I have been a big fan of design agency The Beautiful Meme for some time now. They were one of the first collaborations when we launched One&Other in its previous form (a CIC); they were the ones who came up with our beautiful mark. Already on the precipice of great things, they have since gone on to become world famous for notable works including the award-winning rebrand of English National Ballet, their iconic work for Design Museum and a list of huge clients (V&A, Google, Spotify… honestly, we could be here all day.)
At the heart of this exciting company is Creative Director Tom Sharp. A contrary fellow of romantic dispositions, Tom is a truly fascinating brain. Unique in his output and perceptions, Tom has the swagger of a poet, so when he began to release a series of beautifully designed works, in many ways it felt like we were seeing his heart and soul: a creative demon possessing him to express his visions.
It was therefore a great pleasure when we got to chat to him about it all, and what we share here is unedited because that’s the way Tom should be: this dude is articulate, so will always nail what he is wanting to say far better than any journalist could paraphrase.
One&Other: So Tom. Most people will have heard of your company (TBM) as a design agency. What has made you personally set out to produce poetry?
Tom Sharp: It’s the other way around - I’ve always written poetry and then set out to run a design agency. They’re just two different ways to reach out to the world and make it sing.
O&O: Can you see a similarity between copy and poetry? Which campaign by TBM are you proudest of, simply for use of words?
TS: They are overwhelmingly similar. Quick bursts of emotion, a certainty of ideas and spaces for the reader to inject themselves, all wrapped up in the most musical language possible. Of course lots of our clients work with us specifically because our style always has a tension between avant-garde visuals and poetic copy. I’m particularly proud of our poster for the Design Museum show about fashion - it moved beyond just selling tickets and ended up on a lot of people’s walls, including that of The Boy In The Dress in the BBC adaptation. It’s amazing to write something and know it has willingly been brought into people’s homes.
O&O: Talk poetry: what’s your bread and butter?
TS: Dylan Thomas, William Blake, Ted Hughes, Baudelaire, Anne Sexton, John’s Revelations - all the disturbed mystics.
O&O: Has your work been published previously?
TS: Yes, I’ve been in a number of lovely magazines.
[Copy and poetry] are overwhelmingly similar. Quick bursts of emotion, a certainty of ideas and spaces for the reader to inject themselves, all wrapped up in the most musical language possible
O&O: There is a sort of acerbic optimism to your work. Where would you say that comes from?
TS: I’m with Terence McKenna when he talks about ‘the syntactical nature of reality’, the idea that the world is made of words and that if you use the right words then you can change reality. I don’t think there’s much difference between poets and magicians. So any optimism you sense must come from my belief that words can change the world.
O&O: When did you start writing?
TS: After we returned home after my grandfather’s cremation, when I was about five or six, I climbed a tree and wrote my first poem. I was captivated by the sight of smoke at the crematorium and thinking it could have been him.
O&O: Your books have some beautiful illustration in also, how do you find the right match for each book?
TS: A year ago I planned six releases, I’ve done three so far, three to come over the coming year. Each explores a different theme and, much like TBM’s work, they are an exploration of how design, type and image works with words, as much as they are about the poetry. I’m really lucky to be working with some amazing designers and illustrators on a daily basis and I’ve been honoured that they have interpreted my poetry through their craft. The alchemy so far has been joyful.
O&O: Which is your proudest book to date?
TS: All have beauty and all have flaws The proudest moments for me have been that ‘She has a dance I cannot see’, from the second collection, has been read at someone’s marriage, and that ‘Damsons and apples’, from the first collection, has been read at someone’s funeral. To hear that your work has been part of these significant markers in strangers’ lives is almost overwhelming.
O&O: How do you inspire yourself, and is the inspiration any different to your creative copy?
TS: I like story arcs. The first collection, ‘English Pan’, was about villages and magic. The second, ‘The Sun Behind the Sun’, was about sex and love, and the latest, ‘Twelve Moons of Madness’, is about what happened to me on every full moon in 2017. I know the themes for the next three books and that helps direct what I write. I’m not sure there is any difference to being inspired for creative copy. It’s all just sex, moons and magic for everyone deep down really isn’t it?
O&O: Tell people about how they can get hold of it and invest in your vision/
TS: I use Instagram a lot (Link [Here]( https://www.instagram.com/thomassharp/ "")) - follow me and look out for free giveaways of the next pamphlet. There are still a few Moons available so people can just DM me through there. I’m also doing a subscriber only thing this year. It’s through Patreon. Fifteen people (ten places gone already) can subscribe to get monthly hand letter-pressed original poems through their door for a year. The poems will chart a year-long journey as I sell my soul. In the Faustian sense, not the corporate sense. O&O: Do you have a long term plan for your poetry or is it simply something you had to share?
Tom’s poetry is available to buy to here, you will receive regular, hand printed, (highly collectable no doubt) works.
Because it’s National Poetry Day we took the brave choice to pick one of Tom’s poems to share with you. This one seemed more than apt and a great introduction to his unique prose.Tom Sharp