Homegirl London pays homage to Mr Wingate. He’s not a middle aged man as one might expect from the ‘Mr,’ he’s actually a young textile graduate called Sam Wingate who sells a range of cushions, clocks, tea towels, pouches and purses. He started his business from a market stall on Brick Lane selling printed T-shirts and expanded into home wares featuring his exquisitely illustrated treasured London buildings and pubs alongside additional subject matter. He works out of his East London studio where he specialises in low volume hand printing to ensure that every item produced is slightly different and unique. I caught up with Mr W to ask a few questions …
Q: Tell me about your design background.
A: I graduated from the Norwich School of Art and Design (now Norwich University of Arts) in 2005 and packed up my bags and moved down to London. It took me some time to figure out what direction I wanted my work to take and during this period I took an internship with product designer Tomoko Azumi and then a job with a former tutor – Deborah Bowness. These two jobs gave me a great insight into how I wanted to work and proved to be really inspirational.
Q: What inspired you to set up your own business?
A: After working with Deb, I knew that I wanted to work producing my own range. I hired a studio in Hackney and opened up a market stall on Brick Lane where I took a range of hand printed T shirts to sell. It was great to be producing something to sell and to get feedback from customers at the market.
Q: Why call the company Mr Wingate and does your dad mind?
A: Initially Mr Wingate was going to be the name I used exclusively for my clothing line. In 2010, when I moved into the home wares market, I tried dropping the Mr, but I really missed it and I liked the character it gives the name, so I re-installed it. I don’t think my Dad minds; in fact he’s probably quite flattered by the name. However quite often when people meet me for the first time, they expect me to be a lot older than I am.
Q: Tell me about your collections.
A: I quite like to have a theme when I’m designing a new collection of prints. The East End Pub Crawl came about after actor Matt Horne requested I did a print of the Macbeth Pub, it seemed logical to complete the set, so I decided a crawl of some of my favourite pubs was in order. Old London Town came about when I was thinking of a tourist’s view of London, I’ve just added to this collection of cushions with my ‘Big Ben’ clock. My other collections come about through playing with pattern and texture, which harks back to my degree when I was concentrating on designing wallpapers.
Mr Wingate’s East End Pub Crawl Cushions, £49
Mr Wingate’s East End Pub Crawl Tea Towels, £12.50
Q: Tell me more about the clock you’ve just designed.
A: I had the idea for this clock in the start of the summer. It’s an illustration of the Elizabeth Tower, which was formally named last year in honour of the Queen’s jubilee, but its better known to everyone as Big Ben. It took some time to get the clock from an idea in my head into a finished product. I’ve hand printed my illustration onto a thin sheet of laser cut birch plywood. I’ve attached a clock mechanism in the back, so it’s a fully functioning time piece. To finish the whole thing off, I’ve had a box made to fit this very long and thin clock, which was a surprisingly exciting exercise!
The Elizabeth Tower Big Ben Clock, £75
Q: Where do you get your design inspiration from?
A: I tend not to look too far for inspiration. There’s a strong London theme in my work, which considering where I live is pretty handy. I get ideas in my head for new collections or pieces and I tend to mull them over for a while before starting work. It’s good to get the ideas well-formed before I start sketching them out.
Q: What’s your fascination with architecture?
A: Architecture is something that runs through my family. My Mum and Dad met studying architecture, and there’s a long line of architects before them. When I was a teenager I wanted to become an architect, but I sort of flunked my A levels and I didn’t get into the courses I’d applied for. I found myself enrolled on an art foundation course and It was here where I discovered my love of textiles. The interest in architecture never left me, which is still apparent in my work today.
London Landmark Cushions, £49
Q: What’s your favourite building in London and why?
A: Tough question! There are lots of pretty great buildings, but the ones I love the most are the ones that you can get into as well as look at from the outside. The home that Hungarian architect Erno Goldfinger designed for his family in the 1930′s is probably my favourite. It’s owned by the National Trust, so you can take a look round inside and you can find it at No.2 Willow Road, Hampstead, London.
Q: Tell me about your materials and printing processes.
A: Process is something that is really important to me. I’m really proud that my work is hand screen printed. I’m keen to keep traditional techniques alive, especially when more and more printing is moving over to digital methods. It’s not that I’m against change; I just like to keep older processes alive. Good quality materials are important to make the work its best, I like to use heavy weight cottons to make my cushion covers and then fill them with duck feather pads. It’s also important to me where the materials come from, and I like to support UK manufacturers where ever I can.
Q: Tell me about your commission work.
A: I really enjoy working on a bespoke collection. It’s great to have input from the people who are going to be selling it. In the past, I’ve been commissioned to design a range of T shirts to celebrate Where’s Wally’s 21st Birthday, I’ve wallpapered the offices of top engineering firm Arup and had some great commissions from leading department stores Selfridges and Harrods. But one of my favourite commissions was from the British Museum. I was allowed to go in early one morning before the museum opened to take photos and make sketches. It was such a privilege being alone in the museum before the hoards of visitors arrived.
Q: What’s coming up for the rest of the year?
A: The year ahead is beginning to look busy. I’m working on a new collection of cushions, featuring bridges around the UK, I’m trying to develop the style I have gotten used to, so they’re taking some time to perfect. I’m also working on a couple of new commissions including one for Harrow School, and I’m running lots more screen printing classes in my studio.
To buy Mr Wingate’s products go to his website www.wingateprint.com. Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of Mr Wingate, special thanks to Sam Wingate.