Interview: Manchester Moleskine
From the illustrated journals of artist Frida Kahlo to the scrawling diaries of Tim Burton - as long as creatives have kept visual diaries the rest of us have harbored a burning desire to explore them.
It’s the mystique of creativity, the allure of the idea, the need to see behind the curtain to the place where the magic starts; yet its still rare that we get to see the sketchbook in action as it unfolds.. until now!
A pair of Manchester creatives with a penchant for collaboration recently set up the #MCR_Moleskine project: a “huge collaborative group hug” of doodles, scribbles and sketches by local creatives.
We caught up with Adam Stanway and Jon Massey to find out more.
Hello! What can you tell us about yourselves, the men behind the moleskine?
Adam Stanway: Hello! I’m Adam, a Manchester-based creative who enjoys colouring outside of the lines. Designer by day (at Vivid), illustrator by night (check out Colin the Cloud), and when it’s really late I hang out making posters and stuff for Manchester’s DJ Collective MeatFree.
Collaboration is really important to us. It’s at the epicentre of our idea.
Jon Massey: Hi, I’m Jon, a creative thinker and innovative idea-brewer currently working for the BBC (including BBC Taster, BBC Three and Radio 1). At the minute I’m the lead designer for BBC Sport’s Younger Audience team, where we’re developing new ideas, creating experimental content and taking risks all in the name of improving engagement at a global level!
So what’s it all about then? Why did you decide to set up the project?
AS: We were having coffee one day, discussing the idea of doing a sketchbook together. We thought we could take turns to do a page and be inspired by each other’s work… then the caffeine kicked in and we thought why not invite all of Manchester to get involved!
JM: We were both born and raised in Manchester. It’s a city we love and are proud to work in. Personally I’m really interested in the birth of ideas or projects, and since no one has ever documented or connected Manchester’s creatives in this way we think it will be extremely insightful for anyone that sees the book.
For anyone looking to get involved, what’s the brief?
JM: If you live or are based in Manchester, the brief is simple: you have one week and a double page spread to do with what you like.
AS: We don’t want to tell people what they can and can’t do, it’s about being inspired by the pages before you and putting your own twist on the Manchester Moleskine story.
What has the response been like so far?
AS: Mega! It’s keeping Jon and I very fit running this book across Manchester every week!
JM: It’s overwhelming. The people of Manchester are really getting behind the project. Even my nana wants a go!
We’re somehow putting our stamp on Manchester’s rich creative history, which makes me very proud.
Is there anyone you’ve got your eye on for the next spread? Any Manchester heroes?
AS: Loads to be honest. Some have already agreed to be involved, so I’m super excited. As a Man United fan I’d quite like to see what Gary Neville is scribbling down whilst he’s watching the football!
JM: For me it’s all about John Cooper Clarke. The man is my hero so I’m trying desperately to track him down (can anyone out there help?). I used to be in post-punk poetry band, The Fingerpops and have idolised John since I was a wee lad… “If you like your coffee hot, let me be your coffee pot”.
What role does the humble sketchbook play in your own creative lives?
JM: It plays a huge part. It’s where I experiment, figure complicated shit out, conceptualise and, most recently, document everything I have learnt from my newfound love – animation. It’s also a place that is my own. I’m very open about everything I do, but my book is my space.
AS: I’d be lost without mine. I use it as a journal for anything I see, hear or imagine. Some pages are just overheard phrases that I think sound cool, like: “I’m busy alphabetising in the rolling room”.
Can we have a peak at your own sketchbooks?
AS: I like sharks, so I draw them a lot.
AS: The masks are something I’ve just started experimenting. I quite like how they can give someone a new identity, or take one away.
When you’re not busy doodling in your own sketchbooks, what else do you get up to?
JM: Manchester has some superb galleries (the Whitworth winning “Museum of the Year” is proof of that)… If I’m not checking out the local galleries, then you might find me drinking in my favourite toilet the Temple Bar, pottering around or rehearsing for an upcoming play (The Oresteia) I am acting in at HOME.
What’s in store for the Manchester moleskine once its pages are full?
AS: The whole project is about Manchester working and helping each other out, so we’d like to use it as a platform to raise money and give back to the city.
JM: We’re hoping to auction the book for charity and hold an exhibition, with help from G.F Smith.
And finally, where’s next on the moleskine map? Have you any plans to take your project further afield?
AS: It’s a long project, so our focus is on Manchester for now, but we’ve had a couple of nibbles so we’ll see!
JM: Some people who aren’t from Manchester are actually gutted they can’t be involved, so I think a national, or even global, book maybe on the cards. We can only dream! We never expected the book to take off the way it has. The most important thing at this point is to make the book as varied, creative and interesting as it can be, whilst showing off how great Manchester is… CREATIVE COMRADES UNITE!