Dainty Dora @ Scottish Design Exchange Glasgow

Yesterday I launched a collection of my wares in the new Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow.

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

Located in the heart of the city centre within busy Buchanan Galleries (facing you when you exit the car park into the mall, and just along from John Lewis), the shop is testament to everything that is great about Scottish design.

I feel honoured to be part of it this not-for-profit social enterprise that supports and nurtures local designers, especially as we inch ever-closer to Christmas and the demands of keeping up pace and presence to catch the attention of shoppers.

Glasgow Argyle Street Pattern Bomb Print by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

My range is displayed on the wall towards the back of the shop (an inch to the left from the mannequin in the middle in the image at the top!), and totally visible from one of the main doors.


Limited Edition Risograph prints (numbered/signed), Glasgow Triptychs of The Lane, The Crest and The Crane, my exclusive 100% silk scarf collection, Paisley in Pattern 2019 calendars, mounted A4 and 8x6 prints featuring my take on the Glasgow Crest/Coat of Arms + Pattern-Bombed Photo prints of iconic scenes around the city, and a small selection of postcards.

Stepping back to take in my display once I’d finished tweaking and changing things around, I had to pinch myself as it is still feels hard to believe I have a range of art and accessories, all designed and made by me, on display in such a central and significant retail environment.

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow
Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

It feels incredible and I’m so grateful to every customer who has bought work from me and shared it with their friends and family, as gifts, or just by displaying it in their homes.

But I couldn’t have done it alone.

My long-suffering husband who having escaped becoming an Instagram Husband has gradually morphed into my Business Partner/IT Manager/Confidante/Handy-Man extraordinaire, and has been instrumental in my success.

When I asked him to reconfigure a vintage record player for me to use in my display he agreed without complaint, and then proceeded to spend 4 hours making it right, even crafting new wooden knobs for the front. That was after half an hour searching the loft for the missing legs…

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

And when I needed help hanging up my shelves, he was there, by my side. Even the typewriter above was bought as a spare for parts to make sure my actual typewriter works <3

I mean he did accidentally bar-code some Lion Christmas cards as Penguins, but it’s an easy mistake to make when you’re thrust into the public eye against your will, isn’t it?

Even my 9-month-old son has played his part, because ever since I found out I was pregnant, he has been a good-luck charm in everything I have done. Cheesy, but true - pregnancy was amazing for my creativity!

So - a big week of preparation and planning for us, and maybe it sounds a bit soppy to mention my husband and my son; to mix my business persona with my wife and mother self, but I believe in working from the heart and I know I couldn’t have done it without them both.

Glasgow Crest 4-colour illustrative print

Glasgow Crest 4-colour illustrative print

Mackintosh Birds 100% Silk Scarf + Print

Mackintosh Birds 100% Silk Scarf + Print

Ashton Lane Thistles Pattern-Bomb Photo Print + Postcard

Ashton Lane Thistles Pattern-Bomb Photo Print + Postcard

Check out my work and that of all the other amazing designer-makers on display at the Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow. (There is also an Edinburgh store, based at Ocean Terminal.)

If there is something in my oeuvre that you would like/have seen that is not in stock, or that you can imagine that isn’t currently available, let me know and I’ll make it happen, if I can.

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

Scottish Design Exchange, 2nd Floor (near John Lewis), Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow

Mon-Sat 10am-6pm
Sun 10am-5pm

Risograph Printing with RISOTTO STUDIO + Corners

Friday was a Big Day for me: I had a free-pass sans bébé AND I was taking part in a Risograph printing workshop at The Lighthouse, run by RISOTTO STUDIO in conjunction with Corners; a cool riso duo from Seoul, South Korea.

It was sunny and I was in town in the early am with an empty portfolio case and my reusable takeaway mug and it felt like I was on holiday. (Glasgow is like that; a city of many facades and Friday proffered a particularly sunny vista.)

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

The workshop area was 'wallpapered' in A3 riso prints with displays of funky risographed zines from all over the world and prints from pro artists + the other workshops hosted by Atelier Bingo (France) and Wobby Club (the Netherlands).

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Just seeing the shapes and ideas was so inspiring, but also just how much you can achieve with only a 2-colour riso print.

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

For me, it's the colour options that make riso printing so fun and funky; they are bright and light and fluoro - options you just don't get with a normal printer.

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Risograph printing is basically a cross between screen printing and photocopying. The Risograph is an environmentally friendly and cost effective printer, which uses soy-based inks to produce unique outcomes.

As a surface pattern designer with an interest in textures and mark-making, the outputs from the previous workshops were really fun and inspiring to see. It reminded me how amazing it would be to work in a shared studio space with like-minded creatives on a day-to-day basis. 

"Which design do you prefer?"

"Which colour-way is best?"

"Anyone got a phone charger...?"

Working freelance + solo can be quite isolating, which is why attending a workshop like this is so much fun and so important to generate new ways of working, learn new techniques and just meet other people and gather inspiration like a little hamster; saving it all up for a rainy - or just less inspiring - day.

I love the pineapple print above and just the sheer energy that springs from the quick and fun images there were created.

For the Corners workshop however, the focus was more on the technical side of preparing artwork for riso printing, so we all brought our own (digital) images to work with. Even just going around our small group a real mix of styles and influences came through in each design.

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Onto the printing...

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

I had really wanted to create a new design for this workshop, which I did ('RAINBOW GIRL', below), but on the day I realised I needed something a little more simple, with less layers and detail while I was still learning the process. (And because there are always limitations on what can be achieved in one day, despite wishful thinking!)

Rainbow Girl illustration, Rebecca Johnstone

The key to riso printing is colour separation, while one of the best things about it is the ability to layer colours to create other colours (yellow + pink = orange, yellow + green = blue, etc).

The only exception to this was the metallic gold which prints opaque, but the others can be adjusted in the initial separation to allow varying degrees of transparency. It's also not good riso practice to print too densely in large areas of the paper anyway, because it becomes too saturated and risks smudging and tearing.

Colours available to us for printing were: Aqua Blue, Medium Blue, Fluorescent Pink, Fluorescent Orange, Bright Red, Yellow, Violet, Metallic Gold, HD Black and Grey. Each colour requires its own drum that slots into the printer.

Handily, you can download the exact colour swatches from the Risotto site (+ other templates) when working on your design, in the best format for the software you're using (usually Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator). All very helpful when trying to make important colour decisions!

Risotto Riso Room, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

The printer 'reads' in greyscale, so the colour layers/channels have to be stripped out of the original design to create the layers for print, like a clever digital version of exposing a screen for traditional screen printing.

This was the crux of what I wanted to learn so that in the future, I can fully prep my files myself and get some funky-cool riso prints done, on demand!

I got a little confused at first between 'channels' and 'layers' in terms of the colours, but basically layers give a more clear-cut print and would perhaps lend themselves more to vector-based images, whereas channel separation gives a more blended, softer finish (often using more colours overall) and is more suited to rastor-based images.

So far so good, only that I don't normally use a laptop and I had an image that was created as a vector but that I'd rasterized, duh! Nevermind. It was a learning process.

Under pressure to choose my design and start stripping out the colour, I went with my back-up file of the Glasgow Coat of Arms/Crest, based on the 'Miracles of St Mungo'. So far I've only ever had this traditionally printed in obvious primary colours + green. Can't forget green as in 'the dear GREEN place'!

Glasgow Crest/Coat of Arms illustration, Rebecca Johnstone

Deciding which colours to go with for the riso print was hard, especially when I had to stick to four main colours max. With the two-drum printers we were using, that still meant two passes of the paper through the printer, and each time, 'registration' had to be adjusted (lining up the blocks of colour in the image to ensure a good print).

My first print used pink, yellow, teal and gold, making a fifth shade of orange.

My second print used pink, yellow, federal blue and gold, again making the fifth shade orange.

I took advantage of the coloured paper on offer too, to see how that would affect the overall print. Although these were fun, I prefer the bright white as it gives the best colour vibrancy, particularly with the fluoroscents.

And I'm delighted with the results!

Glasgow Crest Illustration, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

The image is totally transformed in neon and with the fabulous opaque gold outlines. Notice the 'gold' bell in the first print?

I managed to get a sneaky print of just the gold outlines on white paper too which is ace, and I just wished they'd had black paper available on the day because I know the gold will really pop on a black background. 

I'll definitely be doing more riso printing and was so happy to have the opportunity to attend a workshop like this in my home city. Riso still feels kind of edgy and underground, yet it's so instantly recognisable.

Limited edition prints from this first run will be available to buy soon, with more variations and sizes in the pipeline. 

Thanks so much to Gabriella at RISOTTO Studio and the guys at Corners, plus the print technicians helping out on the day with all the tech Photoshop details. I couldn't have done it all in time without Mari! <3

Pattern-Bombed Glasgow

Pattern-bombing Glasgow has been a lot of fun. After the excitement and flurry of positive feedback from the debut of my Paisley pattern-bombed prints at the start of July, I've since turned my attentions to the city in which I spent the latter half of my teens and whose gritty experiences, rich creative scene and 'mean streets' have made me the person I am today.

I give you 'pattern-bombed Glasgow' in all its eclectic glory:

Glasgow Pattern-Bombed Print, Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

Marrying my moody, black and white images with the colourful repeating patterns of my imagination, I have created my own version of the infamous Glasgow Crest/Coat of Arms, featuring:

The Tree that never grew

The Bird that never flew

The Fish that never swam

The Bell that never rang

I've chosen my primary colours (plus green) from one of the original crest images, and am proud of the bold, crisp lines that keep it sharp and fuss-free - like the city itself.

I love seeing all of the images together like this; the different coloured backgrounds and the simple black and white version, but my favourite has to be the multi-coloured version on the white background.

I started with the single motif, but then turned it into a technical repeating pattern:

Glasgow Crest/Coat of Arms repeating pattern, Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

Along with other patterns such as my 'Purple Reign' (below), I then made striking new images of familiar and much-loved scenes - do you recognise the featured places?

Glasgow Pattern-Bombed Print, Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora
Glasgow Pattern-Bombed Print, Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora

And there's plenty more. I'm stock-piling photographs of my city every chance I get, my camera always by my side.

The West End, the East End, the City Centre, Merchant City, Trongate, Charing Cross, the Clyde, the Kelvin. Famous buildings and derelict spaces and not so famous places and hidden corners and secret streets, all with their tale to tell. All of Glasgow's secrets to share, eventually.

I've got thistle patterns and lions and stitches and texture to pursue for the more 'tactile', mixed media vibe. How could I not with my background in textiles and fashion?

And fashion. I've not even started on that yet.

It's exciting to discover my artistic potential in this way and the endless source of inspiration that surrounds me.

Over the coming months: watch this space!