Three beach towels, three artists and one entrepreneur set a benchmark for amicable design collaboration.

There’s a lovely recapture of child-spirit in so much of what Ed Slaughter has created in his new design company Row Faster George! (and don’t forget that exclamation mark!) You don’t often hear of maritime archaeologists turning to design, and come to think of it, you don’t often hear about maritime archaeologists at all, but Ed switched his goggles, wetsuit and searches for shipwrecks on the seabed to follow his passion.

“I went to the beach one weekend and forgot to take a towel. When I went to buy one, there was just nothing unique or original at all out there,” recalls Ed. “They were all so boring.” So began an idea, and a long process of research and business liaison before Row Faster George! was born. Graphic designer Kate Perry of Red Chalk, (aka RC/KP) tapped into just the right mix of comic book action, vintage signage, and Jules Verne-ish sea motifs in her suite of logos and motifs to establish the brand.

Image: Elouise van Riet Gray

Working with local Brisbane artists Stephen Mok, Michael Phillips and Adam Lester was a breeze, according to Ed. “They were all really keen to be part of a beach towel range. Adam has a massive collection of towels from back to the 1960s. He’d really like to see the new ones in ten years time, after plenty of sun and washing…perhaps with even a few holes and tears.”

Image: Hailey Bartholomew

Each artist tuned into the project in a different way. Stephen Mok had “always wanted to work on a beach towel,” and re-sized his distinctive head silhouettes to the purpose. He sent me about a hundred awesome images to choose from,” says Ed, of the genesis of the ‘Night Romance’ towel. Michael Phillips worked at his inimitable mark-making with his arsenal of found objects in his Studio-of-Curiosities, alongside a series of symbols he’d developed over time to create his colourful ‘Popeyes’. Adam Lester made numerous preliminary sketches in graphite and coloured pencil. These studies were multilayered, loaded with visual motifs, text and ideas that referenced handmade roadside signage. He then cut and recomposed the drawings and worked with Ed to achieve the best combination of elements for the ‘Muddies’ towel.

“Some people get a bit sanctimonious about putting art on everyday objects, but we had complete control over the outcome.” Adam Lester
He’d really like to see the new ones in ten years time, after plenty of sun and washing…perhaps with even a few holes and tears.