When the top image arrived as a thumbnail in my inbox, I though it was a digital illustration. On closer inspection, the entire scene has been constructed and stitched in 3D! Jakob Westman, an art director for the Swedish ad agency Kärnhuset sent me a detailed description to share with UPPERCASE readers:
MONSTERS IN SCHOOL
This August a new set of milkbar posters will be released by (Swedish dairy company) Arla featuring characters from British Felt Mistress (Louise Evans & Jonathan Edwards).
Jakob Westman, Art Director at Swedish ad agency Kärnhuset says:
"I've known about Jonathan and Louise's work for a few years and have always been on the lookout for an excuse good enough to get to work with them. And the Arla poster series seemed like the perfect match! I'm a big fan of illustration, and that's how we approached this. Or like illustration deluxe. There's been a healthy interest in crafts and textures in graphic design and illustration the last few years, and a big boom in retro-photography with apps like Hipstamatic and Camera+. We wanted a surreal (non-retro) look and we were very keen on having the handmade look come through.
I get such a kick from seeing the textures and the wires, to see that it's NOT 3d-generated, and that there are a bunch of imperfections in there. I also get a kick from the scale of it, that we were able to work with actual props. The candles on the cake are actually burning, the balloons on the ground are real and the clasps on the farmer's dungarees are actual full-scale clasps. That's something you don't get with CGI or traditional illustration and it brings a whole other level to the final poster and makes it so much fun to look at."
The posters are displayed on milk dispensers (milkbars) in Swedish schools and lunch restaurants. Since the posters are on display for 4–6 months one of the requirements have been to come up with designs that lend themselves to new discoveries on the nth viewing. This was also the reason that Kärnhuset turned to German eBoy and their sprawling cityscapes for the first sets of posters, followed by fun and elaborate illustrations from British TADO.
The project with Felt Mistress started with a brief from the agency with a description of what they thought could take place in the two posters. They also pushed for the characters to not be too cute or cartoony, but to be more monster-ish in their appearance. Something Felt Mistress was more than happy to comply with. The agency also requested a very trippy and non-literal color-scheme.
After discussing with Louise how the characters should look Jonathan then made a first round of sketches which were approved after a few very minor tweaks. "Yeah, it worked out really well." He says. "We tried to push the weird colors and make the characters a bit out there. Something that comes pretty natural for us [chuckle]. This is also the first time the felt characters have been used as illustration and not as expensive toys in a hipster flat or office. I've always thought of what we're doing as illustration. That they'd be able to tell stories in editorial or advertising contexts."
Once the illustrations were approved by the client, Louise cut patterns, picked out fabrics and started stitching it all together. "The cow took some thinking to work out." Louise says. "They wanted her to look good both on her feet and sitting down. And Jonathan had cheated a bit and not thought about the mechanics. Fortunately we were able to make a setup with a hook that allowed for the cow's head to be re-arranged. Also it's always important to me when making clothed characters, like the farmer, to use actual clothing fabrics rather than felt – I used denim and checked cotton for the farmer's dungarees and a shirt with real buttons and fastenings. I think it's details like this that really bring a character to life."
The finished characters (11 in total) were then shipped to Stockholm where the whole set – including flat cut-outs of clouds, trees and buildings – was built up and photographed by Daniel Lundkvist.
"It was also great to see what the photography was able to add" says Jakob. "The photos I'd seen previously of Felt Mistress' characters had been more documentary and I think we were able to make them a bit surreal and trippy while still having the handmade qualities show. It's been really rewarding to see how everyone involved have taken something already great and made it even better!"
Client: Arla Foods
Art Director: Jakob Westman
Illustrator: Jonathan Edwards
Character design and construction: Felt Mistress (Louise Evans and Jonathan Edwards)