Benaiah Matheson

The CITP in Huddersfield’s Byram Arcade is run by artist and designer Benaiah Matheson. It’s arguably one of the coolest shops around; his artwork adorns all four walls and the space is filled with his clothing designs and prints. Features Editor Charlotte caught up with Benaiah one rainy Tuesday afternoon to find out what inspires his art, why he doesn’t want to be a car designer and what on earth a fish envelope is…

admin 11 years ago

When did you first get into art and design?

When I was a baby, literally – it sounds really cliche but literally – since I picked up a pen and pencil. Since I was little I have always drawn and my mum taught me how to draw 3D shapes and I just learnt to draw from a really young age.

Was there someone or something in particular that inspired you to get into art?

I don’t know, no-one has ever asked me that you know. I haven’t ever really thought about it..

Do you have an arty family? You said your mum taught you how to draw..

Yeah, all my mum’s side are all creative. My mum does soft furnishing and interior design and then she has taught art and then my dad is a joiner and builder so everything he does he has to design it for a client. Then on my mum’s side there are four girls and four boys and they’re all either creatively minded or they’re working in a creative field. It has always been a natural progression. I picked up a pencil and started drawing and I was always happiest in a corner or with a piece of paper drawing or making paper aeroplanes or drawing cars. Drawing and designing cars was my thing, not anymore but it was.

I remember having to draw cars at school, we had a whole term where we had to study cards and I was useless!

How old are you?


That’s not fair! Everyone in the whole school or anywhere would have been like ‘Wow, Benaiah’s gunna win this. I wanted to be a car designer, well I put the title on it when I was about 9 but I probably wanted to be a car designer from when I was like 2 or 3 until I was about eighteen and went to art college and decided I didn’t want to anymore

Would you not do it now?

No, no..I wouldn’t mind art directing or being a part of the creation of a new car but right now, I’ll say no. Although, I did see a new Lamborghini concept and it’s like a Lamborghini bat mobile – it’s sick! I saw that and I saw the guy that designed it and he’s quite young, young as in like late twenties, early thirties. I saw then and I was like ‘Hmm, okay yeah if the opportunity ever comes up there I’d do that!

Yeah, definitely – surely you couldn’t turn down something on that scale, a Lamborghini bat mobile would be awesome!

Yeah but at the moment I just draw on cars. I was doing that on Saturday when I was down in London. I’d already started drawing on it eight months ago and I carried on drawing on it, on the bonnet and the roof had faded off so I did some more on there and it was nuts – loads of people watching and stuff!

Were you doing your continuous line drawing on it?

Yeah! Well, it wasn’t all continuous but there were certain areas where it was all one line.

How did university help to shape your style? Were there any tutors that were of particular influence?

Uni is a weird one because I didn’t technically finish. I did my first year twice because I partied real hard.

That’s what uni is for though, partly!

Yeah but I went hard, like proper so I had a good, good first year and then second time round I thought I’d better do some work but I still partied a little bit…quite a bit. Then when I was going into my third year they advised me to leave and set up my own fashion label. So, uni is a weird one. I studied graphic arts so I learnt quite a high understand graphic design and I understand type and page layout. There is a lot of detail that I picked up on the course just from projects that we did and looking at different designers but the actual creative side of things, I always just did my own thing I just did my best to make that fit into the box of what they had asked us to do. Uni is a time when you can just be creative. During your time there you are just free to be creative, that is what you’re there to do. I got to experiment a lot and find my own style. I never wanted my own style. That was my main thing – never wanted me own style but I have fully got a style!

What inspires your current work today?

Everything! I get inspired my literally everything so I realise when I look back at work that I’ve done over that last 6 or 7 years and in the style that I do currently – the style I have but didn’t want – they’re like maps so I can go back and when I look at a piece I can remember where I was, what I was doing, where I living, friends I was chilling with, the kind of music I was listening to when I was doing the work. When you say what inspires me, it literally is things that I’m thinking about, things that are going on in my life. Literally everything comes together but when people ask what I think about when I am actually working, I try to clear my mind but I hope that whatever is going on in my life comes through in my work. I get ideas from stuff because that’s a natural thing but spirituality, food – I love food!

Your t-shirt designs with the French writing on – is there a deeper meaning behind any of those slogans?

In 90% of them, yeah but the one that says ‘tout sonne mieux en Français’ means ‘everything sounds better in French’ which I just think is just right. I think that everything in French just sounds dope. Someone could be in your face, cursing you, saying the worst things about you and you’d just be like, ‘Yeah, that sounds dope!’

It is such a lovely language…

Yeah and that just felt like the correct statement and it sounds dope in French as well. A lot of the other ones though, do have real meanings behind them, mainly do to with my childhood. I’m not old enough to think about my life now with deep reflection but in twenty or thirty years time I will be able to look back to now and there will be important things to reflect on but for now I can do back to my childhood and print things like ‘SOZ.”

If you were to design a tee for a celebrity, who would you design for and what would it be like?

I’d have to speak to them about it and find out about them. About their music or their job or their past or even something very present like, we could be eating dinner and they could knock a drink over and they say ‘Fuck’ so I’d put ‘Fuck’ on a t-shirt with a spilt drink on it.

That’d be a pretty cool t-shirt! Who would you want to design a t-shirt for though?

I think it would have to be Talib Kweli. I have had this idea for ages because his record label is called Blacksmith and I had this sick idea of doing a shoot with him with a white anvil with artwork all over it and a cloak with artwork all over it. The background would have artwork all over it and he’d be dressed like a blacksmith. Other than that I’d like to just do a piece of art featuring all the famous names that have inspired me before but actual specific people, I don’t know..

Would you design anyone? If someone came along that you didn’t particularly like, artist wise, would you do it for the money?

Yeah, as long as they were sound when I got to talk to them because I am not particularly bothered about liking their music but as long as they’re sound as a person. Even if it was Justin Bieber (I have never heard any of his tracks by the way) and he was sound and I could work with him then I would.

What if he was a little shit?

(laughs) Then fuck his life..

If you could design in another era, past or future, what era would you like to design in and what kind of style do you think you’d have?

I wouldn’t mind going like ancient style, maybe Egyptian because no-one really knows what was going on there so I’d like to know what their dress was really like and there must have been someone that designed the clothes so that would have been kinda’ fresh.

Yeah, I guess even the cavemen fashioned their bear skin into a one shoulder kind of thing with…teeth and stuff?

Yeah, I ain’t having one tooth I’m having two teeth – two teeth swagger thing going on!

Ideally, where would like your art and your shop to be in 5 years from now?

I’d like to still have the shop in Huddersfield – I like to always have a base in Huddersfield. I don’t know if I want a shop in London or not…no I do, I was there this weekend, I do! That’s it though in the UK; Huddersfield and London. Then Holland, and Japan and maybe Paris, I like Paris. Maybe someone where random like Africa?

Africa could be potentially harder going?

It’d be different. I wouldn’t be guaranteed to get custom everyday and I would do different styles unless I was in South Africa because they’re very Westernised. In 5 years time though, I’d like another 2 shops around the world somewhere and stocked in about fifty places.

Are you stocked anywhere now?

Not at the moment, but I am working on it..

Dinner with one celebrity – who and where?

(Long pause) I was going to say Thelonious Monk but he was a bit mad so I am not sure I’d want to have dinner with him because you don’t know what mood you’re going to catch him in…this is a good one! You know what Marilyn Monroe but only if we were smoking weed

(laughs) Why only if you’re smoking weed?

Because I think you’d get a bit more ‘realness’ out of her, a bit deeper and see the real her. She is a huge icon but no-one really knows the real her. To just know her would be kinda’ cool. The food would be made by my mum and my house I think.

and Marilyn is a complete babe!

Yeah! I thought it was just one of those things that everyone just said, like ‘Oh, she’s beautiful’ but when you see pictures of her, she was really beautiful. She really was different looking and she had shape and it’s all about shape.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what would you be doing instead?

I wouldn’t mind working in textiles but that would be my own designs so that’s not too far from what I’m doing now. Oh, I know! I’d be either a runner, either 100 or 200 [metres] or a winger in rugby.

That’d be cool, you could be at the Olympics right now!

Yeah, I’m not quite sure if I’d be able to be Bolt though!

Has anyone ever beat Bolt?

No! But he’s 25 so we’d be racing each other. Definitely those two because my mum was a runner as well, 200 meters – very serious but she stopped because she didn’t like the muscles she was getting from going to the gym. I think possibly I’d go down the rugby route though

And finally, one meal and one drink for the rest of your life?

One meal and one drink?

(very, very long pause)

That’s a tricky one. It’s either something by one grandma, the other grandma or my mum. I love food.

(another long pause)

Drink, I’d say rum and ginger because that is my drink but if it was non-alcoholic then apple juice. Apple juice, cloudy apple juice. Cloudy and not from concentrate! There that’s drink and then food, that is insane! You have no idea how much I love food.

(laughs) You really do love food, don’t you? If I tell you it’s not really going to happen, does that make it easier?

Okay, cool my mum does this special dish called Fish Envelope. She invented it for me and my sisters when we were little. You get a big pan and some Filo pastry then fish in butter in a bag – 5 or 6 of those – and then put that in and some sweet corn, black pepper and then she’d fold it so it looked like an envelope. Every time she baked something, me and my 2 sisters had to touch it for good luck so yeah, I’d have my mum’s Fish Envelope.

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Originally posted 01/08/2012


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