FOUNDER OF STAY HOME CLUB

 

Though I can't remember the exact path that led me to Olivia, I know it started with finding her illustrations online. My interest was immediately peaked and grew even more when I learned of her online shop, Stay Home Club. Being the type of creator who is both super talented and aware of her voice, Olivia's work has resulted in an amusing collection of illustrations and lifestyle pieces that will inspire you to look at the glass as full or as empty as you damn well want. Stay Home Club has carved out a corner of the internet that encourages appreciation for good art and design, clever commentary, and a space for people to comfortably explore in absolute solidarity. Can you feel your social anxieties subsiding? We caught up with her at her brand new studio in Montreal to talk more about what brought her to start the club that never actually meets.


 
 

Describe what brought you to what you're doing now.
Sure! I went to Concordia University here in Montreal for Fine Arts, but specifically for Fibres and Material Practices, which is sewing, weaving, and dyeing. When I started there, I started making these hand-stitched felt dolls, which I started selling in an Etsy shop and I was all, "I'm so successful! I'm selling three dolls a week!" but the dolls would take me like, six hours to make and I would sell them for $30. It was kind of cool because I would use them for class assignments and then take them home and sell them. From there it became really clear that I loved selling things online, but it was not viable to continue spending six hours at a time making a $30 handmade doll. So I started experimenting with screen printing and just kind of paired it down to objects that were more profitable. Then about three years ago, I was walking home one day and I started thinking about all of the people I knew online who were illustrators and artists and doing well on their own, and I started thinking about how I could use the connections I'd made online to get more eyes on my work, while giving money back to the artists I'd be working with, and that was when Stay Home Club started. Initially, it was a brand of pillow cases that were digitally printed with imagery created by all these people that I had made friends with online. I was licensing their work and at the time, I was giving them 10% and taking on all the costs of printing, etc. It started with five designs, and I made the logo (the illustration of the girl with cats around her), which has now become the brand itself. The pillows sold well, but we had all these issues as pillow case sizing is different all around the world. Eventually, people started asking if they could get the illustrations printed onto t-shirts, so we started making t-shirts and they sold like crazy. From there, I introduced more designs and then Stay Home Club evolved into a t-shirt brand. When it first started, I said it would never be a t-shirt brand because there are too many out there and nobody wants anymore t-shirts...but I was wrong. Everyone loves t-shirts and that is what we are now. We still licence work, and it has kind of transformed from us using other artists to build our customer base, to the opposite. I work with people who I think are awesome, and whose work is not as discovered as I think it should be.

That's awesome!  When you talk about Stay Home Club being a club and there being a membership involved - what sort of a role does that play in the customer's
experience?

When I first started this there weren't really any brands that I was aware of that were making stuff for recluses and this kind of thing, but now it's everywhere on the internet. Every mainstream t-shirt brand is now doing t-shirts that say "Lazy" or "Let Me Sleep" but when I started there was not much of that, and I think it was certainly a revelation to me and probably to the customers, that there were so many people out there who felt the same way. That was three years ago I was twenty-four, and I was at the age where my friends were going out drinking, and I was not into that. It was a weird reaction to that, to make stuff for people who don't like doing that kind of thing. And I think as customers started realizing that there was this whole group of people on the internet following this brand, they kind of came together over it. Now it's obvious because it's trendy to be this way, but at the time it was a big deal for them to be like "this is a club"! And that's just what we are - a club that never meets, because we all hate going out and meeting new people and it's a nice feeling to know there are like minded people out there.

 
 

What do you look for when searching for artists to work with?
It is really hard to put into words. There is just something about my experience and having a certain kind of customer that sometimes I have a good feeling they will like a visual style or vibe. It also has to be technically sound, because we screen print everything so it has to be printable, meaning one to three colours, and simple lines. There are a few artists we have worked with recently that have create work that is really simple but so amazing. This Japanese artist, Satoshi Kurosaki, who does the little dancing dog and casual cat illustrations - he has this Tumblr where he posts almost every day, and they're just these incredible but simple line drawings that are amazing! They are so simple, I could browse his Tumblr all day.

It's great that your work is so collaborative. I feel people don't always get that opportunity.
This kind of "small brand, t-shirt, patches, pins" idea has become such a thing lately, and I am starting to see more and more businesses doing these collaborations, which is great. It's not like these artists don't have the resources to get patches made, I just find that a lot of artists aren't trying to monetize their work. They're totally happy just creating amazing stuff, so it's cool knowing the process that goes into selling and being able to bring it all together.

What has been your favourite part of this experience so far?
This sounds really cliche but, all of it? I could have never imagined this life for myself. When you're a teenager and you're trying to picture your future job, it makes you imagine your life in a certain way. It's pretty amazing to say that up until three weeks ago my assistant and me worked from home. I'd wake up, make coffee, and work all day loving it. Now, coming into the studio it's even better. My favourite thing is that I am in control of making my life the way I want it to be.

What is something that you have always wanted to do, but haven't done yet?
I am working on it right now, We are trying to start selling sweaters, but not just a sweater with a print on it. I've been wanting to do it for years, and I want to kind of get away from being a t-shirt company and move towards being more of an apparel company. I want to put out product that isn't just an American Apparel sweater with a screen print on it,  but product that we have cut and sewn and knitted and made from scratch for Stay Home Club. I am really excited about the sweaters. We are getting a sample next week! I have always wanted to be more independent as a brand.

 
 

I know that this space is fairly new, but is this your dream space?
So far, yes! There is enough room to grow. We share the space with two awesome people, one being my friend James who goes by Scorpion Dagger on the internet. He makes these gifs that are created from renaissance paintings but then turns them into these contemporary scenarios. We also share it with my friend Evan who just rebranded as Council for Design and he does art direction, illustration, and graphic design. It's great sharing with them. My main thing about no longer working from home, is that it started growing beyond the point where I could do it myself. I have worked with Anika for the last six or seven months, and she comes in three times a week and does all the shipping and is a champion! So good. It's amazing being able to work with more than one person here. We can be doing two different things that are related at once. Before, I was on the computer upstairs and she was doing shipping in my basement and it was not ideal. Now it's very organized and the place is big enough for us to develop our own systems, which is huge for me as I am a little obsessed with logistics and streamlining. At least two hundred packages are going out from here per week, so you need systems in place to get that done and not go crazy, and this place allows for that.

Do you feel like this path you've taken is a result of nature or nurture?
Ohh, that is hard. My creative mind was for sure nurtured. My mom is super artsy. My mom always encouraged artistic endeavours. I grew up in Toronto, and then I got sent to boarding school in England for messing up in public school. In England, you do the A levels at the end of high school where you hone it everything down to three subjects, instead of taking seven subjects like in Ontario. I was able to do art, textiles, and english. My parents were totally fine with that, which led me to art school, which in a way sent me here. A lot had to do with my mom, she was super into doing artistic projects with my brother and me when we were kids. Every season we would do a bristol board, and at my birthday parties we would do a "pin the something on something" bristol board. She's a judge, so she didn't have all the time in the world to do this with us, but made sure she always made the time. It's hard to know what came from nature or nurture. Sometimes I think of myself more as a creative person and sometimes I think of myself as more of a business person, even though I am terrible with numbers and taxes. I do them but I am so bad. My parents are always like "we understand where this creative instinct came from but, wow...this entrepreneurial aspect, where did that come from?", so maybe that is more nature driven? I have always wanted to be self-employed. I worked at a law firm for five years during university and it drained me of everything I liked in life, so from then on I was determined to be in control of my life.

 
 

What advice would you give to a creative person that's looking to run a business?
I think if you really want to live off what you're doing, you have to find a way to monetize it. It's not the natural instinct of the artist to monetize, and it sounds crass. I feel like during the course of this interview I have been like "money, money, money!", but that's not a huge part of who I am. I just think if you want to love what you do forever, it needs to sustain you, so it's important to consider how to monetize things. You can't just assume that it is somehow going to get out there and make you money and a career. I was doing freelance illustration before Stay Home Club took off, and I was hoping to continue that and make it my career but I was kind of bad at marketing myself. There are all these illustration podcasts and blogs, and they all say you need to send out postcards to art directors and do all this stuff, and I was kind of bad at that. For me, product made sense. Make something in multiples and sell it at a reasonable price that people can afford. I think you need to consider how you're going to create something that is financially viable if you want to live the life of a creative person. Even if you don't care if you live in an apartment with five roommates in a basement, you still need to make that bit of money.

Well said. Last question. Current emoji of choice?
The poop emoji is definitely very close to my heart. 

 

CONTACT OLIVIA
http://www.oliviamew.com/
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CHECK OUT STAY HOME CLUB
http://stayhomeclub.com/
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CREDITS
Published on August 18, 2015
Interview & photography by Marlee Maclean
Transcribed by Robby Maclean