Sunday, 3 May 2009
Suburban Bliss is a London-based clothing line that specializes in intricately detailed, screen printed t-shirts. All of the items are made independantly and environmentally friendly with designs that take elements from African motifs to Black Metal theatrics whilst seemingly rejecting the urban landscape about them. I interviewed founder, Toby Shaull, about the company and it's output.
-You've been operating since 2007, how did the company begin? Is Suburban Bliss just yourself or a team of people?
Suburban Bliss has actually existed since 2000 but the first full line of designs came out in Summer 2006. Suburban Bliss is run by me, no one else does anything to do with SB, just me. My girlfriend and other friends help me a lot but I do everything myself.
-What does a typical day for you entail, is Suburban Bliss the only current project of yours?
It depends what is going on and how empty the bank account is. I do a lot of different shit every day some days are 100% dedicated to SB other days I work doing carpentry. Some days carpentry, art, SB, drinking, riding around, running away. Every day is different if every day were the same I would not be able to deal with life.
-The designs seem to be mostly done by yourself, but with additions from other artists here and there. Do you approach people to participate or are the artists friends of yours?
The collection's change every season but I only work with my friends. A lot of designs are not done by me actually it will always say somewhere who did what on the archive blog http://www.suburbanblissarchive.blogspot.com
-Some of the designs of Suburban Bliss mirror contemporaries such as Aurel Schmidt and the illustrations of Alexander Tucker, but where do you take your inspiration from?
I like art, raw art. That is the main inspiration behind the label. Music, art and the earth are the main things behind the imagery. Everyone who contributes makes art firstly and some are illustrators for a living. I make art that is what I am aiming to end up doing with my life I think. My art is very limited I would not describe myself as an illustrator my designs come from head my mind and my surroundings. The things I draw came to me when I was younger spending a lot of time on the tube and thinking. I have ideas that I cannot illustrate so a lot of time I suggest something to one of the people I work with. Not a brief as such but, for example I told Izzie that I would like her to do a graphic with a skull made from flowers so she went off and did and the end results were one of the best t-shirts I have run. I actually used to work for the same guy as Alexander Tucker doing Polish Plastering and he did specialist paint finishes I have never met him myself he left just as I started when he got signed to ATP.
-There are strong visual themes running through your t-shirts, turning away from the built environment around you embracing the natural one, for example the heavy use of animals and faces as well as the outdoor fashion shoots. Is this intentional? Why focus on this particular idea for your designs?
The untouched Earth is the real world - we live in the Human world, the fake world. We are animals who have forgotten what we are we have made a world we control or so we think I just don't like it that much. The Lostalots, the woods it's where I like it is true and beautiful. I am haunted by Nature, I am followed by my past, I live in the city I don't know why anymore one day I will flee. I will escape the entrapment that we have created for ourselves.
-It's entertaining here to see you talk about the processes of t-shirt making, something that I've never really given a moments thought - how hard can it be to get the designs you want onto a shirt?
Most people that make clothing especially printed clothing such as t-shirts make what ever art work and slap it it on a t-shirt. Most of the prints out there are screened in Plasticol which is a plastic based ink it is totally chemical/synthetic and sits on top of the fabric. You know when you get a t-shirt and feels like it has a piece of sand paper stuck on it, I hate this, so 90% of what I make now is using discharged water based ink. This is not to harmful to the environment when washed off the screen and it embedded into the fabric so you can't feel the print. Screen printing is an art like any creative method it can become as complicated as you you want it to become. We print everything in London by hand, every print is inspected and tested, Stuart who prints my stuff is in a place where other screen printers all work in the same premises they rent the space from an artist called Rob Ryan all of them have been screening for many years. So they are the dons of screening no one can touch them.
-DoBeDo.co.uk, seems like an incredibly help/useful website, how did your association with it come about?
DO BE DO is my friends Tyrone Lebon's web site, we have an arrangement, so he is my online shop he helps me out - he is an amazing human I love him. DO BE DO is trying to put creative stuff out there, helping creative people who are making/doing stuff show it. Ever since I met Tyrone he has always helped me and everyone around him, he is a good dude I am stoked we are both doing are own thing and trying to survive.
-Was your background in skateboarding a way of leading you into the work you do now: how you met contacts and creative people etc?
I used to be a professional skateboarder I was involved with the industry side of skateboarding since quite a young age so yeah definitely. I helped launch 2 skateboard companies. I grew up skating at Harrow Skate Park where this distributor used to be based. I remember doing work experience there when I was 15 and folding t-shirts.
-What are your plans for the rest of the year, are you working on a new collection already?
I have been working really hard finishing of summer 2010 line I am making shirts 100% inside the M25 everything has been made inside London's perimeters printed, sewn together and all components have been purchased inside the M25. Keep on going stay alive and I am going to Italy on a long planned Art sabbatical. I am so excited about that I am gonna work on my own art one day i will do show just need to finish all the work.
Suburban Bliss have a brand new website launched this week, of course it's incredible
And for all you London tykes out there's a sale on this weekend, with prices going from just £2.50