Willems Eyewear’s Cornwall series is not only an exceptional example of the brand’s timeless pioneering spirit. It’s also a testimony to what travelling can do to an open mind. Join us on a journey to the ragged coastline of mesmerising Cornwall.
There is something about Cornwall that cannot be described. A deep, rural magic that transcends the beauty of nature and becomes something else, something holistic. Lush gardens, beautiful houses, rough cliffs, green meadows and cosy pubs, bound together by an inherent and timeless sense of English elegance: that’s what this county in Southern England is all about.
It’s also what’s inspiring Andreas Kraft, owner of pioneering optician brand Willems Eyewear in Stuttgart. “Travelling helps me to leave everything behind for a while”, he says. “It empties the mind and allows it to take in other things. New things. Changing your surroundings also means changing your emotional landscape.” Kraft doesn’t use travelling as a means of escaping, though. “That wouldn’t work”, he laughs. “You’re with yourself all the time so where should you be escaping to?”
"Cornwall something to me"
New inspiration, new perspectives, that’s what it’s all about. He nods. “It cleans my head more than anything else.” Instead of trying to visit as many places in as little days as possible, he loves to immerse himself in one specific place. “I want to have the feeling as if I would really live there. I want to understand a place, unearth all the details there are.” That’s also what he did when he was visiting Cornwall a couple of years ago. “Cornwall did something to me”, he muses. “It’s a unique landscape even within the UK, sophisticated yet rough. The colours alone are truly unique and something you never forget.” He smiles in recollection. “I have never seen fudge as colourful as that.” And there he stood, ever the innovative optician, thinking of transferring these colourful fudges to new visionary frames.
That’s how his inspiration works. Forms, materials and colours he associates with a specific place find their way into his designs all the time. “Cornwall, or the UK in general, struck a chord, and I wanted to unite the elegance and the roughness of that region in one of my designs.” And so he did. Fast forward to 2013: The first models of his Cornwall line were being finished, the onset of a very successful line being constantly refined and developed to this day.
From the foggy highlands to London’s Punk scene
Key piece and base of this timeless collection is the model Mousehole, named after an adorable Cornish coastal village. A special piece based on the iconic form Kraft’s grandfather did as his journeyman’s piece, it’s also an archetypical example of Cool Britannia. All the other plus 35 models take it from there, also taking their names from special places in Cornwall.
As with all his models and lines, also his Cornwall line breathes a certain lifestyle. An iconic and romantic sense of Great Britain from the foggy highlands of Scotland via the Punk and Wave explosion in eighties London to the serene and peaceful beaches of the south. It is there in the south where Andreas Kraft also met James Midwinter, retoucher and photographer with a wild passion for Cornwall and surfing. The two of them clicked – and now four of Midwinter’s mesmerising and almost mythical images of the Cornish seaside and its surfers grace the cleaning cloths of the Cornwall line, thus sublimating a unique take on a piece of timeless and visionary eyewear. Kraft beams. “His images truly reflect what I want to say with this collection.” And thus, two visions become one reality.
The view of a local
Photographer James Midwinter has spent a lot of time living and working in London. As much as he loves the bustling city, though, he’s really fond of escaping the crowded world of concrete for his beloved coast of Cornwall. There, in the very south of England, far from the crowds and the noise, he finds peace and the vistas that inspire him to immortalize the spellbinding beauty of the rough coastline.
What is it about Cornwall that sparks your fantasy?
I spent most of my adult life living in London, where most of the time you can rarely see more than a couple of hundred metres in front of you at most. Cornwall’s huge open spaces, from the beaches to the cliff tops to the moorland are such a vivid contrast to that life that it changed my entire photography style. Suddenly I was looking at the horizon almost every day, and I find that to be so good for the soul.
But you are not originally from Cornwall, are you?
No, I’m originally from the Midlands, the centre of the UK. I then went to the University of Westminster in London, and stayed there until my early thirties. Nowadays, I live in Newquay, on a little peninsula called Pentire.
Tell me about your favourite spot in Cornwall.
There’s so many great places, but on a sunny, still day, there’s nowhere better for me that the Gannel River that runs between Newquay and Crantock. You can jump on a Stand up paddle board and float along the aqua waters, looking up at beautiful houses built on the slopes, and arrive at the dunes of Crantock beach to watch the sunset.
“It’s just you and the ocean”
Describe the perfect day off in the Cornish countryside.
Driving south along the coast, coffee at Open in St Agnes, a walk down to the beach to shoot some surfers, then on to St Ives to check out some galleries, then back to The Living Space in Watergate Bay for dinner, before arriving home with a full belly and full memory cards.
And a perfect day in London?
I had a close to perfect day in London last year, when my friend Kam and i ate some ‘special’ Brownies then just floated between the Tate Modern, on to some other galleries before having dinner at Blacklock near Leicester Square. The food there is unreal!
For how long have you been a surfer?
I had a few go’s in my late twenties when visiting Cornwall, but only took it up properly when I moved here a few years back. I should really have gone out for a bunch of lessons, but pig-headedly decided to just work it out for myself using YouTube videos.
What do you love about surfing?
There’s something really meditative about waiting for your next wave, it’s just you and the ocean, with no phone or social media to distract you.
How do you usually find your motifs? Or do they find you?
I shoot a lot of bad images. And in amongst them I find an occasional gem. I think Instagram had helped my photography by making me think about how my images sit next to one another, and that means when I’m out in the world shooting I always have a certain aesthetic on my mind, guiding what I’m looking for, and how I shoot it.
Your pictures radiate a calm and soothing minimalism. How would you describe your style, your approach?
I joke that I take photos of mostly nothing. But really I’ve just tried to strip life back to a blank canvas with a few marks on it. The world is often a really over-stimulated place, so this is my reaction to that.