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What's all this nonsense with Stuff and Nonsense?

Emma Barlow is a Bristol based creative with a passion for arts and crafts. She started her brand Stuff and Nonsense at the end of last year; it consists of handmade, hand screen printed clothing and accessories, combining my two main interests which is art and fashion.

We reached out to Emma a few months back to work on a project together for our next drop and find out more about her creative process.  


What are your current inspirations right now?

I’m hugely inspired by my surroundings and the mundane everyday things. I find so much inspiration from just walking through town and going to Poundland or the supermarket - I love rubbish graphics and tack, it reminds me of being a child for some reason and I seem to naturally be drawn to things that make me feel nostalgic.

I watch a lots of films and trash TV, go to markets and buy lots of second hand trinkets and cartoonish ephemera, take photos of people's style and fun signage, rubbish left on the floor, scan in my comics and random bits I’ve picked up off the street or taken home from a day out, like receipts, tickets, fun packaging and all that. I always go back to these things using it as reference points.

You can see elements of this stuff on the printed fabric - like a grubby cherry shaped air freshener I found near a skip, or the ’thank you’ taken from a plastic carrier bag.


How did you initially get into the brand? 

It kind of happened by accident - I’d been trying to come up with some ideas for other projects but didn’t really know where I was going with any of it so scanned everything in and laid it all out in one space to see what I actually had. I liked the way my designs looked in one space and I’d always wanted to print my work on to fabric with the idea of making myself some clothes.

The name ‘Stuff and Nonsense’ just happened to be one of the graphics, but when I saw it printed on the fabric, I thought that it was a pretty fitting name for the brand as it’s essentially a ‘photo-dump’ on fabric but with my drawings. Designing and making clothing is something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a child though - I found a drawing I did when I was 6 of a handbag I designed with the materials and measurements scribbled on it and I’ve still got the actual bag I made on my first sewing machine (with the help from my Mum).

Art and fashion have always been my *passion* so it was just about finding a way of combining the two which I finally feel like I’ve done in a way I feel excited about and it gives me creative control and the freedom to experiment with ideas. I’m also very fortunate and grateful that where I work (big up Grey Jam), I have access to amazing facilities like screen-printing and am surrounded by creative people/friends all making fun new stuff constantly.

What are your five favourite books/magazines right now?

A children’s annual from 1954 I bought from an antique shop, a female dominatrix ad zine that I bought from Waste Store, Buffalo Zine, A Book About QSL Card Culture …and Will Smiths biography.

You have a really specific style in your work, how did it come about?

I’m a super sentimental person so I’m definitely drawn towards things that make me feel nostalgic and remind me of certain memories, whether that be cartoons I used to watch on a Saturday morning, horror films I’d watch with my dad, Disney ornaments around my house, slogans or phrases from TV, or tacky graphics that remind me of day trips out to Weston-Super-Mare - it’s definitely all there in my work and I like the idea that Stuff and Nonsense’s prints encapsulate these memories as if it’s like a scrapbook.


It’s pretty much laying out everything I like in one place and in the form of clothing. Contrast is another important element to my work. I love using colour and my drawings are very childlike and playful and typically feels like there should be crazy amounts of colour and vibrancy to enhance that, but having these designs reduced to black and white and printed disorderedly over the fabric suddenly makes everything look stark and less cutesy which I like.

I feel like Stuff and Nonsense captures my interests and personal style, but has also pushed me to explore both these areas in new ways and mediums.


What is your creative process like? 

I’ll usually start by flicking through my magazines, books, or my phone/laptop for photos I’ve taken on my outings to see what’s caught my eye. This could be something like a cool typeface, a bold graphic, a crappy doodle, or a cartoon character and that will be enough to spark loads of ideas. I love it when you find something which catches your eye and then the next second you’ve suddenly drawn pages and pages worth of ideas in your sketchbook.

I enjoy using chunky black pens as I like the boldness of it and that if you mess up there’s no hiding it. I’ve learnt to love the imperfections and ‘mistakes’ which in the past used to freak me out by sketch books, but it’s now what I’m drawn to. I’ll also play around with different textures as well, like pastels and paints, so that the graphics don’t look super flat looking. Collage is fun for this also.

All this playing around naturally gives me enough stuff to work with for the fabrics graphics and then even printing the fabric in a disordered way creates happy accidents, where the overlap in graphics creates more potential designs.


What are your plans for the future?

I’d love to be able to turn Stuff and Nonsense into my full-time job one day, fully giving myself the time and energy into learning, creating and pushing my ideas, as currently it’s my after work/evenings and Sunday activity and it can be quite hard trying to balance everything. Having an actual studio/workspace would be amazing as I’m doing everything from my dining room table (still living with mum and dad…) which usually gets super cramped, so it’s all very make-do at the moment. I’m constantly daydreaming of clothing I want to make and have had people asking about pieces I’ve made for myself which is super encouraging! I’m pretty much learning everything as I go in terms of pattern making and construction as I’ve only ever made clothes for myself before this and haven’t studied Textiles since GCSE.


I’d love to learn more about actual ‘industry’ ways of doing things to grow in confidence and skills as it’s all pretty DIY at the moment, which I love because it feels more personal and sentimental, however I’m sure it would 100% make my life easier at times. Art direction and styling is another area I want to try as I love thinking of concepts and all the small details that make the end image and I feel like there’s quite a bit of imagery within my work to play around with and to push outside of just clothing.

What's made this all fun is getting my friends involved so I’d love to keep that going, as well as meeting new people along the way, learning and making more and just having fun with something I’m passionate about. I’m enjoying finally feeling happy with what I’m making and the idea that other people might like it as well is the best feeling and has made me feel way more confident and motivated to keep going with Stuff and Nonsense.





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