Bookshelf: Margot Bowman

Work / Bookshelf

Illustrator, designer and DJ Margot Bowman gives us a cheeky peek at her Bookshelf

Margot Bowman is the type of artist that brings to life and refines what’s in our daydreams. She creates work we can’t help but be drawn to and immerses herself in her field. Her colourful hand-drawn aesthetic is inviting, charming and has this whimsy about it that ushers us to join in. Her work is diverse exploring various mediums like illustration, painting, sculpture and animated Gifs among other things, making Margot’s portfolio an exciting journey into her multi-coloured mind.

As a designer and DJ and creative director of fashion publication The Estethetica Review as well, she’s open to a range of creatives which inspire and shape her work. Margot manages to keep her artistic fingers in a multitude of creative pies with all their wonderfully fruity fillings at her disposal. So welcome Margot to Bookshelf where her passion for what she does drips magically into the worn pages of these books.

Max Bill: Form, Function, Beauty = Gestalt

I read this book when I was still at Central St Martins (CSM). There’s one chapter where Max Bill talks about the function of beauty; how the physical space that objects or work take up in our habits has an effect on us and he justifies this in a very rational, Swiss, objective way. He also talks about how in the design world functionality is so often placed above beauty because the question, “Does the tap work?” is far easier to question to answer than, “is the tap beautiful?” I found my training at CSM was very much based around functionality – beauty wasn’t ever really discussed. This really shut out my illustration work, and my interest in fashion, from being the kind of serious topic that could be discussed or brought in to my degree.

So while I was at CSM I had two parallel bodies of work; the work I did at college that was continuously trying to make functionality emotional with almost no colour in it, and the work I did outside of college. This was full of colour and wove in and out of fashion, psychedelia and interest in the intangible, things that you feel but you can’t put into a grid, or find a typeface to express. For me, this book gave me the confidence in this second body of work – I realised this is just as valid and just as functional as the more traditional ideas about what “design” is.

Wolfgang Tillmans: Wolfgang Tillmans 3 Volume Anthology

Even though our work is contrasting in terms of medium, I feel this affinity with Wolfgang. His work finds unexpected beauty in so much of what’s around us, the standardised things we completely take for granted. I think this ability to slow down and re-look, is such an important role for an artist. The idea that someone like him will see better and allow us to do the same, to see the mundane afresh is hugely empowering. It allows the viewer to appreciate that their reality is flexible and that they can change things.

Yohji Yamamoto: My Dear Bomb

This is an anti-chronology biography from the one and only Yohji. When someone is so well-known for a non-verbal form of communication, i.e. clothing, it’s hugely satisfying to get inside their head in the form of book. I bought this after seeing the exhibition he had at the V&A last year and I think what was so great about that exhibition was the intimacy in which you could experience the clothing. For some reason they decided you couldn’t draw the garments but you could touch them. So after a few hours of doing that I suddenly moved past the iconic imagery that I initially associated with his work, (in particular the relationship with Peter Saville & Nick Knight) and into the much more sensual and complicated narratives he was telling with each garment. The book is a very candid and sincere map to the source of all these narratives; his early experiences, his thoughts on gender etc.

Aaron Rose & Mandy Kahn: Collage Culture

Finding this book was one of those fantastic experiences when you find someone else who has more eloquently expressed everything you’ve been thinking. For me the omnipresent nature of the constant bombardment of nostalgia is totally f*cking repressive. Coming out of the Jubilee extravaganza was particularly trying. Why is the only imagery around being British totally rooted in the war and post-war years? It’s not 1952 anymore and I’m very thankful for that!

Culture, in all its forms, should provide a pathway for its audiences to imagine new futures. Unfortunately there are plenty of brands and creatives who are simply not interested in that – nostalgia is cheap and easy. So we are constantly fed the same overly simplified lies about how things used to be. The past has lead us into plenty of sticky situations; global warming, the financial events of the last five years etc. Now we must move away from that and provide new solutions with our new cultural language.

Michael Braungart & William McDonough: Cradle to Cradle

In a strange way I would say that this book and Tillman’s collected works have a lot in common. Cradle to Cradle is a much more practical but equally imaginative re-assessment of what is taken to be the status quo. For the last 50 years we’ve all been buying a huge amount of stuff and throwing it away when we are bored of it or it stops working; the object ceases to have use to us or anyone else. In the last ten years, this ideology has shifted slightly with the rise and ubiquity of recycling culture. But we still only ever see our waste downgraded into less meaningful objects: book to magazine to newspaper etc. This is because all of our consumer goods are designed with only one life-span in mind. Instead Braungart & McDonough propose a 360 degree design culture that takes into consideration the end of the product’s life, and more importantly, its future lives. So we start owning precious raw materials: rubber, mercury, iron etc. for our whole lives instead of short-term incarnations.