LIFESTYLE - INTERVIEW
Friday, January 18, 2019
LIFESTYLE - INTERVIEW
by Mehmet Kaplan
Masks have always been one of the most mystical passions of people, and some have preserved their mysteries for centuries. From the tribal natives who lived in the remotest places of the world, to the aristocrats who lived in the most glorious times of Paris, people used the masks for different purposes. And even superheroes make the world better by hiding their identities through masks. Nowadays, we use them on special occasions for more fun. Thanks to digital templates that allow everyone to prepare their own masks from recycled cardboard, it is possible to re-use the cards once more and to add color and fun to our lives. I talked with Steve Wintercroft, Co-Founder and Director of Wintercroft Design, about to learn more about the digital mask templates that he has been designing since 2013.
Steve, before talking about Wintercroft, could you tell us about your surfboard industry background and design experiences?
Thank you for the interest and for the interview.
I’ve been involved in the surfboard industry since the late nineties and have been fortunate enough to work in most of the UK’s largest surfboard factories. I started shaping surfboards because I couldn’t buy the types of boards that I wanted to ride, so through exploration, I taught myself the complexities of surfboard design.
I’ve tried to maintain this philosophy of empowerment through making throughout my career and encourage people to experiment, test, refine and create the objects and environment around them.
Though I learned much during my time in the surf industry, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the inherent amount of waste produced making boards, despite our creative solutions to make the process and material more sustainable. One of the many great things about surfing is traveling to wild locations and my interest and passion for environmental preservation steered me in new directions.
Wintercroft Grelin Mask
How did your interest in masks begin? What inspired you to design paper mask templates?
Though I am interested in the cultural context of Masks and the different roles they play in modern and ancient societies across the world, my own first mask design came from simply needing a last-minute Halloween costume. Struggling for ideas and short of time, I raided the recycling bin and gathered together a pile of old cardboard. Then, I sat down with some parcel tape, a pair of scissors and plenty of hot tea. An hour or so later (and after some trial and error) I had made an animal mask. The mask was well received, so I decided to redesign it and make the templates available and accessible to everyone. This was the first step toward a new creative venture that I could make a living on with a minimal environmental impact.
Could you tell us about Wintercroft and your team?
We are a much smaller team than you might imagine from looking at the website, so all four of us apply a varied set of skills to the running of the business. As a creative company, everyone puts forward their ideas and feedback, whilst looking after communication, accounts, artistic collaborations, copyright protection, and marketing. We love working with our global creative community on various projects and the artier and more conservational, the better.
Wintercroft Cthulhu Mask
What is the environmental vision of Wintercroft?
By supplying the templates digitally and enabling people to build the masks themselves, there is no energy wasted on manufacturing or shipping.
Our customers can build their masks from materials that they have at hand and many uses reclaimed packaging or other waste materials. I like the idea of intercepting material that is destined for recycling and giving it a second life before it is eventually reprocessed into something new.
This is the core sustainable business model which we take further by being proactive in conservational campaigns at all opportunities. We’ve done this with Lush, Helping Rhinos, Greenpeace and WWF just to name a few and we are always looking for ways to make the world a better place through creative craft.
How many different styles of masks do you have in your template collection? How often do you add a new one?
We have over 100 unique designs at this point in Low Poly, No Poly, Mountable and Press out Book form. It usually three to six weeks to design a new template. One of the key reasons that our masks are popular is that they not only look amazing but are also a lot of fun to build. I spend a great deal of time designing, building, testing and refining each Mask. Throughout this process, I reduce the number of surfaces in each mask to a minimum and this, in turn, can reduce the overall build time for the customer by over a third. The challenge is designing a mask that not only looks good, but that can also be built quickly by someone with no previous knowledge or experience of paper craft. There’s never a time when I am not designing at least one mask, so I try to be as prolific as possible. In the Halloween 2018 season alone I think we released over ten new masks. We are constantly pushing the technology and context of our masks.
Wintercroft Juno The Hunter Mask
What kind of materials do you advise to your customers for making their masks?
The masks are intended to be built from discarded, reused or recycled card. For example, old cereal boxes are ideal. When you have finished with your mask you can strip the tape off and throw it in with the recycling. 300 GSM, recyclable cardstock is the most popular choice for our builders, but we’ve seen some incredible Masks made from all sorts of interesting materials.
What does your customer need to make a mask by using your templates?
We recommend 3M High Performance Double-Sided Tape (product number: 9087) or a nontoxic quick drying glue to join the tabs. Our templates can be printed on standard paper from any home computer that’s compatible with US Letter Paper or A4 Paper. Just select your appropriate paper in your printer settings, print the templates at actual size, stick them onto the card, cut out with scissors and build.
Besides your masks, what are your other designs?
We also design unique jewellery that is made through a combination of traditional and technological techniques and 100% organic clothing with Rapanui, who operate a sustainable wind-powered factory that makes all our garments. We are going to be taking the clothes and jewellery further in new directions soon. We have also recently started a completely new project, www.wintercroftdesign.com, that takes a similar DIY approach to the masks, but is focussed enhancing one’s home environment by building beautiful objects of purpose. Lighting is our first exciting addition in this venture. Fletch and I are also getting into in-house multimedia projects that will take the Masks to new forms, realms and narratives through writing, music and video.
What features of Wintercroft makes it different from other brands on the market?
We are perpetually inspired and always seeking out interesting ways to take our ideas into new territory. We also approach everything we do with an inclusive, artistic motive. I think this resonates with our builders and we also always keep an open line of communication with them, which opens so many doors for all concerned. In an age where creativity and art are undervalued, community and collaboration become key to the survival of a creative business. Also, protecting our work from exploitation is something we spend a great deal of time on with a high degree of success.
Wintercroft Commander Mask
Social media platforms are new showcases for designer brands. What do you think about the power of social media on buyers' decisions?
Social media is 21st-century marketing. Everyone has a platform, everyone has a voice that can be heard, and everyone is talking. This is a great environment for us, because the masks are a visual statement in themselves. When you have made something amazing with your own hands that you wear on your head, chances are, you are going to document and share the experience, so it is a very organic, self-sustaining, inclusive way of marketing. Not a day goes by when we are not amazed by what our builders do with the masks and we have met so many inspiring people through social media. We see it as a fantastic and vital communication tool for what we are doing.
How can our readers follow Wintercroft?
Our social media handle is @wintercroft and we also have a newsletter that one can sign up to by filling in the field on the homepage of www.wintercroft.com.
How can our readers buy Wintercroft templates?
Directly from www.wintercroft.com or at our Etsy shop, www.etsy.com/uk/market/wintercroft
What is next for you?
We have been planning some incredibly ambitious and completely new things to do with the masks for quite some time. These new multimedia ventures will be revealed in 2019 and they will most likely take the business in multiple new directions. Really exciting to share what we have been working on.
Thank you Steve for your time.