“Hairy Mitten” or to his family Harry, is Chester’s very own sign writer, window painter and bike taxidermist. The company name is taken from his name Harry Mitton, and provided him with the inspiration for his unique logo – a Mitten, however there is also a Chinese Crab called the Mitten crab that has huge Hairy front pincer. Harry met up with our blogger Emma Stringfellow for a chat about his life and varied work.
Harry is originally from Norwich and studied at Sheffield Hallam University, before moving to the right side of the Pennines and eventually ending up in Chester five years ago where he is a resident of the Garden Quarter. Until recently his art took second place to his career in education but in August he decided to take the risk of going full time, accepting as he says that he “might fall on my arse”.
Harry is passionate about signwriting and how, done right, it can bring uniqueness and character to a business and indeed a whole town, he cites places such as Shrewsbury and Whitchurch which he feels have a distinct signwriting style, and expresses his disappointment when shops in Chester opt for a “vinyl” style of signage when they could do something much more unique, “it pains me when a new shop goes up with a really crap sign “he says. Harry started with art created using acrylics and moved into signwriting as he became more and more interested in lettering techniques. His sign writing inspiration comes from many places and he is enthusiastic about the “portfolio of inspiration” that can be found on Twitter and Instagram, but he cites Joby Carter who specialises in traditional fairground art as one of his biggest influences. Harry has a huge desire to be the best at what he does, so watch out Joby!
I asked Harry how he gets customers and it seems like all businesses there is no easy way and it is a matter of putting yourself out there either face to face or via the internet, he also cites events such as the Hoole Street Festival as key to meeting new customers. The Chester network is also important for developing business within Chester and something which Harry thinks is a real strength for the city. His ambitions however do not stop at Chester and he is looking to expand his customer base across the North West and even as far as London, where as he says he will probably get paid a lot more!
Harry has completed several shop sign writing commissions in Chester including the Goat & Munch in Garden Lane, Hopper Coffee in Godstall Lane and Ego X Barbers on Bridge Street Rows. In parallel with this he will be taking his unique style to Christmas windows and he is talking to several independent businesses in Chester to paint their windows with a Christmas theme tailored to their business. I was sworn to secrecy on the design ideas, but they sound fabulous. I have to say I think that painting some of our empty shop windows with Christmas designs would certainly brighten them up and create a unique style for Chester.
Obviously you can’t do an interview without discussing what is good and what could be better about Chester. Harry points out that Chester can have a habit of focusing on the negative and being a bit risk adverse and he’d like to see fewer armchair critics and more people, to echo music champion Daniel Schott’s words, getting out there and making Chester the place that they want it to be “just go out and do it, people might turn up, they might not, but what’s the worst that could happen?”. Reflecting on his experience in other cities, such as Sheffield, where pop up shops are a common feature he would also like to see more flexibility on venues for artists and makers to display and sell their works. Maybe along the lines of a creative “X factor” where artists and makers pitch to have a month in a prime retail location in Chester. He also points out that in Chester we lack a tradition of public art such as that which can be seen in towns like Bristol, and although the anti-graffiti paint in the underpasses serves a purpose it could have been possible to do something more creative.
So moving on to bike taxidermy, which to the uninitiated involves creating “stag like” heads from bike parts, examples of which can be seen in Hopper Coffee and Goat & Munch, I asked Harry where he got his parts from. Fortunately, his conscience is clean on their origins as he says he gets most of his parts from his magpie Dad’s extensive collection of unwanted bits and pieces.
Harry is a passionate artist and craftsman and he not only produces large scale works but also smaller more domestic pieces so if you are looking for a Shop window, a shop sign or an original gift – get in touch.
Report by @emmaStringfell1