Last year we met We Heart’s James Davidson in Helsinki during the city’s fantastic series of World Design Capital events. A few weeks ago he sent us his recently published book Create GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British Creativity. Looking back on the celebration of UK culture during London’s 2012 Olympic games, the book highlights the best of British creativity, exploring the country’s cutting edge design, and the significance of being in the UK to the creative process.
We Heart is a UK-based online magazine that features content on lifestyle and design, updated daily. It is an influential and internationally read source for the latest in all things global design: restaurants, travel, architecture, fashion, photography, technology and more. For their first publication, We Heart decided to focus on design matters closest to home.
Designed by SB Studio, Create GB is extensive and wide ranging in its coverage of British art and design. Everything is included, as long as it’s exciting, and as long as it’s from the UK. The book is divided into two parts: a glossy catalogue of introductions to a number of UK-based creative firms, artists and designers, accompanied by visually stunning photographs and samples of their work.
The next section has a more in-depth Q&A section, featuring interviews with each firm/artist highlighted, exploring their practice, future projects, personal questions (“what makes you smile?”) and some quirkier inquiries such as “If we could replace the Queen on the bank notes with one iconic British design, what would you choose?” — answers range from a “a bulldog” (Cat Patterson, fashion designer), “Alfred Hitchcock” (Dominic Davies, photographer) to “a fish and chips supper” (Lick Me I’m Delicious, pop-up ice cream makers).
The rest of the questions focus on the importance of the UK to the artists’ and designers’ creative practice. Essentially, Create GB is an exploration into an important concern in this age of globalization, and a topic The Pop-Up City often highlights: does place matter? Questions such as “Do you think location effects creativity?” and “Is Britain’s creative industry too London-centric?” emphasize how British culture effects art practice, and the importance of being in London and the UK to creativity.
Among the incredible number of creatives in the fields of visual arts, fashion & graphic design, Create GB highlights a few urban design and art practices that will interest readers of The Pop-Up City.
An interesting sample of UK architecture and urban design is Studio Weave, a London-based firm that combines contemporary style with concepts of sustainability and community-driven design. Their award winning designs are authentic and specific to their local contexts: location matters to Studio Weave. We especially like their Longest Bench installation in Little Hampton – a playful urban design intervention that is built from reclaimed wood. Its modular design makes it easy to extend – and it can already seat 300 people!
Another artist we really like is Fraser Gray. His large scale murals combine photo realism with surrealist narrative, and are a graceful convergence of fine art and graffiti. He cites the political nature of his work, and the general politicization of the art world as an inevitable reaction to the global economic crisis. He holds firmly that location effects creativity. Location provides significance and familiarity, and access to social networks that provide opportunity for collaboration. He also situates his work within of a very British tradition of enormous murals of working life in Scottish cities: place matters to Fraser Gray!
With questions about possible collaborations with other UK artists, and the situation of work within quintessential British traditions, Create GB is a rallying cry for the significance of place and local-networks to creativity. Though it focuses on Britain, the book offers a good model to national creative industries worldwide. It encourages connections, place-based inspiration, and collaboration as essential to a thriving and dynamic creative industry.
Reading the interviews, the reader understands that the defiant answer to the question of the importance of location within a globalized world is that place indeed matters. Globalization has not lead to homogeneity, but rather a nuanced and energized British culture defined by its roots in tradition, and contemporary multicultural outlook, “carefully balanced on the edge of tradition and aggression” according to Fraser Gray. Most importantly, place offers a unique social network embedded within a locationally specific history of art and design — the perfect situation for creativity.
In conclusion Create GB is a great book if you want an in depth insight into the UK’s art and design scene. The book’s extensive catalogue of British artists and designers offers a fantastic introduction to a variety of UK-based creative practices, while the Q&A is light, humorous and insightful. This insight into British creativity and lessons of the significance of location to creativity makes Create GB a worthwhile read. We hope that there will be a Volume 2 in the near future!
Create GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British Creativity
Published by We Heart
Written by James Davidson and Alicja McCarthy
Edited by Dave Waddell
Designed by SB Studio
196 pages, 39 artists and designers featured