Sam Witt is a screen printer from Bristol, UK who takes design inspiration from different cultures and mythology to create limited edition runs of street wear apparel. Sam is proof that becoming a working artist is a tough journey, but that by hard work, chasing your dreams and the help of Instagram, magic happens!
- What’s your story?
I started taking my artwork seriously after travelling around Asia in 2006. I came back to Somerset, UK, inspired by all the iconography and patterns I’d seen and decided to apply to the foundation degree in surface design at London College of Communications.
During the two-year course I got a great introduction to screen printing from Tony Braithwaite, a brilliant teacher who shared his passion and knowledge of print with us. I have always been interested in the idea of creating artwork for t-shirts so I chose to take this path after the course.
I continued to draw and create new artwork and designs but I didn’t do anything with them until I moved to Bristol in 2013. After meeting up with an old college pal we both decided to set up a clothing brand called Hidden Temple using the artwork I had created over the previous few years.
Now we take inspiration from different cultures and mythology and silk screen print our limited edition runs of street wear apparel in our print studio in central Bristol.
- Was there ever a point where you questioned if you could do it?
Before moving to Bristol I started to feel disheartened trying to become a working artist. I was really happy with how my artwork was coming on but I felt I had no output or market to showcase my work. When I moved I realised what a welcoming and unpretentious art scene there was in Bristol and this boosted my confidence and I quickly started to meet people and make connections.
- What was the first piece of work you ever sold?
I sold my first piece of artwork to my friend Jason for £100. It’s a set of four wooden panels with quarter mandalas on which make up a one metre multi-coloured mandala.
- You’re now self-employed. How did you know it was time to take that leap and how does it feel?
I decided to go self-employed when our ASOS orders become more frequent. I was taking on more and more commercial screen printing work and I literally didn’t have time to do my 9 to 5 job. I absolutely love being my own boss: I can listen to whatever music I want, wear whatever I want and choose the hours I want work.
- When you started your business in Bristol, what steps did you take to start spreading the word?
A week after getting our first batch of t-shirts printed we ran a market pitch at NASS festival and handed out thousands of stickers with our designs on to Extreme sport enthusiasts (many of them from Bristol). We got chatting to the festival-goers and encouraged people to visit and like our Instagram and Facebook pages. Instagram has been a great tool for us as it’s allowed the American Market to see our products and buy through our ASOS boutique.
- You have a Kickstarter campaign in the pipeline. Can you share details?
We do and it’s is nearly ready to go live. We have been building a following by getting people to sign up.
We want to move into getting our garments custom made to our own spec. using the latest environmentally sourced fabrics and materials but this costs money. So we are looking for a £5,000 investment to get our winter 2016/17 range off the ground. We have three exclusive t-shirt designs, which are available by signing up and making a donation to the campaign.
- What are you working on at the moment and what’s next?
In addition to screen-printing t-shirts for our Kickstarter campaign we have just designed and printed some new women’s wear items, which will be available in our web store and in ASOS from August.
- What do you love about printing by hand?
Screen printing gives such nice finish and the options for finishes and print methods are endless. I feel we look at computers enough and printing by hand allows you to get away from the screen and use your eyes and body to create.
- What’s the big dream?
To get picked up by a distribution company who can buy large quantities of our stock and sell to markets across the world in various retailers. Ultimately we would love to be able to travel with Hidden Temple doing charitable activities that benefit the environment.
Quick fire questions…
- Who inspires your work most? M.C Escher, William Morris, Niark1, Shepard Fairey, and Tugboat Printshop
- What three words best describe you? Spontaneous, Optimistic, Gymnastic
- What’s your preferred social media platform? Instagram
- What are your favourite hobbies? Wild camping, design, print and snow boarding
- Can you share a few things that people don’t know about you? I love euphoric trance… but shhhh! I wear contact lenses and actually have really bad eyesight. And I accidentally started an avalanche whilst snowboarding in France (luckily no one got hurt, thank goodness!).