Friday, February 27, 2009

Interview - Becky Bolton of 'Good Wives and Warriors'

You know when you meet someone for the first time... and you start chatting away, and before you know it you're getting along so well that it's like you've known them forever? This was my experience when I met Becky Bolton of artistic duo Good Wives and Warriors recently.

I don't always get to meet all my interviewees in the flesh - lots of times it all happens by email... But the lovely Ms Bolton made the trek out to Brunswick recently to meet me... and I'm so grateful that she did! Because on top of being a super-talented illustrator and artist, Becky is a such a gorgeous, warm, open and friendly person... meeting her was like catching up with a long lost friend!

Things to love about Becky Bolton -

1) She's got a fringe. And it really suits her. (Also when we met she was sporting a high-ponytail... super cute).
2) She's got a mish-mash Scottish/UK/Aussie accent. So chatting to her kind of makes you feel like you're on holiday. Yes. She had me hanging onto every word :)
3) She's ridiculously talented - I cannot get enough of the large scale paintings and illustrations she creates with partner in crime Louise Chappell.... they're AMAZING.
4) She's going places - Good Wives and Warriors have exhibited work across the globe, their recent clients have included Swatch watches and MTV, and last year the pair were nominated for the YIA (Young Illustrators Award) in Zurich...

That's all. Now read the interview!

Oh, and if you love her work as much as I so, I think we should all petition Jacky Winter to sign her up! (I've already started.) But seriously, was self-respecting illustration agent wouldn't jump at the chance? Come on now.

Bed headboard illustration for Bloom Hotel in Belgium, by Becky Bolton and Louise Chappell (aka Good Wives and Warriors).

Details from the BLOOM hotel room

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now?

We met in the first week of art school and have been doing things together ever since. We first began directly collaborating in 2nd year when we set up a little fashion label, making and selling accessories. We continued this project through art school and when we graduated, set up as a proper business. It was fun but we quickly realised that we were far happier when creating painted installations for our designs in shops or drawing pictures for fabric than we were making/ selling products. This was a real turning point for us and Good Wives and Warriors was born. That was in Jan '07 and since then we have worked on illustration and design commissions, curated exhibitions and made lots of wall paintings.

Illustrations for I Love Fake online magazine.

You’re part of a creative partnership which specialises in large scale wall paintings and illustration… How did this ongoing collaboration come about? What challenges have you faced in setting up and running this unique creative partnership?

Our creative partnership has been going for about 6 years now. I don’t remember ever actually deciding that we were going to work together, it just sort of happened as it was more fun doing things together. The challenge has been keeping it going when we haven’t been in the same city. I think we both thought this would be more difficult than it actually has been. With our illustrations, we will usually come up with an idea together and work on our own versions, then add bits to each others. We have a joint style now, so we know how we’ll both go about it. Communication is important. I feel like Louise must wake up sometimes and have 20 emails from me with constant updates of my day! Skype has really helped as we can hold up drawings and see what the other person is doing, and talk for hours for free.

You’ve exhibited internationally and have been commissioned to take part in many exciting international design projects such as the BLOOM hotel in Brussels. How have these international collaborations come about? Has it been difficult to accommodate such a wide range of projects?

Most have come about by just applying or contacting the gallery, putting proposals in, or being invited, but usually we have to put the groundwork in. Some of the South American paintings were a little more off-the-cuff. In Cusco, Peru, we wanted to do a wall painting somewhere, but our terrible Spanish and the Inca walls made it a bit of a challenge! Finally we found a crazy man who let us loose on his wall and gave us a key-ring each and some Inca-cola for our trouble!

Wall painting in Cusco, Peru

You’ve recently made the move to Melbourne. What brought you all the way over here?! What challenges have you faced in relocating here and finding new outlets for your work?

Romance that has brought me to Melbourne! I suppose I’ve faced the usual relocation challenges. It is hard finding new contacts and starting again, but with any illustration work, it doesn’t really matter for us where we are, as long as we have a pack of fine liners, a scanner and a computer. With the wall paintings, it’s important we do them together, so I need to find lots of possible places in Australia for when Louise arrives!

Where do you turn for inspiration – books, magazines or the web? Do you pay attention to trends in the broader design world like fashion, film, etc?

The web would certainly be our major source of inspiration - constant ‘google search’ and we still look at books for ideas. Travelling is also a huge source of inspiration, especially if we are doing a wall painting in a different country, we can’t help but be influenced by where we are, generally in an obscure way. We also have shared obsessions that often generate ideas, for example we did a lot of work based on funny SPAM emails we were receiving. I don’t feel like we’re conscious of paying much attention to trends in the broader design world, but I’m sure it must seep into us a bit.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

I think we’re always been inspired by other creative duos, in fashion, design and illustration. For example, Basso & Brooke, Timorous Beasties, Jojo and Malou, Pandarosa and Tin & Ed.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

We’ve both had a year of running around the place so it has only been fairly recently that we’ve settled into a ‘work’ routine. I spent a few months in San Francisco, and Louise was in London and although we were working on other projects, we still did quite a few jobs together. We organized a show in San Francisco, so Louise came over for that, and then we went off to South America and did a few wall paintings around the place. Now I sit in my studio in Melbourne, moaning about the heat, and Louise sits in her’s in Glasgow and moans about the cold! We both write extensive ‘to do’ lists and co-ordinate Skype calling to discuss our ‘to-do’ lists and somewhere in between we both try to get on with what ever we are doing at the time- illustration jobs, applications for shows, planning paintings, drawing, research, trying to promote ourselves, anything really, the usual I suppose!

What are you most proud of professionally?

I think being selected for the YIA (Young Illustrators Award) in Zurich in October this year was a pretty big achievement for us. It meant I could go back to Europe for the exhibition and we could create a new wall painting together. I think quite a few good things have come about through that too like recently being asked to do the advertising illustrations for a new range of Swatch watches coming out in April, and MTV are animating our drawings for an advert.

What would be your dream project?

I think we would like to go REALLY big with our wall paintings. Like the side of a huge building or something monumental.

What are you looking forward to??

We have a show at West Space in Melbourne in August, which I’m really looking forward to, as Louise is coming here for it, and we have a show in Copenhagen towards the end of next year, which is exciting.

Melbourne Questions –

Best gallery to discover interesting new artwork/illustration in Melbourne?

I really like some of the illustrators that Jacky Winter represents, so I would have to say Lamington Drive gallery.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

The Burmese Kitchen in Northcote. I would eat there every night if I could.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Probably bumbling around the house and garden, maybe making breakfast and going out for a coffee.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

It’s not a secret but I love the Moonlight cinema in the Botanical gardens. I think being from the UK, I can’t get over how exciting it is to be able to go to an outdoor cinema and sit with a picnic and watch the bats flying around…


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