Last year we had the pleasure of working with veteran and Band of Brother, Ben Skipper. Ben brought his talent and creative flair to a collaborative project to design a range around the theme of Armed Forces Day; a thoroughly patriotic collection to wear with pride.
This popular and best-selling range was a wonderful showcase for Ben and one which has resulted in being nominated as a finalist for 'Best Product Range' at the Association of Cultural Enterprises Awards. We are very proud of this nomination and thank Ben for his creativity and hard-work on this project.
With a fresh product in mind we approached Ben to help create a beautiful print for our new scarf, the Watercolour Bloom scarf. The design evolved over time to become a light-weight, floral scarf made to lift any outfit, with a style to carry you through the Spring-Summer. Ben has many creative hats and even photographed and styled the scarf on his friends and family at the wonderful Kelham Hall, see images below.
We caught up with Ben to find out more about the inspiration behind the hand-painted print and how he felt about working on this project.
What was it like working on a new project for the Trading shop team?
Firstly, it really was a great honour to be asked to work with the Team, the opportunity to produce work for such a great cause doesn't come up every day, so when I was asked I was I was totally blown away. I've always wanted to produce an item of clothing that could be worn in a variety of situations, so be given the opportunity was mana from heaven so to speak.
Once the design had been processed and returned to me the transformation was truly breathtaking. I had been kept up to speed throughout, but when the first set of soft proofs arrived I was blown away by their beauty and how sympathetically they'd been rearranged, and when the hard proof arrived it really was something else. I was amazed at how the delicacy of the material matched that of the watercolours perfectly. That moment of holding the finished product for the first time was one of excitement and anticipation as well as appreciation of skills that had gone into changing watercolours into a breathtakingly beautiful pattern.
The challenge to produce something original and eye-catching is the best part of any brief and once the final proof watercolours are sent off the worst part is the waiting. It's almost like a deep breath before the plunge, so when the first proofing email does arrive the relief and excitement is overwhelming.
What was it like working on the artwork for the Watercolour Bloom scarf? How did you get started on a design? What inspired/influenced your design?
Working on the artwork of the scarf was a great opportunity to explore my own creativity and experiment with a colour palette that didn't necessarily adhere to nature's own work, it was an opportunity to be freely creative and just see what happened. I initially started the process by looking at flowers in plain form, looking at how the petals, in particular, grew outwards and then trying to emulate their swooping movement in my designs. I quickly sketched out the outer petals and then started to lay down the initial colours, working towards the center of the flower as I went. I then literally just went with the flow as inspiration took me and stepping back when I felt it was right to do so.
My inspiration ranged from the wonderful commercial botanical illustrations that proliferated in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, to the photography of Karl Blossfeldt, and Robert Maplethorpe as well as Dain L. Taskers radiographs and a few stills of my own.
What do you like most about the design/finished product?
Without a doubt the way in which they had been incorporated into this wonderfully flowing pattern. The main two colour palette, whilst muted, is also vibrant and warm, the details of the flowers standing out and demanding attention whilst drawing you in. The choice of producing the pattern as a scarf is inspired as by its very nature, like a wildflower, it flows around the wearer, mirroring the intricate pattern produced by the Trading Team.
What was it like to photograph the product you helped design?
Again it was an honour to be asked to do the photography for the scarfs and involve both my wife and friend Leander Crampton, who are great supporters of Help for Heroes. It was exciting to sit down and draft the shoot plan thinking of the best ways to show off the scarf. Kelham Hall in Nottinghamshire very kindly allowed us to use their grounds and Hall for the shoot, and the results of placing the scarf in a range of environments and contexts really helped to show it and some of the latest clothing lines off beautifully.
What would you say to someone thinking of buying this scarf?
First and foremost it funds vital support for those who have sustained often catastrophic injuries in the line of duty or who have become ill during their service. It also helps heal the broken, allows families to come together and laugh once more, and strengthens communities. Your money provides not just a day out to the seaside, it provides a moment, a hug, a long-absent laugh with ice cream. It allows the lonely to experiment in a team sports experience that leads to a new passion. It pays for world-class staff who support our Veterans and their families every day throughout the UK. It pays for ground-breaking rehabilitation, companionship, and hope. It's an opportunity to support all of this and buy an article designed by a beneficiary of the services of Help for Heroes. Ultimately it's an opportunity to stand side by side with some of the bravest Veterans and families I have ever met and say; I know and I care.