Turn of the screw

Have You Seen These Stickers Around Nottingham?

17 February 18 interview: Alex Kuster

In the digital era, it’s easy to bury your head into the depths of a black mirror and miss your surroundings when getting from A to B. Look up with a pair of wide peepers, and you’ll be amazed at how much art is hidden in plain sight. You’ll start to notice the little characters dotted around the city: a worm on a phone box, a carrot on a lamppost, a political uprising in a disused doorway. Nottingham’s streets are covered in stickers and posters just waiting to be noticed. We hunted far and wide to catch five of the many street artists dotted around the city...

“BLULOUI”

“I was born in City Hospital, and grew up in Radford. My roots are in Nottingham and as the poet Henry Normal says, ‘I carry Nottingham in my bones.’

When I was in my teens in Bulwell, a youth tried to rob me at gunpoint and told me to put my hands in the air. Luckily I had an unstuck sticker in each hand and managed to sticker slap them over his eyes and escape. Ever since, I’ve carried packs of stickers around incase of a sticky situation.

Around the same time, a Great Panda was born in Sherwood Forest. On his first birthday he received a magic tracksuit and a pair of Air Max 90s and went on to rid the world of all its sadness. Soon after, he disappeared... only to be found stuck to a lamp post.

You can't spell ‘fart’ without ‘art.’ I'm a level-eight magician in the dark arts and don't recommend practice without supervision. If you do want to create sticker art, bear in mind it could lead to harder stuff like vandalism.

It's all part of the game when stickers get removed. A wise man once said ‘It's a stupid dog that barks at the flying bird’ and I have no idea what this means but if you want to create art, don't let anything stop you.

Shout outs to Yaku Label who needs an honourable mention along with Emily Catherine Illustrations. Also the team at Ugly Bread are a bunch of nutters and I love them.”

“CARROT”

“‘Carrot’ started as a joke, and as a legacy for my grandma, but became more of a conceptual idea, commenting on food waste, environmental issues, sexual identity and addiction/repetition. Most carrots have four lines to highlight those things. The carrot has turned into a sort-of crew, with a few of us putting it up in a few different countries.

‘Vandalism’ has to happen for society to question their own values and instigate change. Nothing ever changed from people sitting around Facebooking their thoughts or moaning to one another. A controlled environment is way scarier than a few people being labelled something for adding to their environment once in awhile. Everything can be removed and forgotten, and nothing lasts forever.

I would like things to last a bit longer than they do – sometimes it’s not even 24 hours – but I can’t get annoyed at them for removing it if I don’t believe they should get annoyed at me for creating it. The money they spend on cleaning the city could go to a lot better causes though; seeing the homeless community grow over the last year is crazy.

I like to create art on waste, or things that you find while exploring abandoned buildings and areas. And I like to do it spontaneously; let the carrots grow naturally.

It’s about keeping your eyes peeled (pun intended), having fun, and changing environments. It’s all a big joke at the end of the day. Don’t get hung up on being a ‘street artist’ or a ‘graffiti writer.’ Like J.Dilla said: ‘Do You.’”

“FACE THE STRANGE”

“‘Face The Strange’ is all about the meaninglessness of surface appearance and embracing diversity, with a healthy dose of fun, mischief and popular culture thrown in.

I’ve experimented with both spray-painting and drawing, but it was fairly clear that I had no real aptitude in those directions, whereas postering digital work seemed like something that I was way better at and definitely enjoyed doing. Day job? I'm a fruiterer, of course.

Thanks to others, I've had work go up in The States, Panama, Canada and Russia, but the furthest was a collaboration with the New Zealand artist Bent. I spread our joint work around the UK and he pasted a huge version of the same design in NZ.

Time and again, you hear 'Is it vandalism or is it art?' but the two are not mutually exclusive. Sure, ‘vandalism’ is applicable to some extent, but I don't destroy or damage with my work. Rather, I seek to make the bland and uninteresting a bit more appealing to the eye. My favourite canvases to paste onto are unloved and abandoned surfaces like boarded-up buildings, disused doorways and ‘street furniture’ like phone and electric junction boxes.

I recently put up a huge piece in Derby and, when I went to take a photo of it the next day, found it had already been removed. That was a little annoying, but I did have to appreciate their dedication. It's all to be expected in this game.”

“WORM”

“I likely would never have started stickering if it wasn't for Carrot and his ruthless, creative playfulness.

I came up with worm a few years before I started. I've always been a quiet person with low self-esteem, not really good at anything in particular, etc. Worm became a jokey username for various platforms. A few years later, I was learning to produce music and wanted to create an image of this shitty little worm who was coming out with all these banging tunes, so I created this character. Eventually I found myself in a rubbish job surrounded by postage labels. One quiet day, I drew my first sticker, stuck it on a lamp post, and here I am. I like to use eggshells or any labels I come across, and I make a lot of geometric art with ink on board too.

I've just moved to Bristol to start a graphic arts MA which is taking up 101% of my time, so I carry a bunch of stickers around with me. I can do a quick slap whenever an opportunity presents itself. The furthest place I’ve stickered is Croatia, and I have quite a few up around the Americas thanks to friends.

Authorities remove street art. That's just how it goes. For every fallen worm brother, I try to give birth to another three.” 

“YAKU”

“As long as I’m making characters, I enjoy stickering anywhere. Stickers and vinyl toys are my two biggest interests, but I like everything in-between too. 

I like that there’s a smaller scene in Nottingham. I prefer to see just a couple of stickers on a lamp post, rather than hundreds. I like mass producing them and sending them out to people around the world, so you can reach places you’ll never be able to go to yourself. Hand-drawn stickers are great too because they force you to draw without obsessing over details.

I do a mixture of freelance graphic design and illustration, photography and custom sticker printing as well as selling my artwork online. I also worked at a golf club up until recently. I spend a lot of my time travelling and I tend to walk around rather than taking transport, so stickers just go along with that. 

The removal of stickers by authorities is to be expected. They don’t last long, and a lot of the time it’s members of the public who take them too. There are so many circulating that it doesn’t matter too much, though. They’re always accumulating.

Stickering is a great way to get connected with other artists, and to collaborate in a lot of small ways. It’s given me friends all over the world, and there’s a very tight community of people who trade, share and put up each other’s work.”

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