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The Making of a Catalogue - 07/01/11

Stephen Morris, Graphic Designer
Biographical note on the work he produced for the Shakespeare Fishing Tackle and other fishing tackle companies.

As a child I lived near the Yare in Norwich and, as we all did then, I learnt to fish a bit. From then on I was always country-minded, even though I was an art student and in a band in the sixties.

After working as a creative designer and illustrator in London for various design
groups, I moved to Manchester in 1971 to join the advertising agency that held the Abu account. Abu became one of my main creative accounts for the couple of years I stayed there, producing adverts and print design. The main products advertised were the Abu 506, the Abu range of multipliers and latterly the Abu matched tackle system devised by their UK director, Tony Perrin. Within the tackle industry it would be fair to say that at the time, Abu advertising set the standard and Abu were the brand leaders. It was certainly very good for my portfolio.

Two or three years later after working for another couple of ad agencies (one of which handled Hardy) I met Joe Baart, the MD of Shakespeare UK. I’d approached Joe whilst I was working for the latter of these two agencies, having seen some of the adverts they were running in the angling press which were pretty awful. He was impressed with what I’d done for Abu and gave the agency the contract. Shortly afterwards I left that agency, and Joe rang me after a few months inviting me to work for him which enabled me start my own Ad Agency, Morris Nicholson Cartwright Ltd. (MNC).

I met Joe in 1975 when the company were still based in the old Allcock factory, Redditch. Joe was Dutch and whilst his English was OK, it wasn’t so fluent that he could judge the quality or sense of ad headlines or copy, but he liked the style. He used to look at a visual for a minute or two and then ask, “Is this good?” - we’d say “Yes”- and he’d give the go-ahead to run.

I worked with him in the UK and later in America (when he became the US Vice President of Shakespeare) until approximately 1984. After he’d left, I continued to work for Shakespeare with John Tomsett and Bob Brownsdon until 1996.

Shakespeare were a worldwide outfit, primarily American and over the years I
produced catalogues, adverts and styling for the UK, USA, Holland, France (Tortue), Sweden, Italy, Australia, Korea - packaging, reel and rod cosmetics including the idea and styling for Worcestershire Fly.

It was an excellent company to work for, and Joe was a great guy as were many in that team - from Bert Rost (the CEO), Joe’s brother Pim Baart, Trevor Beaumont, John Coakes, Tony Lockett and their match experts, Ken Giles and Clive Smith. I travelled to places then that I would have never had the opportunity to do so otherwise. Great days.
Most of the products illustrated in the brochures from 79/80 on, were styled by my design team at MNC.

Shakespeare were taken over by Anthony Industries around 1986 and not long after Joe and the team moved on to start Silstar. Although he asked me would I be interested to move account, I decided to stay with Shakespeare and John Tomsett, having been so involved with the development of the brand. But when he contacted me again in 1996 with a really exciting brief for Silstar we decided we would change and take this new account.

Fishing tackle for fanaticsThe brief was to update the style and approach to be more contemporary with the ‘vibe’ of the time and to be in tune with all the other activities that competed for the leisure dollar - hence my idea, ‘Fishing Tackle for Fanatics’.
We produced the concept, the styling, the branding and names for the whole thing and I was really proud of it. It all looked good for a while, but a combination of circumstances, amongst other things, another takeover and a tragedy, changed it all.

Fish cartoonOne of the other curious connections of the time was Rublex lures. I devised the idea (Rublex being French) of the doleful waiter carp and ‘Bon Appetit’. They were based near Bordeaux and I really enjoyed the trips. Unfortunately I don’t have much left of what we did, save the original illustration and some shots of the spinners and lures as nouvelle cuisine dishes.

The other main account that attracted me and I worked on from 1980 for over 30 years was Barbour, producing all their photography and imagery. Both accounts fitted well and one way or another I was really tuned in to my audience, but it was Shakespeare and Joe Baart that started it.

That was the end of my fishing tackle involvement. Twenty five years near enough.

Stephen Morris
July 2011