Stay Cool:
Calm & Collected

© Oskar Proctor / Calm & Collected

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Calm & Collected is an apt name for the London art and design practice run by Adam Bletchly and Donal Sturt. The designers nurture a relaxed enthusiasm for what they do, with visual trademarks of unexpected colour combinations and ornate illustrations running across their work. Their style is consistent and considered, whether they’re working on eye-widening illustrative prints referencing Peckham, or commercial work for the likes of Jo Malone.

Calm & Collected is driven by a determinedly collaborative ethos. “The whole concept was to put stuff out under one umbrella and to play to our strengths,” Donal explains, referencing the print studios, illustrators and designers they’ve worked with. “That’s how we’re different – we just display what we’ve put out. It doesn’t matter who did what.”

Take S.A.D for example. Worked on in collaboration with Alex Mccullough, whose design portfolio includes Young Turks offshoot record label Whities, S.A.D is a book full of sun- bleached designs to tackle the dull winter of London. It was born from a desire to diversify, and has been their biggest project yet, culminating in an exhibition at Protein gallery last year. The success of the team working within publications pushed them to work on a more experimental piece, Fluro Flora Fauna, a concept collaboration with the now defunct Peckham Print Studio. “We gave a mix of prints to them 75% full, it was a load of illustrations with instructions of the direction we wanted to go in, then waited to see what came back,” Donal explains. The result represents the fluidity of the studio – a mix of riso printing and gloss centre pages explaining the process, bound together with hand stitching.

Adam and Donal create work under the name Calm & Collected on top of freelance jobs, using any spare time they have to visit their studio. Despite the pair living together, having an outside space to work in is key, their own area full of “paint pots, Pantone books, laser-cut things, publications, reference books and archived commercial work.” An average day for the two-man team revolves around working, chatting to their neighbours, and listening to a mix of grime and Italo disco.

© Oskar Proctor / Calm & Collected

Rather than naming other studios or designers as influencers on their work, Adam and Donal take inspiration from everyday interactions. “We’re surrounded by friends and we meet people on a daily basis to discuss work,” explains Adam. “We take more inspiration from those encounters than browsing the internet all day.” Separately, their influences differ largely, from Donal collecting Asian food packaging, to Adam obsessing over classical art. He names Dutch still-life and Renaissance paintings as his go to inspirations.

However disparate the pair’s cultural markers are, they can, however, find points of mutual admiration: both cite Peckham, where their office is based, as a massive influence. “Off-key shop front signs, badly designed stuff, and little characters you see regularly” are elements Donal takes interest in as he walks up Old Kent Road, using his old iPhone to capture the area’s unique aura.

“There is enough content on Rye Lane to inspire ten years worth of output, genuinely,” he gushes. “That’s what’s so interesting about living in this area. I don’t even know what the vegetables they’re selling are called, but it’s so much richer than a strip of Pret, Pret, Costa, Pret. It’s still independent.” In Peckham people regularly pass on unwanted belongings by leaving them on Rye Lane to be taken, a process that the pair take full advantage of. “Last year we found all these tapes of this Nigerian guy called Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, one of the tunes we played repeatedly last summer. That was something that became a massive influence on us,” Adam says.

Calm & Collected’s work refuses to be constricted by trends. In an industry where success is increasingly measured in Instagram and Twitter followers, Adam and Donal have made the conscious decision to take a step back. “We’re going to carry on doing this forever so there is no rush to do everything we want instantly,” says Donal. “We’ve tried to avoid the pressure you can feel in London especially. Everyone seems to be on this treadmill constantly, testing to see who is winning, when actually it’s all a mirage. We’re going to do what we want, when we want to do it, have fun and not stress out so much.” As proved by their expansive portfolio, there’s something to be said for embracing the laissez-faire.

Photography: Oskar Proctor

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