Mr Wingate was founded as a printed T-shirt label in 2006 by textile graduate Sam Wingate. His first point of sale was a market stall on London’s Brick Lane, but a enviable collection of stockists soon came calling, followed by the opening of his own shop on Columbia Road. Mr Wingate specialises in low-volume printing, which means each product that leaves the studio is a tiny bit unique. And, luckily enough for us interiors fans, he didn’t stick to T-shirts, his designs are available on all sorts. Mr Wingate’s Old London Town collection (of which the St Paul’s Cathedral cushion below is part) is launching at Pulse this summer, but let’s get to know the man behind the screen print, as Sam talks inspiration, grand schemes and why it’s sometimes best to completely ignore your teachers at school.
Tell us about your studio. It’s in part of an old peanut factory in the East End of London. When I sit at my desk I can see the Olympic Stadium. It’s a space where I go to think, draw and create. I don’t have a computer in my studio, so when I’m there I can concentrate on making. In this age where computers form such a strong part of our lives, I really enjoy working by hand, using processes that haven’t changed for years and years.
And, is there such a thing as your average working day? My days can vary quite a bit depending on what stage of a project I am at. They usually start with breakfast in front of the computer, where I can catch up on emails and write to do lists for the day. Once I’ve finished at home, it’s time for the morning commute which, for me, equates to a cycle ride across Victoria Park. I really enjoy this part of the day and I love people watching. Once in the studio I’ll sit down with a coffee and work through my lists. This will usually result in me either drawing, printing, or sewing. I like to have a few projects on the go so I can chop and change. By about 7 I finish up and either go home to cook or, if I’m lucky, head off to catch up with friends.
Who or what inspired you to become a designer? I grew up in the countryside in north Norfolk, and my parents always encouraged my sisters and I to make things when we were kids. We would make all sorts from wicked bows and arrows in the garden to dainty dolls house furniture in our bedrooms. Later on when I was at art school in Norwich, I met Deborah Bowness as a visiting tutor. Her wallpapers utterly inspired me and I was lucky enough to get a job with her when I graduated. Working with her really inspired me to think about what I wanted to do with my own work.
How do you get from idea in your head to finished piece? Initially it’s all about drawing. I always keep a couple of sketchbooks on the go. A spark of an idea will either come to me through drawing itself, or I might have an idea for something elsewhere. Either way I need to sit and draw through the idea until I can confirm what direction it’s taking. Once this is sorted out I can start to prepare the artwork for printing. I do this with a pen and paper, and once I’m happy with it it’s a case of turning the drawing into a screen print, which I can then print onto cotton. When I have my images printed onto cotton, it’s time to spend a few hours on the sewing machine, which eventually leaves me with a bunch of finished products.
What are you most proud of? There are various things I’ve been proud of at different points in my career, but right now I think it has to be getting my work stocked in Selfridges for the first time earlier this year.
How far ahead does your masterplan stretch? I’m a great schemer, I’ve probably got about a hundred different plans that stretch out way into the future. If I do half of them I’ll manage to keep myself busy into retirement…
What do you hope to get out of Pulse this year? I’m really looking forward to launching my new range of prints, Old London Town. So far I’m really proud of what I’ve produced, and I’m hoping that the audience at Pulse will be, too.
Other than designing, what makes you happy? Spending time with good friends, and good design.
How would you spend your perfect weekend? Actually I’m just about to. I’m going to spend next weekend in a modernist house in Suffolk. The house is full of exquisite furniture from the likes of Isokon, Bertoia, Thonet and Breuer. I’ll be staying there with friends and family so I’m planning on enjoying the good company and making full use of the pool and sauna.
Tell us a secret. My GCSE art teachers told me I wasn’t good enough to continue onto A Level art.