July 26, 2018

A Great Northern Catch Up with Andy Tuohy (and Romney the Cat!)

With the Great Exhibition of the North now entering its 5th wonderful week, we decided we'd given designer Andy Tuohy enough time to recuperate from designing his epic Great Northern Alphabet and it was time to bother him again for a quick catch up and pick his brains on his design process, what inspired him about this commission and his plans for the summer (because we're nosy...!)

When it comes to inspiration, anything goes..

I can find inspiration anywhere if I look hard enough and frequently do. The built environment, modern artists, contemporary design, fabric, fashion, sculpture, film and music. Something poorly designed I run across that I am convinced I can do better.

The favourite part of the design process? The beginning and the end! 

The start of the design process makes me full of excitement and trepidation as to how I will approach the design and working my way through the initial creation of ideas. The flip side is the latter stages on a big project like this, where you sometimes feel you are hitting a wall and just going through the motions in order to get it finished. But, I always love to see the final thing produced. That's the biggest buzz, seeing all the hard work come to fruition. What is even better, in this instance, is the genuinely positive response to the designs from locals.

The regional aspect of the A-Z made this BALTIC Shop commission so inspiring..

It's always great to know that someone has seen your work and likes enough to want to commission you. This was especially nice because, already in the back of my mind, I had wanted to design something for the BALTIC. I supply BALTIC Shop with merchandise, but there is nothing quite like a commission and this one had a specific, regional focus on an area so rich in cultural and historical interest that it would have been impossible not to have been really inspired by it. Sara from BALTIC Shop had already seen the Tate A-Z of Liverpool I did and wanted to
do something familiar.

There was no hesitation when it came to designing the 'A'..

'A' for Angel of the North was the easiest place to come up with. Purely and simply because it was obvious and there was really no argument against its inclusion under the letter 'A'.

But not so the 'Y'

'Y' was easily the hardest. The BALTIC team and I couldn't come up with anything that started with a 'Y'. In the end we plumped for 'Way Aye Man' as there were two 'Y's'. I think it's a fitting conclusion even if we cheated a bit. We did the same with 'X' for 'Roxy Music'. I don't think there can be any grumbles really. Both deserve to be in there however much the A-Z rules were tampered with!

Cragside in Rotherbury has always been inspirational as a place to visit..

To be honest, I already knew where I wanted to go long before doing the A-Z. A few years ago I watched 'Jonathan Meades Abroad Again in Britain' on Cragside, the home of the Victorian Industrialist William Armstrong who, incidentally, designed and built the Swing Bridge which is on the A to Z as well. I immediately wanted to put it on my list of places to go before I die. If nobody has seen the documentary I thoroughly recommend it. If I think about what place has inspired me to visit after researching for the A-z then I would say Fish Quay. It looks a great place to visit and I do love the sea.

It may be cheesy, but home is where I'm happiest..

I'm very much a creature of domesticity and at home everything is pretty much where I know it should be. I find travelling very anxiety inducing, so I don't do it that much, which I guess for a designer and illustrator who's schtick is travel imagery is a tad ironic. It doesn't sit too well with my wife who loves to travel. I think she feels I will do almost anything to avoid travelling anywhere out of my comfort zone.

The next A-Z project may feature people again, not places..

I've had an idea to create an A to Z of autistic individuals who have helped shape society, history, culture and science as I have a personal interest in this area: my son was recently diagnosed with autism.

I'm looking forward to hitting the North soon!

This summer definitely, the whole family are really looking forward to exploring all the locations on the poster. So if you know anywhere good to stay...



To see more gifts by Andy Tuohy including the Great Modern Artists collection, click here.