Amelia’s Magazine | Alfred & Wilde: an interview with designer Simon Mitchell

Heart London lifestyle -Alfred&Wilde
I have had my eye on the Alfred & Wilde brand since I first discovered the bold graphic designs of founder Simon Mitchell at the 2014 Tent London exhibition in September last year, and I then convinced him to contribute a special piece about the Platonic Solids for That Which We Do Not Understand, my 10th anniversary book. I caught up with Simon again at the recent Top Drawer at Olympia, and marvelled at the latest additions to his collection: bespoke jewellery created in collaboration with the Wolf & Moon jewellery brand. Here’s the low down on his wonderful style.

Simon Mitchell - Alfred & Wilde
What inspired you to turn from fine art to graphic design?
My fine art practice at university tended to use a lot of graphic design – I created advertising-style posters and lightboxes for my degree show – but the art world never appealed long-term. However, after a few years with an office job I realised I needed a creative outlet, and figured that designing cards and prints might provide this, while also potentially providing a more steady income than being an artist.

Yeshen Venema Photography
How long have you lived in Hackney and how does the area affect your work ethos and design?
I have lived in the area for nearly 7 years now, having lived in North London for four years before that. Both areas – like most of London – have a brilliant mix of people from all over the world, with all the variation in food, music and culture that goes with that. But you really can’t beat Hackney for arts and culture. Hackney Wick is home to the largest community of artists in Europe and Clapton and London Fields are full of the world’s fashion crowd. The city provides constant mental and creative stimulation and is always pushing you to up your game and be better than your peers. I’m not sure how I’d manage if I moved somewhere quieter!

Plywood (black and white) print-Alfred&Wilde
Yeshen Venema Photography  Icosahedron-tea-towel-AlfredWilde
Why are you so enamoured of the Platonic Solids?
I’ve always been a bit of a science geek – I studied natural sciences before fine art – so was keen to reference this in my designs. I was drawn to the Platonic Solids because they have a historical and mathematical significance that is intricately linked to what they look like. The geometric shapes were studied by the ancient Greeks but still manage to look like contemporary graphic designs when printed today.

What is the process of creating your designs?
I’ve got a box full of cuttings and postcards and bit and pieces, plus Pinterest boards, that I use for ideas. But most of my designs are sketched out on my Mac using an open source version of Illustrator called Inkscape. The software can be a bit limiting which has probably helped shape the style Alfred & Wilde style – less is more!

Cube Brooch-Alfred Wilde
How did the collaboration with Wolf and Moon come about?
I thought the Platonic Solids designs would be perfect for jewellery so was on the look out for someone to collaborate with. Luckily a friend of a friend put me in touch with Hannah from Wolf & Moon who loved the idea. It has been great to team up with a fellow Hackney brand with such a strong focus on geometric shapes. They’ve been amazing to work with.

London notebook-Alfred&Wilde
What was the highlight of your recent Top Drawer outing? Any exciting new retail outlets you can share?
Top Drawer was a great platform for Alfred & Wilde and I had interest from some really well respected retailers. I’m particularly pleased about getting new stockists outside of London in places like Brighton. And I’ll soon be stocked in the Southbank Centre shop in London – that’s pretty exciting!

How hard is it to run a business alongside another job, and do you have any tips for other designers in a similar situation?
I never seem to have enough time for Alfred & Wilde which is difficult, and my to-do list seems endless. But keeping my job on a part-time basis has given me an invaluable financial safety net and I couldn’t have started Alfred & Wilde without it. I think its important to have a job that can be really flexible. I’ve been really lucky that if I have an important event or need to wait in for a delivery I can change my days I’m in the office.

What do you hope for the future of Alfred & Wilde?
Whenever I am asked this question I always give the same answer: my dream is to have an Alfred & Wilde HQ in a canalside warehouse in Hackney Wick, with studio space, print facilities, and a cafe, bar and gallery. From there I can run the global design empire!

I wish Simon the best of luck with his plans for the future: let’s hope they happen!

Categories ,2014, ,Alfred & Wilde, ,hackney, ,Hackney Wick, ,Inkscape, ,Pinterest, ,Platonic Solids, ,Simon Mitchell, ,Southbank centre, ,Tent London, ,That Which We Do Not Understand, ,Top Drawer, ,Wolf & Moon

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Amelia’s Magazine | Big Fish Little Fish Family Raves: an interview with founder Hannah Saunders

Big Fish Little Fish Hackney Wick Snarfle-photo Tim Adey
Last weekend we took Snarfle down to party with Big Fish Little Fish at Hackney Shapes, a grungy warehouse venue in Hackney Wick. Inside children and adults of all sizes frolicked under the UV light… creating fabulous neon headbands with Captain Cookie, bouncing around the play area (copious tents were a great hit with our one) or eating delicious cakes by BakerChef. Below the stage everyone danced with great abandon to the Old School rave tunes, with bubbles aplenty popping over little heads. I caught up with founder Hannah Saunders to find out more…

Big Fish Little Fish Hackney Wick-Photo Tim Adey 2
Big Fish Little Fish Hackney Wick-Photo Tim Adey
Big Fish Little Fish Hackney Wick-photo Tim Adey 3
All photography above by Tim Adey.

How and when did the idea of Big Fish Little Fish come about?
I came up with the idea in March about two years ago. I had left my previous career in the civil service and wanted to do something completely different. I love music and have young children and had already introduced them to festivals – having a great time together. I realised there wasn’t anything else providing that celebratory sense of freedom for all ages outside of the summer and so decided to create it myself. I’d been to kiddie discos and hated the music. I wanted to create something that would appeal to children and old clubber parents (and carers, uncles, aunts, family friends, grandparents) alike. One afternoon the name came to me and I decided that was it… so I started telling people my idea and went about running the first one.

BFLF Camp Bestival
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Who is behind BFLF?
I do the majority of the organisation, negotiation, production, operational management and artist liaison. Very early on I teamed up with a friend I met through MumsnetNatasha Morabito – and she manages all the comms/social media side of things. She also has an excellent instinct for good performers to link with and has been instrumental in setting up partnerships with children’s theatre groups, hula hoopers, Out With the Family (in support of LGBT families) etc. Natasha got on board a neighbour of hers who was a textile designer – Alfie Willmott – who now designs and manages our magnificent craft area as Captain Cookie. We’re the core 3 – all seasoned clubbers, parents of young children and lovers of a fine old time. All 3 of us are massively supported by our partners who usually take on driving/roadie duties for a party as well as all the childcare.

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Natasha’s husband Joe Muggs is a dance music journalist and has been key in connecting us to our excellent DJs – Tom Middleton,Terry Farley, DJ Food, Si Begg, Coldcut, Readers Wifes, Mixmaster Morris have all played – and mine, David Round, has provided invaluable business development advice, bookkeeping and looks natty in a steward hi vis jacket. We have a lovely crew of regular stewards – shout out to Helen Poole! – and loads of DJs and performers who have played/performed multiple times. At the beginning in particular I drew on all my friends for help and advice – it was like I’d spent my life creating my ideal management board. One friend, Dave Faunch, stayed up till 4am the morning of our first party painting the BFLF logo onto a backdrop in my back garden under a spotlight. We were also really lucky to get Happy Monkey smoothies on board as sponsors and with their support we’ve made the craft area a really high quality creative hub at the events. I’ve also been lucky to find some great venues and owners/managers for our regular parties – Shapes (Hackney Wick), The Bedford Arms (Balham), Electrowerkz (Islington), Brixton JAMM – as well as lovely producers at venues for occasional one offs e.g. Stratford Circus, Mini Vault, Southbank Centre, Winterville.

BFLF Captain Cookie craft area
Big Fish Little Fish 2
How do you ensure a great team of DJs and interactive arts and crafts collaborators?
Joe and Natasha have both recommended and introduced DJs to BFLF. I also had a few DJ mates who have played slots and after the first few the DJs started generating interest from other DJs e.g. DJ Food recommended us to Jon More (Conduct), and some are friends of friends who came along as customers with their families and asked to play! Alfie is the craft genius who so brilliantly designs themed crafts and drafts the giant mural – children love her. Other performers we either approached after being impressed by their work (Tea Dance for Little People) or approached us and clicked or in some cases were a wild stab in the dark that paid off (Korg synthesisers, artists Helicar&Lewis). So that’s how they got to us but I think we retain them because people really enjoy the parties, understand what we’re trying to create and want to support BFLF. There’s a real sense of social inclusivity and fun – proper old rave ethos. Altered Natives even remixed the classic track Energy Flash as Energy Fish and several DJs have given us mixes for our use. Basically I think we’re nice and people appreciate that.

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Why is a BFLF event as much fun for adults as children?
You might be better off answering this yourself! I deliberately set out to create something that was as much about the adults having a good time as the children – as a means for everyone to have a good time together. There’s something faintly rebellious for parents to be taking their children to real club venues where they’ll hear decent tunes and can drink a pint while their kids are having a laugh too. One regular described it as “responsible irresponsibility” and I think that sums it up nicely. My favourite move is the shoulder dance when the adults pop their little ones on their shoulders and everyone bops up and down while some drum’n’bass plays. I’ve also got some hilarious pics from our recent Mother’s Day rave where 4 of the Dads had their babies in slings, pint in hand, in a row – dancing.

Big Fish Little Fish Snarfle Marianne
Snarfle with Marianne, Natasha’s daughter.

What have been the most memorable events over the past few years?
I can honestly say every single one of our parties has been memorable in one way or another but some particular moments include: the first ever parachute dance to DJ Food playing Max Sedgley‘s Happy, seeing the BFLF crew (including me) dance with their kids at parties, dancing dressed as a dalek next to Mixmaster Morris as he played an awesome space funk set, the straight down the line techno set of James Tec (Plex) where I danced on the stage with my old clubbing friend Mog and her eleven year old son, the ginormo crowd at the Southbank Centre where we had to stop the music for 10mins to re-establish crowd control, having Marian the security guard step up to DJ brilliantly when my support DJ was a last minute no-show, seeing some children with autism spectrum disorder enjoy the parties, Camp Bestival residency, Magic Under London Mini Vault mini festival.

Big Fish Little Fish awards
I hear you recently won an award, what was it for and why do you think BFLF won?
We won the National Family Arts Festival awards for Best Family Event 2014. It was voted for by the public out of 4,500 events. The particular party we won it for was where BFLF hosted a social with Out With The Family (supporting LGBT families) and our DJs were Readers’ Wifes. So we all went to collect it together. The award organisers sent us the anonymised comments by voters and they all said things like “the most fun I’ve had for 5 years“, “I’ve never enjoyed myself so much with my kids” etc etc. So it was with genuine public appreciation.

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Where can we catch up with you over the coming months?
We’ve got parties coming up in Balham, Islington and Hackney plus festival appearances at Elderflower Fields and Camp Bestival. I do have other things in the pipeline for over the summer – both inside and outside London – but I can’t say anymore about them yet. Best thing to do is Follow @BFLFEvents, Like Facebook or sign up to our mailing list via the website to hear the latest news. We have some very exciting things coming up!

Categories ,@BFLFEvents, ,Alfie Willmott, ,Altered Natives, ,Baby Rave, ,BakerChef, ,Best Family Event 2014, ,BFLF, ,Big Fish Little Fish, ,Brixton JAMM, ,Camp Bestival, ,Captain Cookie, ,Coldcut, ,Dave Faunch, ,David Round, ,DJ Food, ,Elderflower Fields, ,electrowerkz, ,Energy Fish, ,Energy Flash, ,Family Rave, ,Hackney Shapes, ,Hackney Wick, ,Hannah Saunders, ,Happy Monkey, ,Helen Poole, ,Helicar&Lewis, ,interview, ,James Tec, ,Joe Muggs, ,Jon More, ,Korg, ,LGBT, ,Magic Under London, ,Mini Vault, ,Mixmaster Morris, ,Mother’s Day, ,Mumsnet, ,Natasha Morabito, ,National Family Arts Festival, ,Out With the Family, ,Readers Wifes, ,Readers’ Wives, ,review, ,shapes, ,Si Begg, ,Snarfle, ,Southbank centre, ,Stratford Circus, ,Tea Dance for Little People, ,Terry Farley, ,The Bedford Arms, ,Tim Adey, ,Tom Middleton, ,Winterville

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