Interview With Chain Stitcher Giulio Miglietta
With just a couple of weeks to go before the event, we dropped in to Giulio’s London studio to check out his space and get to know him a bit better!
Giulio: Ahaha! My name is Giulio, I’m Italian and have lived in London since 2004. I’ve been a commercial illustrator for over 10 years, chain stitch embroiderer for more than 3 and taught graphic design at university for over 9. I have been riding bikes for 27 years this year. I have been into choppers since I was small. My daily ride is a stupidly modified 1979 Harley Davidson FXS Shovelhead with an 88” dual plugged stroker motor, dual carb, hot cams and anything else that makes it quick and incredibly hard to fix on the side of the road. That should be enough for a start? P&Co: When did you first begin chain stitching, was it a natural progression from illustration?
Giulio: When I was 4 I had a one-piece racing style jumpsuit. It was bright red and had patches all over with a big Ferrari one at the back. That must have been the start! In one way or another, my passion for patches has never left. When I was 18 I began making screen printed patches for punk bands. Mostly bootleg patches but also some original designs. I would do them in my bedroom and sell them at concerts. This is what actually got me into illustration! Although chainstitch is something I’ve been collecting and fascinated by for a long time, it’s something I only recently added to my illustration practice. P&Co: From talking to you & reading your Instagram post, it’s clear that every one of your designs has a narrative & some context behind it- how important is this to you?
Giulio: Yes, a large part of my work is researching into context and audience. I think of my designs as pieces of communication. A design should tell a story and be authentic. To do so it needs to speak the same language as its audience. It has to be truthful and stimulate a reaction. I bring in elements of humor and culture. I like to see an embroidered piece making someone laugh or making them feel proud of what they belong to. I like to think that my work is not just something visual but also food for thought, and a chance to spark a chat with likeminded people. P&Co: We know you are massively interested in the culture & the mechanics of choppers and motorcycles, how much has this influenced your work?
Giulio: Hugely I’d say. I am a collector of old chopper magazines. I have almost an entire collection of publications on the subject from 1968 until 1976 which is the last year I’m interested in. The early Ed Roth ‘Chopper Magazines’ had, in my opinion, one of the freshest illustrative approaches to the chopper scene has seen up to this date. Roth would draw layouts, headings, patches, posters… anything really! I love those. I’m also a big fan of old motorcycle clubs as well as New York street gangs in the late 70s. All of this definitely contributes to my visual style. P&Co: Where do you find most of your inspiration- in work & in life?
Giulio: I generally find most of my inspiration from US pop culture & the custom bike world from the 40s to the 80s. I like colorful stuff, I like movies. I like a good laugh and searching for vintage treasures. I like to find things that only popped for a short while. Products, parts, phenomenons that emerged and than totally fell into oblivion. Traveling is definitely how I recharge my batteries. Other than this, my wife is definitely one of the biggest sources of energy for me. I just love to come home and talk to her about new ideas. Show her new designs or sketches. I value her point of view as she always feels refreshingly un-bias. P&Co: We noticed the native vest in your studio, what’s the story behind that?
Giulio: Ah yes, it’s one of my favorite things I own. I bought it from a friend. It’s a vest that belonged to a Native American man. A father and his daughter would have one of these jackets. This particular man went to several events from 1973 to 1975 and collected patches along the way. Two of these were made by his daughter. An adult would collect the same patch as the child. It’s just beautiful. It has everything. It shows the bond between a father and his daughter. To put it back in context, this comes from a time in history where native Americans were often seen as outcasts in many parts of USA. The vest shows this man’s pride and connection to his roots. It shows his effort to pass this onto his child. P&Co: And the 'Oracion de la sta. muerte’ flyer, Lee said that had some pretty interesting context?
Giulio: This is a prayer to the Saint Death. The Santa Muerte is officially condemned by the Catholic religion. It’s a Mexican cult. It essentially recognizes death as a saint and protector. In doing so, believers kind of mix Catholicism and Santeria also known as voodoo. Santa Muerte is what could be called a “cult of crisis”. It’s popular amongst working class people as well as those with a difficult or “hopeless” situation. Thieves, drug dealers, homeless, “losers”. It gives them hope. P&Co: Do you have a favourite custom piece that you have created?
Giulio: Although I have worked on some fun pieces, I don’t know what my favorite might be! I think my favorite aspect of chainstitching is seeing the excitement and gratitude when the commissioners receive a piece. I’m a commercial illustrator and although I have chosen this profession for the creative side of things, I often saw myself stuck in studios surrounded by people doing their own thing wearing noise-canceling headphones. Sometimes I would sit through very long corporate meetings and wonder. This was not quite what I expected to be an exciting creative career. Seeing people’s reaction is definitely fun. P&Co: You pride yourself on creating your designs freehand without the aid of machinery. Is this something you’ll always continue to do?
Giulio: If I say “I’ll always do this” I’d put too much pressure on myself for sure! Everything I have done so far has been an organic process of growth. I am really old fashioned with some things. I like to put lots of time and work into what I do. Pile up research, test and try new ways of doing what I do. Consistency is definitely something I stick to. I’ve loved chainstitch for a long time. I like the fact that it’s a craft, it’s linear but also an art. You can tell if you are good, not good or if you are getting better. You can also apply your creative input to it. It’s a bit like mixing art with math. It has its boundaries but also freedom. I haven’t answered your question at all! P&Co: Are you looking forward to joining the P&Co stand at the Bike Shed show on the 26th May?
Giulio: Absolutely! I am grateful and really looking forward to working with you at the Bike Shed. It's chance to meet new people, have a good time and see customers go home with something unique. Something personalised on the spot, at the event. Thanks a lot for this interview! More information & tickets