Polari Pages – In Conversation With Artist & Designer Denholm Munn

Welcome, welcome to my new interview section! It covers a range of subjects focusing on both well-established and up-and-coming LGBTQIA+ artists and designers, not to mention drag and cabaret acts!

So, it’s bona to vada your dolly old eek and without any further ado let’s learn about our first queer creative of the series – the dazzling and dexterous Denholm Munn. Hailing from my hometown of Nottingham, Denholm has fashioned their own 21st Century queer brand using experience with graphic design and 3D printing.

What are you working on at the moment?

Well I’ve kind of gotten to the point where I’ve got most of my recent jobs done, which is rare to be honest! I’ve just worked on this side cape and kilt for an artist in London. I had this design for a big flowing skirt – like a leather skirt – and a flowing side cape, but he wanted to go with the kilt design. I had to completely scrap all the designs I’d done so far and re-do it. I managed to get it done in time, although I was running right up until the deadline!

At the moment I’m working on these shocking pink 3D-printed bowties, I just need to figure out how they fit onto the neck. My main product and best-seller is the neckerchiefs, and they’re made out of denim. So, Denholm Denim. I don’t know whether I’m going with Denholm Munn or Denholm Denim. I’m a bit up in the air about it, maybe just the denim products will be Denholm Denim.

Why do you do what you do? Is it fashion design you’re interested in?

I never intended to get into fashion design at all. I went to university and studied animation, and then I left and later went back to do my Masters in graphic design. I suppose it all falls under design but I didn’t do anything related to fashion until 2020 really. It was just the case of I was stuck indoors.

I had one project where I changed the straps on a pair of dungarees, and then a company contacted me and said “well if you can do something cool with a pair of dungarees then we’ll give you a pair of ours”. I got the pair. I took the panels off and bleached them, dyed them different colours. Then I had to learn how to sew! From then until now I’ve been going down the fashion route. I didn’t expect it at all, but I’m happy with the way it’s gone. I know I never intended to follow fashion but I feel like it lines up with what I already do, my 3D design, video editing, and photography.

What do you think your brand says about you and your work as an artist?

I would say bold. I’m trying to coin the phrase, “live life loudly”, it depends if I can fit that onto the products. I would say it’s bold campiness. I wanted to be loud and in your face. That’s why I had to make sure these bowties were printed such a bright pink! I’m going to do a black and white version too, but I want my designs to be bold. A statement piece I guess.

How has your creative process changed over time?

I try to be more concentrated, but it’s more a case of the ideas will come to me and I’ve just got to thrash them out. Ideas come to me randomly. I just work on getting certain ideas in my head about what I want generally and then I suppose I just let the ideas flow. Especially when I’m with friends who are of a similar mindset and we can sit and talk about ideas – start to get things down onto paper.

I don’t know many people who are in my line of localised fashion. Getting people together has been difficult because of Covid so it’s mainly been my own ideas. Having my friend around to design that kilt piece was great though, so if I can do more creative collaborations and group projects that would be amazing. For the most part I just draw my ideas on post-its, I’ve got post-its everywhere! I know if I don’t write it down I’ll forget it.

What kind of response have you had to your work so far?

It’s been pretty good. I’ve not had any complaints, not had anyone return anything. With the most recent pieces, the kilt and the side cape, I went and dropped them off and he was genuinely blown away. He put them on and he couldn’t stop smiling. He said he felt absolutely fabulous. I couldn’t really process it at the time because I was three days without sleep, but looking back on it he was over the moon with it!

It’s nice to stop and think about those times and not always be on the next thing! I get lost in making it all so I don’t really look at it from the outside. Halfway through the project I’m already convinced it’s garbage and wanting to work on the next thing. I’ve done quite a lot of neckerchiefs and I’m wondering if I should do something new, but everyone loves them.

Tell me about some of your inspirations as an artist. Do you have a favourite work of art?

Fashion-wise there isn’t many because I’ve not really been paying attention! In terms of art I would say Bauhaus, I love Bauhaus. The design, the bold colours. Block colours. A lot of 3D art, for a while I was obsessed. There’s a lot of digital artists who inspired me such as Deekay Motion and Robbie Cathro. I was really into my AR and VR. I still want to make my neckerchiefs as an AR filter so people can try them on before they buy, but it’s such a time consuming thing. My biggest inspiration is Bauhaus definitely. There’s a digital artist called beeple and he does some weird and out-there 3D designs that get a lot of attention.

Are there any political causes that are particularly important to you?

Climate change. I don’t really like using my 3D printer because the plastic isn’t recyclable, but that’s why I offer a deal where if you return an item once you’ve finished with it then you’ll get 10% off your next piece of clothing. I can at least take apart the returned piece, and I can reuse some of the materials like the plastic tips. Especially the neckerchiefs. I’ve got a box of all the discarded 3D pieces that didn’t print right and I’ve got a plan to do an art piece with them. I don’t want any of my stuff going to waste, so all of my packaging is recyclable. The main political thing is climate change.

What would you like to change about the creative world?

I wish there were an easier way for people to get attention! I know we’ve got Instagram but it isn’t great all of the time, especially the way they push certain people more than others. I fell into the whole thing of trying to please all audiences to try and get my work promoted. I suppose especially with gay culture it has to be a certain way of looking if you’re going to get any attention.

You can’t really get much attention from the work that you do alone, and you can never get a foot in the door because you need x amount of experience. Even if you really can design and be creative you have to have a backlog of portfolio work. In creative industries I don’t think we’re taken seriously a lot of the time.

What’s your dream project?

My dream project… if either a company or an artist would just give me a budget to do something really big. A statement piece! A fashion piece, it could be anything design-wise just something big! I want to make a statement and it has to be a big statement otherwise there’s no point. That’s all I can give you right now! I suppose the goal is having freedom. For example with the kilt piece recently I had my original idea for a circle skirt because I wanted it to be really feminine – but it wouldn’t matter if guys wear it.

What do you have planned next?

After I’ve figured out how to do the bowties I want to do some bigger pieces. I make accessories really but I want to make some denim jackets. I wear a lot of caps as well so I’d like to do a unique 3D designed cap. I want bigger pieces because at the moment it’s kind of background stuff or things that tie an outfit together. I want to start designing main pieces in an outfit. So probably jackets, caps, and trousers. I don’t want to do shirts because I feel like shirts are just a bit plain.

Thank you, Denholm. It’s been delightful!

Remember to visit Denholm’s online store! Find the perfect gift for your near and dear queers this Yuletide.

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