We formed Easter Fairwether sometime in 1976 initially to be able to develop and sell our own ideas for non-fiction books. We discussed a number of ideas and possibilities with the publishers we knew although often met with a somewhat mixed response. Undeterred in 1977 we decided to carry on and work out a proposal for a book about how to recognise periods in English architecture. We did a lot of research including visits to Montacute House in Somerset and Greenstead church in Essex. This eventually led to a detailled flowchart for a 32 page book and a cutaway illustration of an English country house. Unfortunately all we have left is the flowchart (an obligatory item in those days) which is shown here.
After learning from a Dutch colleague we met in London in the early 70’s about the design business in The Netherlands it became clear to us that there might be new and exciting possibilities for our studio there. To test the waters we made a number of exploratory trips to investigate the nature of the business in The Netherlands and to sound out possible interest for our work. We were particularly attracted by the free and open approach to design we encountered and this, together with a long-cherished idea of living on the continent, confirmed our feelings. Bill had also been offered the chance of a part-time teaching post at the academy in Den Bosch and so in 1978 we finally set out to try our luck at living and working in a new country…
After we moved to The Netherlands in July 1978 we started working from our home which at that time was a second floor apartment in the Spaarwaterstraat in The Hague. The flat was compact yet had a fairly spacious living room with dining room attached and a large main bedroom. We decided to use the bedroom for our studio and the living and dining rooms would double as reception-cum-meeting areas. We slept in the small secondary bedroom at the back.
In those days there were no computers and our main equipment consisted of drawing board, lightbox, regular tables, planchest and the indispensable Grant projector. This was a device for enlarging and reducing images that you could sketch onto a sheet of tracing paper laid on a glass plate above. It seems extraordinary these days to recall how much time we spent sweating under the hood of 'the Grant' making tracings of slides, photos, etc to the right size for our designs.
We continued like this until July 1981 when, as more commissions came in, we felt confident enough to rent some office space in the Jan van Nassaustraat. This was quite a grand building and offered us a roomy studio and a large reception and meeting room. There was also a kitchen that we converted to a darkroom. We bought a lot of new furniture for the studio: bookcases, drafting table, planchests, meeting table with comfortable chairs and some good quality office chairs.
An 'end of roll' photo of the Spaarwaterstraat in April 1978
Linda in the studio 1979.
And again, looking towards the front of the flat and the living room 1979.
A photo of a Halco Sunbury (Grant) projector - ours was just plain grey...
The entrance at the Jan van Nassaustraat 1981.
Bill sitting at his new drafting table in the studio 1981.
The studio with Nashua photocopier and new furniture looking out towards the garden 1981.
The reception/meeting area with our grand new conference table 1981.
Once we had got ourselves a bit more organised at the Spaarwaterstraat we spent a lot of time following up the contacts we had made during our earlier visits. One of them was Sijthoff Publishing who were located in Alphen aan den Rijn. In early 1979 they asked us to design this book about the Oosterschelde (Eastern Scheldt River estuary) for them that was to become our first real Dutch commission.
The book covers the unexpectedly great diversity of underwater life in the Eastern Scheldt estuary which at that time was under some threat due to the construction of the large Delta barrier there. The text and remarkable pictures were provided by a professor of biology and a keen amateur diver / photographer. One of our task was to select the best images from the many hundreds of slides they supplied us with.
We proposed placing as much emphasis as possible on the impressive pictures and suggested including a series of maps to show the various habitats in the estuary (map visual bottom left, spread top right). The book met with quite some success when published which of course was nice for us too. A delightful extra for us was the design for a New Year's card for Sijthoff in which we tried to evoke the ever changing tides of the estuary (bottom right).
Our success with the Oosterschelde book led to us being contacted by the Dutch foundation for the protection of the countryside: Natuurmonumenten. The 75th anniversary of the purchase of their first property, the Naardermeer lake, in 1905 was due to be celebrated in 1980 and they asked us to come up with a design proposal for a special publication. This was to consist of a commemorative book together with a facsimile of an album published at the time.
Prior to starting work we were taken for a wonderful boat trip around this extraordinary stretch of water not far from Amsterdam. This helped us a great deal in forming our first ideas about how to approach the design. We were also fortunate to have some remarkable large-format slides available to us taken by a local photographer who had spent much of his life documenting life in and around the lake.
We felt that a slipcase would be the best way of keeping the two publications together (proposal, bottom right) and would also offer extra design options. For this we had a special Natuurmonumenten sign made with the title of the book rather than the usual warning. In those days all the layouts were produced by sketching the pictures on spreads together with pasted in galley proofs of the text (bottom right) - a very time-consuming process!
Whilst we were still working on the Naardermeer book Sijthoff approached us again with a new project. This time it was for an atlas of Dutch castles which, until that time, had never been completely documented. Specialists had been contracted to write chapters about cartography, castle construction and architecture and other aspects. Alongside this a castle expert who was also a talented amateur photographer would be able to provide all the pictures we might need.
The Dutch Topographical Institute would supply detailed Ordnance Survey type maps on which the precise location of the castles could be shown. Having regard to the subject matter we proposed a fairly classical and elegant typographical design For the end-papers (top row, second left) we used drawings of the ground plans of every castle included in the book. Map spreads helped to organise the book into clear sections and we produced detailled maps for a gazetteer at the back.
We proposed including an explanatory illustration of a typical castle and chose the Muiderslot. Bill was generously granted access to the castle - unthinkable these days! - and made many sketches on site together with reference photos. Using blueprints provided by the Dutch National Building Service he constructed the drawing in pencil first and returned to the castle several times to check details. The final illustration was worked up using pen, pencil, brush and airbrush.
A different type of commission altogether. As a result of the work we had both done in London on detailled reference works we were approached by Spectrum Publishing with a similar project for them. This involved producing all of the visuals for a medical encyclopedia, executing some of the illustrations ourselves and co-ordinating the production of the rest via our contacts in London.
This was a large and demanding job, particularly for Linda who was most familiar with the complicated subject matter. She painstakingly sketched out detailled visuals for every illustration, checking them each time with experts at Spectrum. In order to ensure consistency in colour and style for images produced by various specialist illustrators, we devised a colour coding system using Derwent coloured pencils.
Once the visuals had been approved we made several trips to London, together with Toine Post - the project co-ordinator for Spectrum - to brief the illustrators there. We took up residence at the Russell Hotel for a few days and organised running appointments beforehand with illustrators during our stay. As new illustrations were briefed, so finished ones were delivered and taken back to Spectrum HQ.
Bunge Publishing in Utrecht asked us to propose a design for a series of books for assisstants working in various areas of health care. The books had to be clear and easy to understand. We proposed a design using a main column for the running text and a smaller side column for explanatory illustrations, notes, diagrams, etc.
This flexible design enabled us to add supplementary information at the precise point in the text where it was required.
For the Government Printing & Publishing House (SDU) we were asked to design this report covering all the historic monuments in The Netherlands.
In this case the wide format led to an asymmetric four-column layout which again enabled supplementary notes etc to be added alongside the running text. At the back we produced a number of maps to show the location of the building per province. Linda worked on this project up to the time our son was born in September 1982.