This Halloween just passed, when I was thinking about who to profile in this month’s column, I remembered that November was the month that Barbados celebrates its anniversary of Independence. So I thought, maybe it would be good to find a Barbadian creative to showcase.
That very evening, while I was drinking with a fellow creative friend in a south London pub, I struck up a conversation with a young man and his wife. What I subsequently discovered was, not only is he a designer, not only is he good, but to cap it all his father hailed from Barbados.
Spooky? I’ll say. Or “Cheese on Bread!” as they say in Barbados. Introducing this month’s man of the moment, Mr. Andrew Eastmond.
Andrew Eastmond: designer, cardboard engineer, tailor
What’s your background?
I started out as a studio technician and cardboard engineer at G&B Arts in Stoke Newington in 1999. Everything was done by hand, and when I left four years later, the transition to computers and digital technology had taken place. After getting my BA in Visual Communication, I worked as a paper engineer for Stamp Creative in Acton and then found a junior designer position at CBS Outdoor in Camden. One year in, I had the opportunity to transfer to the CBS New York offices, where I stayed for five years. I returned to London in 2013 and now work as a design and print manager for an international charity called Delete Blood Cancer.
Ethnically, I’m mixed race. My father was from Barbados, and my mum is from Dagenham. Growing up, my brother and I were constantly exposed to music and art. My mum says I was born talking and drawing! Unfortunately, my father passed away from leukemia when I was 12, but his character was ingrained in us, and we were able to carry on as a tight-knit family.
How did you get started in your field of expertise?
My early career wasn’t exactly straightforward. At the age of 20, I dropped out of art school and the next thing I knew, I was stacking shelves in a hardware store in Barking. I absolutely hated every minute of it but wasn’t doing anything to change the situation. Thankfully, my girlfriend at the time made me visit the job centre and I applied for two jobs that I both liked the sound of. One was restoring antique furniture, the other an apprenticeship at a silkscreen print studio. I got the latter, and the rest is history.
What challenges did you overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?
At different stages in my career, I have had to overcome a sense of not belonging. It’s hard for me to tell how my skin tone may have impacted my experience of getting into the industry. In certain ways, I think I may have had it easier than other young black professionals working in the design field.
During my time at G&B Arts, there were plenty of talented black printers, but they were all working on the print floor. I was the only person of colour to land a job in the studio of the print business, as opposed to working on the print floor.
When G&B Arts closed down – along with many other print businesses in the early 2000s – I couldn’t find a job in the field, and so I went back to school to study Visual Communication. That’s how, at 26, I got to be the first person in my family to receive a college degree. Graduating was a turning point: college had given me focus and confidence in my abilities.
Who and/or what are your greatest inspirations and influences?
At the age of 31, I had the opportunity to work as a graphic designer in New York. The city inspired me in many ways. Whether I was gliding down a Fort Greene street like a character from a Spike Lee movie or hearing Gershwin in my head when walking to my office in the Chrysler Building, I never tired of the iconic aesthetic of New York. Most importantly perhaps, the spirit of the city taught me to carve out opportunities for myself: I began to pursue other passions alongside graphic design by taking up tailoring and curating a vintage menswear collection.
On a personal level, I got to reconnect with some of my father’s sisters who had moved from Barbados to the US. Spending time with my aunts and cousins made me feel closer to my Caribbean heritage, and it was a great comfort to know that a plate of homemade cou-cou and flying fish was always just a phone call away!
What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?
The work I’m currently doing for Delete Blood Cancer UK. It’s a fast-paced environment, and I get to wear many hats: I’m in charge of branding, I manage design projects, deal with budgets, liaise with marketing agencies, organise print production, copywrite and edit, and so forth. It is pretty satisfying to know that the work I do contributes to saving the lives of people with blood cancer.
What would be your dream job or project?
My dream job would combine graphic design with my passion for clothing and tailoring. Since returning to the UK in 2013, I have started a small business called Eastmond Apparel, which specialises in tailored goods and hand-knitted garments. I have enjoyed creating the visual identity and packaging for my products and am planning to design some great visual merchandising to call on my cardboard engineering and print skills. Eastmond Apparel is a labor of love, but I hope to be able to make a living out of it one day.
Who in your field do you believe deserves credit or recognition, and why?
Firstly, my mentor at G&B Arts, Lawrence Cumming. He was a masterful printer with decades of experience. He taught me cardboard engineering, dark-room operating and the science of layout – all delivered with copious amounts of deadpan humour! Lawrence honed my eye and gave me an appreciation for the tactile nature of print.
Secondly, my creative director at CBS Outdoor New York, Amy Bryan. She is very pragmatic, and I learnt so much from her about working with other people: leave your ego at home, collaborate, and get the job done.
What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Ideas just don’t appear out of thin air. For me, hard graft creates good ideas. Often it feels like you are pushing things round on the screen and going nowhere, but they finally come together to create that sense of “rightness”. It takes discipline, and requires you to actively seek out inspiration. Early on in my career, I always found it nerve-wracking if something wasn’t coming together and I had a deadline looming, but now I trust in the graft, and an idea always emerges.
My best advice: Embrace limitations within a design brief. Many young designers get annoyed by having to work to a limited brief, but I think rules are great because they help you focus your ideas. It is useful to remove yourself from the idea that a designer is artistic. Due to my background in print, I have always felt more like a technician rather than an artist. The most important thing is to solve the problem of your client’s brief; this to me is where the real creative process takes place.
What’s next for you?
At Delete Blood Cancer, I want to continue developing the brand. We are currently working on an awareness campaign to encourage Black and Asian people to register as blood stem cell donors, as they are severely underrepresented. We need to change that.
In my personal projects, I would like to continue my clothing line and perfect my tailoring skills. I have always found a way to go back to basics, which means using my hands, trusting my eye and avoiding short cuts. It is that mixture of creative inspiration, technical process and physical craft that keeps me sane. I will continue to seek this out in all its forms.
ZANELE MUHOLI: VUKANI/RISE. UNTIL 29 NOVEMBER 2015. Zanele Muholi is a South African photographer and visual activist whose work explores gender, race and sexuality, particularly in relation to South African society and political landscape. The exhibition featuring four of Muholi’s projects presented across Open Eye Gallery’s three exhibition spaces, accompanied by audio/video interviews and statements from those featured in Muholi’s work, is the first major presentation of the artist’s work in the UK. #Vukani
THE CARIBBEAN: 2015 NIFCA VISUAL ARTS AND PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION. The annual National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA), is a celebration of all that’s good in the Creative Arts in Barbados. The Visual Arts and Photography Exhibition continues daily until November 21. Opening hours are 10:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday to Saturday. View the outstanding body of work from Barbadian artists in the disciplines of Fine Arts, Craft and Photography. Take the opportunity to purchase.
THE US: EMORY DOUGLAS – THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES (Revolutionary Art of the Black Panther Party). SHELDON MUSEUM OF ART Until JANUARY 03, 2016. Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture and graphic artist of the Black Panther Party. will be exhibiting his work at the Sheldon Museum of Art from mid-September through early January. He will also be an artist-in-residence in the Department of Art and Art History.
AFRICA: LAGOS PHOTO FESTIVAL The sixth edition of LagosPhoto Festival Designing Futures positions the relationships between African design, the design of Africa and our understanding of how we may design Africa, as the platform to discuss our past, present and future intentions. With history, circumstance and fantasy as significant pointers of the lens-based projects exhibited, Designing Futures highlights crucial aspects of ‘making’ that come into play in African signs and design dialogues. Festival runs until 27 November 2015.
If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.