Designer Desire: Eric Fraser

Mosaic of Eric Fraser illustrations | H is for Home

Eric Fraser (1902-1983) was one of the leading lights of 20th century book & magazine illustration and poster design.

He was commissioned to produce illustrations by a range of magazines including Punch, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Pall Mall and the Radio Times. He designed book covers and page illustrations for, amongst others, Collins, Cassell, Everyman, The Scientific Book Club and the Folio Society. He also designed posters (and stamps) for the Post Office; publicity material for the London Underground and in 1931, he created ‘Mr Therm’ for the Gas Light & Coke Company (the pre-cursor to British Gas).

There are a a couple of interesting-looking books about the man and his work; The Graphic Works of Eric Fraser by Alex Davies (1974) and Eric Fraser: Designer and Illustrator by Sylvia Backemeyer (1998). There’s also an exhibition catalogue – covering the entirety of his career – that you can view online here.

For the life of me I couldn’t find a single photo of the man – just this (small) self-portrait he did in 1949.

Self-portrait by Eric Frasercredit

Additional image credits:

Chris Beetles Gallery

Designer Desire: Alex Steinweiss

Mosaic of Alex Steinweiss LP cover art | H is for Home

New Yorker, Alex Steinweiss (1917-2011) is considered the father of LP artwork. Prior to the 1930s, the vast majority of records were sold in plain sleeves or record shop advertising ‘bags’. As the first art director at Colombia Records, he recalled what record covers used to be like:

The covers were brown, tan or green paper. They were not attractive, and lacked sales appeal.

They were so drab, so unattractive, I convinced the executives to let me design a few.

He went on to design album artwork for other record companies such as Decca, London, Remington and Everest.

Examples of his work can be found in Jazz Covers, a book we’ve reviewed in the past. There are two books dedicated to his huge back catalogue; For the Record: The Life and Work of Alex Steinweiss and Alex Steinweiss. The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover. There are three editions of the latter available costing from £15 to £1,000.

Portrait of Alex Steinweisscredit

Designer Desire: Abner Graboff

Mosaic of Abner Graboff illustrations | H is for Home

We’re signed up to the 365 Poster Blog rss feed and last week they wrote an eye-catching post about Abner Graboff, a children’s book and LP illustrator. We decided that we had to investigate his work further as we’d never heard of him or seen his work.

There aren’t that many websites on the internet that have information about him. However, the one person that does is someone we’ve been mutually following for years on different social streams – illustrator & animator, Ward Jenkins. He too came across some designs by Abner Graboff and proceeded to find out more. In 2009, he managed to track down Graboff’s son, Jon and interviewed him. Go visit, there’s lots of primary material and many more images.

Seeing as he’s American, vintage books that he illustrated are mostly available on the USA Amazon website.

Portrait of Abner Graboffcredit

Additional image credits:

Abe Books

A trio of vintage rams

Vintage ram collection | H is for Home

In a recent Designer Desire post, Adelle mentioned her favourite Christmas present of the year. Today, Justin’s collection of presents are the focus. As you can see, there’s a bit of a theme. Being an Aries, a small herd of beautiful rams was a perfect gift. We thought that we’d share a few pics as we know there are lots of fellow fans of this type of vintage loveliness.

Vintage Rodney Peppé ram serving tray

First, this fabulous 1960s tin serving tray with artwork by Rodney Peppé. These 1960s Crown Merton trays aren’t easy to come by – and the ram in particular is an elusive creature.

Vintage Rodney Peppé ram serving tray

It’s one in a series which includes a peacock, tortoise, lion, tiger, squirrel and elephant; these are the ones that we’ve come across, anyway. Isn’t he a gorgeous fellow?!

Cover of a vintage "The Derby Ram" book by William Stobbs | H is for Home

Then there’s this rare, first edition copy of The Derby Ram by William Stobbs dating from 1975.

Page from a vintage "The Derby Ram" book by William Stobbs | H is for Home

A magnificent, giant ram is the star of this picture book. There are charming little rhymes accompanied by glorious illustrations. We’ll have to share some more of them at a later date.

Vintage Bernard Buffet ram artwork | H is for Home

Last, but very much not least, is an original lithograph by a favourite artist of ours – Bernard Buffet.

Vintage Bernard Buffet ram artwork | H is for Home

He’s a bit more subtle that his friends above, but just as gorgeous. In fact, we have a top floor lounge-cum-bedroom where colours are deliberately kept calm and muted – dark greys, creams, wood, leather, wicker – a bit of copper here and there. This fine gentleman will fit right in!

Christmas greetings to our friends

Image taken from "No Ordinary Child" children's book (©1971) by Peggy Blakeley with illustrations by Edith WittImage taken from “No Ordinary Child” children’s book (©1971) by Peggy Blakeley with illustrations by Edith Witt

Wishing all our readers and subscribers a very merry Christmas and happy & prosperous 2018.

Warm regards,

Justin and Adelle signatures

Designer Desire: Enzo Mari

Mosaic of Enzo Mari designs | H is for Home

Enzo Mari is an Italian product designer who is, in our opinion, under-valued and -appreciated. He’s a life-long communist and infamous firebrand known for his staunch views on design and life in general. “Design is dead” and “form is everything” are statements made during his regular outbursts.

He states that during his design process he’s more interested in pleasing the factory worker than the consumer. Evidence of this can be seen in his 1973 Proposta per un’autoprogettazione – a manual for creating a collection of basic, DIY furniture simply using plain planks of wood and nails.

He’s produced designs for brands such as Driade, Poltronova, Alessi, KPM Berlin and, most famously, Danese Milano. It was only when researching Mari that I discovered he designed the ‘Mama’ range for Le Creuset in 1972.

Many of his designs are still in production and are available from Houzz and Made in Design, Vintage and discontinued examples are for sale at Connox, Ebay, Etsy and Pomono.

Portrait of Enzo Maricredit

Additional image credits:

1st Dibs