PS: Hi Ben! How’s life?
BW: Hello! Good thank you, unpredictable, but that seems to make things more exciting.
PS: Last time we spoke to you, in last year’s Fresher’s edition, you were a student studying Illustration at Plymouth University. What’s changed for you in a year?
BW: It sounds cliché but that really did feel like yesterday, cant believe it was a year ago now!
I hadn’t really had as much experience in terms of illustration/creative commissions for various clients. I made a big effort to get some freelance work under my belt before graduating, worried that I would be lacking in experience if not. The briefs and projects I got involved with definitely helped me learn a lot, but also helped balance out university module work with “real life” work, it’s easy to forget about the outside world whilst being a student.
I’ve recently started getting much more interested in areas of graphic design that border on illustration and how it can be applied to clothing. I’m a firm believer in using traditional drawing mediums, but have started to try and replicate the crisp and graphic lines created on a computer with pen and ink. Drawing graphic images by hand I find have a much more authentic and raw feel to them than say using digital software, this is something I try to include with some of the designs in Black Spot.
PS: So tell us about Black Spot Apparel! You say that the majority of the processes involved are done by hand?
BW: Black Spot Apparel is an idea I had during my second year studying. One of the main reasons I came to Plymouth for my degree was because of a fascination/passion for the sea and surfing. This subject often influences my illustrations, but I wanted to try and create more of an idea and lifestyle behind this passion.
With this in mind, I started carefully working on various designs, then spent a long time looking for a source of quality, comfortable and fair trade garments that look good also.
I find the process of developing the clothing into a finished product therapeutic and fun. Being originally from Essex, I was frustrated not being near scenic beaches or sea, so it’s kind of a way to ease that frustration and physically replicate my passion.
The printing and sewing by hand thing is really important to me, its more personal and each piece of apparel is treated with attention to detail that wouldn’t happen in a factory or sweatshop. It also means I can inspect the individual items closely for any minor print defects etc before having them ready for purchase.
PS: How can people buy your clothes? Do you plan on doing any craft/clothing fairs?
BW: I have an online store but I will soon be changing this and developing it more…
www.blackspotapparel.bigcartel .com My illustration work can be found here www.benwillsart.com
I like to get involved with various pop up stores and fairs about the country, usually in the south west or south east area, the best way to keep track of these is on my twitter page updates….@BlackSpotAprl
PS: How have you found the challenge of self employment?
BW: It was pretty daunting labeling myself as “self employed” with HMRC, but so far things have been good, every day is a challenge though and nothing seems to be certain.
PS: What inspired you to undertake this venture?
BW: The sea and lifestyle that comes with it is the main inspiration behind this brand, but also taking care of the environment that surrounds it. The coastline around the South West is amazing, I think it’s important to try and preserve these special places and not ruin them. I’ve started using organic and biodegradable materials because of this, and hoping to work with various charities that keep the sea and coastline clean.
The sense of quality in the clothing and knowing its been sourced ethically is also really important to me. Most consumer goods often have the familiar sight of “Made in China”, I understand why this is but I like things to be made in Britain that have a sense of quality to them. As a result of this, I started sourcing apparel manufactured in Britain that hasn’t been made in a sweatshop abroad.
PS: Do you have any advice, tips or tricks for anyone out there thinking of starting their own apparel company?
BW: It’s early days for me still so I may not be the best person to give advice, but the biggest thing I’ve realised is the importance of making the company relevant to your own interests. It makes every aspect of the clothing more sincere as its something important to you and your ideas, not some one else’s.
Also make sure you have fun with it!
PS: What does the future hold for yourself and Black Spot?
BW: I’m working on some new designs for the winter and hoping to collaborate with other creative people soon, from photographers to artists and graphic designers.
I’m also hoping to get involved with various festivals next summer and have a pop up shop there, Boardmasters and Glastonbury are high up on the list but we’ll see what happens!
It is still very early days, but if things go well I’d love to have a small shop and bay window camper to tour various pop up stalls over the country. I like the mixed up combination of sea, city and surrounding countryside Plymouth has, for me this makes it unique and special offering different things.
Thank you again for featuring me!