Emily Alston is the designer and illustrator behind the moniker, Emily Forgot. Since graduating in graphic arts from Liverpool School of Art and Design in 2004, she has been creating her often darkly surreal illustrations as a freelancer; her interest in the odder side of life having been encouraged further by work experience at studios Love and Village Green, both of whom often use found imagery, bizarre objects and materials in their creative work.
“I was always borrowing things, bits of nostalgia, old pieces of paper,” she says of her own love of ephemera, frequently sated by trips to an antiquarian bookseller based in the Quiggins complex in Liverpool. “It was terrible though,” she adds, “as I kept running old papers through photocopiers and breaking them. I think I’ve reined that in now though.”
At school, Alston recalls a book on fashion illustration as helping forge an interest in pursuing a career in art and design. “It was the only thing I could find at the time on commercial art, we just weren’t encouraged to look at that side of things, only at fine art,” she says. “Design and illustration can of course be self-indulgent, but I like the element of communcation that’s at the core of both of them.”
In terms of later influences on her work, Alston cites illustrators Kate Gibb and Lizzie Finn as important figures in her own development. “It was just really encouraging to see women doing this as graphic design is so male-oriented,” she says. “So I’ve always been interested in the work of studios with women in them, like apfel and Kerr|Noble.”
Alston’s work via the Forgot aesthetic often has a distinctly strange twist to it. “It’s sometimes surreal,” she says, “it often has a sense of humour and I like things to look a bit odd, even if they’re familiar things.
I like the juxtapositions involved.” Notably, her sense of English eccentricity, filtered through a discernably psychedelic take on the world, comes out in an impressively wide range of media. “I obviously want to be employable, for my work to be commercially viable,” she says, “but also, ideally, you want people to come to you for what you love doing.”
A look at Alston’s portfolio shows the range of projects in which she’s been lucky enough, and talented enough, to be involved in. Her own self-initiated prints are available to buy alongside a range of plates sporting her designs, for example, while her commissioned work ranges from editorial (as in cr’s current cover and Crit section opener; work for The Guardian and Computer Arts), to an identity for a children’s clothing company and window displays for Selfridges. “A lot of illustrators and designers work this way now,” she says of her ever-widening list of clients and media. “The Selfridges windows are like set design, really. But then I also like doing work for print and editorial where you can work quickly, over just a couple of days.”
Her designs for four of Selfridges’ Oxford Street windows are set to be unveiled in March and, while she can’t reveal the full concept, she assures us that “they’ll be nice and colourful against the doom and gloom of the recession” and may or may not include “boiled eggs and umbrellas”.
So why ‘Forgot’? “I used to be quite forgetful, though I’m not in my work, obviously,” she says wryly. “I had it at college as a domain name. It seems to go down well and, actually, people seem to remember it.”
Emily Forgot is represented by Agency Rush. Her portfolio and the Forgot Shop (where her prints and plates are available to buy) can be viewed at emilyforgot.co.uk