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An invitation to rummage through my dusty archive

Cat James

Another year has popped up its shiny head, prompting folk to wield that metaphorical new broom and make promises to sweep away bad habits, bad attitudes and badly-fitting clothes.

Nowadays tidying up your life is not only a new year thing but bang on trend too. Hoarder-porn has always been a specialist but compulsively-watchable genre on our televisions, with programmes about people living in heartbreaking squalor of their own making; so broken that they need psychological support – and the exploitative gaze of a TV crew – to cut through the clutter and take back control.

And even this has moved on a step. Cleaning has become the new sex or gardening or whatever, with Instagram influencers like Mrs Hinch glamorising cleaning to her one-and-a-half-million followers. This housework craze is big business, with high demand for promoted products and fans spending hours watching their favourite scrubbers snap on their Marigolds for an energetic session elbow-deep in germy porcelain.

Celebrity tidier Marie Kondo even has her own series on Netflix, in which she encourages the overwhelmed to discard any possessions which don’t spark joy. And there’s the rub. What in one person’s eyes might be seen as litter could spark incredible joy for another. I can’t be the only one with a box full of old concert tickets? Each tiny rectangle prompting a memory; those nights at Ryde Theatre – pogoing to The Stranglers, or the time backstage after the Buzzcocks gig when I shared a drink with the late Pete Shelley.

I’m a graphic designer, paid to create short-lived leaflets, documents and flyers – one of which is for that aforementioned Stranglers gig. It gives me enormous pleasure to see my work around the Island, knowing that I have had a little bit of impact on people’s lives. From tiny business cards to massive artwork on bin trucks and the backs of buses, my work has appeared all over the Isle of Wight and beyond. The Matt and Cat stickers I designed appear on many restaurant windows; the recycling booklet I created for the Isle of Wight Council was posted through every household letterbox. My home town Ryde has one of my favourite pieces; The Gambling Man barbers shop front where my giant bearded hipster on the salon’s window looks out to St Thomas Square.

I’ve kept an archive of the documents, cards, catalogues and posters I’ve designed – and this trove is in danger of becoming a hoard. Then – a brainwave! The perfect fusion of my love of collecting, combined with the trend for tidying. For the next fortnight, you can rummage through my archive of paper ephemera in the Claydon Gallery at Quay Arts, in retrospective of ten years of my work as a graphic designer. Pop along. You might see a leaflet of mine you once picked up, or a map you navigated by in the countryside, or even a coffee shop’s loyalty card – like the one you keep in the back of your wallet, not quite ready to throw away.

Cat’s ‘Ten years of colouring in against the clock for money’ graphic design retrospective was at Quay Arts from 12 to 26 January 2018.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 11 January 2019, and also online.

Cat James

Graphic designer, creative director of Pinkeye Graphics, Isle of Wight County Press columnist, Cat out of Matt and Cat

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