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What's On, Art

Meet Dan Spindler

Creative Director at Fyne Associations and his ox, Claude

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miniherd claude fyneassociates

Joining the herd in Oxford this summer is Claude, one of the ox within the mini herd in Oxford forming part of the OX Trail. Esther Lafferty spoke to Dan to find out about the concept behind Dan’s design.

“I was aware of similar animal sculpture trail projects, so in January this year Michelle Heather at the OX office asked if I would like to paint a ‘mini herd’ ox for Sobell House, I was keen to be involved. I thought it would be good fun.

The ox, which was about the size of a dog, arrived at my house wrapped in bubble wrap and we wrestled it through to the kitchen where he lived for the next few months. At that point he was a glistening shiny white – like a clean sheet of paper – and I began to come up with ideas about how to decorate it. I’m passionate about typography and that’s what kept coming up in my mind: letters. It seemed very appropriate as Oxford is renowned for being a seat of learning and home to one of the world’s most remarkable libraries.

I also wanted to get across that Fyne Associates, as well as being a respected publisher, is also a fun and vibrant company to work for, with cool characters and lots of energy. I chose to paint the ox bright pink, blue and black to encapsulate that brightness and our tone of voice.

The pink is nearly 100% magenta. It’s a great colour – bold and cheerful – and it is a nod to the pink pigeons in Faringdon, a quirky historic market town on the outskirts of which Fyne Associates have their office. It’s in a rural spot with geese and a turkey roaming next door. Real pink pigeons (whose feathers had been dyed fuchsia pink) are an occasional sight in the sky over town; a playful tradition started by the eccentric Lord Berners who lived in Faringdon House in the 1930s. I haven’t spotted one yet, I’ll keep looking – although I mostly work from home these days.

I choose the blue for Oxford; it’s the classic ‘Oxford Blue’, and black for ink.

I love the old-fashioned printing process and letter press printing machines, continues Dan, and so I named him Claud after the famous French typographer Claude Garamond.

Claude Garamond (or Garamont) was a sixteenth century French type designer, publisher and punch-cutter based in Paris. Around 1530, he established an independent type foundry to sell pre-cast type, ready for use by compositors, and so began the departure of a publishing industry from an all-in-one ‘scholar-publisher-typefounder-printer-bookseller’ model that existed previously. And Garamond is the main font we use for the text of this magazine. It’s a classic serif typeface that’s graceful, elegant and easy-to-read.

During the dark winter evenings, painting Claude was a lovely relaxing process. It was such a pleasure to step away from a screen and spend the evening using paintbrushes. It’s more of a challenge than you might realise, though, to transpose a 2D design onto a big 3D ox with curves and muscles. If you imagine the difference between the shapes and sizes of continents on a world map in an atlas and on a globe, they’re very different because the shapes wrap around and distort. On Claude it’s the same, except he’s a less uniform shape to work with. It was lots of fun.

The letters scattered on Claude’s back spell Fyne Associates; and they also spell fantasy, society, cat, city, cosy and coy. He could get some great scrabble scores…

When I was finished, because he’s painted with acrylics using a brush, he was quite textured. The next step in him joining the herd was a trip to the MINI Plant Oxford for a coat of varnish to give him a lustrous lacquer. I can’t wait to see him at The Store in Oxford as part of a giant stampede for the OXTrail.”

Find Claude and the other oxen around Oxford over the summer. Visit oxtrail2024.co.uk for more information.

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Meet Dan Spindler

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