midge Ure?
Charlotte: Tough, I saw The Hoff in Chicago in the West End. I laughed so much and got so excited I melted a whole bag of Maltesers which I’d left in my lap... then again Ure has the indelible style of the Vienna video. I’d have to say Selleck.
Kate: Selleck all day long.
B&B: Ha ha, wanted to throw you - knew it would be Tom Selleck or Phil Collins!
What three words describe each of you?
Kate: Tall, Blonde, Achiever
Charlotte: Short, Dark, Hairscarves
What is playing in the background while you work at the moment?
At the moment it’s Phil Collins of course! (That’s All... Just when I thought it was going alright, find out I’m wrong when I thought it was right, it’s always the same it’s just a shame, and that’s all) but usually its someone from the holy Trinity (Genesis, Prince or Dolly – natch).
Where do you see yourselves in the next couple of years?
Charlotte: Well, to be honest, things are really picking up. We are focusing on our upcoming stall at Spitalfields Market this Sunday. We’re hoping that will become a regular thing for us, as well as driving traffic to the website. We hope to have a really extended homewares range in a couple of years as we are finding our passions lie somewhere between kitsch and cool.
Kate: Yeah, I’d like to see us corner the entire tea towel market and make a real success of Spitalfields. It's great having an online shop, but getting out and meeting the customers and showing off your wares is what we’re really looking forward to.
Charlotte: Thanks for always staying in touch girls, you are our design heroes x
B&B: Aw shucks... thanks.
B&B interview illustrator Stephen Timms March 4, 2015 12:00 1 Comment
We came across this great illustrator, Stephen Timms, recently. Although the style is not similar to my own, it is the darkness of his work that is attractive to me. Also he works by hand and loves a pen just like me. Had a little chat to see what being Stephen Timms is all about.
Where are you based?
How would you describe your style?
I was heavily inspired when I was younger by comic books, this was the main source of artistic information available to me as a kid, and my style grew upon this. I remember one Christmas as a kid, I got a Spirograph, and I would sit for hours creating patterns. Then one day I thought "I wonder if I could do this without the help of the graph", and then from that day I drew everything, houses, trees, tinned food labels, if I stood still long enough I would draw something. My style has become quite distinctive, and those who know me and have worked with me, can pick my work out from anywhere. I have perfected my style as a graphic novel, whimsical style with a dark undertone.
What or who inspires you?
Everything, literally everything, every blade of grass I feel, the sound of the wind, other peoples work, my mind is like a rolodex and just keeps spinning all day with ideas. There are only a few artists I look up to as inspirational heroes to me. One of them is Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragonball Z my lifelong inspirational manga program, even to this day, Paul Kidby the Discworld Illustrator, and a very good friend of mine, Eleanor Darling, who creates some beautiful realistic work.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am working with a client of mine called Skremz, he's an English based hip hop artist. I create his logos and flyers and anything that needs designing. I am also working with RCAP at Romford, in the Workshop located in the quadrant arcade. This is a store which sells locally based artists works, and graduate students works.
Pencil or computer?
Pencil, always a pencil, I got ink for blood and pencil lead for veins. I'm a traditional man through and through, but obviously have to use computer software.
What three words describe you?
Machine, Passionate, Dedicated.
What's playing in the background while you draw at the moment?
Where do you see yourself in the next couple of years?
I am aiming to open my own studio, dealing with a range of design work. I wish to get the local talented designers and artists, and work together, as a collective. That’s the dream.
Stephen Timms, Illustrator
Deviant Art: http://machineheart23.deviantart.com