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Interview with OK David on his 'Wool Town' design

Interview with OK David on his 'Wool Town' design

At the beginning of 2020 Misty Cashmere commissioned OK David to create a design with - you guessed it - yak, sheep and goats!

We love his humourous and colourful style of illustration and were thrilled with the result. We had the design printed locally onto 100% bamboo for our face masks at the beginning of lockdown and have now had design printed onto wrapping paper and gift cards for our Gift Wrapping Service.

In a 'Meet the Designer' session we have asked David a few questions about his work and the design he did for us.


Your brief was to create a design with sheep, yak and goats – where did you get your inspiration for dressing up these characters?

I don't have much trouble making characters. Imaginative play is what I am geared to do, and I value silliness above almost every other thing in life. I appreciated a brief that let me practise this! One thing regarding animals and clothing is that I tend to avoid full outfits, and instead I like to play with accessories. I think accessories tell the story in an interesting way, and you can keep the character of the animal. I know it sounds odd, but when you anthropomorphise an animal, you still want it to look like an animal. I have a few favourite accessories that I often return to, like a fez or a pair of curly slippers, and I like to combine things in odd ways, like the sombrero and the briefcase that the sheep is carrying. The only one of them that I had a complete idea of from the start was the tennis goat, I could imagine a Bjorn Borg goat, so that's what I did.


What is your favourite character in the ‘Wool Town’ design?

Either the rollerskating goat or the sombrero and briefcase sheep. I think they are the most lively, but I don't know why.


Which is your favourite animal from your design for Liberty’s ‘Queue for the Zoo’?

It was an animal that didn't make it into the final pattern, a zebra with red spectacles. Out of the animals actually in the design, the baby elephant throwing the paper aeroplane and the anteater are my favourites. What other fabric pattern has an anteater in? They're fantastic creatures. They look like they've been drawn wrong, so I like drawing them. I looked at Queue recently, by the way, and I think the most memorable character is the giraffe. If you take a quick look at the pattern I feel it jumps out more than the others. Maybe you agree? I don't know why I think this exactly. Perhaps it's just in the unusual nature of giraffes, because there's no other animal with such a long neck.

Detail of the Liberty print 'Queue for the Zoo' on a shirt front.

Is it very different designing something for a repeat fabric/paper print as opposed to a one off painting?

They're different and they're the same. The details of each commission are different, but there is the same sensation each time of being a problem-solver, asking questions and puzzling over how to do a good job. I find every commission of mine has its own character, with specific challenges and choices. The first challenge is: how do I begin? What is important? I start off by asking myself 'why I am making this picture, or series of pictures. What am I setting out to achieve?'

Other than that, I don't know the right answer to your question! Both are about creating small worlds. It's true that they are very different: one-off paintings require me to plan the composition carefully, thinking about the corners, and the shapes within the painting that tell you where to look, whereas repeat patterns - at least the way I make them - are more about creating a collection of elements and experimenting with how they can be put together in a balanced way. But both require composition and both require experimentation and balance. So far I have learned everything by tinkering. Perhaps I'd have a more correct answer if I'd been formally trained.


What are you working on at the moment?

I'm illustrating a storybook, and creating a make-your-own cracker set. I've never made anything seasonal before, at least not for Christmas. My crackers are each hand-painted with jungle scenes.


Is there a particular artist or person who has inspired you?

I'm inspired by people who are curious and active, and who use their initiative. You know the kind of person, who tinkers with things for the love of it, and who paints on an old door using whatever paint is close to hand. I like people who use their creativity in an honest way. If you'd like me to name a name, one person who inspires me is Derrick Denholm. He's a Canadian artist and poet who I know, who is on nobody's radar but who should be in galleries all over the place.


 More of David's work can be seen on the OK David website.