Behind the penBehind the pen


May 11, 2017

4 min read
Words: Helene Ravlich
Photos: William Carden-Horton

Those that have worked with him have called him everything from a “brand strategist extraordinaire” to a “creative genius”, but Icebreaker know William Carden-Horton as Billy, one of the company’s most prolific collaborators.

A highly organised project enabler with infectious energy and enthusiasm, the long-time Icebreaker collaborator was actually born in Gibraltar, home to the famous Rock of Gibraltar, a 426m-high limestone ridge.

Since then he has lived in Scotland, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom and now New Zealand, after being lured here by work several years ago. We had a chat with him about his meditative creative process and his latest work for Icebreaker, whilst more of what makes Billy tick can be found by following his Instagram handle, @williamcardenhorton.

William Carden-Horton
  1. Billy immersing himself.
Do you have a signature style when you create, for want of a better phrase?

Loose. I call my art series “Holding my pen MO-ROCK-O !” and ” nature” and so on. The word “loosely” describes an attitude as much as how I hold my pen. I literally “get-down” with nature - drug free. I stop to “be” in nature and my drawing becomes meditative. I don’t so much draw what I see, as draw what I feel.

My pen connects my heart to nature. In turn it connects me to people. It’s a beautiful cycle with Icebreaker as I work on a “merino canvas”.

Do you work in certain media, or have you given many a bash?

Me. Pen. Paper. Nature. I keep it simple. I stick to my knitting. Through my interest in Buddhism and minimalism I endeavour to keep it uncomplicated and stick to black and white.

I’m low-tech. It’s about me in nature - no gadgets - no barriers. I use a pen not a laptop so there is no rubbing out – this heightens my connection, as each pen mark is a commitment.

What inspired the most recent prints you developed for Icebreaker?

Awe breaker! Each print is me becoming the mountain, the waterfall…I’m simply inspired to be in nature and in turn to touch others.

I breathe in Icebreaker, and when I wear Icebreaker it’s like there’s no barrier between me and nature.

I feel Icebreaker and I are kindred spirits, and when I travel I am literally a walking Bill-board!

  1. Berber old wise tale.
  1. Buddha says there's only one way up the mountain.
  1. Billy Chef true blue bw.

“My pen connects my heart to nature. In turn it connects me to people.”

How long did the designs for this season take to create?

No time. I don’t want to labour the process. It’s this crazy kinda trance-like ritual I do.

I stop in front of you.
I’m naked (well, apart from my Icebreaker).
We fuse.
By drawing I stop to become you.

You’ve worked with highly respected, conscious brands throughout your career, Icebreaker being one of them. Do you see a certain synergy between the companies that you work with?

You could say I reel in the real. I partner with visionaries who have soul, who care about the people who work with them, including supply chains. They are all brave, and striving to make “difference”.

Describe your own wildest adventure in nature – New Zealand or beyond?

Spending time with a Buddhist nun by a gorge in silence was one. There’s a heightened connection with nature through meditation, and the dancing tree I drew simply become clearer and more beautiful.

I’ve also run mountain top marathons near Lake Wanaka in New Zealand’s South Island, and walked the Camino French and Portuguese coastal way with very little. I have been through Berber villages in the Mid-Atlas mountains of Morocco.

But just to be in nature is the “wild-erness” enough.

  1. State HIGHway.
  1. Land of the long flat white.
What do you believe you were you put on the earth to do?

To touch people. To connect with nature and people. To start a peaceful movement through beauty.

I once had a neighbour called Norman, a hard-nosed New Yorker who wasn’t known for giving flattery lightly. He stopped me one day to tell me that my drawings brought joy, every day, to his life. This was like an ah-ha moment for me: “so, this is why I’m here” I thought. It affirmed my path to “draw-on-nature to connect people”. How blessed am I.

Finish this sentence: nature means to me…

ALL we are and need.