When it came to bringing the Core Collection to life beyond the bag, we looked to create a visual language that inspires others to take action in a simple and bold way. We turned to artist Stephen Smith, of Neasden Control Centre, to bring the collection graphics to life. His iconic style and approach to visual story telling made for a powerful collaboration. We dig a little bit deeper into the Human side of his work.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m Stephen Smith aka Neasden Control Centre. I’m an illustrator and artist working from the South West of the UK. I moved here from London a few years ago and have a daughter who is 2 1/2 years old now. I was delighted to be asked to work with Millican as half of my family is originally from Cumbria and was lucky enough to spend a lot of time walking nearly all the mountains in the Lake District when I was growing up in the North West.
Your work has a very human feel to it using many different techniques and outputs, what defines your visual voice?
I have been a practising illustrator for 20 years so my voice has developed over along time now. I would say the main thing really is just drawing all the time. I spend along time developing sketches and ways of drawing usually with very simple graphite pencils and collage. This has been the most dominant aspect of my practice and it still excites me. I also love to work with hand drawn type and colour I think this basically sums up what I do.
How do you continue to develop and push your work to new and different places, is there a particular place you look for reference, what’s your journey for creative progress?
Keep it fresh. I’m inspired by so many things. I always look to nature for reference and now living by the sea which inspires me hugely, alongside travel and music which I love and collect. I collect vinyl which involves a lot of digging for records mainly along the Italo Balearic spacey electronic disco section. But think I’m also constantly digging for new compositions and ways of making illustration too. I have a natural drive which keeps pushing me and I tap into this. I continue to work a lot in sketchbooks where I can track a projects progress and work on sequentially whilst simultaneously building imagery as I go along.
You worked on the illustrations for out new Core Collection, what was the inspiration and process for creating the artwork our viewers will become much more familiar with over the coming launch?
The Core Collection is made from 100% recycled consumer waste and particularly plastic water bottles so I wanted to create a visual language through cut out paper collages which reflected and referenced this together with the natural world. So viewers will see how these sit together and tell their own story between graphic objects and icons. All of the collages were first drawn onto paper, then using these ideas re cut in card and arranged as collages in simple colour palates that relate to the product range.
You recently worked with The Jaunt (a travel based art project) where you produced a body of work based on your travel experience, can you tell us more about that project?
I was sent as artist in residence to Nida in Lithuania which is located on a long spit of land with huge sand dunes and miles of beaches with pine trees. The Jaunt send each selected artist to a different location for a short period of time to make new work from, get inspired and experience being somewhere they probably hadn’t thought of going to at that time. I was hooked up with the Nida Art Colony out there who generously provided me with a beautiful studio for a few days. This looked onto a huge forest with double height windows - a dream studio ! I made a ton of small colourful works out there mainly based on the pine trees and landscape as it was so inspiring. The light was particularly bright and clear so all the colours seemed heightened.
Travel, outdoors and nature are big influences to us and Millican, what role does travel and the Outdoors have on your work and life?
It’s essential for a happy state of mind for me. I love to get out whenever possible and walk the coast path or cycle and want to take more advantage of the surf down here. I love to work outdoors as I tend to draw differently outside but it’s a lot harder to do in the Winter months. Travel is super important too of course especially for meeting new people. I went to Japan last year and worked on a large mural in Tokyo for a couple of weeks which was super inspiring. Hopefully some camping trips beckon soon…