We can't wait to showcase Paul Ward on the Label runway, this April 13th. This innovative designer is crafting T-shirts with political messages onto eco- friendly fabrics. Everything he designs has a distinct purpose and is intended to make people stop and think. What do his T-shirts say to you?
What was the inspiration behind Take Root Printing?
As a recently graduated Fine Art student in 2013 I thought ‘What next?’ I knew I wanted to draw for a living, but trying to translate that into a job for myself was proving difficult. After trying to get my own designs printed by another company, I stumbled on some equipment for sale and decided to dive in.
I was conscious of the sheer saturation of the t-shirt market and didn’t want to provide some more white noise, lazily designed slogan-based clothing. I chose to design t-shirts based on issues close to my heart; animals and the environment featuring heavily. To back up the eco-friendly messages I hoped the t-shirts evoked, I wanted to print on garments of the same nature. So, everything at Take Root is organic, recycled or fair trade, sometimes all three at once!
Where does the name come from?
Take Root is a double faceted name, as a nod to my love of the natural world and using products that minimise impact on it. Also, because I wanted to plant ideas with the messages of the t-shirts and hoped they would ‘Take Root’. One of my first designs did exactly this, at least in my very immediate surroundings. It centred on Sumatra and the devastation Palm Oil production was having on its ecosystem. Four years on I’ve noticed a change in how the people around me, family, friends etc shop. They keep a keen eye out for ‘palm oil’ and it’s many pseudonyms, actively avoiding anything that contains it. The t-shirt may have only had an impact on fifty people, but I would have been happy with just one.
How has the city of Manchester shaped your work?
That’s a difficult one really, I wouldn’t say Manchester as a whole actively influences me. However, the town where my studio is based, Altrincham, really has. Our market hall has been totally revamped and really gave me the opportunity to reach people in the real world, I think without the encouragement from customers at the maker’s market I would have given up, feeling that I wasn’t good enough.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I use the same method as I do when producing artwork not destined for t-shirts; I pick subjects that provoke a strong reaction from my self, whether positive or negative. I then obsessively read into the subject and produce a few mock-ups based on what I’ve found out, settling on a final piece and drawing it. For the ‘Plight of the Bumblebee’ t-shirt I spent a few days reading about systemic pesticides and their role in CCD (colony collapse disorder) in bee hives and subsequently neonicotinoid pesticides to produce an anti Dupont, pro bee t-shirt. The documentary ‘The disappearing bees’ opened my eye to this subject.
Would you describe your work as political?
Always. Whether in an overt or covert sense I feel that without a message behind them, I’d struggle to formulate ideas for designs. I’d say the most politically charged t-shirts would be ‘The Untidy State of America’ which was themed on the 2008 ‘sub-prime mortgage’ crisis and how the USA handled it. Long story short they made the Ex CEO of Goldman Sachs the Secretary of the Treasury and all the bankers got enormous bonuses. Secondly, was a t-shirt I produced when several of the world’s most powerful governments, including our own decided to sign off on airstrikes in Syria, I tried to encapsulate the entire saga in one drawing.
What statement are you hoping to make?
I just want people to think, spend a little time looking at the information and be a little be more fair to one another and the planet.
Why is the environment so important to you?
I love it. The most relaxing way to spend a Saturday is to put some walking boots and a backpack on, wander around a forest and sit on a log to eat your lunch. I’ve been fascinated by animals for as long as I can remember, show me a field mouse in a hedge and you’ve made my day! I’d be devastated if we keep losing our ecological diversity the way we are. I mean if you can’t wake up to the birds in the morning, what’s the point in getting out of bed?
What do you most want people to know about your brand?
There’s a real person behind it, I’m not a huge company doing masses of market research to decide which cause to feign interest in to sell the most jumpers. I really believe in everything I design and print. I’m hugely touched by every t-shirt I sell because that’s a piece of me someone has seen value in and I’m chasing the ever elusive dream of trying to work at something I enjoy.