Summer is here…
June 21, 2013


…even though the sun may have forgotten that it is summer occasionally! But it means that the summer fête (derived from the French fête, which means ‘holiday’ or ‘party’) season is upon us, which means lots of craft stalls to be inspired by, eating local produce and raffles to win.

When you are designing publicity material for fêtes you realise that there are some key symbolic items that you must include in the design so that people start to make visual connections to the content, and key items that must appear at the event that you need to advertise.

Number one is bunting. Finding out the origin of bunting has been interesting, but not fully resolved. The most likely explanation that I found on the web for the word came from The Word detective, which sites that the loosely-woven cloth used to sift grain was originally the same cloth used to make the flag-like ‘bunting’ (century unknown). However, there are many other explanations out there such as the term being used to refer to a collection of flags on a ship. And why triangles? Anyhow, some more digging is required.

The other key sign that a fête is afoot is the list of activities that will be on offer. A raffle always needs a Tombola: late 19th century term from the Italian tombolare ‘to tumble’, first used in Italy as a game and then travelled across the globe as Italians emigrated. Face painting needs a whole section to itself, but its use at fêtes is quite a modern phenomenon compared to the history of the use of face painting at the Opera, for religious purposes or camouflage for example.

Not always, but sometimes there is a theme to the fête. For the Busbridge Infant School Summer Fête it is Alice in Wonderland. So, to the question, how to depict Alice in Wonderland yet still advertise the fête?.


I employed several tactics to achieve this. The first being the colours blue and white. In John Tenniel’s original coloured illustrations Alice is depicted in a blue dress and a white pinafore, and in using the two together on the design it gave a connection instantly.

Creating a mini wonderland was the next step, and to do this every element had to look as if it was in Alice’s world. I did this by including key characters (the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit with his watch) being within the scene – on the tree or peeping behind the signpost, and every other element had to fit in. So I made the birds seem as if they were readying the bunting for the day, had Alice looking up at the fête banner in interest and I then placed the list of activities on a signpost surrounded by grass and toadstools (a common place item in ‘wonderlands’ – for which more research needs to be carried out!).

Stylistically I finally had a use for all that paper cutting I had been doing. There was a real danger of making the whole piece look very mish-mash. So, the simplistic style of paper cutting suited this design ideally, by creating a ‘window’ from which most elements were connected and all forms were simplified. When I was researching I found so many examples of real paper cuttings made of Alice in Wonderland scenes, which all had a ‘magical’ quality about them.

I’m sure I could find many more items to ponder on and find meanings for. But for now, the sun is trying to make an appearance at this 2013 ‘summer’ so I’m heading outside…



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