Michael Willis interview

The Meander wanders through the pop-culture mashups of Michael Willis, graphic artist and co-founder of independent publishing imprint
Panther Club.

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i. The Garden limited edition risograph print
ii. Broken Mythology
iii. Black Summer T-shirt for Brighton based apparel label 2MP
iv. 75 Peters: A portrait of Sir Peter Cook for Brisbane based exhibition

All photos © Michael Willis 2012

What gets you up in the morning?

Alarm, shower, tea.

Where did you grow up?

A town 30 minutes west of London, near Windsor Castle where the Queen of England occasionally lives.

How would you describe your work? 

My work is really an amalgamation of cultural references. The bringing together of elements collected from various points in history – mostly bold imagery, psychedelic graphics and kitsch 80s stuff.

Could you tell us about your creative process? How do you start your work?

I work quite methodically. Responding to a brief, I'll gather a bunch of visual references to get started. I try and capture a mood or vibe to work with. I'll be selective but also open – the more reference points to draw on, the richer the outcome. I'll then combine the ideas and aesthetics I've selected and I'll create something new.

You are the founder of Panther Club. When and how was it started? 

Panther Club was founded by myself and designer Lindsey Gooden. Since 2009 we've worked on lots of different projects but initially it was a collaborative blog, set up to share experimental work and the culture we love.  Now, a few years down the line, it’s grown and parallel to running the blog we've collaborated with more than 15 artists, published multiple print series, curated various projects, and contributed to a number of exhibitions and publications. 

"All the people we collaborate with follow their own distinctive creative visions; they love what they do."

Are there certain criteria or types of people you like to collaborate with? 

All the people we collaborate with follow their own distinctive creative visions; they love what they do. They are not so much a 'type' of person, as they all have their own cultural heritage, but they all have a strong underlying link – an honesty that is exciting and progressive.

You've worked for and collaborated with fashion labels. Is fashion important
to you? 

I find fashion interesting. It's not integral to the function of Panther Club but it's a really exciting place to explore.

You have a very unique style. Do you think it’s important for creatives to develop their own style? 

Yes. It's hard and takes time and effort, but developing your own language is what sets you apart from the others.

How did you get involved in the 75 Peters exhibition in Brisbane? 

I was invited by Scott Woods from the Adam and Eve Projects. Contributing was a no-brainer as I love Peter Cook and Archigram.

How do you find balancing personal work with client work? 

It can be difficult but I try and look at it holistically and not divide the two, looking at each as an extension of the other.

Print vs digital? 

Yin Yang.

What's next for Otherscenes and Panther Club?

Alongside the daily showcase, we’ve got some great new projects and mixtapes lined up for Panther Club. Personal stuff… I recently made a Hawaiian shirt, which is out soon – can’t wait for that! But for the next couple weeks I'm working on a movie poster, a couple of editorial pieces. Also started to make some moves into motion graphics/music videos, which I'd love to get into more, and making some new paintings for an upcoming group show in Oslo/London called POWER REDUX.