The eyes have it

This was my Christmas present.

If only I could go back in time to actually attend the private view. It was sent through the post to Herbert Simon at the Curwen Press, hence the postmark smudges on the front.

It’s been staring at me from the bookshelves for a couple of weeks now, and after a while I realised not only that staring was exactly what it was doing, but that this isn’t uncommon for a Barbara Jones design. She really liked eyes.

My first thought was – whose wouldn’t be – of the owl dishwasher in her kitchen.

Barbara Jones kitchen newspaper cutting

And then there are her designs for the educational television programme Looking At Things.

barbara jones school booklet 1954 looking at things reverse

Or this image from The Unsophisticated Arts (which, I am pleased to say, I recently scored a copy of for just £16 on Abebooks: no cover but who cares).

Or this later mural.

Barbara Jones International Labour Exhibition 1961

I could go on.

Barbara Jones cover for Design for Death

There is more than simply a trite coincidence at work here. If there is one thing which links the many, many strands of Barbara Jones’ work, from murals to exhibitions to books to simply collecting extraordinary things for her home, it’s the act of looking. And she doesn’t just want to see these strange, mundane or ignored objects herself, she wants us to look at them properly as well. We should honour her memory by doing more of it.

Two additional thoughts. One is if you would like to look at things in the manner of Barbara Jones, then this auction of extraordinary odds and ends in Chiswick might be a good place to start, as it contains everything from fossilised Elk antlers to a coffee table made from a Rolls Royce engine turbine to photographs of flea circuses and much else besides.

The other is that, yes I am very thoroughly spoiled with my presents.

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