Ms-300

Assistant Editor Maisie joined It’s Nice That fresh out of university in the summer of 2013 and has stayed with us ever since. She has a particular interest in art, fashion and photography and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast. She also oversees our London listings guide This At There.

ms@itsnicethat.com@maisieskidmore

822 articles
  1. List_editors-picks-interviews

    One of the best things about being at It’s Nice That is the incredible multitude of brilliant, hilarious, weird and insanely talented people we get to talk to on a weekly basis, whether we’re dragging them around the corner from our studio for lunch in Euro Cafe, trying to squeeze as many questions as physically possible into a 20 minute Skype call or emailing back and forth for weeks at a time. The end of the year is a time for looking back, or so I’m told, so here’s my selection of the very best interviews from the site this year across photography, art direction, game design and illustration. feet up and off you

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    This year I travelled a bit, read a lot and learned to cook a roast dinner. Here are some other good things I picked up along the way.

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    Photography is basically unique in its capacity to preserve moments of time for evermore, so recapping the top ten photography projects of the year feels akin to stepping into a Labyrinth-esque alternative realm where you can look over the whole of 2014 in one neat glass ball clutched in David Bowie’s capable hands. This year we’ve got a woman who photographs herself every year in a pair of Y-fronts, two grown men re-enacting childhood photographs and some inimitable music photography from the 1990s, so step back, picture Bowie and let through our highlights.

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    December might be a time of festive joy and giving, but it’s also the month of unsigned Christmas cards, weird crackers and press releases disguised as Christmas gifts, so naturally we decided to eschew all of the above and bring you all the other brilliant stuff we got sent this month, with little or no relation to the 25th. It’s not that we’re Scrooges, we just really love handmade zines, independently published books, funny printed plates and build-your-own virtual reality players, so we’re channeling our festive spirit through that instead. Okay? Great! Enjoy.

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    It’s the overriding rule of all things trend-driven that as soon as we take a big leap forward in technology we start to look back nostalgically, triggering all manner of retro imagery, touches and techniques. At least it seems that way, and I’m sure I’m not alone in how often I’m drawn to graphic design which places hand-drawn type and recycled imagery alongside high-tech touches.

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    There are coffee table books, and then there are huge, fantastic publications so weighty that they’re likely to shunt your table a couple of inches closer to the floor, as in the case of this staggering beauty by TASCHEN. The Rolling Stones is a 518-page testament to the incredible wealth of photographs that have been taken of the iconic band over the course of their 50 year career, and it’s breathtaking.

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    Artist Lenka Clayton has been a mainstay on It’s Nice That since way back in 2009, whether she’s doing very slow magic tricks, making drawings on a typewriter with friend and collaborator Michael Crowe, or making books about the 63 objects she has removed from her son’s mouth. With such a multidisciplinary practice we knew Lenka would have stacks of wonderful books tucked away, and we weren’t mistaken. “A few years ago I moved to America from England,” she explained, “so I have far fewer books at home than I used to, making this exercise quite easy. The books I chose are the ones that I sacrificed clothes space for in my suitcases.” It seems a good tactic, as these five are a wonderfully eclectic insight into Lenka’s work. Read on!

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    Try to look upon Will Laren’s work not as a series of spot illustrations, but as comic masterpieces in their own right. He’s effectively moulding a new genre according to these novel and very specific needs. Rendered in acrylic, Will’s aesthetic is comprised mainly of colours and patterns that look like they belong side-by-side only on the rails of a forgotten charity shop, but somehow when they’re juxtaposed with Will’s pallid looking, wrinkly-faced characters spouting grotesque and hilarious things to one another, they seem very much appropriate. Explaining the joke will kill it in a second, so check these wonders out for yourself.

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    I occasionally forget how incredibly dependent I am on photojournalism to provide a context to articles I’m reading, especially when said articles deal with ideas formulated by experts who’ve spent decades researching subjects I can barely even pronounce. Producing this photographic re-contextualisation is kind of Alexi Hobbs’ job, when he’s commissioned by media giants like Monocle and TIME to provide imagery that explains their articles. And fortunately for them and us alike, he’s very very good at it.

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    There’s nothing heavy-handed about Seoul-based design studio fnt’s work. It’s like the graphic design equivalent of that little dish of mint-flavoured ice cream you get handed between courses at fancy restaurants to refresh your palette; something about their refined use of thin lines in muted colours on a white background feels newly delicate, when you’ve spent several hours being accosted by great slabs of colour and text that feel like a knock to the head. Maybe it has something to do with the Korean script, introducing a whole new realm of possibilities to the ways they treat typography, or the studio’s willingness to dabble in patterns and geometric shapes in a simple and understated way to jazz up otherwise clean layouts.

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    Driving around Johannesburg early in the mornings, photographer Marc Shoul was puzzled by the number of domestic workers he saw out walking their employers’ dogs. “The complexion of servitude is pretty obvious in the city, even as things change,” he explains. “When I see domestic workers, some in uniform, walking their owners’ dogs, it is hard not to reflect on how unaffected the rituals of suburban affluence are during this period of seismic urban change.”

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    Never ones to rest on our laurels, in this week’s Studio Audience podcast we talk gay publishing in the form of BUTT magazine’s new book FOREVER BUTT, Somerset House’s upcoming exhibition of beards and jetset hedonism via the new issue of Mirage magazine.

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    Despite the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia in 1993, current president Vladimir Putin’s apparent determination to pass laws which oppress gay rights and stigmatise the LGBT community seem to exert a pressure on gay people there that feels a long way away from the comparatively liberal UK. Which is partly why, in the run up to the Sochi Olympics, photographer Isabella Moore undertook a project in which she traveled across Russia photographing those who felt these effect of these laws most intensely. The photographs are intimate and touching; taken in the subjects’ homes and capturing moments of tender affection, they hammer home the frightening reality of movements of oppression, and the important role of photographic journalism in making people aware of it.

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    There’s something resolute about Laura Breiling’s illustration; it has a kind of strength of character about it that fully explains her growing client list. Whether her subject is a burly naked man gazing into a bathroom mirror with an uncapped lipstick lying next to him or a fabulous older lady lying fully clothed in bed sipping on a cocktail and gazing unflinchingly at the viewer, Laura’s confidence and consistence in her heavy jewel colours and printed textures command a kind of awe. Or at least they do for me. The Germany-based illustrator creates a huge volume of work, experimenting in different styles and subjects to form a style of working unlike any I’ve seen before, and it’s right up my street.

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    Alexander Coggin’s photographs remind me of those scenes in sci-fi films when you see everything from the perspective of an extra-terrestrial who’s just landed on Earth for the first time. A master of the white balance, he somehow manages to cast a coolly detached, slightly surreal light over the everyday domestic scenes that pervade his portfolio, making everything from a green marble sink to a tray of readymade hors d’oeuvres seem completely new and slightly out of touch. He’s just updated his website with loads of new work which proves my point adeptly. See more from him here.

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    This project by artist Erica Allen is an oldie but such a goodie. Way back in 2008 California-born, Brooklyn-based Erica decided to merge a collection of faces from found barbershop posters with discarded shots of studio backdrops, creating a series of oddly alluring fictional portraits. Removed from their original context, the freshly-trimmed gents pictured come across as utterly anonymous and strangely distant, connected to one another only by a crisp shape-up and a gaze fixed somewhere in the distance. And if that rainbow backdrop didn’t inspire the album artwork for Drake’s Nothing Was the Same then I don’t know what did.

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    Judging by the photographs she was commissioned to take for Bloomberg Businessweek, Stephanie Gonot and American radio show host Jesse Thorn were a seriously good match. She was commissioned by the publishing giants to photograph Bullseye founder Jesse, and where many would have fallen into that chic, perfectly polished and occasionally dull trap that portrait photographers so often have to skirt around, she succeeded in steering well clear and opted to capture him larking about instead; gesticulating wildly in his office, sitting in a giant banana (?) and photographing the view from his desk.

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    As co-founder of London-based studio 8vo, co-editor of Octavo, International Journal of Typography for all of its eight year-long life and now one half of typographic powerhouse MuirMcNeil, you’d imagine that Hamish Muir has built up a fairly comprehensive collection of design and typography-based publications over the 30 odd years he’s been working. Fortunately for you, we’ve done the legwork and gotten cold hard proof of it in the form of photographs of his top five, and it’s even better than we imagined.

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    Talk about ramping it up – it was only a couple of months back that we were marvelling at the amount of work Cynthia Kittler had taken on since graduating, and now she’s back again with shedloads more.

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    You know when you go on holiday and you’re so keen to make the most of every view that you walk around with your iPhone glued to your hand? That, in essence, is the subject of this brilliant series by Catherine Hyland, who was last on the site when she photographed a dilapidated theme park in China back in 2012. It is slightly more complicated than that however, as she explains; the series looks to draw attention to the “cultural concepts of landscape deeply embedded in the development of contemporary leisure sites.”

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    If our ancestors in the early 20th Century were outwardly governed by modesty then I think we can safely consider the modern age a revolution against their way of thinking. And with a new nudie mag on the stands every few months or so, printed media seems to be leading the way. Brava proposes to be different to the others though, by creating an online platform focusing on the physical form in all its iterations, rather than just on sex. "_Brava_ is the place to talk about the body,” explains Madrid-based design studio Naranjo—Etxeberria, which was called in to create a visual identity for the new site. “The naked body, the one with power to provoke desire, scandal, shame, sensuality, exhibitionism, eroticism…”

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    Judging by his bulging portfolio, Jochen Schievink has had one hell of a year. The Hamburg-based illustrator has played a pretty key role in creating editorial illustration for German newspapers and publications, clocking up commissions for Die Zeit and Der Spiegel among a bunch of others, and in doing so he has made the art of boiling down complex, sprawling news stories into neat, engaging imagery his standard. As a result, his blank-eyed characters are beginning to look right at home on thin newspaper stock surrounded by blocks of tiny black type, proving that Jochen has all the necessary tools to add exactly the blotch of colour and the dynamic figures to make an uninspiring story look unmissable. We’d best get used to his spot illustrations being dotted across the newsstands – it looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more of them.

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    It’s been this kind of afternoon in the studio, and it’s with that in mind that I invite you to partake of this week’s supplement of all things fun and weird, The Weekender. Enjoy!

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    On Tuesday afternoon America’s largest lingerie retailer, Victoria’s Secret, descended on London with a horde of “Angels” to execute one of their famed multi-million pound productions, complete with wings, light shows, male back-up dancers and several hundred black and silver balloons.

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    A little while back we wrote about this very cool music video directed by Sophia Bennett Homes for Frankie Cosmos, in which Frankie dances dreamily around her Justin Bieber-bedecked bedroom in the guise of a teenage girl, and generally makes us wish we were 14 again. Happily this led us to Sophia’s website, where we found enough projects to justify the creation of a fully-fledged fan club in Sophia’s honour. We’re hoping for badges, dedicated Tumblrs, hand-drawn T-shirts and weekly meetings.

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    Bringing a new perspective to industrial design and illustration, a show at The Aram Gallery sees RCA graduate Rachel Gannon illustrate a series of furniture designs, with each discipline feeding into the other as Rachel’s work is exhibited alongside products by industrial designers André Klauser and Ed Carpenter, who work together under the moniker Very Good & Proper.

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    “BUT HOW ARE THEY GOING TO RAISE THE BAR NEXT TIME?” we asked each other melodramatically when we opened issue #5 of WAX magazine earlier this summer, dazzled by its fluorescent cover, diverse content and feature about Hans Ulrich Obrist catching waves (yeah!). But to our joy and amazement they’ve done it with issue #6, which we can announce might be even better than the last one. Based on the theme of Secrecy, the sixth incarnation of WAX features musicians Connan Mockasin and Tim Koh, Ariel Pink’s bassist, fashion photography shot by Luke and Nik, artist Amy Yao interviewed by Drew Heitzler, and mystical essays by some of the best writers around. Above and beyond all that, this issue takes water (key to surfing, I’ve heard) and puts in pride of place on a gorgeous silvery cover shot by Pierre Vanni. Never before have I felt so inclined to take to the waves in December’s icy temperatures.

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    Tom Johnson strikes me as a photographer who captures the people and the places around him as they actually are, not as he would like them to look so as to fit simply and stylishly into his portfolio. His work spans portraiture and documentary photography – he once bought a 1980s motorhome and travelled up and down the UK photographing the people he came across – and touches distant edges of the population, from female bodybuilders and transvestites to a clan of Peckham’s sapeurs. He’s currently looking to merge the three areas of his practice into one, with new commissions for The New British and VICE pushing him to new territory and to photograph evermore fascinating characters.

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    There’s a lot to be said for the role of the collector in the design community, given that new trends in graphic design are so often informed by vintage and retro styles. Sourcing, hunting down, collecting and then carefully preserving graphic ephemera, these archivists have a passion for their subject which tends to go unrewarded by the designers pinning archival scans to mood boards and reference sheets.

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    We had the pleasure of meeting up with photographer Adrià Cañameras in Barcelona at the beginning of the year, when he was excitedly telling us about a collection of photographs entitled Anna et Salomé that he was hoping to publish in book form. Now, almost four seasons down the line, the book has just been published by Lawson’s Books and we can confirm that it’s as much of a treat as we’d anticipated. Collating a selection of images taken by Adrià at different places around the Mediterranean, the book makes reference to his French and Spanish heritage in the form of a serene, considered ode to the summer. With commissions under his belt for Apartamento, Dazed Magazine and the New York Times already, Anna et Salomé is a calm counterpart to much of Adriàs portfolio. We’re looking forward to seeing what he does next.

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    I’d like to think that somewhere a kind critic got drunk one night and confessed to his typographer friend that “presentations of new typefaces can be kind of boring, y’know.” If so, we have him to thank for the number of the innovative new projects we’ve seen this year, as type foundries and designers alike come up with new and ever more intriguing ways to show off new letterforms; from Commercial Type’s Showcase site a couple of months back, to this cool film yesterday. Not to mention this ace new minisite by independent foundry Grilli Type.

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    Antenne Books is to independent art bookshops what cool kids are to playgrounds – generously exchanging the very best in Pokemon cards from their reserved spot on the climbing frame – except for the Pokemon cards are beautifully made books about art, photography, design and illustration, and the climbing frame is a neat website. They shared five of their favourite out-of-print publications, including some absolute bangers from Ari Marcopoulos and Ed Templeton, leaving us envious and awestruck in equal parts. For their full range, check out their website.

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    Things is back! After some good, hard reflection about how best to showcase the incredible selection of stuff that we receive in the It’s Nice That studio, we’ve decided to transform Things into a carefully curated monthly selection of the ten best art and design nuggets from the month. On that note then, here’s November!

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    If we put a penny in a jar for every time we gave a nod to Berlin-based studio Haw-lin relentless sourcing of cracking creative talent we’d likely have at least a fiver in there by now. And by way of adding to the growing stash, here’s another gem we came across on on their online moodboard – Alexander Medel Calderón. The Santiago-based graphic designer and illustrator makes work which is colourful and playful above all else, championing a palette of primary colours and a selection of shapes straight from Microsoft Word with an admirable nonchalance. While it’s not all fun and games – Alexander has an innovative and experimental approach to typography too, proven by some super sharp poster design and flashy lettering – there’s a healthy dollop of irreverence in what he does, and we’re complete suckers for a bit of that.

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    In spite of the myriad ways that the internet is one of the greatest inventions of all time, there are some corners of the creative world that it cannot measure up to. Illustrator Thibaud Herem’s work is one of them. And that’s not to say that his architectural drawings don’t look great rendered in millions of tiny pixels and presented in front of a light source – they do, of course – but there’s still nothing like seeing the huge lengths of stained, scratched and wrinkled paper unrolled across the carpet to admire the incredible detail in the inky lines of his enormous compositions.

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    It takes a strong will to choose psychogeography as the subject for a graphic novel – it’s not an easy subject to get your head round at the best of times – but that doesn’t seem to have dissuaded Christian Skovgaard. His new book Picking Up Pieces is based around a young woman who is forced to deal with the death of her lover in tandem with the news of the collapse of a historical archive in Cologne. Newly absorbed by the emergency services’ attempts to salvage what they can from the ruins, the woman finds sanctuary in tying her own loss to this physical one, and explores the two simultaneously.

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    Joan Cornellà is nothing short of a master of his form. He’s got the gruesome comic strip down to a fine art, creating complex and hilarious narratives and then expressing them in no more than six bright panels, from one man with a poo on his head googling “who loves me?” and being given the answer “nobody,” to another man riding a bicycle made out of a suffering friend.

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    There’s not a pie in the cultural world that James Franco isn’t ready and willing to stick a finger into, and to prove it the actor, director, poet and musician has just announced a new exhibition of his artworks, entitled Fat Squirrel, which is to be held at London’s Siegfried Contemporary gallery. The show is an undeniably eclectic collection, including a number of self portraits of the artist in the guise of various famous historical figures, a deer orgy entitled Triple Team, and some bright painterly collages, not to mention the eponymous overweight rodents which are undoubtedly our favourites.

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    There’s something delightfully scientific about Erik Söderberg’s GIFs, however firmly I remind yourself that they’re composed of thousands of pixels. The repetitive way they pulsate and fizz quietly on the screen takes me right back to double Biology on a Thursday morning, watching in shellshocked fascination as tiny living cells mutate on a tiny strip of glass under a microscope, and grandly imagining myself to be the second coming of Louis Pasteur.

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    Harley Weir is an extraordinary talent. Her work is bold and unreserved, whether it be part of a personal project investigating the border between Israel and Palestine, a vibrant fashion editorial for the likes of British Vogue, or a series of ethereal portraits capturing redheads with all of the eerie stillness of Millais’ Ophelia.