Discover how to add meaning to your work, courtesy of March’s Nicer Tuesdays
In a welcomed return to Oval Space, we invited Fa & Fon, Ibby Njoya, Ione Gamble and Kris Andrew Small to the stage to discuss their journeys and key projects.
March’s Nicer Tuesdays was the first IRL event in many months, and we couldn’t have asked for a more spectacular evening. Not only was there an excitable buzz in the air – the hum of the lively audience mingling with one another – the creatives were equally as enthusiastic to share the ins-and-outs of their incredible practices. Kicking off the event with impeccable twin synergy were two creative sisters, who ran us through their key works and the power of like-mindedness. This was shortly followed by a humorous insight into the colourful world of set design, a behind-the-scenes look at the makings of an independent magazine and many personal stories shared from a prominent figure in the world of graphic design. For those who missed out, we’ve rounded up some key learnings below from Fa & Fon, Ibby Njoya, Ione Gamble and Kris Andrew Small.
Fa & Fon on creative kinship and journeying from stills to motion, “the natural progression most designers take”
To begin, we welcomed creative duo Fa & Fon Watkins to the stage. The twins work across art direction, graphic design and more, and the pair energetically ran us through their journey to where they are today – “we will ramble on”, they warned the audience in jest. Born in Thailand, they moved to the UK aged seven and both studied at Central Saint Martins; one failed while the other knuckled down. What was similar, though, was their fashion sense and approach to the world of creativity: “We were dressed in all black, super CSM, but the work we were churning out was the complete opposite.”
Influenced by their heritage, the duo continued to make work that referenced all sorts from Akira to Fast & Furious, in turn producing numerous campaigns that compile motifs from these sources – like one for Fila that features a bunch of motorbikes, “we had the budget”. They continued to show us how they developed as creatives, wherein the pair started out in stills and later delved more into music videos and short films – “the natural progression most designers take," they said. More recently, they explained how they joined production company Riff Raff and have shot the likes of Maya Jama, “she’s so fit”. The key learning throughout their talk was that, if you have the budget, then you should definitely take this as an opportunity to try out something new and experiment. And last but not least, you should always incorporate your interests, just like Fa & Fon did with their latest campaign inspired by Lord of the Rings. Initially briefed as a superhero film, the pair then asked to switch it up and make it more fantasy-themed: “I’m really obsessed with swords.”
“We train so much to have this perfection”: Ibby Njoya on the importance of “finding your inner child” through your practice
Next up was Ibby Njoya, a set designer based in London who’s worked closely with the likes of Ib Kamara and Rafael Pavarotti in shooting covers for Vogue and Dazed. Sporting a Britney Spears T-shirt, Ibby launched into the talk by describing his practice as being a “dance between colour, shapes and movements”. He loves to play with colour and this became evident throughout his portfolio and the work shown on the big screen. For the most part, though, he thanks his close-knit community of collaborators for the success of his work: “I feel lucky to have many people around to collaborate with. It gives me a platform to be able to speak my language.”
One of the projects discussed during his talk was the most recent cover story for Dazed, shot by a six-year-old kid named Tenzing who lives in Nepal. “He’s so inspiring, his photography is a different viewpoint for us,” shared Ibby of the experience, referencing the moment Tenzing asked to draw a moustache on of the kids. “We were like, yeah! There was just so much energy there.” From this to building furniture pieces for fashion shoots – like a wooden bench turned blue – and various covers for British Vogue, Ibby showed us how his work is inherently fuelled by colour, narrative and play. “As artists, we train so much to have this perfection and work in a certain way – we lose this element of childhood," he shared, closing his talk. “So much of your practice is about finding your inner child.”
“Don’t get bogged down by what you can and can’t do”: Ione Gamble tells all about the making of Polyester Zine
The world of independent publishing can be a minefield, but luckily, Ione Gamble – founder and editor of Polyester Zine – came armed with some insightful advice on the matter. Having launched the zine eight years ago as part of a university project, the publication has reached great success as a platform featuring marginalised narratives and those who have often been ignored. “I was bored of hearing about minimalism,” she said of the zine’s inception, “and how you had to be into a certain aesthetic if you wanted to be political or intellectual.” This becomes paramount through the zine’s DIY-aesthetic and real representation of people and bodies. “Polyester wants to put the people and the bodies left, front and centre that you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” she said, evoking a round of applause from the audience.
Admitting that being self-published hasn't always been easy, Ione continued to run us through the makings of the magazine and how she keeps afloat – from launching a podcast, working “silly jobs” and using social media as a tool for getting your name and work out into the world. “Now more than ever, someone is likely to find you through Instagram and TikTok, rather than a newsagents,” she explains. She also reminded us to never fret if the process is taking a little longer than planned. “Don’t get bogged down by what you can and can’t do.”
Kris Andrew Small on designing for Gay Times and finding meaning in his work
Closing the event was artist/graphic designer Kris Andrew Small – “I say the slash as I'm technically the worst designer in the world,” he laughed. Ending the evening with a bundle of funny and personal stories, Kris’ talk was inspirationally intimate as he ran us through his journey to date – from working in advertising to designing projects littered in typography and vibrant graphics. “I’m very harsh on advertising as it wasn’t for me, but I really learnt how to make my work accessible,” he said.
One of the most common question Kris gets asked is why is work is so colourful. “I don’t understand why anyone would use monochrome, no offence,” he jested. His reasons for working this way were revealed during his talk, which showed how his upbringing in the tropical environment of Australia has long been the key inspiration to his designs. Kris also stressed the importance of finding meaning in his life and work, which meant steering his practice towards projects that are “activist, anti-toxic masculinity and super pro-queer”. As such, he’s carved a reputable name for himself in the world of graphic design and art, and has created works including the bold and graphic installation for the Gay Times Honours Awards in 2021. Whatever he puts his mind towards, though, it will also look characteristically Kris – that being typographic and sometimes (brilliantly) illegible. “I always get in trouble about things not being legible," he concluded. “But it’s nice when someone has to look deeper and try to read your work.”
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Nicer Tuesdays Online is our monthly event of creative talks. You can find out more here.
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