You Can Do Anything In Hamilton


There is a true sense of optimism felt throughout Hamilton right now. Chances are you've spotted these totes on the shoulders of those championing our city. You've likely seen us toting them around town. Designed by Russell Gibbs, these totes make a simple statement that holds true. You really can do anything in Hamilton.

We wanted to introduce you to Russell, learn where the 'You can do anything in Hamilton' idea evolved from and talk about what the future of Hamilton looks like.

What made you get into design?

It just kind of presented itself to me and I fell in love with it. I was lucky enough to go to a high school that had a graphic design course. I took it based on the recommendation of a few art teachers, not really knowing what to expect. It seemed to click with me and then it just kind of snowballed. I went to Conestoga College for it, which lead me right into a job in Toronto... and now 12 years later I am out on my own, and loving it.

Any interesting design projects lately?

It might sound a bit corny, but it's all interesting to me all the time. The challenge in design is that every project has a different set of rules and guidelines, and your task is to create something great within those confines. It's always changing which is why I find it so interesting. That said there are a couple of things that are building that I am very excited about. First is taking the "You can do anything in Hamilton" campaign further. I am looking at evolving it beyond t-shirts and totes. I see it as an powerful promotional tool for the city. I think I'll have to start knocking on some doors and booking meetings! The possibility of it kind of blows my mind.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I feel like my inspiration comes from unusual places. I tend to draw from experiences, so it could be anything: music, live show, something in nature, a conversation I had or overheard. I tend to leave myself open at all times. I just want to absorb as much as I can, as I will ultimately draw from those experiences.

What would surprise people about you?

I think it might surprise people to know that I am also a beekeeper. I have seven colonies and spend a great deal of my time out in the bee yard from spring to fall. It's a total 180 from design, but it keeps me grounded and connected with the world.

What opportunities does Hamilton offer to emerging designers?

Hamilton has a lot to offer, especially to those with an entrepreneurial spirit. If I compare it to Toronto, there is a more collaborative vibe here, less attitude. It's refreshing. Things seem to be evolving here in a very organic way. People have the opportunity to have their voices heard. 

What drew you to Hamilton? What sets it apart from other cities?

To be honest, I had no idea what was going on here. What drew me here initially was the cost and quality of living. I needed to be closer to nature and farms and wasn't interested in buying a former crackhouse which was what my budget would allow in downtown Toronto. I think what sets it apart from most other cities, is that its been forgotten for so long and now we're in transition. The opportunity to shape what the city will become is happening right now. To even play a miniscule part in that change is something that I guarantee you won't find anywhere else. It's exciting and inspiring.

How is Hamilton's identity developing?

It's developing naturally right now. I don't know where we'll wind up but I think it will be genuine -- as long as we stay on this progressive build. There seems to be a group of people with the right idea doing things here. And since its such a blank slate, those people are shaping it. Whether it's the creative / arts community, small businesses or large businesses in any sector, people are starting to see that things are happening.

What is your favourite neighbourhood?

Dundas has got to be my favourite spot. It's really what drew me here -- small town, so close to nature.. It has a great community of people who care about what happens. I do love James Street North, and some of the more industrial areas of Hamilton. I love the contrast between small town, nature, city, industrial and rural. It's all here. 

Describe the moment you really felt you could do anything in Hamilton.

I initially felt it soon after we moved here. I started to hear about people doing interesting things, then I realized how young these people were and it floored me. I wanted to be a part of as much as I could. So I started to meet people and get involved. I think what also hits home is the whole 'You can do anything in Hamilton' concept. The original idea was to paint a mural during SuperCrawl and sell shirts and totes. The owners of the building rejected it, which set me back a bit. Then I just figured... you know what? I am going to do it anyway. And less than a year later, I am seven print runs in. Tourism Hamilton, McMaster University and White Elephant stock it. I kind of feel like I am doing anything in Hamilton. And everytime I think about that I am really amazed and happy. I want to get it out there more.

What does the future of Hamilton look like?

Exciting. I just see it continuing to grow. Everyone here cares so much, so it can't go wrong. As long as people's voices are being heard, we're going to make this into an even more amazing place.

Totes and tees available at Tourism Hamilton Visitor Centre, Titles Bookstore and White Elephant