Indie Business: Stay Home Club

I’m not sure who coined the phrase Introverts of the world unite, separately in your own homes, but whoever they are they could’ve added ‘via instagram’ to the end of that and they would definitely be a fan of the Stay Home Club.

Self confessed Designs For The Disgruntled, SHC is a unisex clothing brand that pioneered discontented designs with popular T-shirt slogans such as: The Worst, Awful and Recluse to name a few.

SHC has provided a well needed morose alternative to that hollow, chipper, twee-er, wear of recent years. It reflects a growing distain for aspects of modern life that has resonated with buyers worldwide, and as part hermit by choice, I can definitely relate to their disgruntled sentiments and straight up admit I’m a fan.

Stay Home Club is the brainchild of illustrator Olivia Mew and I’ve been following the rapid rise of her small business on Instagram for the last few years. I caught up with Olivia from her home in Montreal to chat about all thing SHC and the ins and outs of running an indie business.

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Hey Olivia! Is Mew your real surname? I always thought that was cool and very fitting that you had a surname that’s also the sound a cat makes! 

Hi! It is, I was literally born this way. Blessed, really.

How did the Stay Home Club begin, what were your plans when you first started? 

Stay Home Club started with a small line of pillow cases designed by a handful of artists I was lucky enough to collaborate with. In 2012 I exclaimed “there are too many t-shirt companies out there! I’m gonna do something different”! The plan was to stick to homewares, but after people started telling me how much they loved the logo I decided to print a few tees after all and the rest is kinda history. The moral of the story is that people sincerely, really love t-shirts.

Did you think you’d find such a strong, worldwide fan base of likeminded misanthropes? Why do you think your ‘designs for the disgruntled’ has struck such a chord? 

I’m totally overwhelmed by the customer base Stay Home Club has found. I’m not necessarily surprised that we all exist, but I’m pretty amazed that so many like-minded individuals have found their way to my silly little brand. When I started doing this the overwhelming majority of graphic tees out there were printed with hyper positive messages – you know, the Mumford-And-Sons-Lyric-In-Handwritten-Cursive-With-Feathers kinda stuff.

When I started developing the designs for our tees it was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to that. There has certainly been a seachange over the last few years which bodes both well and not so well for brands like SHC – when I started I couldn’t name anyone else making items with the same “reclusive” message but now there are dozens, many of whom are seemingly just digitally printing whatever message is trendy and endlessly ripping each other off.  I’m so grateful that my customers recognize the real deal.

How long has Stay Home Club and illustration been your full time job? 

Throughout art school (sigh) I worked an office job and had a handmade as well as a vintage clothing Etsy shop. After graduating I made it my goal to save a specific amount from my job as a cushion so that I could quit: the plan being that I’d do the vintage shop as my “day job” while I tried to cultivate an illustration career in my spare time. I ended up reaching my goal and quitting a few months later and shortly after that started Stay Home Club at the same time as starting to put myself out there as an illustrator. So I ditched the vintage (as fun as it was) and have been doing what I’m doing now full time for almost 3 years now.

Tote design by Gemma Correll

Although you design a lot of your products yourself, you’ve also worked with other illustrators and designers, such as the UK’s brilliant Gemma Correll. Is collaboration important for SHC, what do you enjoy about working with other illustrators and what makes an artist’s work a good fit for your company? 

The designs I’ve licensed from artists like Gemma, The Disaster Life, Noah Harmon, Adam J. Kurtz and others have seriously been my favourite items that we’ve put out. It’s so important to me to keep things fresh, and not let Stay Home Club get pigeonholed / limited by my designs and my ideas. When I come across work that I just know SHC customers would love I get SO FRIGGIN EXCITED. That’s been the case with all the collabs we’ve done and I couldn’t be happier with them. It’s not something obvious that makes them a good fit, it’s just a certain sense of humour, sometimes a certain aesthetic, just a *spark*. Indescribable!

How has social media, in particular Instagram helped your business to grow? Do you think there’s a knack to great instagram-ing if you’re a small business?

I’m so clueless about social media it’s not even funny. I mean, I do the Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for SHC but I do it by the seat of my pants. Instagram is what I use most just because it’s my personal favourite – on the Stay Home Club account I mostly share customer photos because I think it really helps prospective buyers envision the items on people who don’t necessarily look like our model and get ideas for how to style them. For ages I did everything under my personal Instagram account and was convinced that “my personality” was a big seller for the brand, then in September 2014 I made a stand-alone account and have since racked up something like 28k followers. Go figure.

What are some of the hardest aspects about running your own business? Have you had any sharp learning curves over the years? 

Numbers and taxes will always be my sworn enemies. For the life of me I can’t wrap my head around them, no matter how many apps I download to help out, no matter how organized I think I’m being with tracking my expenses. I feel horrible for my accountant. He’s lovely but he probably hates me. I’m also rubbish at having an organized system for ordering dwindling supplies, there have been many a “I have 100 packages to ship today and am fresh out of mailers” moments. So I suppose I’m not doing too well at learning from my mistakes – I’m very thankful for patient and understanding customers who don’t chew me out for being a day late to ship their bits.

Do you have any advice to pass on about juggling the needs of a growing, small business? 

So, on the flip side of the ordering-supplies-and-doing-taxes stuff, what I really pride myself on is my ability to manage the shipping and logistics side of my business. I can’t stress how important it is to me to have a smooth running system and I think any e-commerce business owner should really feel the same way.

If you’re planning on selling online (and I imagine that’s what a good chunk of new businesses are doing these days) spend time researching your options for processing and shipping. Look into your country’s postal service and figure out what they offer – do they have commercial rates? How easy is it to create shipping labels via their website / third party software / etc? Can they pick up from you or are you gonna have to haul stuff to them? Etc. Investing in proper shipping software and a thermal label printer was maybe the best decision I’ve ever made for my business and saves me countless days per week. My friends with similar businesses know this because I constantly nag them about it and have anxiety attacks when I see them hand-writing customs forms.

You’re based in Montreal. From afar, there seems to a real buzz about the city. Is it a supportive, creative environment for an indie businesses and creative people? 

It’s hard for me to answer this as a person who truly does not “get out much” and a self proclaimed non-participant. I’m lucky to have a pretty excellent group of friends here in Montreal almost all of whom are self-employed creatives, so there must be SOMETHING good going on here. Certainly we have a lot of creative transplants from other parts of the country because our rent is comparatively very cheap and it’s easier to live off a self-employed income here than it is in Toronto or Vancouver.

That said, there’s some political tension in Quebec (the province Montreal is in, and the only officially French-language-only province in Canada) that doesn’t really exist elsewhere in the country, so there are aspects of the culture that might seem less welcoming. We also have the highest provincial income tax rate in the country which can be a small business killer (see earlier gripes about not understanding numbers). But I don’t want to be a hater – in general there’s some really cool stuff around, it’s a beautiful city and I’m probably just still bitter because of the incredibly long and cold winter we just squeezed out of.

You mentioned on Instagram that you’ll be ‘popping up’ in London soon. Can you tell us more and where to find you? 

Yes! I’ll be setting up shop in a corner of Stage 3 in Hackney (289 Mare Street, E8 1EJ) from 11 AM – 5 PM on both May 15th and 16th. I’m also bringing goods from some of my favourite friends / brands: Explorer’s Press, No Fun and Yo Sick.

 Have you any other plans for while you’re in the UK? What are some of your favourite things to do when visiting these shores? 

I lived in England for 2 years as a teenager so some of my favourite people are there! I like buying mixed drinks in a can (a total novelty for me, GENIUS) and doing park hangs in the sun (when it comes out)! I’m also a big fan of spending a day alone at the V&A just looking at everything, endlessly.  This trip I’m super excited to have tickets to Kevin Devine as well as American Football (the band not the sport), a tattoo appointment, a visit to my grandparents’ – it’s gonna be a busy one!

 

People of London and those with the ability to travel: Do not miss the opportunity to catch the Stay Home Club pop up shop next month! Many thanks to Olivia for the interview, much appreciated!

100 Great Children’s Picture Books

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Compilations of anything are always going to be subjective and open to criticism of omissions and additions. Add an element of nostalgia to that as 100 Great Children’s Picture Books does, and people could get downright angry.

This is something author Martin Salisbury acknowledges via his introduction and amusingly explains he ‘is anxious to make a few things clear in my defence at the outset’. Salisbury goes on to state that ‘having had the great impertinence’ to make his selection, he has done so with good art and design as the remit for this particular collection.

Having compiled books myself, I understand only too well the difficulties of putting your own compilation out into the world and waiting for the backlash, but Salisbury’s Intro explains his selection perfectly. Plus as he’s Professor of Illustration at Cambridge and leader of the UK’s first Masters programme in children’s book  illustration, I’m more than happy to put my personal nostalgia aside and take his word for it!

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The book covers 1910 to 2014 and various countries of the world. It’s explained that the book doesn’t set out to give an even coverage across the time periods or geographical areas, but are presented in chronological order. The books have been selected for inclusion on artistic merit and those showing excellent examples of design in print, often reflecting the popular styles of the time and aimed predominately at young children.

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There are plenty of old favourites amongst them for nostalgic Brits of all ages. You’ll find Moomins, Babar, Orlando, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, as well as plenty of famous authors and illustrators: Edward Bawden, Eric Ravillious, Edward Gorey and Maurice Sendak to name a few. But be forewarned: it’s not always the most well known of the authors’ work included here, which is bound to ruffle a few feathers with some readers.

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It’s a fantastic book, a true feast for the eyes for anyone with even a passing interest in illustration and great design, and it certainly tickles the nostalgia bone in just the right place for people of a certain age. It’s also ripe for arguments discussions on your own choices, reminiscences and favourites of the genre.

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100 Great Children’s Picture Books by Martin Salisbury is out now and can be purchased from all good bookshops and direct from Laurence King Publishing Ltd Here.

Mini Kuš!

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Kuš (pronounced Koosh) the comics anthology from Latvia, have recently released a new batch of Mini Kuš! - small, individual comics, one story/artist per book.

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As with their larger compendiums, the work is varied, presenting unique works told in a variety of media and styles by Latvian and international artists. There’s 33 in the series so far with four new ones being released last month. They range from the unusual, the funny, the subtle, the bizarre and the wonderful.

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One of the stand outs from the new collection sent to me is  ‘Logbook’ (above) by Terhi Ekebom. It’s a haunting, surreal tale of loss told through lovely coloured pencil drawings. I also really enjoyed Lala Albert’s ‘R.A.T’ (below) a tale of internet spying and spying on your spy. Great stuff!

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Kuš are a great independent, small press comics to support. They’ve been bringing comics to Latvia and promoting Latvian comic artists internationally since 2007. To buy these Mini Kuš! books click HERE.

Skate Girls of Kabul

Skate Girls of Kabul is an exhibition of photography by Jessica Fulford-Dobson opening at the Saatchi Gallery in London on 15th April 2015. The exhibition includes the award winning portrait ‘Skate Girl’ – above.

If you haven’t heard of the work of Skateistan then do look them up. They’re a non-profit organisation working in Afghanistan, South Africa and Cambodia, to empower, educate and provide opportunities for young people through skateboarding.

 

Pick Up A Crumb

London based Crumb Cabin are running a monthly competition for 6 months, for artists to design a duotone Riso print poster.

Each month has a different theme and the winning entries will be produced by them and sold for non-profit purposes. All funds from the sales go towards putting on an exhibition of all the winning posters in October.

If you’d like to submit an entry or find out more (submission guidelines etc) visit www.pickupacrumb.tumblr.com

Crumb Cabin also provide Riso printing services for posters, flyers, zines and more. Visit there main website at www.crumbcabin.com for full details on services and prices.

Print, Make, Wear

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Print, Make, Wear is a new release from Laurence King Publishing. It’s by Melanie Bowles, a textile designer and senior lecturer in Digital Textile Design, and The People’s Print, an online resource and community, co-founded by Bowles.

Print, Make, Wear lifts the lid on digital textile design and explains all the techniques required to make your own designs using Photoshop and Illustrator, in accessible step by step guides using 11 different project tutorials.

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Several of the projects have been produced by other contributing designers, and are based on classic textile decoration techniques or designs such as plaid, patchwork, embroidery, cross-stitch and tie-dye. It’s a interesting to see these traditional, time-consuming, craft techniques reimagined and reproduced as accessible digital designs and patterns.

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Some of the projects such as the floral one above, involve some ‘hands on’ process. In this instance painting some unique, black floral shapes to be scanned and converted, coloured and built up into a complex looking floral repeat pattern, inspired by the great Liberty floral fabrics.

Other projects in the book show you how to turn illustrations, colouring in and photographs into bold, digital pattern designs.

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Each project requires basic Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator knowledge and differ in complexity,  but the simple step-by-step instructions are clear and easy to follow. The book doesn’t show you how to make any actual garments, it’s all about the fabric patterns here – the finished garments are merely a visual demonstration of what you could make and how you could wear your handmade fabric.

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The Foreword pushes the DIY philosophy of the book: “The DIY design revolution is at your finger tips with Print, Make, Wear” and it certainly is. The book gives you all the tools and experience you need to go forth and create your own, unique designs and turn them into whatever you wish from clothing to home furnishings, with the emphasis on individual creativity.

The back of the book contains a very useful resource with lists of digital fabric printers who will print small runs, as well as tips for making your new fabric into something wearable. There’s also a list of which patterns were used to make the garments in the photos, if you wanted to reproduce what’s in the book.

Print, Make, Wear is published on 23rd March 2015 and will be available from all good book sellers. It’s also available directly from the publishers HERE.

Geoff McFetridge: Studies

Geoff McFetridge has a new book out through Nieves. Studies as the name suggests, is a book of drawings and images that were mostly studies for other paintings. McFetridge explains:

“I have always been interested in creating work that lies between image and language: Imagery that your mind reads as language rather than being seen as

spatial or physical things. These pictures are for me a way to induce a misfiring of our mind, to have something resonate with the viewer.”

The book is 32 pages, 18 x 22.5 cm and $20. It can be purchased direct from Nieves HERE.

Lion Paw: Not-For-Profit Arts Event This April

Anonymous gift-giving project This Must be For You and arts blog and creative collective YOUNG GOLD TEETH have teamed up to host and curate Lion Paw – a not-for-profit event on Saturday 4th April at The Shacklewell Arms, London (E8 2EB).

Expect a jam-packed line-up of live music from a host of new bands, plus an exhibition and mini art fair featuring some amazing creatives and independent businesses.

The art market will have a twist: Illustrators, fine artists, print-makers, ceramicists and more will be selling their wares, but they’ll also be giving work away as part of a huge gift-giving raffle. Lots of talented artists, independent publications and businesses are getting involved with this and they are still welcoming donations – so get in touch with them if you’d like to get involved.

They’ve got some of their favourite new bands from all over the world playing throughout the day and late into the evening. These include Post LouisShadow CultureHundredsNathan Ball and Tusks with more to be announced. There’ll also be DJs playing the late shift, merch stands, screen printing, goodie bags, and much more to discover.

Join This Must Be For You and YOUNG GOLD TEETH in encouraging altruism, celebrating and supporting creatives, and spreading a little kindness.

There’s free entry, free gifts, great music, and a few extra surprises on the day. Definitely sounds like one not to be missed!

Sticker Bomb Skate: 150 Classic Skateboard Stickers

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Sticker Bomb Skate: 150 Skateboard Stickers is the latest Sticker Bomb book by Studio Rarekwai for Laurence King Publishing. The book features classic skateboard stickers from five US skateboard companies.

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Each featured company: Girl, Alien Workshop, Toy Machine, Real and Santa Cruz, has a chapter dedicated to it with a brief overview of each company and an interview with someone in charge of putting the company’s iconic artwork out into the world.

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The interviewees are Andy Jenkins, Art Director at Girl, Ed Templeton, pro skater and creator of Toy Machine, Mike Hill, co-founder and Creative Director of Alien Workshop, Jim Thiebaud co-founder of Real and Jim Phillips whose name and artwork are synonymous with Santa Cruz.

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The brief intro by SRK acknowledges the book is celebrating skateboarding’s important influence and legacy within the sticker scenes, as well as the difficulty of choosing just 5 companies to best represent the visuals of skateboarding.

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The 150 classic Skateboard sticker images are fully peelable and stickable, and the book includes Jim Phillips’s iconic ‘Screaming Hand’ for Santa Cruz and some of the original Alien Workshop designs. If you’ve ever skateboarded, collected skate stickers and/or are interested in pop/subcultural design classics, this book is a must have. There’s lots of nostalgia packed in here for skaters from the 80s and 90s too.

The big question is: To peel or not to peel?! If like me you’ve a soft spot for stickers then you’ll be highly tempted to buy two of these, one to keep pristine and one to peel and stick at will.

Sticker Bomb Skate: 150 Classic Skateboard Stickers is released on the 30th March at all good book sellers, and will be available to buy direct from the publishers HERE.