Ohh Deer is more than just a site that sells cool graphic tees, it’s a collective of young creatives featuring some of the most talented emerging illustrators out there. Founded in 2011 by Jamie Mitchell and Mark Callaby, Ohh Deer offers everything from greeting cards to homeware. In fact, Amelia ear-marked one of their lovely cushions (designed by William Branton) in her Christmas Gift Ideas 2012 post. More than just a quirky online shop, jam-packed full of juicy illustrated bits ‘n’ bobs, they also function a bit like a creative agency, working on briefs together (for clients like Universal Music) and helping promote each others work.
The band of merry pens that make up this fresh-faced brand have proven than two leads (of the pencil variety) are better than one with their great products and impressive roster of clients. Rather than brave a tough industry alone, Mark and Jamie decided to work together, bringing a whole host of other bright young things they admired on board too. There’s now a whole range of pencils involved, including Nicholas Darby, Alice Potter, Ruben Ireland, Miguel Mansur, Jamie Mills and Kris Tate. The site also stocks products by various other illustrators including Jack Teagle and Emma May to name but a few.
The result is Ohh Deer, the equivalent of a sort of ‘super-freelancer’ with more time, talent, range and skills than one illustrator could muster alone. Fun, fresh, beautiful, honest, scary, relevant, Ohh Deer illustrations cover a lot of bases with their vast range of styles. Complete with a young, contemporary vibe, the company is straight out of the dreams of many a creative-type.
If you don’t already follow Ohh Deer on Facebook then you should, as it quickly becomes obvious that their brand-name gives them an edge for cracking all manner of social media-friendly and meme-happy jokes. This isn’t just a collective that follows visual culture, they’re part of it.
Last year, to give my wardrobe an injection of all things illustration, I took out a subscription to the Ohh Deer T-shirt Club. This, like my Stack Magazines subscription, is one of my monthly indulgences. Whether it’s a design featuring a lemon with adorably bulgy eyes or kitchen utensils with attitude, these staples give my wardrobe, and my creativity, a boost each month. There’s so much stuff on the site I want that it would be impossible for me to list it all here, but currently I’m drooling over some lovely wooden neck-creatures , wishing I could buy ALL the stationery as well as lusting after a whole batch of other penned goodies that make me shiver with creative delight. They even have copies of Wrap in their shop, an illustration magazine which comes with 5 sheets of illustrated wrapping paper each issue.
What gave you the impetus to start Ohh Deer?
The business was founded as a means to support myself and Mark. After a while we added several Illustrators to our collective and since then it’s blossomed. We’ve realised the potential to help other creatives and we’re determined to create something synonymous with contemporary Illustration.
What philosophy do you think is at the heart of the business?
The business feeds back a direct proportion of profit to the artist who’s work it is, and that’s how we like to do it. Ohh Deer as a business needs enough profit to grow, and be able to launch people to a higher level of recognition but our core aim is to support illustrators, and a lot of support for freelancers comes financially.
What kind of plans do you have for Ohh Deer in the future?
We’re now on the highstreet, and hopefully will be in Topshop and Paperchase nationwide soon. Our next step is to get the brand recognised internationally, and the same process will hopefully be applied to several amazing countries.
How did you go about picking illustrators to collaborate with?
The original selection of Illustrators were picked from people who’s work we admired on Twitter, these were people we were in regular contact with and whose work we would love to own. Since then we’ve added Illustrators and Artists to the roster who embody everything we love about the field. We all have a contemporary feel to our work, and we all work differently.
You started Ohh Deer with Mark Callaby, do you both run the project full-time?
Me and Mark founded the company in 2011, and we run the company from a HQ in Loughborough. Full-time there’s also Laura and soon to be Ricky who will be doing lots of tech related wizardry.
You originally pursued a career in Architecture, is this something you might look back to in future?
I might drift back to Architecture for small projects, I still love to design space, but never for anything permanent, I imagine my career will be very varied, as design can change so much from one project to the next.
What are the influences of your own personal illustration style?
A childhood diet of David Attenborough.
What other projects are you working on right now?
Ohh Deer is where the majority of my time is spent, I’m completing Album artwork for a very talented Musician at the minute. I’m doing a piece for an exhibition in Oxford about ‘contemporary fairytales’, I’m doing some work for a company called Kigu, who make brilliant onesies. I’ve just started a collection of Dinosaurs (because I love them) but also because I’ve been asked by the Natural History Museum to produce contemporary Dino products. I had an interesting email in my inbox this week about wallpaper design, so that could be happening too soon. Ohh Deer products will soon be on sale in Topshop and Paperchase as well as Scribbler and hopefully some other high street chains – so our mission to create a ‘launchpad’ for the artists is definitely taking shape. Next it will be the world.
How often do you put pen to paper?
I don’t get to draw all that often, I don’t have any free time at all, I’m working to be able to do more, by hiring a PA to manage some of the details, but I normally output a single Illustration every two months or so.
What’s the best aspect of starting up your own business?
Being your own boss. I’m unemployable – and by that I don’t mean I’m not professional, I just get restless, bored and disappointed with an unvarying list of jobs to do. I also love the ability to help support and nourish the careers of lots of awesome illustrators – our online following allows us to showcase work and host public facing competitions to see what other brilliant work is out there.
And the worst?
Not having enough hours in the day.
What advice would you give to budding illustrators?
Say yes to everything – Don’t expect to make any money to begin with, and when you’ve got some projects under your belt, don’t let big companies bully you for cheap labour, you’re a very talented individual and don’t you forget it!
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