Sheffield artist responsible for eye-catching shop signs and illustrations for top clients dies

An artist and illustrator who created some of Sheffield's most distinctive shop signs has died.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 3:08 pm
Updated Monday, 27th January 2020, 12:06 pm

Steven Millington, who turned 50 last year and lived at Meersbrook, worked under the names Dry British, Lord Dunsby and Hisknibs, painting colourful vintage-inspired signwriting for city businesses.

He also designed and sold his own art prints in a mid-century modern style, and was commissioned to produce marketing materials for major clients such as the RAC and Virgin.

Another of Steven's biggest customers was the luxury department store Fortnum & Mason, where his charming drawings appeared on greeting cards, biscuit tins and more.

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Steven Millington outside Fortnum & Mason. Picture: Thom Barnett/Mamnick

Sheffield was his home for many years but he was born in Horwich, Greater Manchester.

After leaving Bolton College of Art in the late 1980s, he trained as a glass engraver and designer at Lancashire Crystal, then learned the craft of traditional sign painting.

One of Steven's most familiar shopfronts is at the J.H. Mann fishmongers on Sharrow Vale Road. His work as Dry British also encompassed LP covers, clothing, animations and books.

Pete McKee, the Sheffield artist who was friends with Steven, was among those to pay tribute.

Steven Millington designed an elephant - called Izzy - for the Herd of Sheffield campaign in aid of the Children's Hospital in 2016.

"The world has lost an incredible artist, illustrator and Beat Generation aficionado," he said on Twitter.

Thom Barnett, the founder of city-based clothing and accessories label Mamnick, was close to Steven personally and professionally.

"My house and showroom are littered with his sketches and work," he wrote on his firm's website. "I had the pleasure of being able to sit and watch him work on so many occasions. He’d influence and give me ideas, without ever expecting anything in return.

“I could only describe the feeling as ‘magical’ to witness Steve when he had a pen or pencil in his hand. Without a doubt, he was the most talented bloke I know and he was so humble about his skills, I’d sometimes find it frustrating."

Steven Millington in Sheffield in the 1990s. Picture: Steve Ellis

Thom added: "I feel extremely lucky and proud to have worked with him, but more importantly, to have had the fortune to call him a close friend and to be so close to him and his family during his last days."

It is understood that Steven had survived a bad cycling accident, but that his health deteriorated before his death on January 16. He leaves his wife, Lisa, and their teenage son Beau.

In a post on Instagram, Andrew Almond, the owner of London motorbike shop Bolt - also a Dry British client - described the 'character he could capture within a few simple strokes of his nib'.

"You could imagine his illustrations coming to life, even his typographical work seemed to leap from the page,” said Andrew.

J.H. Mann Fishmongers, Sharrow Vale Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

“As his moniker Dry British suggested, his style captured the essence of Englishness - he took the name from an old tea towel he had.

“To go at such a young age and to leave behind his wife and son is too tragic to comprehend right now, he was such an inspiration in so many ways."

Leading photographer Dean Chalkley offered his condolences on Facebook, saying Steven’s death was ‘very sad news’.

“I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Steve several times over the years,” he said. “I know all will agree Steve was a mighty fine fellow and a very talented artist. Rest in peace, sir.”

A retrospective exhibition of Steven’s work, featuring new screenprints and older pieces, is being planned at APG Works on Sidney Street.

Steven Millington outside Fortnum & Mason. Picture: Thom Barnett/Mamnick