Space Oddity

Simon and Angie Lewin, of St Jude's, have many strings to their bow – the latest is an audio visual edition of their print publication Random Spectacular, celebrating an Edinburgh sound installation…

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Concrete Antenna insert illustrations

What’s the background – how and why did the Random Spectacular project come about?
Random Spectacular is essentially the result of a long walk in the wilds of Scotland in 2011. Angie and I had thought about producing a printed journal alongside our St Jude’s fabric design and gallery activities. We had a shared interest in publications such as Jake Tilson’s Atlas series, Motif and The Saturday Books.

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St Jude's Colourdrome fabric by Peter & Linda Green

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St Jude's Bird Garden fabric by Mark Hearld

We were spending a weekend with our friends and collaborators Mark Hearld and Emily Sutton and by the Sunday night we had a come up with a name and made a commitment to create our first printed journal.

In 2014 we published the second multi–contributor issue, but I’d always thought that Random Spectacular could give us the opportunity to produce single–subject projects and publications in a variety of formats – but all sequentially numbered (in a shameless reference to the output of Factory Records).

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Cover, Random Spectacular 002 by Johnny Hannah

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Spread from Random Spectacular 002

I’d met Rob St. John and Tommy Perman whilst working on Random Spectacular No. 2 – the duo contributed a article based on their recent Water of Life project. Last year saw the launch of their latest collaboration (along with Simon Kirby) called Concrete Antenna, a sound installation in the twenty–eight–metre–high landmark tower at the new Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. I’d visited the installation and once I’d heard of the trio’s desire to develop this as a vinyl and print project I knew it would fit perfectly with what we had planned for Random Spectacular.

The latest edition is a multimedia feast – what can readers expect to receive when they order RS003?
In terms of the audio element, Rob, Tommy and Simon have managed to perfectly distil the essence of the sound installation, which is created from gathered field recordings, spoken word and instruments created from sound sources relating to the site’s histories as a blacksmith’s workshop, a railway siding close to the Newhaven docks and now a thriving creative workshop beside a wildlife-rich cycle route.

Visitors to the installation hear a constantly evolving soundtrack that reacts to their movement, the local tide and the weather conditions. The vinyl element of our package presents this soundtrack as two sides of modern classical composition, warm organic drones and flickering minimal electronica. The listener is encouraged to refer to the enclosed tide table to determine which side of the album to listen to at any given time.

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Sleeve and vinyl, Random Spectacular 003

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Talk us through the design and production of the album sleeve...
Tommy Perman designed and illustrated the entire package which includes a die-cut sleeve, three art prints and extensive sleeve notes that look into the inspiration and processes that lie behind the project and a booklet that reproduces the Leith tide table until 2020.

The die-cut aperture echoes the footprint of the twenty-eight-metre tower. We hope that anyone purchasing the vinyl package will take time to rotate the enclosed artworks to create their own cover.

Lucas Sharp’s Sharp Sans typeface features throughout, though Tommy made fitting use of Doves Type in the tide table.

We worked closely with Fenner Paper in sourcing the paper stock (including their Offenbach bible paper which helped us fit five years worth of tide table data into a fairly slim booklet) and selected vinyl specialists and printers who we knew were experts in their field.

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Tides times booklet, cover

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Tides times booklet, spread

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Tides times booklet, detail

St Jude’s has many strings to its bow, all seeming to emanate from a love of print-making… could you sum up what St Jude’s is about and how Random Spectacular relates to the rest of your output?
At its simplest, we like putting ink on things. My background is in design and commercial print and Angie trained as a printmaker at Central St Martins and Camberwell School of Art. We take an interest in fine art and commercial design, but we’re particularly inspired by work produced where the two overlap – and this prompted us to found St Jude’s in 2005, initially to produce a range of fabrics Angie had designed.

Before long, we’d opened a gallery in Norfolk, giving us the opportunity to exhibit the work of the artists we now collaborate with on our fabric and wallpaper designs. Angie and I relocated to Edinburgh in 2012 but still host exhibitions at venues across the UK. Next year we’ll be presenting St Jude’s exhibitions at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Bankside Gallery (next to Tate Modern).

Random Spectacular really just feels like a very natural extension to our activities – but at the same time I hope that we surprise and inspire both those who are already aware of our activities but also those who discover us through projects like Concrete Antenna.

We have lots planned for 2016 including a book about the work of printmaker Peter Green and a special edition dedicated to Random Spectacular co–founder Mark Hearld’s exhibition at York Art Gallery, ‘The Lumber Room – Unimagined Treasures’.

Visit St Jude's online here.

Read More about Random Spectacular and Concrete Antenna.

More work by designer Tommy Perman. 

The Concrete Antenna installation is on view until end of February 2016 at at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Bill Scott Sculpture Centre, 21 Hawthornvale, Newhaven, Edinburgh, EH6 4JT.