Archie Proudfoot is a rare find amongst a sea of young tech-driven designers. A North London based gold leaf artist and sign writer, Proudfoot is swiftly establishing himself as the cool new name on the design scene, and will be exhibiting at Clerkenwell Design Week 2016 (CDW) where his latest work will decorate the walls of the former House of Detention.
After completing a degree in English Literature, Archie went in search of work that would satisfy a dormant sense of craftsmanship. Having discovered the artistry of sign painting, he found a skill that could be honed over a lifetime of work. He now splits his time between creating bespoke signage for businesses across London and creating his own personal pieces. The opulent technique of reverse-glass gilding has come to dominate. Archie often chooses to isolate and illustrate a single word or phrase in the grandeur of gold, examining our emotional response to it, as well as the geometry and physical interplay of the letterforms themselves.
Before things kick off at CDW, we've caught up with the trending artist who has piqued our curiosity too.
There seems to be an online tutorial for everything these days, though we’d imagine not for sign painting. What was your channel into learning what is these days considered a dying trade/art?
There actually are now, but there weren’t any when I first went looking around 2011. It’s a measure of how much the interest in the trade has grown since then; there are quite a few videos available now.
I learnt the basics from Joby Carter, who runs Carter’s Steam Fair, which is made of original restored and maintained rides from the Victorian era. He runs week long intro courses at their yard in Maidenhead. I think that the fairground style is something that has always stayed with the way I look at sign painting; I want the work I do to be rich, colourful and fun, to try and carry on some of that Showman’s tradition with it.
How do you manage to keep old-school techniques relevant in the digital climate of today?
I think because of digital’s total visual and audio dominance in our lives, the older, more analogue forms are starting to stand out more as having a visceral quality that can’t be reproduced. You only need to look at the regrowth of things like vinyl records to see that people are starting to get bored of the digital world’s cold uniformity.
When you’re creating pieces, how do you decide what words to use? Do you favour any letters over others?!
In general I try to be as instinctual as possible when selecting words or phrases for pieces. I have little sessions where I free associate and then some words just seem to stick and I feel like they need to be painted. I go through little patches of finding certain combinations particularly satisfying. Currently it’s pairs or chains of three letter words. Sometimes it’s more the combinations of the letterforms themselves that lead to the words and inform how the design comes together… I always seem to be drawn more to words with an ‘O’ in them.
Where would you most like to see your work displayed?
Publically. One of the things I like most about sign painting is the feeling of improving the visual environment of the city, hopefully softening it and making it a little less cold and corporate. So I would really like the chance to make work that does just that, but without the restrictions of catering directly to a client’s desires. I think it would be really fun to make public signage artwork that has no commercial purpose, something that unsettles that straightforward relationship between sign painting and business premises.
See Archie and his work at Clerkenwell Design Week, open from 24-26 May 2016.
Archie Proudfoot; archieproudfoot.com
Clerkenwell Design Week; clerkenwelldesignweek.com