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I am passionate about all things handmade and vintage with many interests.  I create, paint and love to gather and research lost,  overlooked or discarded lovely things. Thanks for stopping by.  Jacs x 

 

Illustrating the talent of Belinda Lyon

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I enjoyed reading a recent article on vintage tea towels and it has  prompted me to get around to writing a long overdue blog about the work of  Belinda Lyon, a talented illustrator  who created  tea towel designs for Oxfam during the 1970's.
Belinda Lyon trained at a London art school and  started her commercial career in advertising.   Illustrators were in strong demand during the late 1950's and early 1960's and advertising was where  many young  graduates of the era started their careers. Iconic illustrated adverts and posters the early 1960's are  now highly collected and many talented  and now sadly  anonymous  illustrators started out in advertising  before television and photography took over  during the later "swinging 60's".

adverts_examples

Early 1960's adverts relied on illustrators to create the "look"
These typical examples are from 1962/63

Belinda started her commercial freelance career circa 1965 with illustrations for short stories  and  books. Almost from the start of her career, her commissions  were for books aimed at children and teenagers, featuring advice for young people, crafts, sewing and fashion. Some of the books and cut out  dolls she illustrated in the first few years of  her career  are fantastic retro time capsules 40 plus years on.
drawings2

Short story, book and cut out doll story illustrations  from 1966 - 1968

Belinda Lyon is more well known to 1970s retro fans for her lovely  tea towel and fabric cut out designs which became  part of the massive Oxfam retail success story. Belinda's first  design for Oxfam was a colourful Christmas card illustration in 1966. In 1967 Oxfam  introduced their  first "own brand" products consisting of the first two tea towels.  The elephant and giraffe were initially produced in three colours and were selected for the London Design Centre - at this time still known as the Council for Industrial Design, prior to the opening of the Design Centre shop in 1971 which had people flocking in to buy the latest trend setting products.

firstoxfam

The first 2 Oxfam tea towels were produced in 3 different base colours.

The  elephant and giraffe tea towels were an instant hit  and new designs were added to the range each  year with 20 different animals available in the series by 1979, most of which came in two different colours.  Oxfam were the very first UK charity to introduce a retail commercial model to their shops and as the number of shops grew so did their gift  range.

animalteatowels2

Fox, Dandy Lion and bull from 1969 - 1972

Belinda produced very popular designs for Oxfams  successful retail gift range throughout the 1970's and her work very much reflected the  colours, trends  and themes popular with children at the time. Belinda produced  over 60 designs for Christmas cards, tea towels, cut out dolls,  pillow cases, cushions and toys which continued to be sold in Oxfams shops into the 1980's.

historical_teatowels

4 of the "Great lovers of the world" tea towel series from 1973 - 1976/77

cutoutdolls

Belinda Lyon's first 2 cut out doll designs for Oxfam issued in 1972/73

fabric

Other  designs for Oxfam included cut out cushions, toys, and pillow cases

Belinda Lyon's designs also appeared on tea towels sold by a few other companies during the 1970's.

As a published children's book illustrator, it seems a natural progression that Belinda Lyon went on to become  a successful comic illustrator.  Most of her later career during the 80's and 90's was spent illustrating for Twinkle comic, and lots of grown up girls will remember with fondness one of her most well known Twinkle comic characters - Jenny Wren. Sadly, weekly comics  started to decline during the 1990s and Twinkle stopped production in 1999.

jennywren

One of Belinda's last commissions before she retired from commercial work was for a lovely children's book by Nicola Baxter, still in  production as far as I am aware, which contains many of her highly detailed humorous illustrations.
Belinda Lyon, like many other talented  illustrators from her generation,  has been mainly unknown  for the last 20 years until the  growing  retro interest in the 1970's and the current sewing craft revival has brought  her designs and illustrations "back on trend"  and her designs are a  reference source  for several of today's retro inspired designers.
You can find lots more examples of her work on my flickr photostream.

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