Interviews

DESIGN INTERVIEW: Stephen Bliss and Kai Clements, 1800 Tequila’s Essential Artists

by Raymond Herrera

Tequila mojitos, the best peanut brittle I’ve ever had, DJ Nick Catchdubs, DJ JK2 of Flosstradamus, Waaves, beautiful people, and the new designs for 1800 Tequila’s Essential Artists bottles series is how Spin magazine and 1800
Tequila get down on a Wednesday night. And Spin magazine invited the Couch Sessions crew for a taste of the good life.

I managed to pull myself away from the happenings to interview Stephen Bliss, who’s work you may recognize if you’ve played Grand Theft Auto 3, 4, Vice City, Chinatown Wars and other games for Rockstar, or their ginormous billboards everywhere. His campaigns include clients such as Absolut Vodka, Burton Snowboards, MTV, and Pepsi to name a few. Stephen also goes by the tag Steroid, derived from a clothing company he started with his brother, for his art work, and has worked in fashion for Hysteric Glamour, and toy design for Thunderdog Studios.

I also chopped it up with Kai Clements of Kai & Sunny. Kai & Sunny have created campaigns for Adobe CS4… enough said, he made artwork for what we use to make artwork… Ok, I’ll continue… Alexander McQueen, British Airways, Fiat and more. Kai also has done work in the fashion world with his own brand Call of the Wild, and collaborations with Nike and Reebok among others.

Stephen Bliss

CS: How did you get your start?

SB: I grew up in England. I went to college in Brighton. Then I moved to Japan for four years, and then back to London, then came back over here [to New York] in 2001.

CS: Of all the places you’ve lived, which city influences your work the most? I see a lot of Japanese influence in your work?

SB: I find I’m not even conscious that I’m doing it, but there always seems to be something Japanese. More like in the caligraphic sweeps of the brush. I like big brush strokes and the crazy attention to detail. And also the art is so crazy over there. The [manga] has been a big influence on me. But intially, when I was a kid, it was Marvel comics and DC.

CS: How did you come up with your piece for 1800 Tequila?

SB: Well the theme was Cinco de Mayo, when the French lost to the Mexicans, and Napoleon III was blamed for it. So in this painting he’s crying because he lost. And behind him is his mistress. The French blamed his mistress for the fact that he lost the war. So you have the snake coming out of his head, which symbolizes temptation. You have the woman overshadowing him. The sun is coming down, and the orange tones of the sun are on them, and he’s crying in front of the French coat of arms. That was my interpretation of Cinco De Mayo.

CS: Can you talk about your process for this piece?

SB: I drew the piece in pencil, scanned it into photoshop. The ink was done by hand too so I scanned that. Then little bit of Illustrator and then Photoshop

Kai Clements

How did you get into art, graphic design, and fashion?

Kai: 15 years ago I worked for a record label called Mo’ Wax for a guy called James Lavelle, doing record sleeves, etc. Then I worked for a fashion brand called Maharishi doing graphics. A couple of years later [Sunny and I] started our label, Call of the Wild. I worked on that, developed it, and from there we hooked up with Louise from Bernstien and Andriulli and she started representing us, and we started doing art shows. So we’ve been doing shows for the past couple of years now and I guess that’s kind of been our route really.

Art, fashion, art, fashion. It’s been a back and forth thing.

Kai: Yeah, it’s been like that. We take on commercial work where a brand comes to us.. we take things like that, but our main drive now really is the gallery work.

CS: How did you get to work with Alexander McQueen.

Kai: We were just approached. They actually reached out to us directly to do this press campaign for them which was great, because for me, with our background in fashion, we always looked up to Alexander McQueen. He’s a legendary fashion designer. So that was a high moment.

CS: How did you come up with the piece that you’re showing today for 1800 Tequila?

Kai: The pieces were all based on Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of the 5th. So we did the number 5. We went down a typographic route. Then we used Mayan references. Mayan kings, Mayan culture. It’s meant to be a kind of lost world.

Other artists featured: Nathan Fox, I Love Dust, Tara McPherson, and Sandro Tchikovani. Like 1800 Tequila Essential Artists’ Facebook app for more information on the individual artists and detailed photos of the the bottle designs.