An interview with the Wiltshire designer-illustrator-foodie Stephen Wildish, creator of The Friday Project.
The Foodie Bugle: Stephen, when you were very young, a little boy at school, were you good at drawing and art? Where do you think your flair comes from?
Stephen: My father was a frustrated cartoonist, working in the RAF by day, and every evening around the dinner table we would draw together. He would teach us and we would play drawing games. This was by far the best education in drawing and illustration, and as a result of my father’s teachings out of four children in my family, three went to Art College and myself and my brother are both professional designer-illustrators.
TFB: Did you go to a design or art college to sturdy, or did you do an apprenticeship?
Stephen: I did a fine art painting and screen printing degree at Sheffield University, because I thought I wanted to paint, until I got there and realised that I actually wanted to design. By the time I left and realised I wished I had screen printed instead!
TFB: Have you always had your signature look, typography, fonts and colours or were they created over time and experimentation?
Stephen: My style is something I have grown into as, fortunately, I have had the freedom to be a freelancer. I have also worked in studios as a classic graphic designer for quite a few years, so that background also influenced me.
TFB: When you started work was it very hard to make a living at first in the illustration field?
Stephen: When I first started in this profession I did a lot more classic graphic design for companies. The Friday Project I do now, on the other hand, has given me more freedom to create what I want and attracted the sorts of people who want that sort of style of illustration. The Friday Project is my weekly way of creating an illustration and putting it out there, in cyberspace, for all the world to see. I tried for a year to create “a daily drawing” but that became a chore so a weekly project was much better for my social life.
TFB: How did you manage to find work and how did you come to set up your own business in Wiltshire?
Stephen: I am lucky enough to have been able to find work surprisingly easily because in this modern-day digital era my rural location has not proved to be an adverse factor for me. I have been freelance for two years and I am about to become a limited company, so hopefully getting bigger and better all the time.
TFB: Your work is so bright, funny, joyful and thoughtful. Where do your ideas and inspirations come from?
Stephen: A big influence in my work is David McCandless: I think that he is brilliant and presents information in the simplest way possible. Comically it has to be the greats: Ronnie Barker and Peter Sellers.
TFB: How does the process evolve from the moment you meet a new client to the moment the project is finished? Do you go through many different stages of producing samples for the client to choose from?
Stephen: If I am commissioned to create a design piece then, yes, I can have a few revisions and amendments but as an illustration piece I like to do self-initiated work or work from a single word like egg, table or spoon.
TFB: Food is clearly a significant part of your work. Is food also a big part of your life? Do you cook and grow your own food, visit farmers’ markets, eat at good local pubs, know any good delicatessens, butchers, bakers ….?
Stephen: I have a vegetable patch, which I love working on, I love teaching my children where food comes from and planning with them what to plant next year. Food is a huge part of my life and my holidays are always based around food. Myself and some friends have a seasonal meet up where we all cook a dish for a meal: one couple is chosen to prepare the starter, one couple prepares the main course and the third couple is responsible for the pudding. The only rule for the event is that it has to be seasonal food. It’s quite poncey but we love it!
TFB: What are your hopes for 2012? Who would you like to collaborate with or work for?
Stephen: I am working on some limited screen prints for some retro movies that I have to keep hush hush…
To see more of Stephen Wildish’s work visit his website at www.stephenwildish.co.uk
Follow Stephen on Twitter: @stephenwildish