If you’re one for a bit of nostalgia, go to this exhibition. If you’re one for beautiful paintings in soft, muted colours, go to this exhibition. If you’re one for books, go to this exhibition, and if you’re one for relaxing with a nice cup of tea and a fruit scone whilst admiring the picturesque south coast… go to this exhibition.
Ladybird’s Things to Make book was my first insight into instructional, creative material (something which I have ended up doing as a career!). I remember fondly making a telephone out of two paper cups and a piece of string, walking around on tin cans like the boy in the illustration below, and making countless dens using a clothes horse and flannelette bed sheets. These books weren’t all fun and games though, many titles offered some serious lessons in history, science, career choices and even household utilities such as gas, water and electricity (which were some of the least successful titles from the series).
Lawrence Zeegan, head of design at the London College of Communication curated Ladybird by Design and wrote the accompanying book. During a talk with him, Ronnie Fairweather (creative director at Penguin UK) and comedian and Ladybird fanatic, Roland Rivron: the three presenters explained what the Ladybird book meant to them, how the huge archive of original artworks was discovered, and their personal need to show them.
Over 200 original, iconic and beautiful paintings by well-know illustrators such as Charles Tunnicliffe (What To Look For titles, series 536), Harry Wingfield (Shopping with Mother, series 563, and Key Words, series 641), Martin Aitchison (Key Words titles), Eric Winter and Robert Lumley (Well-loved Tales, series 606d), John Berry (People at Work, series 606b) and Robert Ayton (Great Inventions and The Story of Oil, series 601) are displayed upon the crisp, white walls of the art deco building. They depict a time of innocence and utopian middle-class English family life, complete with dads who read newspapers and mums who buy milk and eggs from the local greengrocers.
The exhibition has been one of the most successful that the De La Warr has ever seen, and witnessing people both young and old staring in awe at the wondrous artwork explains why. This exhibition really has something for everyone, so if you haven’t already, take your spouse, take your kids, take your grandma and then tell everyone else to go too.
Ladybird by Design is on until 10th May and admission is free.