Wednesday 22 December 2010

RIP Celia Stothard

I was lucky enough to see the poster artist Alan Kitching speak about his life and work a couple of years ago. It was extremely touching as he had to take breaks because he was getting overwhelmed with emotion as he was realising, mid-talk to a room packed full of design lecturers, that many of the people he was mentioning as having been a great influence on him had passed away. It was really quite moving as he chocked on his own words and asked the audience to bare with him while he composed himself.

It is with this in mind that it is very sad to hear the death of Kitching's long-time partner Celia Stothard. The design community has lost one half of a creative partnership that produced many iconic posters. I particularly like the story of the two of them blowing their pension on a huge collection of theatrical type. As Celia wrote of their finding the collection in Eye 74:

"Alan climbed up a ladder to check a range of condensed letters stacked on the barn wall shelves. Some had become damp and infested with woodworm. They would have to be dried out and treated, but first the make-ready (random bits of printed paper, glued to the underside of letters to bring them to type height) would have to be removed. As I logged, measured and photographed cabinets and randoms of type around the barn, I heard a shout of ‘Schwitters!’ and joined Alan, looking in amazement at the first of many examples of the Wrington pressmen’s unconscious ‘make-ready’ art, reminiscent of Dada collages.

Alan already had enough type in his ‘palette’ but the prospect of working with this range and scale was thrilling. In June that year I had up-sized from a two-room flat in SW7 to a former alehouse in Kennington SE11. I had envisaged Alan and some of the Typography Workshop in the covered rear yard, but almost an entire print works? Still, there was plenty of room on the ground floor, the joists could take the weight and the old beer cellar was dry. Who else would or could do it?

Perhaps it was the full moon over the horseshoe atop the Organ’s barn door, or the sweet Somerset air that added to the feeling of fate, but I turned to Alan: ‘Pension payments or this?’ ‘This!’ we chorused and returned to London to make the bid."

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