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Kate Gibb for Sunspel: Celebrating the iconic British festival

Kate Gibb

Kate Gibb is a printmaker and illustrator from London, known for her striking use of colour and pattern. Her distinctive silkscreen print style is immediately recognisable from her classic album cover designs for The Chemical Brothers and many others.

For 2021, Sunspel commissioned Kate to create two screen prints for a limited edition summer collection of camp collar shirts, swim shorts and personally hand-printed T-shirts. The resulting artworks celebrate landmark music events in the British summer, the Isle of Wight festival and Glastonbury.

We spoke to Kate about the collaboration, her art, and the return of summer freedom...

Kate Gibb's Glastonbury and Isle of Wight festival-inspired designs

 

How did you become an artist? And what sparked your particular interest in silkscreen?

On reflection, I realise I’ve always enjoyed and responded to colour: from picking a sunshine yellow sweatshirt and matching yellow pumps to wear as a small child, to enjoying beans on toast on a particular brown plate!

When I was 11 my mother remarried, to an artist called Colin. He had a studio in our home with a drawing board, airbrush machine and a Letraset cabinet. Everything in there fascinated me, including how he worked, and the idea that he did this for a living. Colin’s creative career continued to inspire me long into my own career.

Six years later I began my A-Levels. Art and Textiles were two separate subjects and I took them both. I was introduced to silkscreen printing in the art hut – and I can honestly say that I am still as fascinated by it as a technique as I was back then.

 

Can you tell us about your process for designing and making silkscreen prints?

I’m very much a process-led creative. I use the technique in an unorthodox fashion, learning on the job and letting my intuition guide me.

I never know what I’m going to do before I start printing. I work in a collage style fashion, putting many ephemeral images on to screens that I may or may not use. Obviously there is a theme – but the work can also come out of textures or a subtle choice of colours that sets a certain mood or tone.

My approach is ‘in the moment’: navigating through an artwork as the ink sits on the paper, each layer informing the next.

Inside Kate's studio

How does print design for clothing differ from other kinds of print design? 

My first degree was in Printed Textiles, which helped me with the particular intricacies of designing for fabric, but really this was just a bonus. My approach is the same for any project: always intuition and process-led, even if the outcomes vary widely.

 

Your prints for Sunspel are inspired by two iconic festivals of the British summer, with the Isle of Wight design reflecting the festival’s psychedelic origins, and the Glastonbury pattern incorporating the shapes of the Pyramid Stage and the rolling Somerset hills.  Can you tell us a little about how you developed the concepts?

Having been to both festivals the difference in their locale of land and sea felt important. Having a location in mind helped develop each shirt to be visually very different from each other.

I worked closely with David Telfer, the Sunspel creative on this collaboration. The iconic Glastonbury Pyramid stage, nestling amongst the rolling hills, was key to David’s vision.

Creating and achieving the right shade of blue gave the nautical theme that I felt needed to resonate from the Isle of Wight shirt.

 

Your works for album covers, such as The Chemical Brothers’ Surrender, are instantly recognisable and vividly capture the energy and excitement of the music. Does music inform your approach to making artworks?

Probably subliminally. Music is a daily theme – I pop it on to invigorate myself and get the creative blood pumping!  And then sometimes I switch it off to focus and reflect.

Kate's artwork for Surrender, the classic 1999 album by The Chemical Brothers

 

What appealed to you about working with Sunspel?

As exciting as it feels when new labels kick off, being asked to collaborate with a brand that has a long history is an especially good moment.

When Sunspel approached me I was keen to know about their factory outside Nottingham, the hand crafting techniques still employed and of course their association with Bond! And it goes without saying, they make the best plain white tees...

 

Finally, what will post-lockdown freedom mean for your art?

I’m very fortunate: that this past year has been my busiest since around the time I created the Surrender artwork. The work has been keeping me sane and busy through these testing times. 

So I’m hoping that the lifting of lockdown will mean more for my non-working life… Moving around the UK a little more freely, new dog walks to discover and most of all, catching up with friends and family.

Kate Gibb and Sunspel Printed Camp Collar Shirt in Isle of Wight

Kate Gibb and Sunspel Printed Camp Collar Shirt in Isle of Wight and Upcycled Marine Plastic Drawstring Swim Short in Isle of Wight

Kate Gibb and Sunspel Printed Cotton T-Shirt in Glastonbury

Kate Gibb and Sunspel Printed Cotton T-Shirt in Glastonbury and Upcycled Marine Plastic Drawstring Swim Short in Glastonbury

Kate Gibb and Sunspel Printed Cotton T-Shirt in Isle of Wight

Kate Gibb and Sunspel Printed Cotton T-Shirt in Isle of Wight

 

Kate Gibb’s festival-inspired designs are applied to a capsule collection of camp collar shirts and swim shorts. Kate has also personally screen printed a limited run of our classic T-shirts.

 

SHOP THE KATE GIBB AND SUNSPEL COLLECTION

 

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