— Ellie Broughton


Screenshot 2014-10-10 14.20.30

Artist Deborah Baker has brought her experience from working in 1970s New York to bear on a new series of Morris-like nature photography.

I wrote a short preview to the exhibition published  in the October issue of E List, Walthamstow’s arts and culture magazine (p19).

The garden of Deborah Baker’s new series, In Paradiso, is a long way away from the urban buzz of 1970s New York where she began her career as a photographer and artist.

Established as an assistant to Ralph Gibson, Mary Ellen Mark and Robert Mapplethorpe, she’s now showing her nature photography at the William Morris gallery in Lloyd Park, Walthamstow.

Like William Morris’s ‘Chrysanthemum’ wallpaper designs from 1877, Baker’s artwork layers several images to produce artwork that is packed with detail. But unlike Morris’s hand-drawn illustrations for his wallpaper, In Paradiso uses digital editing to build up a picture.

She also uses traditional photographic techniques (namely daguerreotypes and glass plate negatives) that ‘decay’ the photographic images to show plants decaying and dying.

Baker first saw Morris’s designs when she was an art student at Nottingham Trent in the ‘70s. She recalls that she was attracted to the pattern, repetition and details that characterise the work on how in William Morris House.

Baker’s work has become more layered in its aesthetic and process as her career has progressed. She says that working with Mapplethorpe and Weston informed her work as a photographer, but as an artist she was influenced by French impressionist painters like Monet and Seurat, and abstract impressionist artists.

Baker planted her garden in ‘deepest, darkest Cornwall’ eight years ago. She shares the pre-Raphaelite belief that developing a close connection to nature was good for mental health and wellbeing. She says she feels a strong link to Walthamstow for a number of reasons: ‘I am a regular visitor to the borough, as my gallerist Laura Noble is based there and I always try to visit the E17 Art Trail, which is an amazing celebration of the creativity in the Borough. I’m always fascinated by the breadth of work I see. The William Morris Gallery and Lloyd Park Gardens are also on my list whenever I visit Walthamstow.’

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Who are the caryatids on the Euston Road, which pub was named after a Titanic survivor, and whose statue now stands on the site she burned to the ground?

Images of women can be found in London’s parks, churches and on pub signs, and their stories often go untold even though we pass them daily. Not every woman immortalised in stone or paint is being celebrated, but they have all been chosen to be remembered by London’s sculptors, architects and artists.

The four statues that guard the crypt at St Pancras New Church on Euston Road, which have gazed down on Londoners for over a century.

The caryatids, to give them their proper name, are Victorian statues from the Ancient Greek revival of the 19th century, and are inspired by the Erechtheion temple on the Acropolis, Athens.

One of the originals on which these were based was until recently held at the British Museum as part of the controversial Elgin Marbles collection.

Fun fact: the statues were originally too tall for the space they were going to occupy, and required a section to be cut from their midriffs in order to fit, hence appearing more stocky than their Greek counterparts.

And Boudica is (probably) the only person whose statue has been raised close to the spot she had razed to the ground.

Her statue at Westminster Bridge is one of the most iconic in the capital, and inspired the artist Marc Quinn’s fourth plinth statue of Alison Lapper. He said: ‘I felt the square needed some femininity, linking with Boudicca near the Houses of Parliament. Alison’s statue could represent a new model of female heroism.’

But pubs can remember other notable women: for example the Wetherspoon pub in Chadwell Heath, The Eva Hart, took its name from a Londoner who survived the sinking of the Titanic aged just seven.

Read more of the stories behind London’s women in murals, statues and pub signs in the full feature for londonist.com.

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‘Impressed in Dalston’ was a short profile I wrote for a local paper’s January issue about a small press using risograph printers to turn out everything from chocolate wrappers to literary fiction.

The sun beams through the wide windows of a Shacklewell studio onto three photocopier-sized machines. This is Ditto Press, established in November 2009 by Ben Freeman and Lynsey Atkin, and its portfolio ranges from art books (their stock in trade) to chocolate wrappers and CD covers.

The ‘photocopiers’ in the office are actually risographs, or stencil printers. Typically used by schools, prisons and political campaigners, the printers deliver modest runs – Ditto’s biggest job was 6,000 copies of an A-Z of coffee, but they can do as few as ten copies for individual clients.

The company’s distinctive style has attracted attention from bigger brands such as Nike and the V&A, and its books are stocked by every art bookshop in the city.

However, it’s the work from independent clients that is Ditto’s bread and butter. Half the work is for London-based clients, of which many jobs come from Hackney – for example, Rich Mix in Bethnal Green, the Jaguar Shoes collective and a creative agency in Hoxton, Rosie Lee, have all worked with Ben and Lynsey.

Being a local business is important to the two founders. They’ve been in their Shacklewell Studios premises for a couple of years, working alongside neighbours such as a magazine company, Good Publishing, illustrator Ben Weaver and the LNCC shop in the the basement. While Ben admits they’d like to expand, he also says he can’t imagine leaving Hackney.

Last year marked a new success for Ditto as they published their first literary book, Duncan Fallowell’s How to Disappear. The hardback is bound in charcoal-coloured linen, but inside the typography is playful and text is printed in one of the risograph’s 20 bright inks – just the kind of edition that the bigger publishers are struggling to get to market now.

But while the book was a critical success, and won the UK’s only prize for a literary memoir, it is not the kind of work Ditto will pursue. “The literary world is quite different to the art world and I’m not sure we’re trying to break into it,” Ben says.

For him, Ditto’s ability to control all steps in the process, and offer a personal service, have been unique selling points: “In a way, we have a small advantage over the larger publishers, even though we don’t have the economies of scales, because authors aren’t interested in e-books – they appreciate the chance to have their work designed and produced in hard copy. Art publishing as a niche isn’t as vulnerable as other parts of the industry – things like coffee table books can’t be digitised like novels can.”

Two more books have been lined up for April and June. And although the photography of an ex-para and former skinhead aren’t the first things that spring to mind when you say ‘coffee table’, it is clear that literary success hasn’t turned Ditto’s head.

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An interview with David Shrigley at this year’s Frieze Art Fair became a feature on the artist’s weird and witty book art.

And a press trip to a new wine hotel in Porto, plus a chat with the UK’s second ever Master of Wine, explains a lot about why port’s back on the British dining table.

My two latest features for The Wealth Collection magazine were on my big passions in  life: books, and booze.

Taylor's tawny port lodge, pipes and vat. Photo: Taylor Fladgate

Taylor’s tawny port lodge, pipes and vat. Photo: Taylor Fladgate

Fancy reading more of articles on books and drinks? Check out my bars blog, Knees Up Mother Brown, read my preview of new East London speakeasy The Nightjar, or discover the latest indie novel picked up by the mainstream.

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