Established in 1886, Fred Aldous has become an icon of art supplies in Manchester, helping people 'make anything' for the last 130 years.
As part of design festival, BCN/MCR, we were invited to decorate the window of this renowned art shop. As the festival celebrates creativity in Barcelona and Manchester we decided to represent the two cities and the artistic connection between them.
It was a big challenge taking on the 7 x 4 metre window and, being a character-focussed studio, of course we had to make sure the cities were full of life through the characters in them! These take the form of 25 puppets carefully positioned around the scene.
The characters are traditional marionettes with a modern twist; the patterns in their clothes and their varied hairstyles make each puppet unique while we worked within limits of texture, colour, and shape to keep the design as a whole from feeling disjointed.
We limit the materials used to wood, fabric, and paper, and alter the sizes of characters and elements to give a feeling of depth within the layered scene.
Lights flickering, as well as moving boats, hot air balloons, and ferris wheel, make the scene feel alive and attract the attention of passers by. It's unusal to see such detail in a big space and we like the idea of locals seeing something new every time they pass.
The scene is full of easter eggs, with some of the characters themselves representing icons from the cities. Here we show Manchester City and Manchester United football players side by side: Phil Foden and Alessia Russo. We couldn't resist personalising their jerseys with our own sponsorship...
With the puppets hanging at different heights, there's something new to enjoy at each level. We wanted to make sure the scene worked for everyone passing by Fred Aldous, with cut outs and characters at every level from the tallest to the smallest.
Keeping in the theme of traditional woodwork and puppetry, we created classic automata rigs to have our boats and balloons magically bobbing up and down. We left the deceptively simple structures on display so that our audience could understand and enjoy the magic.
At seven metres wide, the size of the window meant we had to scale up our creation process while keeping consistency in style and not overwhelming the amount of colours.
Barcelona and Manchester have a clear contrast in their architecture and nature, making it easy to add variation between the cities while keep in the same visual language; the amount of detail, the line, and the colours are all alike while the buildings and trees make their own clear distinction.
After preparing the illustration and hand-cutting the large cutout hills, we laser cut the more detailed elements for precision and consistency.
The entire window should feel like a giant illustration, so we designed from a flat drawing and - to get a sense of the space - created it in 3D before beginning to craft it by hand. This allowed us to understand the dimensions of each element and how they interact with one another.
Fred Aldous is the perfect home for an illustrative, hand-crafted, automata piece. An art shop that prides itself in supplying everything you need to make anything is exactly the spirit of this display.