Meet a Maker - The Cunning Craftsman

Meet a Maker - The Cunning Craftsman

Over at our Leeds store Chris Dorning, otherwise known as The Cunning Craftsman, has created an impressive illustrated window mural for us. Chris produces a wide range of creative content for brands and businesses alongside working on his own creative practice. We spoke to Chris to find out a little bit more about him.


Tell us about the mural you have created for the Leeds window?
It’s kind of an illustrative list of items you can buy at Fred’s, with a touch of naive signage in amongst it. They are set out across the 5 massive windows that frame each core area of the shop, for example, model making, arts & crafts, books and so on. It took bit of head scratching and a ridiculous amount of ladder climbing!

What materials did you use for the window?
Posca markers were the only tool used in the making of the window, apart from the coloured card that was used as a backdrop.

You've worked for some major brands, what work have you produced for them? There has been a mixture of things I have produced for companies and brands and they are nearly always very different from one another… examples of large murals for Turtle Bay, customised footwear for Sperry Top-Sider, trade show stand artwork and design for Bench and creating an anamorphic sculpture for Blue Peter and putting on workshops for the BBC. Working with brands is more about having a vision and making it work creatively, rather than just sticking to one style and waiting for someone to pick up on it!


What is it about traditional sign writing that appeals to you?
I only started traditional signwriting about 12 months ago, my first love is painting and illustrating images rather than the letters. That being said, I was asked if I could and if I would paint a narrow boat, of course, I said yes, even though I had never done it. I just got the necessary paints and brushes and went to work. The approach was so different to painting and I found it so focusing, almost like meditation. I kind of love everything about sign writing, from the history, the tools, the locations it takes you and the fact you improve with each one you do.

What are you working on at the moment?
There are a couple of Boats up at the Marina (close to where I live) that need signs doing, I’m also doing a small mural at Zifferblats.. (I was supposed to do this last week but I was ill…errrr) after that I have a couple of unconfirmed gigs with Turtle Bay. Apart from that I always try and do as much personal work as I can, paintings, drawings and so on.


If you had to work with only one pen, which would you choose? That's a tricky one because I do get bored quickly and I like to mix things up, but I’d have to say the Pental Japanese Ink Brush Pen. I love the lines it makes and its unforgiving nature.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? Things that are done well inspire me, like a great comic or film, or a piece of fine art or even a beautiful space, when I see something that makes’s me go…"oh s@*t…wow!"…it fires me up, then I want to go and make and create something that gives me the same feeling…. I think.

Who are your favourite artists? Brett Whitley who is an Australian artist/painter and Moebius (Jean Giraud) who is a French Illustrator.


Do you have any tips for artists who are just starting out? I guess I’d say… don’t try too hard to create a masterpiece….in fact, never try to do that, just explore what you can do with a piece of charcoal and some paint, and if it’s meant to be, then eventually you’ll be creating pieces of work that satisfy your need to create…. practice and observe.

Where can people see your work? To keep up-to-date with stuff I’m doing you can go here:

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