First put together in haste for a pop up window exhibition in Sheffield, these prints have been put to one side and the idea reworked. The original window display was a collection of rare surviving 78 record bags from local city stores (and almost became an even rarer collection as the demolition team moved in without warning!). Originally I planned to do a separate print for each sleeve and prepared a few for the display but this became unwieldly. Instead I decided to do smaller groups of four sleeves to both emphasise the sheer number of record shops the city would have had at the time and also the similar look most of them used.
As with paper shop bags, these sleeves are now just about all that remain from dozens of small often family run independent shops in the city and suburbs. A few went on to become chains, one or two expanded into other towns, and a few of the names still survive on the high street today (albeit no longer selling music). The majority however are long gone. They date from fifty to one hundred years old yet seem to attract little interest from historians or collectors. If I’ve paid more than 50p for any of them I’d be surprised.
The bags were usually made of rough brown cardboard, often full of imperfections from the wood pulp and rag used in the manufacture. They were (I assume) purchased as blanks from wholesalers and then given to jobbing letterpress printers to overprint names and addresses. Many shops were specialist music outlets, but others sold records very much as a sideline.
The print images are a combination both of the decorated fronts and plain backs (all would originally have had centre holes which I decided to digitally remove). The backs then became the starting point for each image, with the front lettering layered on top and exposure levels compressed to bring out the surface ‘noise’ of the images, before being blended back together to create the look I was after. Having done this, I then felt the varying colours of the brown card on each of the four sleeves detracted from the final image so pushed them all back to monochrome and reintroduced a flatter matching colour palette.
Although part of the We’ll miss them when they’re gone series, I couldn’t resist the title Sheffield On 78 (from those Stars On 45 remixes…).
Please note that the grey border is NOT on the print. Prints are 70cms X 50cms. More details at the easy on the eye online shop.