DE­SIGN ICON

Computer Arts - - Contents - Multi-award win­ning de­signer Jack Ren­wick runs her cre­ative brand­ing agency, Jack Ren­wick Stu­dio in Whitechapel, when she’s not out hunt­ing for sec­ond-hand trea­sure.

Jack Ren­wick re­veals why she plans her hol­i­days around flea mar­kets

Glass space­man cor­dial bot­tles, plas­tic jelly moulds, wooden bingo boards, a rub­ber King Kong fig­ure, hun­dreds of stamps, play­ing cards, pin badges, lamps, signs, bags… Trea­sure hunt­ing has been my great­est pas­sion for as long as I can re­mem­ber.

Not with a metal de­tec­tor or a pi­rate map, but hunt­ing for the unique – the ran­dom ob­jects and items that can only to be found in car boot sales, junk shops and flea mar­kets, the stuff that you just can’t find any­where else. It doesn’t mat­ter what you dis­cover, it’s the an­tic­i­pa­tion of start­ing the hunt and the po­ten­tial of the com­plete un­known that ex­cites.

I grew up with par­ents who also had this bug. Pro­fes­sional bar­gain-hunters, hag­glers and ne­go­tia­tors, we spent our week­ends at mar­kets, char­ity shops, house clear­ances or jum­ble sales. Most Sun­days were spent at The Bar­ras in the east end of Glas­gow which was, and still is, one of the best places to find any­thing from any era you could pos­si­bly imag­ine. My dad was like a Glaswe­gian Del Boy and made his liv­ing hus­tling at car boot sales. For him the buzz was spot­ting the deal; for me it has al­ways been the thrill of un­cov­er­ing some­thing in­ter­est­ing or just weird and which makes me laugh.

This hobby is also a handy source of in­spi­ra­tion that of­ten in­flu­ences my day job and is a much richer stim­u­lus than any book or de­sign blog. You have no con­trol over what you will see; noth­ing is cu­rated, or or­gan­ised, or planned – ev­ery ta­ble, box or blan­ket on the ground presents a com­pletely dif­fer­ent source of in­spi­ra­tion and you have to take what you get.

Beau­ti­ful colour pal­ettes in piles of shoes or stacks of chairs; graphic pat­terns in bath­room tiles and elec­tri­cal wiring; the bold­est use of ty­pog­ra­phy and il­lus­tra­tion on ev­ery­thing from model train boxes to hairdry­ers. Sat­u­rated post­card pho­tog­ra­phy, fas­ci­nat­ing ma­te­ri­als, tex­tures and for­mats, unusu­ally vi­brant print tech­niques on school books – now banned be­cause the ink might kill you.

When­ever I travel on hol­i­day it’s my main fo­cus of choos­ing a des­ti­na­tion. Yeah yeah, it might have an Acrop­o­lis, or a Grand Canyon, but be­fore book­ing any flights I’ll have a Google to see if there will be a flea mar­ket or some­where that will sell some kind of sec­ond-hand crap and if not, then we’re not go­ing.

My lat­est trea­sures have been found in Athens, where arch­ways are piled high with dusty junk, but with a bit of ef­fort and a keen eye, some­thing fas­ci­nat­ing can al­ways be found. I’ve had to learn to be sat­is­fied with tak­ing pho­tos of half the stuff I find as my house just isn’t big enough, and try­ing to carry trea­sure home on a Ryanair cabin bag­gage al­lowance flight doesn’t work. I once car­ried a pair of vin­tage roller boots I’d found in San Fran­cisco across Amer­ica in a ruck­sack – it wasn’t fun, but I got them home. I’ve never worn them, of course, as it turns out I’m a grown woman…

With my sort of trea­sure, you can’t go search­ing for some­thing, you can only see what’s there – and as with any kind of hunt­ing, the more ef­fort you put into the hunt, the more you’ll find. So if you’re ever stuck on a project, can’t find the way for­ward or are just bored: get out a Google map, put an ‘x’ wher­ever there’s a junk shop, and go start hunt­ing.

Above: a se­lec­tion of de­lights from Ren­wick’s trea­sure trove, in­clud­ing knit­ting pat­terns for four dif­fer­ent styles of 1960s hoods. Bot­tom: Just some of the clock and watch faces she has amassed.

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