HANNAH FOLEY: WRITER AND ILLUSTRATOR

I am completely aware of the fact that, as a mature second-year student, I should probably not be writing about children-book illustrator Hannah Foley. But whether it is because of my regressive attitudes – which involve brunching every Sunday watching the Totally Spies or spending an entire afternoon blowing up balloons for my birthday – or because of her incontestable ability to make everything really, really cute, I was altogether captivated by her work. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Even Solly the Spider made my heart melt a little bit. I mean, the poor thing wants to find a spot to build his web, but it never seems to go as well as he hoped!

Hannah Foley is originally from Devon but she now lives with her husband and her daughter in a sheep farm on the Scottish borders. She focuses mostly on writing and illustrating children’s books, both fictional and educational, but she has also participated in the 2013 Degree Show for the Edinburgh College of Art and is currently designing a children’s website and online magazine called Firefly. The influence of the natural world surrounding her is very strong in her work and she is also inspired by her own everyday life, especially by her daughter, nicknamed Little Owl, who is omnipresent in her projects. For example, she came up with the idea for Baby’s First Book of Trees after watching her little girl in her crib under the shade of a tree, and wondering how the sky must have looked like from her perspective.

Browsing her blog , this proximity between her work and her life is evident as she describes everyday “owling about” with Little Owl and Big Dreamer, her husband. Every post is accompanied by an illustration that never fails to remind me of an old school Disney movie. An orangutan on a roof, a baby bear struggling to cool his porridge down, penguins coming out of a fridge; Foley gives life a whole new world of adorable stories and charming creatures  to catch the imagination of children and boost their creativity. Definitely worked for me too.

CALLUM BEATTIE

Prepare your lighters: if you’re lucky enough to live in Edinburgh, you cannot miss another one of Callum Beattie’s performances, which are regularly organized in the heart of Old Town, at Malone’s Irish Bar. Be ready to succumb to the irresistible charisma of his Scottish accent as he will carry you away at the sound of his slightly melancholy music. And don’t wait too long before doing this, because one thing is certain; it will not be long before Beattie fills up larger concert halls and you lose the connection you definitely felt with him in the intimacy of a small Scottish pub.

Callum Beattie is an Edinburgh-based, incredibly talented composer and songwriter, who has already been spotted by influential music critics like Jamie Cullum (who described him as “a natural songwriter”), and is just starting to make a name for himself on the European indie music scene. Despite only being 24 years old, he has already made several appearances on British television and participated in hundreds of gigs over the UK and Europe. His collaboration with the Scottish music producer Al James started in 2011 and resulted in a very promising first album, This Time This Place, that was released in September 2012 and is downloadable on Itunes. Beyond any doubt, he is an up-and-coming talent that is clearly worth keeping a sharp eye on.

Strongly inspired by James Morrison, Oasis and David Gray, he excels in his own style, combining tranquil instrumentals with a magnetic voice. There are nostalgic aspects to his songs but they remain the kind of songs you can listen to in any situation, from doing your washing-up to cruising on a road-trip with friends. His music is balanced and harmonious, with sonorities that are at times indie and at times closer to alternative rock. As such he surely is a considerable asset for Scottish music – and the legitimate successor of Paolo Nutini. ‘Salamander Street’ is one of his finest and most impressive tunes, especially given that it was composed and written when he was 17 it will take you on a journey into the streets of Edinburgh through the touching story of a sad young woman; as Al James says himself to disliking Youtubers, “it’ll be a long time before you meet a 17 year old songwriter (…), who writes a song with the maturity of this lyric”. Youtuber: 0; Callum Beattie: 1.

To be informed of his latest gigs, tunes and other events, you can follow Callum Beattie on Twitter or on Facebook, but ideally come and see him live in Edinburgh at Malone’s or Studio 24!

SAM HOUSTON

WARNING : if feeling blue, do not watch! Sam Houston’s tormented art tends to show us “fear in a handful of dust” and although his style is positively unique, he would have been, without a doubt, good mates with T.S. Eliot and all this lot. With his portrayals of decaying houses and obscure silhouettes that he describes as “our understanding of home”, Houston surely would be a perfect candidate to illustrate any 20th century English literature book. For the moment, though, he has only just graduated in Fine Art at Falmouth University and has already contributed to exhibitions in Manchester, London and more recently in the lovely city of Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Art Fair. He has now returned to Cheshire, where he is preparing for future exhibitions.

Working mostly with earthly, autumnal colors that he skillfully controls to create a vintage feel, his paintings all seem to express his intimate concern with the fragility of roots. A major part of his art consists of depicting human shadows trying to hold on to some kind of connection with their fading backgrounds. Somber houses falling apart, shadows of trees and mountains or desolate roads act as symbols for a past that is difficult to hold on to because unreachable.

His paintings immediately catch the eye as the mysterious protagonists tell a story. Even though they seem awkwardly out of place, they do stir feelings of familiarity – and not necessarily because we are all depressed fools witnessing the falling apart of everything that seemed solid in their lives. Somehow Houston successfully beautifies the sadness of his work and allows the viewer to warm up to it. “Somehow”, or simply because he is incredibly talented.

For more information on his upcoming work, you can visit his official website, Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.

LUCY BRYDON: WRITER AND FILMMAKER

So It Goes: even though the title could be the one for a contemporary bestseller with a happy ending for bored teenagers to read on the beach, Lucy Brydon’s short film is not one that can be associated to cheap drama. Her work tackles psychological issues and focuses on complex characters that are completely laid bare by her uncluttered style. In this nine minute clip, she exposes the paradox of art, which can be both overwhelmingly oppressive and liberating, through the character of a young woman who is struggling to free herself from the psychological domination of an artist who believes that she is his muse.

You just take from meis her final cry before she turns away from him, and is one of the rare spoken parts of the film. So It Goes is indeed largely speechless and there is not much dialogue or music to fill in the empty silences of the protagonists’ lives. A train passing, a phone ringing, a shower running: the sounds of real life become more powerful and build up a tense atmosphere that explodes at the end. In that way, Brydon’s scenario is extremely close to reality and it is almost as if her camera was stuck to the skin of her characters to reveal entirely their thoughts, their questions, and their emotional identities.

It is clear by the maturity of her style that Lucy Brydon already has experience in film making. She graduated in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Warwick, and then completed a Master’s degree in Film Directing at Columbia University, after expanding her experience in the field in Shanghai, where she worked for five years in journalism, film production and art shows. Today, she has an impressive list of contributions to films, festivals and exhibitions, and even publications (she was a contributor to the 2014 Introduction to Scottish Documentary Film). Her work has received international awards, including the Dewar Arts Award and the Panavision New Filmmaker Award, and she now runs Shy Film Productions in London. The icing on the cake? She is originally from Edinburgh…

 

Find out more on her official website or follow her on Twitter.

LUNA SILVA

School musicals. If you are one of my kind, they will evoke painful memories of endless rehearsals for two-line parts and overpriced tickets that the entire family insisted on getting to watch your timid and sole appearance on stage. For Luna Silva, on the other hand, the school play was a time of excitement, of frenetic activity, and probably of massive stress. Yes, Luna was ALWAYS in charge of the music for what was possibly the greatest event of the year at my school – and as we all saw her handle the extremely important responsibilities that this implied, we all knew that she was made for music. A few years later, our predictions seem to be confirmed: she has not let go of her ukulele, and, with a bindi on her forehead and a smile on her face, she composes and performs pieces of world music that accompany her through her various travels.

Despite her young age, Luna has clearly already found and worked on her musical style, which harmoniously mingles pop-folk notes with melodies that are specific to a particular culture. In “Rain”, for example, she sings in three different languages – French, English and Spanish –, simply sitting on the beach in Málaga with her inevitable ukulele and a red flower in her hair. Add to her very feminine and soothing voice, and I assure you: you will feel Spain (I swear). No need for autotune or synth (those probably make her blood boil): it is in a simple, authentic way that Luna’s work takes us on a journey.

Today, Luna is a student at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, where she participates in a variety of shows and events, all of which can be found on her Facebook page. She is currently recording an album and making new videos that should be released soon. In the meantime, if you’re feeling blue, you can check out her Youtube channel – instant inner peace guaranteed.

INTERVIEW: GHAZALEH GOLPIRA, FILMMAKER

My good friend Benjamin Franklin once said: “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins”. To me, this perfectly sums up the personality of Ghazaleh Golpira. It is crystal clear when she talks about her work that she is driven by an immense passion for filmmaking, but this does not mean that her decision to make a career in cinema was not a down-to-earth one. 100% aware of the fact that, as she puts it, “you can’t start right at the top and you need rejections to succeed”, Ghazaleh has a genuine maturity of thought that strongly appears in her work and in the themes she tackles. Today, Ghazaleh is adding the final touches to the first short film that she entirely wrote, directed and produced herself. Ángel Viajera is an eight-minute film set in Spain that portrays the relationship between a young schoolgirl and a negligent adult going through an emotional crisis. Find out more about it in the following interview!

Can you tell me more about your academic background and professional path?

I graduated in French and Spanish but I always made sure during my time at university that I incorporated courses focusing on cinema and filmmaking. After university, I did internships with independent production companies for five or six months, which allowed me to try different arenas of work within the cinema industry. I also built up my skills, my portfolio, and just my general knowledge of the industry. Now, I am considering an MA in film schools for film studies.

Was your decision to make a career in cinema a difficult one? Was it natural for you or were you drawn back by the competitiveness of the milieu?

It was natural in the sense that I chose it purely out of passion. I realized that at the end of the day, nothing makes me more enthusiastic than the perspective of creating films. And I think it is important to see it as a passion more than a career. It can become so corrupt if you do it for no other reason than the money. But I do realize that you can’t start right at the top, you need rejections to succeed and it requires a lot of discipline. Filmmaking is a collaborative process and I think it’s important that you see every position. People are not going to invest in your talent if they don’t see you as capable of doing different things. You have to persist and persist, but in the end it all comes down to “I do this because it is my passion”.

What is it exactly that you want to show in your films?

I realized over the years that I love writing about social realism and things that we can identify with. When it comes to me, I like watching films because I take a lot of meaning from them.  I identify with films that take on society, that have to do with family, politics, ageing or relationships. I really think that getting as close to reality as possible is essential in filmmaking.

Can you tell me more about Ángel Viajera?

It is an eight-minute film about a young girl who has a turbulent relationship with her mother. As she is walking in a park, the daughter encounters a man in his mid-thirties who is going through an emotional crisis. Gradually the man recognizes the wisdom of the young girl and he opens up to her. At the same time, he becomes the father figure that she never had. I wanted to show that wisdom doesn’t depend necessarily on age but on life experience, and that connecting with someone can bring chemistry and identification.

How long did it take to produce? How many people were involved? What were the challenges?

I had the idea back at the end of April and I wrote the script, knowing that I was going to get a break from work during which I could make the film. It was tricky! We had to do it in a week-end because the cast were working or studying. So we originally planned to shoot the film over the course of one weekend but due to some technical issues, we overran a few days. Luckily we shot it in six days or so. The main challenges were the lighting and the temperature (34°C in Valencia,). I was also concerned with the fact that the young girl is only 9 years old, so I didn’t want to overwork her. I’d like to praise her for her hard work, I am really proud of her and of all the actors! All of them are Spanish, I met the main actor, José, when I went on an exchange to Valencia, and the little girl is his niece. Even though they are not related in the film, I think that it is important that they are family because it means that they were comfortable acting together. It was a very intimate project, for example I had friends collaborating to help me out with technical and equipment challenges. It was more of an experimental project to see how far I could go with minimal equipment in a foreign country. I wanted to focus more on the creative process than the commercial process.

Why did you choose to set it in Spain?

I think it is because the story is quite an intimate, sweet, nurtured, warm one. It’s a nestled story, a cute, romantic one and I thought that the openness of the culture and of the people in Spain was perfectly adapted. And the weather of course!  London is too much of an urban, metropolitan, crowded place, it’s too big, too grand to capture the intimacy of their relationship. And also, very importantly, Spain is the natural habitat of my actors and I wanted them to feel comfortable.

Finally, a difficult question: if you were to describe your work in one word, what would it be?

That’s tricky! I would probably go for existential impetus. I focus on the idea that life has its ups and downs. It reminds me of the film Gravity, which is all about existentialism: when the characters are about to die, they find the strength to try to survive. They can’t give up because there are people waiting for them and needing them. I think existentialist ideas are always going to be beyond my mind and existentialism is very central to my work.

HOLLY FULTON DESIGNER

Eccentric songstress, Noosha Fox is my muse for this season” says Holly Fulton about her Spring/Summer collection 2014. And as the models walk down the catwalk  to “Only You Can”, it is pretty obvious that she was successful in recreating the summer vibe from the 70s that she was looking for. If her show was to be described in a few words, it would probably be energy and fun, two words that also seem to match her personality. Her quick but smiling appearance at the end, in a gorgeous kimono dress, finally convinces – me, at least – that Holly Fulton has a bright fashion future ahead of her.

Born in Edinburgh, she studied at first at the Edinburgh College of Art before entering the Royal College of Art in London. Despite her young age, she is considered one of the most promising designers in Britain, and has already won the 2009 Swarovski Emerging Talent for Accessories, the Young Designer of the Year Award at the Scottish Fashion Awards and the Elle Style Award for new designer in 2010. Today, after creating six shows with the same enthusiasm, Fulton has successfully imposed her very unique style among the London fashion scene. Her incomparable designs have even led some to describe her as the “Scottish Roberto Cavalli”!

Watching her Spring/ Summer 2014 collection, you will be caught by reminiscing thoughts of 70s disco nights overloaded with color and dubious prints. But Fulton, unlike my twenty year-old Dad, avoids fashion faux-pas, and successfully combines the modernity and vibrancy of New York silhouettes with vintage styles. That choker necklace that our Mum hasn’t worn in public in thirty years? Looks great when stylized with great taste and a well cut bustier dress! She has managed to impose geometrical prints as her trademark and the tribal feel that she has given to her work for this season falls in with what she has done in the past. Her unusual use of accessories, from XXL jewellery to unexpected fan-bags, never fails to surprise and is certainly worth the look.

Find out more about Holly Fulton on her official website or on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter!

ARCHIBALD PHOTOGRAPHY

Most of us are pretty much content with the three likes we got on Facebook from the Instagrammed picture of our feet sunbathing in front of the sea last summer. When you entrust Mark from Archibald Photography with a phone that has a decent camera, the result is not exactly the same. Who knew that you could master photography to the point that shots taken with a phone camera look like a professional photo shoot?

In Mark’s Nokia Lumia 920 Camera Project, the conventions of traditional photography (convention n°1: use an acceptable camera) are successfully subverted and it is a combination of both talent and technique that allow him to capture the beauty of Scottish landscapes. They say you can tell a good workman by his tools, but clearly Mark doesn’t go by old sayings. The 32 shots taken from his phone positively show that he has an impeccable eye for photography as they take us on a journey through the colorful, vibrant – and sunny – Scottish countryside.

Archibald Photography was created in 2003 by Donny, who is in charge of marketing and client contact, and her husband Mark, the photographer. Both born and raised in Scotland, they have done some projects at home, but their main focus is travel documentary photography. Mark’s work is already recognized in the United Kingdom and he has won many awards: the 2009 Best Complete Wedding Photographer, the 2010 Scottish Fashion Photographer of the Year and the 2012 Scottish Portrait Photographer of the Year. He and Donny are now based in Biggar, in Scotland, and have specialized in wedding photography, along with portraits, commercials, and fashion and music photography.

Interestingly, Mark’s shots of Scotland strongly contrast with the rest of his work – and whether his vision of Scottish weather is accurate can become a subject of serious debate. In his travel pictures particularly, he makes a strong use of black and white that gives a dramatic and almost tormented atmosphere to the places he shoots: even an innocent palm tree in Lagos becomes threatening from the perspective of his camera. This is because he works a lot with film and not digital cameras, which is quite an unusual initiative that lends more authenticity to his work. His photos seem like they are from another age and in this sense, they allow us to travel not only through space, but also through time.

To be kept informed of Mark and Donny’s projects, you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or visit their official website.

Hannah and the Moon – BAFTA New Talent winner

Kate Charter is an Edinburgh College of Art Animation graduate who has just won the BAFTA New Talent award and Best New work award at the British Academy event held at Glasgow’s Oran Mor at the end of March. Her animation ‘Hannah and the Moon’ is a short film about a girl who leaves home to find her friend. The film is like an animated hand drawn picture book incorporating text instead of a traditional narrative.

Kate’s past work experience include working for a local agency in Leith, creating animations for a charity project called ‘Rock Opera’ and working on the visual effects and Foley sound recording on a film called ‘Seams in the Dark’, directed by Claire Lamond.With such huge success that Kate has had recently I’m sure amazing things are on the horizon…

I asked Kate a few questions about her brilliant talent, her university career and her aims for the future.

What was your inspiration behind ‘Hannah the Moon’?

“The idea came from a few different places. When I was a child I had a story called ‘The House and the Golden Windows’ which I fancied adapting but I also wanted to include a character with long bony fingers and I knew I wanted it to be set at night. Originally I thought I wanted to adapt an existing children’s book but after searching I decided to write my own. Incorporating text into the film came from listening to a Women’s hour show on Radio 4 on the future of Ebooks. The idea stuck in my head and I believed there was a new place for animation.”

Why did you choose to study at Edinburgh College of Art?

“I thought that Edinburgh was a really nice city. To be honest it was a shot in the dark and I didn’t know a lot about the actual animation course. Fortunately I fell on my feet!”

What has happened since graduation? And where do you see yourself in ten years time?

“Since graduating I’ve spent some time at home in Cambridge (I spent the Summer driving a tractor for my family’s farm! -I think it was a head in the sand moment) and now I’m back in Edinburgh finding my way into the quickly evolving and competitive digital media world. In the future I would love to be writing, illustrating, animating and designing apps for my children’s stories. I love Oliver Jeffers and I’d quite like to follow in his footsteps.”

Any advice for future animation students?

“Just do it! You have to bite the bullet with animation and get stuck in! Sometimes the best stuff can be made in a day and sometimes it takes months to get what you want. The best thing about studying animation for me was the people I was surrounded by and the camaraderie of being in a studio for so many hours! In fact my best advice is to be nice-as your classmates will become your family!”

Check out Kate’s website katecharter.com , her picture book complimenting the film and her blog showing her working methods