folk-art comics treasure from slovenia

Last night at the International Alternative Press Festival event about Slovenian comics and its Stripburger collective, I found this marvellous box of goodies.

Slovenian farmers have a folk art tradition of painting scenes on the removable front panels of their beehives. Most of the painted panels date between the 1820’s and 1880’s and feature all sorts of weird and wonderful mythological and religious scenes, and the Stripburger collective used these scenes to inspire a beautiful little collection of English-language comics called Honey Talks. Here are the front covers:

And the back covers, showing the beehive panels:

Some of them are quite bizarre, and made me wonder what kind of comics we could come up with, inspired by English folk art. It’s cool how the panels are all the same shape, it gives the collection a very unified feeling, and the little slot at the bottom of the front covers echoes the shape of the beehive panels. (Many of the artists have little illustrated bees showing through the slot.)

Alvearium presents a wonderfully zany take on old European woodcut-print chapbooks by Marcel Ruijters (the front cover, an inside page and the back cover beehive panel):

This one called The Hunter’s Daughter by Rutu Modan, whose name you might recognise from Exit Wounds, her graphic novel about an Israeli girl doing her national service. (Oo! I just found her lovely online comic, Chez Maurice, which I’m bookmarking to read on my next tea break.)

I love the sort of Chagall-like higglety-pigglety way that Vladan Nikolic has drawn these village scene in Wanted:

You can read lots more about Honey Talks and see more pages here, and buy it from Forbidden Planet International here. And here’s a review of Honey Talks by the Comics Reporter. Such a great find. There was only one box left at Orbital Comics, which hosted the event, and after we’d passed it around, I shamelessly clutched it for the rest of the talk to make sure I went home with it.

Here’s my fab studio mate, Ellen Lindner, presenting the panel, which she organised as part of the festival. (Do have a look at other events; David O’Connell’s talk on Thursday, in particular, should be very good.)

From left to right: Jon McNaught, Richard Cowdry, Gasper Rus from Stripburger and Paul Gravett. Paul started the evening by interviewing Gasper about Stripburger and the history of comics in Slovenia. (My book You Can’t Eat a Princess! is also published in Slovenian, which is rather exciting!) Here on the right you can see a rack of Stripburger‘s anthologies on sale in Orbital.

Some covers from Slovenian comics history:

Richard Cowdry and Jon McNaught have both been influenced by and worked with Stripburger. You may have seen The Comix Reader pop up a few times on my blog and Ellen’s (see Ellen’s inclusion of it in her illustration here). Richard edits its 24 pages of mostly full-colour comics; it’s gorgeous stuff.

And I’ve been more and more impressed by the beautiful arts-and-crafts inspired work that’s been coming out from Nobrow Press, which now has a shop and gallery space at 62 Great Eastern Street in East London. Their books always smell so lovely, and they fit right in with the older work I’ve come to love since I moved to Britain by the likes of Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden and others. This was the first time I’d met Jon, who’d come up from Bristol for the event. He based the format of his book, Birchfield Close on the old Ladybird books, and while it doesn’t have a hard-driving story, the pictures create a marvelous atmosphere with their three-colour palette and the book is a lovely object to hold.

London comics events are always wonderfully social, and this one was no exception. A whole pack of us went off for good, old-fashioned, school-dinner type grub at The Stockpot on Panton Street. Here are Richard (with Barnaby Richards in the background), Gasper and Paul tucking into their hot puddings. Nom nom.

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