We’re very excited to announce that to coincide with the opening of Visions of the Universe – the upcoming exhibition at the National Maritime Museum – Pandemonium Press are publishing The Lowest Heaven, a new anthology of contemporary science fiction.
Each story in The Lowest Heaven is themed around a body in the Solar System, from the Sun to Halley’s Comet. Contributors include Alastair Reynolds, Kaaron Warren, S.L. Grey, Lavie Tidhar, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Sophia McDougall, Maria Dahvana Headley, Adam Roberts, E.J. Swift, Kameron Hurley and Doctor Who’s Matt Jones.
The stories are illustrated with photographs and artwork selected from our world-class collection, while the book’s cover and overall design are the work of award-winning South African illustrator Joey Hi-Fi. Joey has provided us with an exclusive Q&A about how he created the design for the cover artwork.
A limited edition hardcover is available for purchase exclusively through the Royal Museums Greenwich shop at http://bit.ly/17LpKDe.
Find out more about Visions of the Universe and book tickets online at rmg.co.uk/visions
Cover artwork for The Lowest Heaven. Copyright Joey Hi-Fi
The design you created for The Lowest Heaven centres around a map – where does this idea come from?
With The Lowest Heaven being an anthology, the brief was to create a piece of artwork that would tie all the stories together. Since the book features stories based on various celestial bodies in our Solar System – creating a bespoke solar system map seemed like an interesting way to do that.
Plus, having a fascination with all things cosmic (bordering on Kosmikophilia), I couldn’t resist. I used to draw maps of alien solar systems as a kid – peppered with space battles of course. So this is a childhood dream come true.
I was inspired by the wall hangings in the National Maritime Museum collection. These were produced by the Working Men’s Educational Union in the 1850s and based on astronomical themes. The hangings were printed lithographically on cotton, which gives them an interesting appearance. I liked their simple, yet striking design. One in particular (see jpeg) formed the basis of my design.
I just took a more modern approach – if you can call it that. My map has more of a 1950s aesthetic as opposed to one reminiscent of the 1850s.
"Solar System", 1850-1860 Artist: Unknown, Working Men's Educational Union. Object ID: ZBA4550. Copyright: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
The map also has hints or elements from the stories themselves. Can you talk us through these, and how you settled on which ones to include?
I wanted the solar system map to be unique to The Lowest Heaven. So I thought it should not only include the celestial bodies – but elements from the stories themselves.
What would make a map of the solar system even more awesome? Why, Spaceships of course! I decided to include some simple illustrations of the space-faring vessels (as well as an asteroid and a comet) that were mentioned in the various stories.
I had read the entire book already, so I went back through my notes and picked the objects I wanted to include – in the end, I settled on four. I’ll leave the reader to discover which stories they fit. To match the retro feel of the map, all the spaceships (bar Voyager) have a 1950s retro feel to them.
There are two editions of The Lowest Heaven, but this map is the central design for both of them.
For this project I decided to illustrate and design the fold-out solar system map (to be included in the hardcover) first. I felt it would be simpler to work from a full solar system map and then decide how to adapt that artwork to work on the two book covers.
What would work on the fold-out map wouldn’t necessarily work on the book covers, given the change of size and so on.
I wanted the covers to have the same character as the map – but I didn’t want the cover artwork to be exactly the same as the full fold-out. For both creative and practical reasons.
Since a simple crop of a section of the full solar system map wouldn’t work as a cover, it required reworking the typography, changing the design & removing small details while adding others.
Is designing for an anthology different from illustrating a novel or a single story?
It is. This is my first cover for an anthology featuring different authors. I had to approach it in a different way conceptually. Whereas a novel may have one central protagonist, voice, style or tone – an anthology obviously has many. Finding that common thread can be a challenge.
Many of the anthology covers I see tend to be quite generic in terms of concept. Science fiction will have a space ship on the cover, horror a ghoul of some kind, etc. For The Lowest Heaven, having each story based on a celestial body made for a strong central concept, one that was unique enough to steer clear of cover clichés.
I also felt that I didn’t want to focus on one story over another. I wanted to have the various writers all equally represented on the cover.
For more artistically readers: how did you go about making this? There’s so much detail!
I do the basic layout. Then, at night, extra-dimensional space elves materialize and complete it.
Jokes aside – having never designed a solar system map before – It started with much research.
I had to brush up on the orbit of the planets, their approximate sizes in relation to each other and so on. I wanted the map to have some semblance of scientific accuracy. The gaps in my knowledge of our solar system made me realize I should have payed more attention in science class at school – instead of filling my textbooks with super-hero themed doodles.
I then moved onto some rough sketches of the solar system map design (incorporating typography and other additional elements). Once I’d decided on a rough layout/design that I thought would work – I then started on the finished illustration.
Parts of the illustration were done in Illustrator or Photoshop, others by hand (ink on paper). I also scanned in various old paper textures to help give the solar system map that slightly aged / retro feel. I enjoy using a combination of various techniques in the illustration process. It allows me to experiment a bit.
"A Representation of the Meteor Seen at Paddington about 12 Minutes before 11 o'clock, on the Evening of the 11th of Feb. 1850", 1850 Artist: Leggatt, Hayward & Leggatt, Lloyd Brothers & Co, Wyatt, Matthew Cotes. Object ID: ZBA4550. Copyright: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Which was your favourite story?
By Grabthar’s hammer! My illustrator sense foresaw that question coming. Do you want all of the contributors to The Lowest Heaven to hate me – bar one?
Tough question. It’s so hard to choose. All the stories we amazing in some way. But if you insist on putting a phaser to my temple – I particularly enjoyed the tale for Jupiter by Jon Courtenay Grimwood.
Did you want to be an astronaut when you grew up?
Oddly no. I wanted to be a ‘Diver Uncle’. Which was my four year old self’s term for a deep sea explorer. At a young age I was watching Star Trek (plus other 80s Sci-Fi classics) and dreaming of space exploration – but I was equally fascinated by deep sea exploration. And I still am – who doesn’t find giant squid fascinating?
Find out more about The Lowest Heaven and Pandemonium Fiction at http://www.pandemonium-fiction.com/lowest-heaven.html
Between 11 and 13 March, the exhibition Alice Kettle: The Garden of England is being set up in the Queen’s House. In this post, Alice Kettle shares her experience of the third and last day of installation on 13 March.
“Everything is done and I am home. I have had a bath and, whilst feeling completely exhausted, my head is still filled with the happenings of today.
Today we raised the Flower Helix into place in the Tulip Stairs. This extraordinary spiral staircase leads your eye towards a circular skylight. The spiral apparently gets smaller as it twists upwards, with its metal bannister of fleur-de-lys motif and waved lines of metalwork. As with the Great Hall, the impression is of pure form and clear geometry. I did not want to interrupt this view, simply to animate the scale of the vertical and spiralled shape.
From top to bottom the height measures approximately 12 metres, and makes you slightly giddy as you look down.
I have unified the component parts, the small flower heads which have been made for me. They are all needle lace or crochet, some delicate and complex, others expressive and bold. Each one is different and put together they form a mass of flowers reminiscent of the ‘Queen Anne’s lace’ or cow parsley.
It has taken me the last three weeks to collect these beautiful contributions together, to attach them to wire and make them into a composite form, which could then be connected on site. I was amazed by the overwhelming response to my call out, having to constantly buy more materials and send off more parcels to the many people who offered to make these little circular motifs. The success of the piece rests on the abundance and the mix of these forms. You cannot help but stop and look at each one.
The Manchester School of Art girls worked out a system of connecting all parts and last night we laid out the various ‘circles’, each of which had four wire flower heads with approximately 20 to 30 flowers on each.
We had a total of around 24 circles, some with my little red or blue on white flowers. We also attached lines of linen thread which could hang vertically from each circle. Richard had made a cross bar to sit at the top bannister. We attached a pulley and started to gently lift the whole structure with a cord. This took all morning, since at each stage we needed to untangle the threads and wire stalks whilst also attaching new ones. There were 6 of us working on this from the floor, with Richard and Lisa on the stairs and Melanie coordinating and supervising. The whole piece needed adjusting and securing constantly.
But the finished work looks spectacular and is made even more so through these multiple contributions, a true collaborative work of participation and public engagement.
It is completely inspiring in terms of the generosity others have contributed to the project. I hope that I have been sensitive to this extraordinary place. I have met many of the Queen’s House volunteers, including Maurice, who have committed their time and knowledge to the House.
So all the girls went home to Manchester, Amy and Melanie and I scattered the flowers around the flower bed, and now I am home. Thank you everyone, thank you all at the National Maritime Museum, especially the staff and the volunteers. Thank you for having me for the last few days and looking after me with such care and interest.”
- Alice Kettle
The Garden of England is now open until 18 August, in the Tulip Stairs and North-West Parlour in the Queen’s House
Between 11 and 13 March, the exhibition Alice Kettle: The Garden of England is being set up in the Queen’s House. In this post, Alice Kettle shares her experience of the second day of installation.
“Last night I was overwhelmed by the enormity of this project and the company of Queens and courtiers. Today I am reassured by the kindliness of all the amazing staff at NMM. Lisa Evans met us in the morning and took us into the Queen’s House. She has taken care of all the procedural aspects, coordinating the various people and teams.
The Flower Bed is in place. Graham put together the plinth made by Richard. It sits on the floor beneath my portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria. Richard had to make it bigger for me as I changed my mind. On top of it sits the embroidered cloth I have made, which picks up the patterns of clothing in the portraits. There are embellished rosettes, floral twigs, fringes and braids which are represented in stitch onto cloth.
On top are scattered flowers and strange twists of rope made into flowers. Emma Blackburn has made other intricately stitched pieces, one is Nelson’s badge.
The Manchester School of Art girls have each made a flower too.
My colleague Dr Nigel Hurlstone, Senior Lecturer in Embroidery at Manchester, arrived unexpectedly. He was on his way to Paris to a textile fair but his Eurostar was cancelled because of the snow.
I have made a frill of lace as a frame around the edge. It is reminiscent of the collars in the portraits, though laser cut and painted gold. The work has become a strange ornamental flowerbed of curious forms and medallions. I have never made a work so decorative or floral.
The little flowers scattered on the floor link with those in the portrait, the wind has apparently blown them to the ground.
Amy Miller has helped to attach the flowers to the piece and Melanie has cut more flowers. Christine, Head of the Arts at the Museum, has come and encouraged. Everyone has helped.
I looked at the Flower Bed and it seemed curious and glowing, different and yet of course as I had imagined in my mind. I wanted to make a work that is magical but intriguing, familiar and unexpected. I hope I have.
Nicola Yates the textile conservator came with her assistant and placed a protective sheet at the base of the Flower Bed to protect it from the floor. Last week we visited her in the textile studio where she is restoring a painted banner of Nelson. Incredible painstaking work.
In the fireplace we have placed flowers made by Victoria Brown and her students from University of Chichester. Later urns will be placed amongst them for flowers made through public engagement projects.
Louise Simkiss and Amy Miller have chosen other works of mine to go to the Knitting and Stitching show at Olympia which opens on Thursday.
Meanwhile the Manchester girls have spent all day measuring and cutting thread to make the huge flower installation for the Tulip Stairs. This has been an incredible piece to make. It has formed itself and evolved through the contributions from others. Originally I asked the lace experts Gail Baxter and Carol Quarini for help. They gave up four days to come and advise and help me. They suggested I ask on Facebook for working contributions, so I did thinking maybe four or five people might answer. Instead I have had around 80. I have sent each a package to make small white flower heads based on ‘Queen Anne’s lace’. I have had hundreds of flowers returned which have been put together over the last few weeks. The girls and the wonderful Emma have worked out a system for hanging. Tomorrow [Wednesday 13 March] we shall raise this work up to its full height of 12 metres from the ground.”
- Alice Kettle
Between 11 and 13 March, the exhibition Alice Kettle: The Garden of England is being set up in the Queen’s House. In this post, Alice Kettle shares her experience of the first day of installation.
“Queen Henrietta Maria is on the wall. She is above the fireplace and surrounded by the Queens Elizabeth I and Queen Anne. It is a strange feeling of pride and incredulity that my portrait of her sits with these iconic portraits.
My approach was to be complementary, to echo the famous Van Dyck portrait but to shift her gaze into the room away from the profile.
She has the red flower next to her which picks up the one on the dress of the courtier in the portrait to her right. I wanted to make her a modern Queen, or at least as modern representation which is part of a tradition of portraiture and can be part of the collection. It is meant to be a discreet interpretation where you sense that something is different.
We have wrapped the frame with thread, so that the perspective of the piece shifts and moves with the light as it catches the levels and layers of thread work.
From her vantage point above the fireplace she gazes through the threads which become part of her and weave around her as you move through the room.
It was incredible to watch the Art Handlers carefully positioning and placing on the wall.
The gilt frame was lifting on a machine into place and then chains attached from the rail, the curators Amy Miller and Melanie Vandenbrouck deciding on the height and relationship with the other pictures which had to be rebalanced. Then the lighting was adjusted so that the metallic threads came to life.
The Queen needed some adjustment since the light picked up and emphasised bits that I didn’t want, so I continued stitching her, perched on a ladder.
Then we shut ourselves in the gallery whilst the visitors continued to look round the rest of the beautiful Queen’s House.
Today [Tuesday 12 March] we install the Flower Bed at her feet. I have Emma Blackburn and 4 undergraduate students (Anna Columbine, Grace Sindall, Hannah Sulek and Elnaz Yazdani) from Manchester School of Art helping me. We have many flowers made from students at the University of Chichester and their tutor Victoria Brown. These will sit alongside my work.
Tomorrow we shall install the Flower Helix made from the multiple contributions I have received from all over the country and some from Italy and Ireland. It has been an extraordinary gifting of small flower heads in needle lace.
I left last night suddenly overwhelmed by the enormity of my work sitting alongside these iconic portraits. Maybe partly the kindness and excitement of all the staff as well. We have been made so welcome by everyone. I am learning much about the departments and protocols of caring for a National Collection and the rich community that welcome the public and are guardians of this history. I feel very proud, very humbled and nervously excited.”
- Alice Kettle
Visitors to the Queen’s House at Royal Museums Greenwich may be aware that something new is on the horizon… fittingly, as spring is around the corner, so is ‘The Garden of England’, an installation of three works by textile artist Alice Kettle, which will open on 14 March in the Queen’s House.
This is the inaugural project of the Royal Museums Greenwich contemporary arts programme. Three new works by Alice Kettle draw on the museum’s portrait collection, celebrating the queens and courtiers of the Queen’s House, and its original setting as a garden retreat, capturing the richness and flamboyance of the Stuart court.
The costume of Anne of Denmark, wife of James I, for whom the Queen’s House was begun (but was left incomplete on her death in 1619) shows the embroidered motifs and colours that were popular in the early seventeenth century.
Anne of Denmark (1574-1619) about 1605, attributed to John de Critz (1551-1642)
They had their own set of meanings and could be read as a sort of code. In the language of colours and flowers the carnations, which are embroidered on Anne’s doublet and the forepart of her skirt, mean perfection. Her pink ribbons and cuffs indicate modesty while the silvery white of her dress represents innocence and purity. The blue ribbons are for amity or friendship and goodwill. Overall, a fitting choice for a queen consort.
The satirical play Captain Underwit (performed before 1641) lampoons this vogue, as Device, an aspiring man of fashion, explains his ribbons and their colours to Lady Huntlove: ‘Shall I decipher my Colours to you now? Here is Azure and Peach: Azure is constant and Peach is love; which signifies my constant Affection.”
Alice Kettle uses both the floral themes brought to mind by gardens – as gardening was a fashionable pastime in the seventeenth century – and the use of floral emblems on clothing and incorporates them into a luxuriously patterned garden. I’ve included a detail here:
Detail of Flower Bed, 2013, copyright Alice Kettle
Alice has also created a stitched portrait of Henrietta Maria, the French princess who married Charles I in 1625 and who, with architect Inigo Jones, completed the Queen’s House in 1633. This new portrait of Henrietta Maria will hang with portraits of Anne of Denmark and their courtiers.
In the Tulip Stairs – the motif is really a stylised fleur-de-lys the emblem of France, for Henrietta Maria – Alice uses floral motifs to reference both queens, Anne of Denmark and Henrietta Maria. ‘Flower Helix’, to which Alice Kettle is, as I write, putting the final, magic touches, is a hanging of knotted thread work with delicate lacework petal and flowers attached to it, to create a cascade of frothy white flowers, akin to ‘Queen Anne’s Lace.’
Here are the flowers before they’ve been attached to the ‘Flower Helix’. The piece will be assembled in situ in the Queen’s House itself.
Flowers to be attached to 'Flower Helix', made by Alice Kettle with contributions from a variety of makers
These details from Alice’s work are only a sneak preview, but I hope to be able to give further updates, with more images, as Alice begins to install her work at the Queen’s House in the next couple of weeks.