Meet Helen Edwards of East End Prints, supplier of brilliant graphic art to Habitat. But what's a print without a gorgeous Habitat frame?
To celebrate the arrival of our new art collection, we’ve renamed our Behind the Design series In The Frame (quick frame fact – Habitat frames have glass fronts rather than acrylic). The exclusive art range features inspiring works by artists including Jayson Lilley and Philip Sheffield. We’ve also used the powers of digital printing to reproduce Habitat in-house designer Rebecca Hoyes‘ painterly works as posters.
We’re very pleased to be working with East End Prints on the new collection. The company was set up by in 2010 by Helen Edwards, who has over 15 years’ experience in artist management, print publishing, licensing and curating exhibitions. We stopped by her Shoreditch live/work space to find out more.
How did East End Prints come about? I was head of research at The Art Group for eight years, going round galleries negotiating contracts for artists to bring them on board for poster publishing. I set up East End Prints after that because I thought there was a real market for affordable graphic art, particularly as a platform for emerging artists.
How do you choose which artists to work with? I go for artists who are aware of trends, but aren’t influenced by them. With Habitat, there’s an artist in the collection called Stephen Davids. His work is successful at gallery level but this will take him to a much bigger audience. My role is about mixing my love of graphic art and the people involved in it with my business head.
A key change has been to take what East End Prints represents beyond just me. Right now we have Emily Chalmers of Caravan Styleas a guest curator, our next curator is Amelia’s Magazine. This has introduced another aesthetic; I don’t always necessarily like it, but that’s a good thing. Collaborations always take your ideas and tastes in directions they could never have gone in if left to their own devices.
So, how do you decide which direction to go in? It’s important to understand the history of graphic art. You have to know what’s gone before to make sense of what’s coming, and to be able to work out the leaps that will move trends on. There have been so many bold geometric shapes in graphic art recently, especially African-style prints, so it’s great to see Rebecca Hoyes’ painterly prints in the Habitat collection. It feels like a different perspective, more fine art and fluid.
What kind of art do you like? Personally, I tend to err towards the cynical, so am surprised when an artist tells me their best-selling print is a typographic piece that says, ‘How to be Happy’! Positive messages have real power, I don’t know what that says about our time. We were recently talking about how to sell to young people moving into their first flats and we went with the idea that art on the walls makes you feel at home. Many people grow up with art around them in their parents’ houses, so it’s that sense of security and personality. It’s also about them communicating who they are.
There does seem to be a real excitement about graphic art, people seem much more confident about using it in their homes, where has this come from? I think people are very aesthetically aware now. Interiors magazines have helped, promoting the idea of putting graphic prints in a whole range of settings. That said, some of the biggest sellers in poster art are still Monet and Van Gogh. The accessibility to art has improved and people are becoming more design savvy.
Which eras of art inspire you? The 60s and 70s, but it’s really individuals who have overpowered my aesthetic rather than eras as a whole. I was introduced to Abram Games at college, who was in his 70s at the time. I loved the way he worked, with all the layers and sketches visible. His work is a wonderful way to learn and appreciate the process. The other two people I’ve found a major influence on my aesthetic are Paul Rand and Alan Fletcher. I admire their philosophy of play. I can see their influence in some of the artists I work with, which is what drew them to me.
What piece of art would you love to own? An original Tretchikoff. His Chinese Girl is such an icon of the poster world, owning the painting would be quite something.
Oxo Tower, Battersea Power Station and GPO Tower by Jayson Lilley; Blot, Ink, Zulpo, Arc, Circles and Spiral by Rebecca Hoyes;Ampersand by Philip Sheffield, How To See London by Vintage By Hemingway and One Day by Message Teller; Picasso andHomemade Bread by Stephen Davids; Black Layered Heart by Seventy Tree
And, dark birch, white birch, walnut or clear – Habitat has the frame to set off your new masterpiece.
Original Interview by Morag Bruce 4.10.13