Gin Cat / Old Tom
This project was part of the London Design Festival 2017, where a large plywood version was painted and displayed at the Squire & Partners office in Brixton.
In 1736, The Gin Act taxed the sales of gin to such an extent that the whole business of gin selling was pushed underground. In order to escape identification and arrest, gin vendors established hole in the wall shops where their faces were concealed. The symbol of these illicit shops was the Tomcat, and its image was incorporated into the process of selling gin.
The whole shady business was conducted in the following fashion, as described by Captain Dudley Bradstreet, who claims credit as the inventor for this early type of vending machine:
Thirsty gin drinkers strolled by and whispered to the cat, ‘Puss, give me two pennyworth of gin.’ If Bradstreet had gin at the time, he would respond, ‘Mew.’ The punter would then slip a coin into the mouth of the cat, a payment which the Captain would acknowledge by pouring a dram of gin in the funnel which drained out the lead pipe under the cats paw into the buyer’s cup or mouth.
(From The Life and Uncommon Adventures of Captain Dudley Bradstreet, 1755)
Gin Cat reimagines one of these Puss and Mew cats, and pays tribute to such a mischevious example of mythical London design. An accompanying screenprint of this image was produced alongside the project, as part of the Daily Rites series.
Gin Cat (Old Tom)
Daily Rites5 Colour Screenprint
500 x 690mm
on 350gsm Madrid Litho Paper
Edition of 20