The creatives behind festivals: Meadow in the Mountains / Sarah Hammond


Written by James Ratcliffe
21 Wednesday 21st May 2014

What is your background in art and design?

I studied illustration, but have always experimented across different mediums. During my degree I got interested in visual music and synaesthesia, and after graduating started animating my own video clips and VJ'ing. Over the next few years alongside my own art practise, I taught myself to code and took on more brief-based projects in branding, graphic and web design, often along the hand-illustrated vein. I've been lucky in that the majority of commercial projects I've taken have been related to music in some way, from club night branding, designing vinyl sleeves to visuals. I'm much happier designing visually for music than maybe the more ethically dubious products, I like the abstraction of it, and it just seems like a natural way of working as I often see images in my head when listening to sounds. Right now alongside commercial projects, I'm focusing on my electronic music production and video work. I finished a short AV film in February which is screening at some festivals this year, and am planning an immersive installation piece with material from the same series as well as getting back into live visuals. Long-term, the plan is to develop my live AV act.

What were your initial thoughts when you were asked to design the artwork for the festival?

"Oh sh*t " I think it was somewhere along the lines of, as originally I'd been told I had just 48 hours to do it in - not impossible, but I wouldn't have been as happy with the result. Luckily we wound up having a little more time to play with and I was excited to get started... My initial thoughts in terms of design were clear: that the focus had to be the natural beauty of the festival's surroundings in Bulgaria to show the raw personality of the festival without going too disneyland about it. I'd worked with the Mitm guys a bit last year on some artwork, they're pretty laid back guys and the festival is their baby, they'd told me loads about the experience, shown me pics and videos, so I felt confident I understood the DIY ethos and their vision. 

Are you a fan of festivals, and how did this effect your approach?

I've had mixed festival experiences in the past. There's something really uniting about them which I like though, especially the more intimate ones... I guess I drew from my Top of the pops memories when planning the concept (and left the dark memories buried deep), which for me comes down to the atmosphere, being out in obscurity miles from civilization, surrounded by natural landscape and open skies for days with a tribe of humans - good and primal - with the added bonus of possibly seeing a Bear or Wolf in Bulgaria - total dreamland ! The main elements I wanted to communicate were that buzz of freedom and the chilled anticipation you feel at festivals as the day draws closer to the night's performances.

What were your main inspirations for the direction of the artwork?

I spent time discussing with Damian, one of the organisers, what was important to him, there was going to be a full moon at the time of the festival this year, so it was essential to include that, and a howling wolf ! My main inspiration was the wildlife and beauty of the natural surroundings, literally, an untouched meadow at the top of a forested mountain in the clouds. I'd seen a photo of the view from the this spot at sunrise with people looking out into the distance having danced all night - it looks pretty spiritual with the sky above and clouds below saturated with that peachy-pink-to-blue light you only get at dawn, and knew that it had to be all about that moment - it's the heart of the festival. I'm quite sensitive to light, which is why I like to use a lot of colour in my work - I get a buzz out of it. I think universally as humans, we're hard-wired to react emotionally to it, and most obviously to the light and colours of a sunrise/sunset, so I wanted the design to be soaked in colour to reflect the tranquillity and warmth of the atmosphere. I contrasted that with the black mountain and forest silhouette which I wanted to isolate in a kind of epic film poster style.

Is there anything in particular you have to consider when designing for a festival?

I suppose as the lineups at festivals are usually pretty eclectic, and everyone going is going to have their own unique experience, so the design needs to stay neutral of music styles and just set the tone with a visual precursor as to what to expect. With Meadows, I thought it important to get across some of the festival's grass-roots/DIY personality, so it needed to be emotionally warm and inviting, and the hand-drawn aspect fitted well. I viewed this project as I do any commission piece with the main priority being to take time to understand for myself whats at the heart of it, and try and suggest that as honestly while leaving it open to interpretation.

Did you work with anyone else on the project? e.g illustrators / photographers?

No, just me. The logo was already designed, but I illustrated all the other elements. The sunrise sky background is a still image taken from one of my analogue video animations - you can get some amazing organic cloud-like textures and colours out of analogue video, so it really helped as a starting point. The rest of the composition is hand-illustrated, the moon is watercolour all put together digitally.

Have you worked on festival branding in the past? If so, which one(s)?

I worked with MitM a little last year producing flyer artwork for their warm-up parties, but other than that, the only work related to festivals is having my work shown at them. My audiovisual film 'Jugis' is screening at several festivals this year including Beacons festival in Yorkshire in August. It premiered at Ende Tymes in Brooklyn NYC a couple of weeks ago.

Finally, will you be going to the festival? If so, who are you looking forward to seeing most?

Unfortunately I can't make it, but I reckon Andrew Ashong will be pretty chilled and soulful to watch at the top of a mountain.

twitter: @sarah__hammond

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