The Etsy Blog

UK Edition: Interview With MrWingate

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When I first met MrWingate at the London Bust Craftacular last December, I was immediately drawn to his t-shirts and sweatshirts, which at first glance looked as though they sported tyre track patterns. Upon closer inspection I realised that they were actually printed with cleverly positioned architectural designs. That’s the thing about Sam’s work, it rewards you for taking a closer look.

At the opening of his new studio and shop last week, I did indeed get a closer look at his Spring 2010 collection, which happily now includes an expanded selection of housewares. This time I was expectant and, I hasten to add, not disappointed. Some of his new designs are reminiscent of lace to my eyes (gorgeous!) and others, such as the pub pillows, have an irresistible British friendliness with a contemporary twist about them.

Let’s take a peek at Sam, the man behind MrWingate

Tell us a wee bit about yourself; your name, location, affiliations, personal stuff.
Hello, my name is Sam Wingate, I’m 26 and I live and work in East London. I’ve just opened up a studio shop space on Columbia Road and that is where you’ll most likely find me, drawing, printing and sewing.

How did you begin your foray into the world of designing-making?
As long as I can remember I’ve been making things. I come from quite a creative family and when I was a child, if there was a new toy I wanted, my mum’s stock response was, “I’m sure you can make it yourself,” which is pretty much (with a little bit of help here and there) what I did. Anything from soft toys to wicked bows and arrows. Bows made out of hazel that would let the arrows fly for miles! The one thing where we had to draw a line for was an Etch-a-Sketch, I had to save pocket money for that one…

By the time I came to go to Uni I wanted to study Architecture, but luckily I flunked my A-Levels and ended up on an Art Foundation course, where I discovered that I was really suited to Textiles. After graduating with a BA in Textiles I moved to London and got a market stall on Brick Lane selling my prints on t-shirts and bags. This grew and eventually it became my full-time employment and now I’ve just opened the shop where I’m selling more products for the home.

Photos by MrWingate
Educate us on screenprinting; what’s the physical process like and why do you love it?
I think the main reason I love it is because it’s so simple and instant. I can still remember the excitement of the first time I pulled a squeegee across a screen and ended up with a proper print!

The basic physical process is simple. You begin with two tools, a screen (a frame with a mesh stretched across one side) and a squeegee (a rubber blade attached to a handle). To make a print you have to pull ink across the screen with the squeegee, and to print a design you need to stop the ink passing through portions of the screen. To do this you block the holes in the mesh — the simplest way is with a paper stencil.

I’ve remembered another reason why I love it, the word “squeegee.”

How are you inspired by where you live?
I’ve lived in East London for four or five years and I really love it here. There’s such a diverse mix of everything. Food, people, architecture. The latter is what really inspires me. Buildings, from tower blocks to pubs. From a design point of view, they’re full of patterns, especially the tower blocks. Floor upon floor reaching up to the sky, multiples of windows and balconies.

However, I do get yearnings for the country side quite often and to satisfy this I make regular trips back home to visit my parents in North Norfolk, where the huge skies and open spaces really give me a chance to think and reflect. I think it’s good to have the contrast of the two places. Although I love them both, I don’t think I could stay in either indefinitely.

Many of your motifs take architecture and classic design and completely reinvent the way it’s viewed. How did you arrive at this unique style?
I mentioned that I had wanted to study architecture when I was younger. It sort of runs in the family a bit. My parents met studying architecture, my grandfather was an architect and so on. That’s where it stemmed from, but I’m looking at buildings now from a textile design point of view. I think I mostly developed my style whilst at art school. Drawing buildings, then building up patterns by repeating my drawings. I quite like my patterns to have a texture about them, even if the print is flat it’s nice to have an idea about what you think it might feel like.
What’s it been like to work on commissions with companies like DKNY?
It’s been really exciting. The DKNY show came about after exhibiting at a graduate fair. Working with such a big name and having my work shown in such a great setting was amazing for me as a recent graduate. The DKNY team did all of the work for the installation, and I remember turning up to set up just before my wallpapers arrived on the back of a van, all ready and mounted on three meter boards. For someone who is used to doing most of the graft myself it was a real treat to just sit back and watch the installation.

What does an average day in the life of MrWingate entail?
Ideally I start my day with a swim at the London Fields Lido on my way down to Columbia Road. But it’s been a bit chilly recently and of course I’ve been very busy….

Otherwise I like to make it into the studio during Radio 4‘s women’s hour, any later and I feel a bit guilty. Once in I’ll either be drawing, printing or sewing depending on what stage I’m at. I try to have a few projects on the go at once so that I can swap between them. At some point in the afternoon I’ll pop next door to my friends’ shop, Jessie and Buddug, for a cup of tea and then it’s back to the studio for more work. By about half seven I’m ready to call it a day and will either head home for food or if I’m lucky catch up with friends over a couple of beers.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
This question is really hard to answer. I own a lot of handmade items given to me by friends and family so it’s really hard to decide. One thing that I no longer have but have really fond memories of is a matching set of pyjamas that my mum made for me and my teddy when I was little. I think that was a fun idea.

Do you have any advice for artists starting out in their career?
I think that if you want to be successful there are a few key things to remember:
  1. Keep the money rolling in. Have a second job that you can fit around your creative endeavours. Ideally get one relevant to what you’re doing. I’ve had plenty from working as a print technician at London College of Fashion to teaching craft at Holloway Prison.
  2. Remember what you’re about. This is especially good when working in those second jobs. Think “I am not a shop assistant, I am a jeweller.”
  3. Take internships. When you’re starting out, internships offer a great way to experience the different ways people work. I did quite a few and it helped me to realise how I did and how I didn’t want to work.
  4. Be determined! 
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
Yes! Come and visit me in my new shop, upstairs at 144 Columbia Road, London, E2 7RG!
Many thanks to Sam for taking part! Visit his personal website here.
You can see some of his fabulous work in the Seller’s Items below.
Do you have a shop or studio in the UK that you think would be of interest to Etsy’s audience? Then I want to visit you! Contact AmityUK by clicking here.