These Victorian-style alphabet blocks are deliciously dark

How a screenprinting mistake led to a set of alphabet blocks that aren't as sweet as they appear.

Drawing on the dark humour of the Victorian era, Bristol-based illustrator Brittany Molineux designed a set of illuminated alphabet blocks in which a series of characters meet sticky ends.

Tell us a bit about Curious Ends…

I created them for a project at university. The brief was to complete a piece of work which could be editioned, whilst exploring the different areas of print workshops. The brief was quite loosely set out, so I developed a 3D outcome, whilst using the process of working I had picked up from screenprinting to create the illustrations.

What was your inspiration?

At the beginning of the project, I was required to create an illustration for the letter 'V', which led me to research the Victorian era. I have always liked the aesthetics of this age, often using the black-and-white photos from the period as reference for characters. I find the advances in technology, medicine and exploration fascinating. Initially, I looked at creating an illuminated alphabet, but found I was unable to tell enough of a story, which led me to the Curious Ends blocks.

How did you come up with the stories for the different blocks?

When I was screenprinting, a woman's head got accidentally blocked by a piece of masking tape, and when removed it appeared as though she was invisible. I liked the idea that she had drunk something silly which had made her disappear. I began researching unusual deaths over the ages, and developed the narratives so they would spread across the sides of the blocks. The reader has to explore the tale on each side of the block to get a full picture of what's happening.

How will these work as a plaything?

The Victorian era, whilst very playful and wondrous, is also quite dark in its tales and humour. The blocks at first appear to be simple alphabet blocks - educational and playful items for a child. It is when you delve deeper you realise they are not as innocent as you thought. I enjoy that you can also mix up the narratives by placing the blocks in different arrangements to create a story and make up your own curious end.

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 226.