First off, a quick history
Modular house, 1963, balsa wood and card model. Made in Mr. Gould’s class up in the tower at Twickenham art school (now called ‘Richmond’ art school for some reason) during Fulcher’s, “I can do anything I want,” last year of school. The house was designed, as can be seen in the model, to be built in ‘T’ sections, attached to each other and extending as far as required, which is still a good idea and not something I’ve ever seen done. Each ‘T’ section has two central uprights with cantilevered floor and roof on either side, bolted to the next section and so on. Fulcher said he’d like to be an architect, but “I can’t be bothered with all that math.”
Photograph, from glass negative 4 x 5ins taken by Fulcher in John Mortimer’s class.
Copyright 2008 estate of Colin Fulcher/Barney Bubbles.
First off, a quick history: Beginning in 1958, Fulcher and I studied three dimensional construction, called ‘display,’ and graphics at Twickenham art school (I was in the year above him) on the outskirts of London, then we did creative stuff in the sixties. We went to Ireland with my brother Peter – where Fulcher got run over by a coach and two; shared an apartment and, with a crewe of creative passers-by, we were the A1GoodGuyz. Colin changed his name to Barney. I visited New York, he did San Francisco. We worked together for a bit, I tagged along on his light show.
We designed a Thea Porter invite; Inspector Burge Investigates was a poster of post cards I drew, and that Barney and I provided with ‘cut-up’ captions from books; a race car magazine for McClaren; Oz #12 magazine; and a Nova magazine.
We went different paths in ‘69, and after I left London for San Francisco in 1973, I visited and always paid my respects. We’d catch up on our various doings, I went Australia, so did he. Every time I came back to London from San Francisco we’d chat, right up to my last visit with him in May 1983.
(I visited London in 1974, ’75 ’76 ’77 ’78 ’83 and many times after ’84)
The details of the Fulcher/Bubbles career are really quite a story. Sums up a lot about the time. Will Birch’s ‘…Canvey Island’ book got it right when writing about outposts of hip, he mentions our old apartment at Leigh Court, on (or ‘in’ as some would have it) Avonmore Road, West Kensington, London, W14.
Check out that telephone!
Colin Fulcher on the phone arranging supplies in ’65.
Photograph Copyright 2008 David Wills
Barney worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met. He lived thinking creatively; used laughter as a tool. We’d say, “Cheap and cheerful.” A maxim that helped guide us both at work.He said everything he did referenced back to the Blues. The one word he chose to live by, in an exercise at school set by teacher, John Kirby, was “change.”
‘ITMA’ was a 1940’s war-time, BBC radio show, where Mona Lott gloomily said, “It’s bein’ so cheerful what keeps me goin’. ” That’s what my aunt Rene used to say too, in her ironmonger’s shop in Cwmfellinfach, Monmouth, South Wales – so those words, “It’s bein’ so cheerful…” came along with the old wallpaper books she gave me,that I gave to Barney in 1969 – and that he later used for the presentation roughs for the “Do It Yourself’ Ian Dury covers.
Delta blues guitarist Blind Lemon Jefferson was a Fulcher favorite and he said it was a Blind Lemon guitar chord “fiddly,” as he called complicated chord riffs, that Barney said he taught Jerry Garcia on a visit to San Francisco. But I never heard him play a song all way through. Barney had depth and many skills. But most of all, if you met him, he was very, mind-bendingly, funny – and usually to good purpose. He used laughter as a tool.
Trying to remember all this from way back is a challenge, others will remember far more than I do – if they’re still around that is. I do recognize as true what artist, and fellow Next Whole Earth Catalog designer, Kathleen O’Neill, pointed out, “You could make it all up.” But I’d like to emphasize that the quotes from Barney are actual, I can hear his voice like a recording.
Because he changed his name, he is referred to as both Colin Fulcher and Barney Bubbles, according to the time frame. Here goes.