“Power tae the key workers”: Cobolt Collective injects the streets of Glasgow with hope, colour and positivity

The mural art collective founded by Erin Bradley-Scott, Chelsea Frew, Kat Loudon and Edda Karólína Ævarsdóttir celebrates key workers in this typographic and illustrative campaign.

25 June 2020
Reading Time
4 minute read

The gender imbalance remains rife in many aspects of the creative industry. Animation, graphic design and web development are just a few of countless industries plagued by inequality. One of the less talked about, however, is mural art. It’s an issue that four Glasgow-based creatives – Erin Bradley-Scott, Chelsea Frew, Kat Loudon and Edda Karólína Ævarsdóttir – are keen to tackle, and with that in mind, the four established their own collective, offering a different side to the UK’s mural scene.

With similar tastes in design, the four creatives set out with a shared belief in instilling positive change through their work and in turn, their communities. Pairing skills with expertise, the four individuals each offer something different to their initiative, Cobolt Collective. Using a combination of type, illustration and graphics, the collective’s large scale painted collages are transforming Glasgow exteriors into a melting pot of “strong, uplifting messages of positivity, encouragement and celebration for the community in which it exists.” Erin tells It’s Nice That on the collective’s work which has previously celebrated International Women’s Day, Scottish identity, Glaswegian culture and much much more: “We love what we do with a passion and take pride in what we create.”

With one mural under their belt in 2020 celebrating International Women’s Day, the collective were forced to put down their paintbrushes like many artists all over the world when lockdown struck the Scottish city. “We would not let this abrupt halt to normal life stop us from creating though,” says Chelsea, “and even though all our projects would be put on hold, we were determined to find alternative ways to bring colour and positivity to our community in true Cobolt style.”

After many weeks at home accompanied by Zoom calls, Tiger King and enduring flaky internet connection, Kat came to the rest of the group with a new proposition. “She told us about her idea to contact the Poster Associates and create a poster campaign in Glasgow,” says Edda. “We could design the poster from home, the Poster Associates would paste them up and we wouldn’t need to set foot out the door once.” With the go-ahead that shortly followed, Cobolt Collective got started on the new series. It was a given for the creatives that the new artworks would centre around key workers, their crucial work and the public’s gratitude to these workers from all walks of life.

GalleryCobolt Collective: Power Tae The Key Workers

And after much deliberation, it was decided that the slogan: “Power Tae The Key Workers” would feature prominently across the artworks (tae meaning to in Scots). With the help of Poster Associates who donated their time and poster sites free of charge not to mention the financial support of seven trade unions who funded the project – EIS, GMB, CWU, BMA, FBU, Unison and SAU – the uplifting campaign shines a light on a myriad of workers, getting through the trying times at hand, day by day. “We are aware of the crucial role that unions have played and will continue to play in advocating for fair pay, better working conditions, work place safety, and promoting social justice in wider society,” says Kat, “and as members of the Scottish Artists Union, we know the value and importance of trade unions.”

Installed in six prominent sites across Glasgow, the series of artworks combines bold text and image to communicate its message. “We use text to illuminate what the illustrations suggest,” explains Erin and vice versa. In mural art, accessible communication is imperative. The message of the campaign needs to be understood instantaneously, something that comes naturally to Cobolt Collective after much practice. “We find enjoyment out of concept and when our designs derive from meaning,” adds Chelsea. “We like the process of researching ‘something old’ and using our designers’ eyes to make it fresh and ‘something new’.”

The collective looked to traditional union banners and historical political protest placards for inspiration, informing the posters’ layout: arched type and centred illustrations. Designing the typeface themselves too, the letterforms nod to the handmade letters from old fashioned banners and placards where folded fabric or tape was used to construct alphabets. Coupled with illustrated portraits (drawn by Chelsea) of key workers in their uniforms, the posters promote unity and collectivism in their unifying positions.

“To the general public,” Edda goes on to say, “the aim of the campaign was to inject Glasgow’s streets with hope, colour and positivity, serving as an antidote to the bleakness of many aspects of the pandemic.” Kat concludes, “We know this campaign isn’t going to cure the problems we face as a society today. However, at the very least, we hope it encourages people to recognise the value and importance that key workers hold within our society and spark some change in terms of how they are valued and treated by those in power.”

GalleryCobolt Collective: Power Tae The Key Workers

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.


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