Meet the creative team now based in the original Falmouth School of Art building
It was back in 1902 that our students first put pencil and paintbrush to paper in light and airy studios housed in a handsome building in town. This was where we offered classes in freehand drawing, printing and still-life painting, laying the foundations for the thriving creative University we know today.
Fast-forward to 2022 and the building – still bearing its School of Art sign – is home to the award-winning branding agency Kingdom & Sparrow. The creative spark nurtured all those years ago is now ablaze as the company’s illustrators, wordsmiths and graphic designers craft branding for food, drink and lifestyle products. What’s more, many of the team were Falmouth University students themselves – bringing the creative link full circle as they apply their skills in the space where it all started.
“Kingdom & Sparrow was built on craftsmanship, so we’re proud to be in the original School of Art mixing modern and traditional techniques,” says director Johnny Paton, who set out on Falmouth’s Fine Art BA and graduated in 2009 from Illustration. “The building suits us all personally and as a business. We’re still producing artwork here, still creating physically in sketchbooks and with paints and printing, to keep that history alive.”
It’s amazing to think that we could be walking on the original School of Art floor that bears the marks and stains of ages. Every mark we make here is adding to that story. We don’t want to strip the history and character out of the building – we want to embrace it, as we give the art school a new lease of life.
It’s thought that the interior remains largely unchanged since the art school’s heyday, with the original high ceilings and large, north-facing windows that bathe the rooms with indirect natural light.
“It’s an inspiring space,” admits Johnny, whose team blends digital creativity and craftsmanship to build bespoke branding for products including wine, rum, gin and coffee. “We’re big on traditional skills; we have a printing press and a central island for working with pastels and paint and we’ve also held still-life and signwriting workshops here for staff.
“It’s amazing to think that we could be walking on the original School of Art floor that bears the marks and stains of ages,” he adds. “Every mark we make here is adding to that story. We don’t want to strip the history and character out of the building – we want to embrace it, as we give the art school a new lease of life.”
Located in Arwenack Avenue, a short walk from our Falmouth Campus, the two-storey building retains its original and distinctive red-brick edging. At one corner is a foundation stone, laid in 1901 in memory of Anna Maria Fox who championed arts and science in Falmouth and was the driving force behind the creation of The Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society.
The current occupants of the School of Art building are firmly future-focused; a decade after its launch, Kingdom & Sparrow has developed from its Cornish beginnings into a truly global agency. Yet Johnny and his ten-strong team are keen to remain rooted in the local creative culture and draw on skills they learned at the University as they work in their unique studio by the sea.
Whether you’re working direct to paper or iPad, the eye, the imagination and the ability to communicate an idea remain fundamental to the design process.
“We still rely on the basics of image making – colour, composition and conceptual thinking,” he says, explaining that the company’s designer Holly Irons also studied Illustration here, senior designer Elle Eveleigh studied Graphic Design and client director Sophie Cowles completed a Professional Writing MA at Falmouth. “Whether you’re working direct to paper or iPad, the eye, the imagination and the ability to communicate an idea remain fundamental to the design process.
“I’m an artist, so I’ll use any excuse to get the paints out,” adds Johnny, whose ‘Designed Differently’ wall mural creates a striking backdrop to the busy studio. “We might then translate that artwork into digital format, but what people were doing here 120 years ago is not a million miles away.”