Chris Dorning, aka the Cunning Craftsman is an artist on a mission, or rather a voyage.
Using the analogy that he is on a ship sailing in an ocean of endless creativity, he not only puts his hand to everything from sculpture to animation, but has also collaborated with a truly eclectic mix of brands including New Balance, Dior and Marks and Spencers. Not content with being the hardest working artist around Chris also runs a Shop-cum-Workshop in Ulverston which acts a creative base for the outdoor lover.
With our Keswick store recently celebrating its tenth birthday we thought it deserved something of a facelift as thanks to thousands of muddy boots and happy explorers who have been through our doors in the past decade the store was beginning to look a little tired.
Chris recently joined forces with Nordic Outdoor to decal a wall in our refurbished store in Keswick. Here we speak to the man himself…
Can you tell us a little about your background and road to becoming an artist?
I've always wanted to be good at drawing ever since I first started watching cartoons. I must of been around 5 or 6 years old.
I remember wanting to be able to draw everything very early on. I couldn't rest until I had succeeded in drawing something or completing a sketch, whether it would be made up or I'd copied a video box cover. Since then, it's all I've wanted to do.
I'd offer my services out to anyone that needed some design or art work and the harder I worked at it, the more chances I got to carry on drawing for myself. I’ve been on that roundabout ever since.
How would you describe your pieces and where does the inspiration come from?
My work is all over the place, as my inspiration changes daily. I'm quite an impulsive creator with little patience, which is not the best quality to have as an artist, but it's this restless nature that has enabled me to draw, work and think quickly. Some of my work can be quite deep with hidden meaning, some work purely represents the things I see and like, other works are parts of storylines or narratives that I'm developing. So, effectively, instead of writing stories, I end up illustrating bits of stories that I have made up.
You have some amazing work on show including a brilliant portrait of Billy Connolly, but it’s noticeable how eclectic the work is. Is this purposeful?
I wouldn’t say its deliberate, but it's definitely organic. The way I apply paint is now coming to a kind of style.. as I love to keep my paintings looking more like drawings, but the subject matter will always bounce around all kinds things. I am a gallery owner's nightmare!
OK, how did the partnership with Nordic Outdoor materialise?
I spent the day at the Fjallraven store in Manchester, customising a couple of Kanken bags. From there I was asked to create a customised bag for a member of staff over at Fjällräven- and it was these lovely guys that put me in touch with Nordic Outdoor.
What was your brief and how did you approach the project?
I was very lucky in the fact that the guys at Fjällräven and Nordic had seen my previous work and where happy for me to create something off my own back, as long as it was to do with the outdoors and adventure! A lot of my work includes ancient archeology or mythology and old photography. I love history and the idea of discovery.
I had been painting a series of images that included the discovery of Olmec stone heads, and the idea of replacing the "head" with a kanken bag seemed too organic to ignore, plus the bag lends its self very easily to having a face on it .
Was the artwork created over a time period?
It took just under two days to complete and I painted it in store during the refurbishment.
Talk us through the piece?
As the wall is in a pretty tight spot, customers won’t really be able to stand back to take it all in, so it’s a large, bold image of a photo (taken in the 40's approx) of a man posing (old school adventurer) next to a freshly discovered kanken bag!
Do you love the outdoors? What does Nordic Outdoor mean to you?
It's hard not to. My family and I have just moved to Ulverston in the Lake District, to be closer to the best parts of the UK. Being close to large open landscapes is vital for everyone to be honest, It’s a great reminder that we are all just specs on this floating ball and that every chance to be inspired is a real gift...wherever you get inspired! For me, nature holds the history and the adventure, the memory. I love it!
The Cunning Craftsman Mural in association with Fjällräven is situated in Nordic Outdoor Keswick. You can take a virtual walk of the shop below or visit us in 3D at 20 Lake Road, Keswick. You can see more of the Cunning Craftsman's work on his Instagram or via his website here. If you'd like to visit Chris in person then head to Still Life Ulverston to see more of his incredible creations. Inspired to adventure with your Kanken? Shop the full Fjällräven collection online now at Nordic Outdoor.