For the third year running Eastpak has challenged 56 artists across 14 countries to rethink, reimagine and reappropriate a blank backpack and once again the results are fascinatingly diverse and excitingly creative. On the more straightforward end of the spectrum there are designs which play with colour and texture to put the designer’s unique stamp on this unusual canvas; at the other there are those who have turned the bag into something else entirely; rocks, a giant insect, a birdcage.
London-based artist Rob Ryan was one of those who took part in this project, and his certain is a sheer lack bag with various embroidered elements including flowers and the archetypal Ryan-esque phrase “Don’t follow me because I’m absolutely lost.” exploring these kind of gently existential questions is Rob’s stock-in-trade, but speaking to It’s Nice That at the Eastpak Artist Studio launch in Antwerp last week, he admitted that the visual treatment came from a very different wellspring of ideas.
“When I was growing up everybody used to have these bags and the’d have the names of the bands they liked sewn onto them. Even if they were really into heavy metal, they’d still have Black Sabbath or something stitched into this rucksacks. I think it was probably their mums who sewed the names in; it was all a bit weird!” This got him thinking about the nature of embroidery and how its homely, crafty look and feel can be used to juxtapose with very different kinds of sentiment; such as the quietly sad admission of being lost which plays out here.
Once Rob sketched out the ideas, his assistants set about turning his creation into the finished bag; due he admits to his limited skills with a needle and thread. But actually there’s still a rough, homemade quality to the final bag which evokes memories of the school playground, when the first desperate attempts of creating sense of self revolved around such seemingly simple factors as which band your mum stitched into your rucksack.
The limited edition bags go on sale this morning and the proceeds go to the Designers Against Aids charity.