For the art-appreciating residents of Leeds, there are days when it feels as though local artist Benjamin Craven is everywhere you look.
Cycle along the river Aire, and you'll see his brightly coloured designs painted on an exceptionally cheerful narrow boat. Head to your favourite neighbourhood bar, and there'll likely be a print of his on the wall, and maybe even some familiar-looking artwork on the pump clips.
You might think we'd get tired of his ubiquitous stripes, wiggles and spots, but every time we see his work in a new (often unexpected) space, we get a little buzz.
Naturally, we had to ask Benjamin to put his spin on a jersey! Whilst the finished product is still in the design phase (keep your eyes peeled for the official launch!), we asked him a few questions about his creative process, and his current cycling status...
The reaction to your PARIA jersey designs has been incredible so far. Can you talk us through your thought process?
I'm super happy that it's gone down so well! It was a tricky one as we spoke around 2 years ago about doing a collab and I got super hyped to design something, told loads of my mates and was buzzing. Then when it came to designing it, I just got overwhelmed, I was sketching some cool ideas but nothing was screaming at me. I put it on the back burner and just left it for a year or so...
When I picked it back up, I knew I wanted lots of pattern and something to really compliment the shape of the jersey - Something different from every angle you look at it. I wanted it to be eye grabbing and a little different to the other stuff I've seen, something that I'd have to take a second look at if a rider shot past me.
I really wanted the composition of this jersey to make sense too... I didnt want it to be just a design put on over the top, I wanted it to flow perfectly! That being said... This was super hard for me as I did around 10+ versions.... We narrowed it down to 3 and that's why put it up for voting as I simply cant make my mind up. - I like 'em all!
Which other artists have inspired you lately?
Tricky one as I don't really tend to look at much artists for inspo... It's normally just what I see on a day to day that inspires me, textures, patterns and architecture! Oh and lots of music!
You’ve designed everything from bus stops to barges to climbing holds… What’s been your trickiest project so far?
That's a tough question as all of them have had their moments, but the trickiest project I've had might have to be the first barge I painted, wind and spray paint don't like each other and this was a big problem! Plenty of spiders and it was freezing, many days I couldn't paint because of the shit weather.
I was 2 days away from completing the barge and it was a super sunny day (ideal for painting) and I was riding into to town to go and finish it, unlucky for me a dickhead driver didn't indicate and I went flying over the bonnet, fucked my wrist and bust my head open.... I was not buzzing at all.
I could go on and tell you about other projects which have been tricky or faffy but I'd probably bore you, this is why I love working on so many different fun projects - I love all the challenges I have to face, get 'em done then on to the next!
What’s your current bike relationship status?
It's pretty sweet to be honest, I moved to town so i'm no longer commuting down Meanwood Road (thank god) so i'm just booting about on a 90s GT outpost - I always loved the Triple triangle frames so i bought one on facebook and turned it into a single speed, got a rack for the front and some chunky tyres... I love it! Currently in the process of turning it into an 8speed and winter proofing it though!
I also have a 3 Speed gravel bike which I love but tempted to give it a jazzy Ben Craven paint job... Watch this space!
We'd love to see that happen, Ben! Thanks for joining the PARIA fam!
Benjamin Craven X PARIA jersey coming October 2022