Interview for PIVOT Dublin Feb 2012

Chris Haughton was listed in Time magazine’s ‘DESIGN 100’ for the work he has been doing for fair trade clothing company People Tree. He has co-founded Node a fair trade company to create rugs in Nepal. He also writes  children’s books ‘A Bit Lost’ is about a lost owl and ‘Oh No, George!’ about a bad dog.
What did you do?
Together with Akshay Sthapit I set up NODE a fair trade rug making project in Nepal last year. The aim is to connect designers with third world craftspeople, help people out of poverty and support their development projects and make some nice rugs at the same time. 
Why did you set up this Initiative? 

I had been working with fair trade for the past seven years in London, and i admired the development work that fair trade was doing and wanted to get more involved. I took 8 months off to visit India and Nepal and see if i could create something together directly with the producers. I travelled around to see what could be made in fair trade that would best use design together with craft. The main reason I set it up was to help out the development project, their crafts are of very high standard but the design is not at the same level and so it made sense to rope my designer friends into this too. As it turned out there were plenty of things that we could work on and this has develope

d into much larger projects than i had first envisioned. 
What is your role in the network of makers, producers, sellers etc?

I noticed that there was an opportunity when I posted images of the rugs on my blog. People from all over the place emailed to enquire about buying them and as my blog is followed by many designers  people also wanted to ask if they could design their own one. I spent a frustrating year unable to do anything as i didn’t have the facility to receive payment for customers and at the same time the complex bank charges/import duties and logistics made it prohibitive for other designers to order single rugs and have them shipped. I spoke about this to my nepalese friends and

Akshay who specialises in logistics and imports solved it. 
I have hosted exhibitions to launch our rugs and got the Design Museum stocking us. We hope to connect more designers and do a large exhibition in the Design Museum London shop later in the year. I am trying to steer clear of organising as i am more of a designer and am currently looking for someone to ideally take over this role. Im very happy to oversee it and get paid for the work i have done to help it to work but i am not interested in making money from this project.
What do you think is the value for producers? for customers?
The makers are unskilled, mainly illiterate adults who are from the lowest caste in Nepalese society. working for Kumbeshwar and NODE provides them with a way out of their situation and provides enough work and free schooling so that they can afford to send their children to school. There is no social welfare in Nepal so the poor are in a very precarious position and this gives a way for themselves and their children to be educated. Profits generated support a school of 240 and an orphanage of 19.
For customers the chance of owning or creating unique traditional nepalese handwoven rugs with unique designs. We are working with some of the worlds best designers and illustrators and are creating some very unique and beautiful rug designs. The Design Museum in London has been stocking us and is keen to host future events. Nepalese carpet making is world famous and is of very high quality so it makes sense to have great designers work together with the craftspeople to make valuable lasting items.
How do you think the production / distribution networks that supply our cities might change in the next decade?
The way we have been consuming has been radically changing in the last few decades and our retailers have been growing longer arms and sourcing products and manufacturing further and further away and so our shopping experience is more and more mediated. Consumers need to react to these developments, the social and environmental effects of these changes are very big and need to be addressed. Interesting experiments include the peoples supermarket in london which runs like a co-operative, their stock is almost entirely fair trade or locally sourced with a lot of thought going into best practises. their workers are volunteers from the local community and work for a few hours a month to become a member. It is seeing some real success and a second branch now opening. Some of the the new economics foundation’s projects are excellent. There is also ‘fair tracing’ an academic project to use QR codes and other IT technology to better show the sourcing of produce at the point of sale sounds to me like it could have huge potential for really changing consumer habits, although as far as i am aware there has been (understandable!) resistance and it has been stalling. Any technology that can help the great transparency of the internet reach the shady supply chains of our supermarkets i think would be very exciting
By | 2017-09-02T02:24:19+00:00 February 13th, 2009|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Interview with Safia Minney People Tree 2008

1) How long have you been working with People Tree? What motivated you to use your creativity to promote Fair Trade and environmental issues?

Ive been working with People Tree for 4 years. I had wanted to become involved in the fair trade movement since travelling in India and Nepal for a summer while i was in college.

It was a very eye opening trip, when i left i was a fairly apathetic art student but i was so dumbfounded by the poverty that by the time i came back i was reading all these books on economics.
I found it very difficult to understand how such hardworking people could be so poor.
2) Why did you get fed up working in the conventional creative industry, and want to design for social change as well?
As a designer, to keep myself interested and passionate i always really try to put full effort into the work i do.  I had been working with some big companies and did some quite high profile jobs but ultimately I felt i was wasting my time in design and advertising when it came down to it. It was very superficial and mostly the people i worked for only cared about sales, money and the position of their logo. They werent small companies so i didnt care much whether they sold more products or not. In fact some of the more ruthless multinationals (and their marketing people) i worked for i would have quite enjoyed to have seen their sales take a downward plunge. I started thinking that when it came down to it all my really hard work and effort was being wasted. Some of the designs looked pretty good though!
3) What is your vision for social and environmental justice?
I think one of the biggest problems today is that multinationals are able to dodge laws too easily because there are not enough international laws, and individual governments are powerless when a company is operating internationally. They are effectively above the law. They need to be held to account a lot more than they are now, whether it is enforced by effective International law or from pressure from an educated public.
I think transparency is very important. If people could actually see the difference that their choices made, their buying choices would be very different. Nobody wants to treat people that they meet personally unfairly, but the problem is that all these transactions  are happening outside our view. The only way we can see or hear from the people that we effectively make transactions with everyday of our lives is when the media shows us a story of injustice that makes it to the news. If the public knew more they would change but the companies involved have an interest in clouding the issues.  I have a lot of hope for the transparency that the internet can bring.
4) Does it matter to you that People Tree can never pay you your market worth? We pay you in T-shirts and handmade notebooks and Fair Trade chocolate instead.
No! I still love working for People Tree.  Its very satisfying to work with something that is making a difference, also i have to say that the people i have met in People Tree are fantastic, as a freelance illustrator i have worked for literally hundreds of different companies and i can honestly say that i dont think that any of them have the same passion about what they do. Its been very life affirming after working with marketing teams. Also the chocolate is very good.
5) Where would you like to see your designs on People Tree handmade paper products sold?
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new web pick interview 2008

Tell us a little bit about your background?

I studied graphic design and illustration in the National College of Art in Dublin, Ireland. While i was there I was always trying to get work in magazines and other bits and pieces here and there. After college I ended up traveling around and about in Asia for two years before moving to the UK in 2004 to work for the London based animation Studioaka. I left there to work again on smaller more creative freelance projects. I illustrate for several magazines and newspapers I have been making hand-made prints and designs for clothing and stationery with the fair trade company People Tree.

Who are your main inspirations? / What are your influences? 

I love Indian madhupani folk painting, and in fact most Asian folk art has something ornate and very beautiful about it, and its so different to what we are used to seeing. I used to be crazy about Rousseau’s work until I saw a book on Bengali painting which just blew me away I’m living in London at the moment and I visit museums pretty regularly. I’ve kind of used this for the work I have been doing for People Tree.
How do you keep motivated and interested?
I travel a lot and don’t work too hard!!
Do you have any new projects coming up that you can tell us about?

At the moment I am in Korea working on a childrens picture book that I wrote also.

Its about an owl that gets lost and makes friends with a squirrel.
Any words you would like to pass it to new comer designers?

I remember I saw Tomato (London based design group ) give a talk about design and they said that as a designer ‘you get the work that you do’, which i think is a really good piece of advice.
If you start out doing fashion illustrations and have nothing more than fashion illustrations in your portfolio or on your site you’ll find it hard to get hired to do editorial pieces.
Art directors are naturally unwilling to take a risk so you’ll find that the only way to get out of that side of the industry is to take a bit of time off and create the work yourself.

The best thing to do is to work in your spare time and find a way of working that you like and enjoy and then take that to the art directors.
A friend of mine had an agent for Children’s book illustration. She advised him to produce work in particular styles that she thought would sell, so he followed her advice but he still found it hard to get work and he didn’t enjoy doing work in a forced style. It wasn’t until he produced a body of his own work that he felt comfortable with did he start getting serious work.
If your work is unique you definitely will get better and more interesting work.
Having said all that probably the most important thing to do is get your work out there, I went to college with a guy who does really really great work but he is quite shy about showing his work off and as a result hasn’t got half as much work as he should be getting.

What is your most favorite commercial design of our own?

Im quite proud of the recent cover I did for Luce Irigaray’s book ‘sharing the world’. Also one image I did last year for the guardian. (how to turn)

Name some designers you like the most?

jonathan harris
john maeda
andreas pohancenik
yugo nakamura
grant orchard
By | 2017-09-02T02:25:06+00:00 February 11th, 2009|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Interview with Kim Harte 2010

How did the idea for A Bit Lost come about?

I had done an image of some birds in a forest that i really liked and wanted to develop. The birds were quite richly patterned and the forest was a complex web of undergrowth with little elements hidden in it. I really wanted to do a simple story for them that could feature the forest and all its hidden elements and simply introduce us to the animals of the forest, i loved books that are richly illustrated as a child that have hidden elements in them that you can find later.

Originally i had the idea of them coming down from their perches and traveling through the forest hunting for berries, cleverly dodging the other animals. The story was simple and repetitive but In the end it left a kind of sad and lonely tone to the book. The forest seemed like a very inhospitable place. I wanted a way of somehow introducing the other animals in the book that didn’t involve the birds running away from them. Eventually I had the idea that the bird could fall from his nest and then being lost he has a reason for approaching and interacting with the other animals.
i actually wrote a little bit about the process here


What illustrative processes did you use in making the book?
I start out with a quite quick pencil drawing, i scan that into the computer and colour it in and do other little tweaks and details from there. Its usually a quick sketch because often if its too detailed or elaborate it loses its energy and character.
What made you decide to make a children’s picture book?
I have always wanted to do picture books. I am a huge fan of picture books myself and I like the idea of doing something fun for children that can start them out with an interest in reading and books. Its a very nice area for an illustrator to work in.
Before I made my book I had been illustrating for various different projects from advertising and design to magazines but I had always wanted to produce something that was my own work from the initial idea to the finished result.


How did you go about getting published?
I wanted to have the story and look of the book quite finished before i contacted the publisher, that way I could do it mostly myself and do it as close as possible to the way I had planned. Some of my friends in London are Illustrators for childrens books but they are often strongly art directed and pushed into doing something that accommodates the author and the publishers vision for the book which they found frustrating. I had a fair idea of what i wanted to do, but the only problem was I could never get around to actually sitting down and doing it as i had no deadline for myself. Years went by, and in the end I decided to book a ticket to the Bologna Childrens book fair as it would give me a deadline to work towards. I managed to get the bones of the story together along with a few images i was happy with. At the fair i saw hundreds of publishing companies but really there were about 30 that i thought would be interested in my book and style of imagery. In the end it was a Korean publisher, Borim Press who agreed to publish it. They do some very interesting books and have a really creative approach so i was very lucky to get published by them.


You can read more about them here


What are your favourite picture books?
I really love Beatrice Alemagna’s work. Un Lion a Paris perhaps is my favourite. It is about a lion that takes the train to Paris, she wanders around the city and falls in love with Paris and finds here home as a famous Lion statue in the heart of the city.
Also Tara Publishing in India do some great unique (even screen printed!) books. Catch that crocodile is perhaps one of my favourites of theirs
Cho Sunk Yung is a huge inspiration for me also. His books are quite different in tone than my own. His Underground Garden is about a man who plants a garden in the middle of a dark city and it bursts through the walls and takes on a life of its own. There is a beautiful poetry in his writing and there is always a metaphor and meaning behind the stories.
Shinto Cho is great for funny very young books I think they really appeal to children. Leo Lionni and Bruno Munari are great for their simplicity and clever graphic ideas. Tove Jansson has great characters.
You are artistically involved in a variety of projects. Can you tell us about some of those?
I mainly started out with advertising and magazine work, but there has been lots of very random projects. I have done commercial animations, I did murals in Tokyo and London and elsewhere.
I am very proud of the work i do for the fair trade company People Tree. They work with 80 producer groups in 15 different developing countries. They produce ranges of clothing and gifts with womens shelters and disabled groups and I have been helping out with the designs of some of those products. I have done bags / t-shirts / stationery sets and repeated patterns for clothing and dresses for them. The profits all go to building schools and training their workers. They do really fantastic work
What are you working on at the minute? Might there be another picture book anytime soon?
I have actually spent the last 8 months in India and Nepal developing some new fair trade products and designs
One of the ideas im most excited about is making rugs from digital designs. They are an amazing group and support a school and orphanage
Also we have developed a little toy for the A Bit Lost book.
You can see it here
I have just finished the packaging design for ‘Coco Camino’ fair trade chocolate in Canada.
I have done a large 10m mural for the Gibson Hotel beside the Point in Dublin which went up last week
Also Im doing a new book about a bad dog (Oh No! GEORGE!) which will published by Walker Books and will be out in 2012.
By | 2017-09-02T02:25:07+00:00 February 11th, 2009|Tags: , , |0 Comments

illustration interview 2007

1. Can you tell me about your background; when and how did you decide that you wanted to be an illustrator?
I think I always wanted to do something with drawing. I wanted to do fine art in the beginning but when I got into art college I was sure that I wanted to do something with computers because it seemed like that’s where a lot of the interesting things were happening. Computers seemed to allow more creativity, so I took the graphic design course.
2. Where were you educated?
In NCAD in Dublin, Ireland. I studied graphic design. I finished in 2001.
3. What material/technique do you use in you illustrations. Has this changed since you started or did you stick with a particular technique?
I use pencil and paper most of the time. If I need a particular texture I might use charcoal or ink or sometimes collage. I then scan these in and play around with them on the computer. I probably use the computer a lot more now than I did a few years ago!
4. I am very interested in animations and moving image, what programme do you work in when you do your animations? How do you go about doing them?
I do most of my animations in after effects. I do most of the work in photoshop actually and just make it move in after effects. Its all very very basic!!
I just do a drawing in photoshop duplicate the layer and redraw it in a different position. Then I take that into after effects and show or hide the layers.
5. Can you tell me about some of the projects you have worked with? Is there any in particular that you found challenging, interesting or exciting?
Im very interested in fair trade and im quite involved in the company people tree.
Its very satisfying to get  to do work that I enjoy and is really of use to people.
Working in advertising made me very cynical for a while!!!  They have such a low view of humanity!!!! So I wanted to stop doing so much of that.
I also love to do animations or any work with narrative.
Im doing a childrens book at the moment with a Korean publisher which is really nice to do. Its my first childrens book!
One of my favourite jobs was for a UK government agency called THINK! It was set up to stop young people doing drugs and driving. (Do they really need an advert for that??!!)
They took quite a progressive approach and admitted to themselves that people were going to do drugs anyway. The slogan was ‘Stupid things you do on drugs’ and I illustrated 8 stupid things people do on drugs… and then the last one was ‘GET INTO YOUR CAR AND DRIVE HOME’ I had great fun doing that job!!!
6. I am very interested in your fair trade project with People Tree, can you tell me more about that?
There is a good interview I gave earlier this year…!
That says it better than I can!!!!
7. Your illustrations seems to have a lot of content and often a message to them, is this important to you? Do you find that your work gets better when you work for a good cause?
Illustration and the process of being commissioned is often quite useful because it forces you to  add more and more content to your work. 
If I was just working for myself I would be happy to create work that had one dimension to it but clients are always looking for more and more elements and messages and that ultimately forces me to push in different directions than I wouldn’t usually do.
I worked for a while for a quite creative animation studio ( where I was doing some interesting creative work but in the end I kind of decided there is more important things to do with my life than making commercials for companies I don’t believe in.
I used to spend a lot of extra time on the different projects because Im a bit of a perfectionist sometimes, and then I hated to think that I was spending all my own time and energy (and weekends!) on nothing more than making a very rich multi-national company richer! 
I don’t know if the work I do is creatively any better but it feels a bit better! 
8. How important do you think moral is for illustrators? Would you work for a company you didn’t approve of if it was a great project/good money?
I have only turned down a few jobs because I didn’t agree with the company.
One was for a coffee brand (Kenco) that seemed to want to be seen to be fair trade when it wasn’t. I think they liked the fact that that my style was associated with fair trade. I would not work for anything like that for any amount of money…! Usually I just quote really high for a job if im not that interested in doing it. If they still want to use me then at least we are both happy!
9. How do you start with a new project? What do you do if you get “illustrators block?”
To be honest I don’t really get illustrators block…! Im usually too busy!
Sometimes if a project has no deadline it tends to never get started because it keeps getting pushed back. At the moment I have quite a few ideas that id love to work on for myself but im just too busy at the moment. Too many ideas rather than the opposite! That’s one of the great things about working to briefs because it always adds new ideas to your work and vocabulary. Each successful new brief usually adds a few ideas to my head! Most of which I never get around to using!
10. Your illustrations have a unique style, do you have any advice for students that have a hard time finding their own style?
I think just keep doing work that you like and keep pushing the boundaries of what you do.
I did an interview that mentions that too…
Take a look here.. 
11. Do you ever find it hard to compromise with the clients you work for? (If what they want is not what you want to do) 
All the time! They ultimately are paying for it! I try and win them around but it can be very frustrating. More recently people have been approaching me because they liked my work from a previous job… which makes it likely that we will have a fairly similar taste ….but not always! The odd time ill put ‘my version’ of the finished piece on my site… so that at least its not a totally wasted effort. 
12. How did you get your first illustration job? Do you have any tips on how to break into the business?
I got into a magazine in Ireland through a friends brother who was designing it.
Id say that just make yourself a site (or even a myspace page etc!) and get it under the nose of as many art directors as you can. The internet is a fantastic way to promote yourself.
11. What are you working on right now?
Im actually in India teaching a course on Illustration. First time I ever taught really!!! Its great though! Really enjoying it
Besides that im doing an illustration for a german arts festival and I just finished an animation for a fair trade company.
By | 2017-09-02T02:25:08+00:00 February 11th, 2009|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Irish Illustration student thesis interview 2007

– How would you describe your illustrative style?
Im always asked that but i still don’t have an answer. It is mostly character based illustration. And mainly produced on the computer. I do a fairly broad range of stuff, everything from animation to repeated patterns for textiles.
– When you did Illustrate for Irish publications, what publications were they? when was it?
Ive been illustrating for Irish publications since 3rd year in college. 2000 or 2001 i think. I started doing regular work for dSIDE in college and did that for a year. (its now gone out of business) I did a few images for the Irish Times Saturday magazine but nothing at all regular and recently Ive done quite a bit for Cara magazine. (Aer Lingus’ inflight magazine) To be honest though a lot of the work i do is advertising rather than editorial. Editorial commissions are probably about 30% of the stuff i do. Only 20% of that is for Irish publications.
– Do you think there is demand for illustrators for magazines or newspapers? (not only in Ireland)
Many Illustrators work almost exclusively for editorial commissions but i tend only to skip from editorial to other different types of illustration, so im not really that familiar with that specific line of work.
But having said that, I do think that illustration is getting more popular in general. There has been an explosion in illustration and animation in advertising in the past few years. Id imagine its probably thanks to the computer.  It has made illustration easier and more flexible, allowing more control and creativity in the final images.
Many articles can be ‘illustrated’ a lot more effectively through illustration than photography, so there will always be a demand for some sort of illustration. The style can be ‘owned’ which is very useful in branding as it gives consistency in branding that photography cannot do so easily.
This is important for brands who want to be easily recognised from their competition but less so for magazines and newspapers.
To be honest I myself dont notice if there is a growing or declining trend for editorial illustration. I really dont know which way its moving.
One thing i do notice is that with the internet and distribution becoming more global i think it is probably becoming more and more difficult for more local magazines and newpapers to survive. London is a hub for the whole of Europe really for quite a lot of advertising and design. Ive worked on an a lot of specifically Irish ad jobs through London based companies.
– What is your opinion of stock illustration?
There is a very strong reaction against stock illustration amongst some of the established illustrators. But i dont have a big problem with it to be honest. Stock illustration suits some cheaper magazines because its not too expensive and you know what you are going to get. There will always be a market for original and specific images and illustrators and photographers can focus on that. If a specific illustration isnt really needed for an article they shouldnt really have to pay for one.
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