Amelia’s Magazine | Shop Opening: The Three Threads

Aided in no uncertain terms by a show stopping performance at Texas’ recent South By Southwest festival, order case Portland three-piece Menomena present their debut UK release. This is in fact the bands third release – with their two previous albums available in the US exclusively. School friends Danny Seim, mind Justin Harris and Brent Knopf have derived a creative process of much interest that has resulted in a work that is both experimental and forward thinking without being inaccessible.

The bands sound is essentially a combination of looped sounds which are selected from a computer programme called Deeler. The Deeler Sessions culminate in the layering of these looped sounds and vocal addition. The good news is that for the most part this results in songs of sonic density that are out of left field but rich in melody. It is a combination that makes ‘Friend and Foe’ a compelling listen.

Often the fragmented nature of the songs will result in a messy, disjointed sound to begin with. But cohesion arises from moments of inspiration that morph abstract noises into quasi – pop melodies. It maybe a gorgeous piano line, delicate vocal harmony or obscure drum loop. Whatever, these songs keep you guessing, and aside from the odd ill judged inclusion (notably at the tail end of the album) they are nothing less than enthralling.

There are echoes of Mercury Rev on the defiant ‘Rotten Hell’, whilst howling guitars and brooding Saxophone characterise ‘Weird’. Elsewhere Menomena take ‘Up’ era REM as a reference point on ‘My My’- A brilliantly structured song defined by its paradoxical use of warm keyboards and choppy, industrial beats. It is one of many gems.

It’s a shame that the record falls away so badly in its last quarter. The final three songs appear to be an afterthought – lumped on at the end to pad things out when there really is no need for their presence. It leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth, but spin straight back to the start and all is forgotten. Friend and Foe deserves attention.

It’s always a danger to be overly vocal about your influences, ambulance it invariably leads people to compare you to those you have cited as inspiration, more about and with a band name taken from a Wilco song, dosage Cherry Ghost have set the bar a little too high. Thirst for Romance is positioned firmly in the folk/country influenced indie rock category and despite not being a spectacular record it has some nice moments, even if they are a little bit uninspired.

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Amelia’s Magazine | Ohh Deer Illustration Collective: an interview with Co-Founder Jamie Mitchell

Ohh Deer , Jamie Mitchell illustration

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.

Ohh Deer, Jamie Mitchell illustration

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.

Ohh Deer , Jamie Mitchell illustration

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.

With all this in mind, I spoke to co-founder Jamie Mitchell about how he came to setup the business and what Ohh Deer has in store for 2013.

Ohh Deer , Jamie Mitchell illustration

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.

Ohh Deer
Ohh Deer
Ohh Deer

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.

Ohh Deer, Jamie Mitchell illustration

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.

Hannah Richards, Ohh Deer

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.

Drew Turner, Ohh Deer
Rebecca Potter, Ohh Deer
Kris Tate, Ohh Deer

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.

Jaco Haasbroek, Ohh Deer

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!

Ruben Ireland, Ohh Deer

The beautiful illustrations in this piece were provided by Jamie Mitchell. The Ohh Deer products are by a range of illustrators and you can find them all on the Ohh Deer website.

Categories ,Alice Potter, ,architecture, ,collective, ,contemporary fairytales, ,cushions, ,David Attenborough, ,dinos, ,draw, ,Emma May, ,Graphic Design, ,greeting cards, ,Homeware, ,illustration, ,illustrators, ,Jack Teagle, ,Jamie Mills, ,Jamie Mitchell, ,Kigu, ,Kris Tate., ,Mark Callaby, ,Miguel Mansur, ,natural history museum, ,Nicholas Darby, ,Ohh Deer, ,onesies, ,Online Shop, ,Paperchase, ,Ruben Ireland, ,Sandra Dieckmann, ,Scribbler, ,shop, ,T shirt Club, ,topshop, ,twitter, ,Universal music, ,William Branton, ,Wrap Magazine

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Cat of Howkapow!

Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins

Amelia met a whole load of creatives during her recent ACOFI book tour – illustrators, web designers and makers. It was at Soma in Bristol that she met Cat and Rog from Howkapow – a wonderful website selling allsorts of wonderful items made by new designers all under one metaphorical roof.

Howkapow began only eight months ago but already features over 50 unique designers selling their wares – from brooches to lamps, drug you’ll find an array of interesting and vibrant objects here. I managed to have a chit-chat with Cat about their company, young creatives and self promotion. Here goes:

Cat and Rog of Howkapow, illustrated by Natsuki Otani

Oh hai Cat, how are you?
Ooo in spirits I’m feeling dandy actually Matt, thanks for asking! In body I’m suffering a little – just back from the hospital after an X-ray on my knee… fell off me bike! Wine + cycling = Cat in ditch.

Oh gawd! Well, tell us a bit about Howkapow – when did it start and why?
We opened in December 2010, after we moved from London back to Bristol where Rog (my husband and business partner) and I met at university almost, err, 10 years ago. I had just finished my MA at Saint Martins and we wanted to work together on something that supported creative people and built a community. We had peddled my jewellery at markets in Melbourne and Brick Lane and had met many wonderful people who made beautiful things. But a lot of them either didn’t have a website or any means of self-promotion (like an agency) and so Howkapow was born… 

Oh! Howkapow’s an interesting name… where’s it from?
Ah! We merged our second name – ‘How’ – with the fact that all our products are bright, loud and in-yer-face, so… ‘kapow‘! 

So do you and Rog split the work equally? How is it – y’know – working with your husband?
It’s bloomin’ brilliant! Nice coffee breaks, decadent lunches and business meetings in the garden, arguments over how to load the printer paper… No, in all seriousness although it was a bit strange at first as we’d only worked for other people before (Rog for the BBC and I was a journo before Saint Martins).
It works really well because we have well defined roles. I split my time between designing and acting as creative director so have (somewhat) complete control over the look of the site as well as stock purchases and sourcing new people. I always ask Rog what he thinks about a certain product but ultimately I RULE! He deals with all the accounts, legal tings, backend web development, site maintenance… y’know the really fun stuff. 

Illustration by Claire Kearns

How do you select the designers that you feature and support?
There are around 50 designers and illustrators on the site at any given time, and we’ve been releasing a new designer a week since we opened. Honestly we could release many, many more! But our criteria for choosing them is simple. They have to be a new and / or an independent designer or illustrator and their work has to fit at least two (although ideally all) of our brand values of quality, colour, humour and fun. 

Home products available on Howkapow (images courtesy of Howkapow, products selected by Matt Bramford)

How do you think young creatives can stand out in such a saturated environment? Everybody’s at it these days…
Very true! I think it’s a combination of a) doing something original b) doing something useful and ultimately commercial and c) being good at self promotion. Ideally young creatives need to know the market that they are going into. Whether this be design or illustration, you can have a great idea but if it’s not transferrable into a commercial product then it falters. Gosh that sounds a bit cold doesn’t it? But that’s how I choose new designers and illustrators at graduate shows. I was shocked by how many graduating product designers this year had no idea what their wholesale or retail price was for the work they were showcasing…

The flipside of it is, and this is a huge generalisation, but being very creative and original means you’re – more often than not – not massively great at self promotion or PR.

Illustration by Gabriel Ayala

That’s probably why you’re offering The Agency service – tell us a bit about that…?
Yes, the agency. It’s still in it’s infancy (the shop itself is only 8 months old) so we’re currently building up our base of creatives. Instead of it being based on static image-based portfolios, we want to develop it more as a ‘product’ agency where we manufacture a range of products from creatives. There’s the commercial / useful thing again… We can then use these products as a showcase for our illustrators / designers alongside their other work. It means they can be approached by shops as well as ad agencies or whatnot. 

What do you offer young designers that they don’t get from websites like Etsy where they flog their own stuff?
Well, the main thing is we hand-pick all our designers to match our brand values so people know exactly what sort of work to expect from our store. As opposed to a web resource which is open-to-all, we ‘curate’ our shop with exactly what we want which enables us to have a really strong brand and identity. We employ a PR company to help promote the shop and our designers; and we’ve also started to collaborate with some of our illustrators on products to then sell on the shop (and to wholesale to other shops). When the agency emerges it’ll be there to help promote our designers even further. 

Illustration by Sandra Contreras

Tell us a bit about some of your favourite products or designers… if you’re allowed, that is:
Oooo! Well obviously we LOVE it all (otherwise it wouldn’t be on the shop), but we’ve always greatly admired the work of Scottish illustrator Eleanor Meredith. We’ve recently designed a Tea Tiger and Coffee Chimp mug and a Gin Slug Tea Towel with her. 

Illustration by Jenny Robins

What role do you think tools like social media plays in the way we promote ourselves?
HUGE! Never underestimate the power of social media. Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest (recommended to us by Amelia when we went to a talk of hers recently and to which we are now totally addicted) are one of the main ways I find new designers and illustrators. You’ve got to be in it AND on it to win it.

There’s a million different websites for creative people these days. It’s exhausting. What are you favourites and why? Are there any you’d advise against or avoid? MySpace is awful, isn’t it?
Hmmm, yes I have to say Myspace is a bit of a dead duck, isn’t it? We’re literally never on there. It’s true – there are lots of different websites, and actually being on too many can dilute the perceived brand values of your label / work. If I see someone on lots of different open-to-all sites, as a buyer it actually puts me off. Choosing your outlets carefully can really help your brand. Again it’s about knowing your market and where you think your work would suit. There are one or two sites we would advise against, but we’re all about the non-negative vibes here at Howkapow, maaaaan.  

What else is on the Howkapow agenda? Do you have sights on a real shop?
Yes indeed! We’re planning to open up a shop in Bath (20 mins down the road from Bristol) early next year. In the meantime we’re working on more collaborations with illustrators on our own Howkapow range. We’ve started to build our selection of jewellery, mugs and tea towels but want to look into other products like trays, ipad / iphone cases, ceramics, cushions and even deck chairs! 

Howkapow jewellery and gifts; pictures courtesy of Howkapow, products selected by Matt Bramford)

What else do you and Rog like to do when you’re not Howkapow-ing? (Keep it clean, purlease)
Drinking fine wine! And sharing it with friends, obviously. We’re really into our food so growing our own veg on the allotment and brewing our own selection of (questionable) booze is always high on our agenda. Oh, and cycling on our tandem… although given the state of my knee, maybe not for a while now.

Rog and Cat at Amelia’s book tour at Soma in Bristol; photograph by Amelia Gregory.

Categories ,ACOFI, ,Amelia, ,Bath, ,bristol, ,Central Saint Martins, ,Claire Kearns, ,designers, ,Eleanor Meredith, ,Facebook, ,Gabriel Ayala, ,Gareth A Hokpins, ,Howkapow, ,illustrators, ,Jenny Robins, ,Matt Bramford, ,Pinterest, ,Rog & Cat How, ,Sandra Contreras, ,shop, ,Social Media, ,Soma, ,twitter

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