Q&A - A little bit of me
When I was thinking about how to construct this new post ‘getting to know me a little more’, I thought the best way would be to actually have myself interviewed, and hopefully this would give a more in-depth insight that I probably wouldn’t of been able to write myself. Genius, lets see if that worked.
So here we have it! I think it gives a good insight without to much waffle - I hope.
Enjoy, oh and there’s a quick fire bit I’ve added in.
So tell me your name and where you’re from?
Em, sounds like I’m on gameshow, ha.
My name is Phil Christer and I currently live in a small village with my wife just outside of Northampton, basically the centre of the UK, famous for its shoe makers.
Thanks, but they’re trainers, no I know what you mean. Yes the story of Kinky Boots is set in Northampton. Our football team is also called ‘The Cobblers’.
Ok, lets start at the beginning, what got you into design?
Ok, starting with a small question to answer.
Um, I guess I’ve always been interested in creating and loved drawing as a kid as most kids do, but it quickly became what I wanted to do all the time, that and football. I used to spend hours drawing Disney characters from sticker books, and was also allowed by my parents to paint a space scene on my bedroom wall. That was fun, I think it looked great.
How old were you then?
I think about 9. I wish I had a photo of it, actually my dad might have a slide in the attic - I’ll have to ask.
So you loved drawing as a kid, when did you think about it as a career?
Very early on actually, but not drawing characters or cartoons instead drawing houses and floor-plans.
Yeah, we spent our summer holidays at my nan’s in a place called Minis Bay in Birchington, very close to Margate, and along the sea front there were a row of amazing looking houses with front facing balconies, I was obsessed with balconies for some reason. But I used to go back to my nan's and spend hours drawing the floor-plans to how I saw those houses inside, and then started to draw my own. I remember them being incredibly detailed it was all about the detail, still is!
Sounds like you wanted to be an architect?
Yeah, I loved drawing houses, plans and I guess, though I didn’t think it at the time interiors as well.
So what happened?
I actually went for work experience at an architects, actually it might of been a civil engineers when I was 14 I think, I don’t have the best memory, and I began to feel this might not be the creative direction I wanted. That coupled with 7 years of study made me rethink things.
So being an architect was off the table, what creative direction did you go in?
I really enjoyed art which was just general drawing really and also technical drawing at school, which led me into graphic design.
So did you study that in the end?
Yes, I studied graphic design at Northampton College for 4 years and loved every minute of it. I could just focus on being creative and designing all the time, it was the perfect environment for me.
Did you have any design idols?
Yeah loads, people like Peter Saville and his work with New Order, Neville Brody, Vaughan Oliver and his work with 4AD Records and Saul Bass as I was also into films. I made quite a lot of short films and experimental work while there and just loved any Saul Bass film title sequence. But I think my biggest influence at college was David Carson, his use of typography was just out there, so creative to me then. There was a magazine called ‘Raygun’, check it out I still have lots of issues somewhere, it was such a great magazine.
Also companies like Designers Republic and Attik.
So it sounds like you enjoyed your college years?
Yep, loved designing but also loved questioning my designs and ideas. I think I was generally a good kid at college but I used to question the lecturers quite a bit and their opinions. I remember there was one project that they couldn’t really grade because of how I spoke about it and the opinions I gave. I think they just gave me a merit ‘which was in the middle’, in the end because they needed to give a mark, but it got them questioning themselves which is what I wanted.
Ok, lets fast forward to designing as a career and the type of work you’ve done in the past. Tell us about some of the projects you’ve worked on at the company you were at?
I worked with lots of different types of companies as you do within a design agency but mainly the music industry, a few artists but mostly compilation albums creating album artwork and TV adverts and I worked with quite a lot of different magazines.
What type of music?
Mainly dance music, do you know the Clubland albums?
Yeah, I’ve heard of them.
Well I created that brand and all the album artwork which I think started in 2002, it’s still going strong today after all these years. The style of the logo with all the dots actually became a typeface ‘unofficially’ called Clubland, I remember seeing it and thinking that was really great that it had that type of impact. But yeah, mostly dance music. I remember going into HMV and seeing the top 5 albums in the charts all of which I created, that was a nice feeling. As for artists, there was NDubz, remember them?
Yes Tulisa and wasn’t the other one called Dappy? But let’s move onto magazines, which ones did you work with?
No Dappy talk then. That’s ok. Loads of different magazines but the ones I did the most work with would be Max Power back in the early 2000 and then heat magazine up until a few years ago. I loved working with the heat team on so many different projects, you could really go to town with the creative ideas. They did this amazing thing for me one time. I love Karl Pilkington I think his style and delivery is just genius, then one afternoon I received this video file and it was from Karl, it started with ‘Hello Phil, I don’t know who you are but……’ The guys at heat had asked him to do this video to me. Loved it - amazing! Great people.
So do you have any interesting celeb stories with anyone you've worked with?
Ha, need to go back quite a few years but I’ve got a couple of juicy ‘Jordan’, as she was known then ‘Katie Price’ stories.
Sorry, my lips are sealed especially as this is going to be a blog post in the end.
So tell me, how did ‘what phil sees’ come about?
I guess I need to rewind a few years now.
I needed to change and needed to press the reset button on my life. I’d been living with mental health issues, predominately depression, for many years and it came to a point where I finally had to let it all out and speak about how I was feeling.
That must of been a big moment for you?
Yeah the biggest, it sounds so incredibly easy to say ‘just talk to someone’, but it just wasn’t, hence being in that situation for the amount of time I was.
Well like I said I kinda pressed the reset button and re-evaluated everything, mainly myself and what I was doing. I sorted my health and fitness out, cut out loads of rubbish food, lost 6 stone and took to running.
I’ve read that exercise is really good for peoples own mental health.
Totally agree with that. With everything I’ve been through over the past year I do think I have a great ‘hands on’ insight into this area, I’d actually like to look at developing this more and I’m sure I could help, especially with people wanting to lose large amounts of weight the right way and not just some crash diet where they’ll put it back on. I do believe you need to change the way you think before you look at changing your weight. I’m kinda going off on a tangent here, but it could be interesting to explore.
Ok, so what phil sees?
Yes, so along with changing me I wanted to address my creative side. I stepped away from the agency I was at and had 100 and 1 different creative ideas to explore. I’d had this idea for a children’s cartoon series and book for ages and thought about that, but I also wanted to be able to be free to experiment.
I’d always loved photography but hadn’t done anything with it. I worked on a couple of my images and someone said you should look to sell those, so I did. It was all very small, and I did a few art fairs which were really nice and a totally different change of pace to what I was used too.
But you’re doing a lot more than just photography with what phil sees?
Yeah, that’s how it started, but I quickly wanted to do more and create different styles, especially typography which I love. So I started creating new work, some of which was minimal and typographic and some where I work with the photography creating new pieces.
Tell me about a couple of your prints?
Ok, well I love not only coming up with ideas and designing, but also coming up with the names for the designs. There’s a print called Pink Casino that's been very popular which is based on a shot I took while in Las Vegas. I thought it was kind of an obscure composition and casino sign, like you really were in the middle of nowhere and you just stumbled across this mystic place that only a few people knew about. Oh yeah, I love to think up stories behind some of my work as well. A bit of a tangent here but it’s made me think about life drawing at college. We did quite a bit of life drawing at college which was ok, but it bored me a little so I used to quickly sketch the model and then create elaborate scenes around them, I put them in a circus one time, to me it just made it more interesting.
The reason it’s pink is that I wanted it to be a complete contrast to what the natural colour would of been, which was just rocks and desert.
I’ve just created a follow up called Pink Motel, that in itself I quite like ‘a follow up to an art print’, I guess that comes from my love of film, again that’s a shot I took and created an art print design with it.
So all the photography is yours, you don’t use any stock photos?
No everything is shot by me, whether I was away somewhere or I took a shot of something to include in another image. I want the people who buy my work to know that it couldn’t be created or bought anywhere else.
And all your prints are limited edition, why did you decide to do that?
I like the idea of something being a little exclusive, there is so much choice online when it comes to buying art and photography prints that I wanted to create something that not many people would have on their walls, for me it makes it that little bit more special. I’ve been a collector of limited edition prints myself, so I wanted my work to have that same meaning.
Is it ok to carry on with a few more questions?
Yeah I think so, I need to type all this up I don’t think we’ve been going that long. (Insert: As you can see I’m actually typing up everything!!! If you’ve made it this far I hope its been ok, there were only a few more questions after this, don’t worry).
So how do you find working on your own?
Overall I really like it, well I do at the moment! It was strange at first not having a team around you, but the whole type of work, working hours and pace makes up for it. I wanted, I should say needed, a change and it’s working well so far.
I’ve seen you use Instagram a lot, do you enjoy social media?
Instagram is my main social platform, I used to use twitter but I stopped using that a few years ago and haven’t gone back since starting what I’m doing now. I also use Facebook, but not to the extent of Instagram.
It’s only been a few months since I really launched what phil sees with what I’m creating now and I’m finding the whole home interior, home decor audience incredibly welcoming and responsive. It’s an area I’m constantly learning from and enjoying. I love seeing my work up in other peoples homes, each order goes out with a hand written letter and I also ask that if anyone posts anything online then please tag me in. It’s wonderful.
Actually, I tell you what. I really love the directness you have with the people that buy your work, yes I’ve worked with big clients in the past but that was company to company, there’s something so great and personal when it’s really just you designing and creating and a person liking it enough to spend their own money on it. I really like that, it’s very touching.
Do you have any phobias?
Ha, where did that come from has someone asked you to ask that, I think you know the answer?
I might of been told?
Ok, yes I’m afraid of butter and margarine. Funny ha, ha, not to me.
Even if I’m in the same room as some exposed butter it makes me very uneasy.
I do like cooking shows, and seeing it on there is just about ok because I know ‘it’s TV’, but if someone is melting butter, or worse tipping it in to something then I have to look away.
I’ve been like this since a kid.
Do you know why?
Yeah I think I know, but I’ll leave that as an unanswered question for now - oh, the mystery!
Ok, final question then, what are your plans for Phil and what phil sees, and how did you come up with the name by the way?
The name is a quick one, I didn’t want to be called something like stardust prints or anything wanky like that, as it wasn’t me, I thought it should include my name, but not my full name. So Phil Christer, turned into (Phil C) i.e. sees and it’s what I see and do, what phil sees.
Plans for me?
For me it would be to continue on my work/life balance, continue exercising and eating ‘mostly’ good stuff. I tell you, it really hits you when you have something with quite a bit of sugar in it if you don’t really have it generally. I was tripping off that ice cream. Ha.
With what phil sees I want to continue to create new prints, also coming up with different and interesting ways to release them, I’ve just released two new prints that will only be available during the month of July for example, again I kinda like those ideas. I also have this idea about a new print that will be up to the buyer if they leave it how it is, or totally change it? Mmmm...
I’d like to get some of my work into stores so people can see it directly, a comment I get a lot is ‘it looks so great in real life’! So getting it into stores would be great, maybe create some exclusive work for some of them. Oh, lots of things, I’d love to expand on what I’m doing on social media, maybe try and talk about my work more, make more connections, so much stuff.
I’m going to leave this last bit totally up to you, just do some kind of quick fire round, you know what I mean?
Yep, lets go.
Some quick fire stuff about me! (In no order)
- I was the under 12’s county champion at the 'plunge'. (Basically you dive in the pool and it's the person that goes the furthest without moving their arms or legs).
- My all time favourite food is spaghetti bolognese (but the way I make it, not out in a restaurant).
- My drink of choice would be iced water. (Yeah, you could say it's boring but I love it). An iced cold beer from time to time also goes down very well though.
- I’ve always liked the colour orange.
- I think the first single I brought was Duran Duran Rio.
- I met my wife online, we’ve been together 13 years and married for 7 of them.
- We don’t have any pets but my wife would love a dog. I did have dogs growing up, maybe one day.
- I much prefer a sight seeing adventure holiday than sitting on a beach.
- The film I think I’ve seen the most is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but probably haven’t seen in 15 years.
- I used to (though I haven’t tried it since at college), stick a paint brush all the way down my nose, yeah I don’t know why!?) Just thinking will that get me on Britain's Got Talent?
- I’ve been to a few states in the US, but would really like to spend some time in middle America.
- Or a log cabin in Canada (just somewhere in the middle of nowhere).
- I’d like to write a children’s book one day. (I have the idea all ready to go).
- And also write and direct a movie.
- Myself and my wife both love theme parks and rollercoasters.
- I don’t ‘do’ hot drinks, which means I don’t drink tea or coffee.
- I also don’t drink iced tea or iced coffee (just don’t like tea or coffee).
- The first commercial design job I did was creating rave flyers in 1990 for various warehouse parties. I wasn’t paid as I was part of the team organising them.
- I ran my first half marathon this year (on a flippin’ hot day)!