№ 015 – A Draper Day

Hello there,

Last week I took a ‘Draper Day’.

A Draper Day is a day off, a day away, a day for me, a day to explore, to visit and to seek out the new.

I named Draper Days after the legendary Don Draper, who would often disappear from the Sterling Cooper offices without warning to seek out his muse in whatever form that may take.

This Draper Day took me to London, to see a talk about beauty and design and an incredible photography exhibition, both covered below.

But first a little podcast style follow up.

In 014 I wrote about my intention to consume and to create ‘limited intentional content’ this year. So I was interested to see Shawn Blanc publish a post On Making the Switch From a Consumer to a Creator.

On selecting the content you consume he writes:

Making the switch from a “consumer” to a “creator” does not mean cutting out all media consumption.

And therefore, consider what types of media consumption leave you feeling inspired, excited, and energized versus those which leave you feeling tired or complacent.

Of course that is easier said than done, I’ve found myself lured back to Instagram because there currently isn't another suitable place to share my photos. But it makes me feel unclean to be there, knowing Facebook are tracking me and listening to me.

Social media is designed to be addictive. My friend Ralph Bassfeld recently tweeted this quote from US comedic all Bill Maher which sums it up perfectly:

The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product. Let’s face it, checking your likes is the new smoking.

– Bill Maher

But enough techno-gloom, onwards...

DO Design

My primary reason for being in London, and excuse for my Draper Day, was to see a talk by Alan Moore, author of DO Design.

I re-read DO Design ahead of seeing Alan talk, and was struck by this passage:

The purpose of the work for the Shakers was as much to benefit the spirit as it was to produce the goods.

The universe has decided it’s time for me to think about the Shakers and their design philosophy as earlier in the week, with synchronicity in full effect, I had saved this quote defining the Shaker design philosophy:

Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.

Isn't that the most perfect philosophy for a designers, creators and us all?

In DO Design Alan proposes 14 principles for creating enduring beauty:

  1. Be curious about the world

  2. Increase your depth of field

  3. Develop an ability to adapt

  4. Observe

  5. Go see

  6. Understand language

  7. Be open

  8. Work better together

  9. Start with optimism

  10. Recognise no boundaries

  11. Surrender

  12. Only work with good people

  13. Let go of fear

  14. Seek to create enduring beauty

These principles are described in more depth in DO Design and are worth the price of admission alone.

Read, absorb and re-visit regularly.

Equus Leather

Whilst talking about creating enduring beauty I wanted to share these fabulous videos from Equus Leather with you.

Equus Leather create bespoke, hand crafted leather items, and this video showing the creation of a handmade watch strap is absolutely captivating:

The Equus straps start at £160, but when you see the amount of handwork, care and attention that goes into their creation they feel like good value. Especially when compared to £50 for a piece of rubber from Apple.

Equus recently worked with other craftsmen to create a classic attache case:

I've always joked about taking up woodworking as a retirement hobby, but now I think leather working might be even more satisfying.

Don McCullin Retrospective

Making the most of my Draper Day I spent the morning at Tate Britain to view the Don McCullin retrospective.

Don McCullin is one of my favourite photographers; I forget how I discovered him, I think I originally stumbled across his autobiography Unreasonable Behaviour in a book shop and was fascinated by his life and images.

McCullin is perhaps most known as a war photographer, something he’s uneasy about, feeling that his images haven't done enough to change peoples view of war.

As you walk through the exhibition its hard to understand how anybody that sees these images cannot be affected and not understand the insanity and futility of war.

McCullin’s photographs reinforce a long held belief of mine that a single still image capturing the defining moment can convey more emotion and reality than moving images can.

Digital photography is fantastic, but seeing photographs printed large brings them to life in a way no screen can. Don McCullin printed the photographs on display himself, he’s always favoured a dark and contrasty finish that I adore, and these prints bring a depth and tactility to the images that is hard to describe. You want to touch them as well as look at them.

McCullin’s war photography is extraordinary but it’s his photography of England I love the most.

From his early street photography in London’s East End to his social reportage of the North in the 70s and 80s and latterly his incredible landscape photography Don McCullin has a unique style that captures the gritty beauty of England and its people perfectly.

Looking for England

To coincide with the Tate retrospective the BBC has made a wonderful documentary following Don McCullin as he revisits the places and scenes of some of his iconic photographs of England.

It was particularly interesting for me to watch him work. I love street photography and having shot a little myself it was fascinating to watch his approach. Often he directly engages with the subject, asking permission to take their photograph, which enables eye contact in the photographs, something I have always felt was a defining feature of his photographs of people.

Available on iPlayer for another week, I highly recommend watching Looking For England if you can.


Speaking of the English countryside, I’m re-watching Detectorists, in which the beautiful English countryside is one of the stars.

Detectorists is one of my favourite comedies of the last few years. Written and Directed by Mackenzie Crook, who also stars as Lance, it has lovely relaxed pace, feel and style.

I think the theme music by Johnny Flynn captures the feel of the show perfectly.

Gently English.

I’m sure you will have noticed the new style for my newsletter. I’m playing with Substack, the new newsletter kid on the block. I’m not sure I’ll ever charge for this, but I like that Substack enables authors to easily create subscriptions.

You will also notice I’ve dropped The Irregular branding, turns out there’s a newspaper in the US with the same name. Should have Googled it first I guess…

Thank you as always for reading, if you’ve enjoyed this please share it.

Until next time.