Back in March, Laura McDermott linked up with Ben Cooper and Rob Harper from the WYS Graphic Design Studio to find out about Take Note, a recent project in collaboration with artist and friend Ewan Waddell. Focusing on the creative process: Take Note brings to light the work that goes behind ‘a final piece’, the exposure of which can be just as fascinating as what the artist often believes to be the perfected final product itself.
WYS stands for ‘What you sayin?’, a daily greeting used between mates. The Leeds Arts University graduates explained that the name is a play on our generational slang. Rob explained that they didn’t want the name of the studio to be anything too serious; they save any seriousness for their work. The idea of being a creative studio has meant the duo aren’t limited in their work to one facet of design, rather they have the span to get involved with all that interests them.
The studio is double-sided: they have a service side through which they do the classic graphic design. The other side is the product side, which Ben explains to me is all about initiating projects. This side is where they can have a bit of fun. An area of work the boys are always keen to get involved with is collaboration, it provides an opportunity to learn other artists, keeping the work fresh, which is why they were so keen to get Ewan Waddell involved with Take Note.
Focusing on Leeds as a city, the boys explained that having the ability establish themselves within a creative scene - that is quite young in some respects - has provided a world of opportunity that would not be possible elsewhere. Ewan explains that because there are so many young people who may not have a huge amount of experience yet - but are super talented and really keen to collaborate - it welcomes a birth of a creative scene. The boys gave a special nod to their mates at Slumpsounds and Treehouse, who they say “are doing bits on the music scene”.
“The whole thing is,” says Rob, “There is no other place like Leeds”.
Take Note, “Celebrat[es] the creative process, displaying artists’ unseen and unfinished works. Work that otherwise would never have seen the light of day”. Handpicking three artists, the boys asked to flick through their sketchbooks looking into the creative process of each artist and dismantling what their work was really about. They then took specific designs, putting them onto a tangible item, with each artist having their own featured garment. This hidden section in the creative process is what the trio found as “artistically beautiful”, this interest is where the project has derived from: the want to exhibit this beauty. Rob stated how lucky they all felt to work as a three for Take Note, saying that he felt like their ideas had streamlined into something bigger than themselves.
When artists have an end product in mind, they strive for it to be perfect, but nothing is ever holistically so, as art in itself is subjective. So, looking into what the artist believes “perfect” actually is alongside the raw unperfect process which leads to this is what the group found so fascinating. Ewan went on to add, ‘whatever the artists process is, it is an inherently unfinished concept that we have taken and made a finalised piece out of. The juxtapositional nature of the whole project leans on this threshold of finished and unfinished.’ The creative process is truly captivating because everybody’s is so unique. It has an impact outside of the art world, ‘Malcolm X, James Baldwin or the Suffragettes, all had their own viewpoint. Taking physical action as a result of this to make a tangible change is fascinating… the creative process is something which can and has changed the world’.
Discussing the impact the group wanted Take Note to have, they explained they wanted to celebrate their chosen artists, creating a platform for an audience to respect their work through seeing their creative process and how much of a grind they put in. On a wider view, it’s about making the creative process more obvious and bringing it forward from their subconscious of individuals whenever they engage with art in the future.
At the beginning of April, the collective held the launch night of the project at streetwear store Bene Culture, in Birmingham. The event was an exhibition and pop-up shop all in one. The exhibition involved a video display of the artist interviews, in which they each had the opportunity to describe their own process, allowing them to show off themselves as a creative. In terms of a sensory experience, people could see the garms produced whilst hopefully absorbing the creative process by looking at the sketchbooks on show, reading the publication and watching the audiovisual documentary.
Linking up with Leeds based artists Slumpsounds to create the specific music for the event and the Mannequin Collective for the more complex digital elements, the group really are serious about the importance of collaboration. Another Leeds based company, Jailhouse Print co. did the printing on the garms and Ben added that they were key in bringing the whole thing to life.
In the future, the boys hope to bring Take Note to cities they see as influential. With the Leeds date to be set in the very near future, the event is something you definitely want in your calendars - keep an eye on the Instagram pages on the left. The group hope to end the tour de Take Note in London and maybe even Berlin. The boys are positive for the future that lies ahead for the project due to the wide scope of potential that it has. Even throughout these early stages, the project has evolved significantly into an entity the collective were unaware was even possible. We look forward to seeing the path Take Note ends up on.
Words by Laura McDermott