Weekend in Bristol - Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion

Visiting a new place always gives me a surge of inspiration, new ideas and perspectives. I’d never been to Bristol before last weekend, but it had something I really wanted: FABRIC AFRICA, an exhibition featuring African textiles and fashion.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

I’ll be writing a full post on FABRIC AFRICA, but for now I wanted to share my thoughts on Bristol itself - a buzzing university city with a big creative scene - and BANKSY.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

We didn’t follow the Banksy walking trail, concluding instead that the mystery of his work is the main attraction in a way, perhaps more so than the art?

The example here above a fine art shop added to the tongue-in-cheek playfulness of the Banksy approach, though it also made me question whether this one was real! I’m sure it is…

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

The sun was shining and our hotel was Harbourside; right in the hub of things. People were wandering along, buskers ushering in the Friday afternoon vibe, ready for the weekend.

We noticed a LOT of people sitting not only in the many bars and cafes, but also by the water with carry-outs of cans and bottles of wine. I wasn’t sure if this meant the laws on drinking in the street were more relaxed here, or if there was more of a laissez-faire approach to enforcing them as everyone was so happy and chilled, and the weather was for once playing ball.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Bristol seems to have started a tradition of ‘love’ padlocks which I’ve seen to varying degrees in many European cities.

Kind of cute but also a hazard, when you consider what happened to the Pont des Arts in Paris (the origin of this romantic gesture?). Luckily, I think Pero’s Bridge is safe for now.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Talking of bridges, we walked up by the university and along to the Clifton area of town - the posh/west end with lots of eateries, delis, boutiques and interiors shops.

I spotted a girl wearing a vintage dress I bought in a vintage shop in London years ago (blue with white spots). I’ve toyed with getting rid of that dress the odd time in a Marie-Kondo-fest of wardrobe cleansing, but each time it has been saved because I love it.

The Clifton Suspension bridge is right there, so of course we wandered across and back.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

It reminded me of the Brooklyn bridge, but much smaller in scale. It had the same kind of angles. And a decent view. The water looked decidedly murky though. There was a sign up with the number of the Samaritans.

The first time I saw my doppelganger dress-wearer outside a pub I didn’t stop to say anything. The second time I saw her on the suspension bridge and I totally said! Made my day :)

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

I always love seeing what people write on their street signage and in windows, especially in a new-to-me-city. The lettering and style of it, the colours. The vibe. Those first impressions are so random, dependent on where you choose to wander.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

You might say you’ll walk back that way, the same way, once you have your bearings, but in my experience that never happens.

You see new things and get distracted and there’s something better around the corner or a map that diverts your attention to another street, another landmark or building of note. On the journey home when it’s too late, you might remember. Or not!

So I always snap what I see now and don’t wait to go back.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
20190510_120936.jpgTypography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

WE THE CURIOUS piqued my interest for sure (it’s the Science Centre), and I found the shop there, M-Shed and Arnolfini (Bristol’s Centre for Contemporary Art) to be places I’d happily spend an afternoon in themselves. So many exciting books for all ages, but I particularly honed in on the children’s books. From an illustration point of view, there were so many fantastic examples to draw inspiration from (sorry!).

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

There seemed to be a heavy Soviet influence in the architecture by the harbour. We almost had breakfast one of the days in The Soviet Cafe. I found this quite interesting and unexpected.

The windows on this building suggest the Cryillic alphabet to me.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

And I could imagine a whole pattern collection based on the protruding diamond-shapes here.

I like the juxtaposition of the grey concrete repetition next to the lush, organic greenery. Very pleasing to the eye.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Venturing further afield was the creative hub PAINTWORKS where I saw Mandy Barker’s ALTERED OCEANS photography exhibition.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Shining a light on the problem of PLASTIC POLLUTION in our oceans and our environments, this was a captivating, beautiful, haunting and heartbreaking experience. I’ll do a separate post on this to do it justice.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Her sketchbooks and journals of notes and accompanying video of how she grouped and arranged the objects she found was fascinating. The synchronicities of how it all came together felt important; the universe urging us to take note. I was slightly heartened to discover that of the 9 tips on how to cut down on single-use plastic, I was doing most of them. What we need however, is for everyone to get onboard.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

At Bristol Museum & Art Gallery we wandered into the Chinese glass section (en route to the Masters of Japanese prints) and spotted cabinets of colour and curiosities. I love all the shapes and styles, which would make a beautiful, modern pattern for the home. Leave that with me!

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
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I couldn’t not mention vintage and reworked fashion emporium SOBEYS which felt like my spiritual home. I visited THREE TIMES, and came home with a stash of unique wares. This shop made me feel like a UNICORN. Everything was amazing. When can I go back? When will they be online?!

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

BIKE LANES were a prominent feature of the surrounding area which was great to see. I’m not a cyclist myself, but I appreciated these bike motifs in the pavements and the emphasis on cycling as a way to get around. Thumbs up to Bristol on this one!

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

Finally, I’ll leave you with these two sleepy heads. After strolling along the harbour for what seemed like hours, along one side and across the bridge then way up the other side, we crept passed, trying to let sleeping ducks lie.

Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone
Typography, Design & Vintage Fashion in Bristol, Rebecca Johnstone

I hope to return to Bristol again one day. It wouldn’t have been on my radar if not for the Fabric Africa exhibition, but I’m so glad I made the effort to go. BRISTOL, you were fabulous!