LABOURS OF LOVE
At Bristol’s first Something Good festival, Nick Carson finds a rekindled joy for craft
After building momentum with its thread events series, Bristol agency Fiasco launched its first two-day festival, Something Good.
The diverse line-up ranged from the infectious enthusiasm of local success story Gavin Strange to the anti-establishment surrealism of Swedish superstars Snask, with their leather-clad band Väg in tow.
Perhaps the most memorable takeaway from Strange’s talk was the pie chart that revealed how he splits his time to accommodate a day job at Aardman, his passion projects under the JamFactory alias, and family life – a packed schedule that includes taking advantage of being awake at 5am (for baby-soothing duties) to crack on with some personal work.
“I want to do all the things that excite me. Because, why not?” shrugged Strange. “Opportunities are born from passions. But I pride myself on being a realistic idealist. We all love to be floaty-floaty, but we still have bills to pay.”
Another speaker to make use of graphic charts to make their point was Karin Langeveld, co-founder of Trapped In Suburbia, whose analysis of working on creative projects with clients plotted a line from ‘pure magic’ to ‘pure tragic’. Unlike Strange, the Dutch studio has a firm belief in keeping to 9-5 hours and making the most of ‘off’ time to recharge the batteries.
She also employed pie charts to determine how she decides what projects to take on, based on three ‘P’s: press appeal, pay, and play value. An equal three-way split, or ideally a bigger weighting towards ‘play’, and she does the job. Anything else is a no.
Both Strange and Langeveld also discussed the hands-on, physical nature of some of their work – from building physical masks for video shoots to playing with innovative materials, such as ‘bake to reveal’
type – and this was a theme echoed throughout the day.
Satirical sculptor Wilfrid Wood, who cut his teeth on caustic 1980s puppetry show Spitting Image, discussed everything from crafting celebrity likenesses to recruiting lifedrawing models via Grindr, while Morag Myerscough shared the labour of love involved in painting her giant installations.
“It’s 30 minutes between coats, which limits what I can do in a day,” she said. “I have people to help, but I often paint all night on my own. It’s OK though, I only live upstairs.”
Brendan Dawes celebrated the “beautiful inconvenience in physical objects”, and how data can translate into something much more tangible and accessible. “Machines don’t understand it, it’s not logical, but it makes us human,” he insisted.
“When you speak in a universal language, people latch onto it,” he continued, giving the example of an installation of his Happiness Machine – an internet-connected printer that randomly dispenses happy thoughts – in Germany, where some elderly ladies spent 10 minutes glued to the window in the rain watching it. “They didn’t care about the tech, they just cared about the messages,” he smiled.
Anthony Burrill was very frank about the group effort involved in his iconic letterpressed poster, ‘Work Hard and Be Nice to People’, and had his own story of elderly inspiration: the phrase itself was overhead from an old lady on Clapham High Street, and his printers, Ian and Derrick, set the type with fairly minimal direction.
“I made a few hundred to send to friends, and then it was my wife who had the idea of selling it,” he admitted. “40,000 copies later… thanks, Ian and Derrick.”
Clockwise from far left: Anthony Burrill discusses the power of ideas; the enraptured crowd in Bristol, and enjoying a drink afterwards; several speakers ran hands-on workshops on the Saturday; Karin Langeveld from Trapped In Suburbia.