Meet the co-founders of Makers Company: Gert who previously was the co-founder and director of Radio. After four years he decided to focus on craft development within a smaller, specialised studio environment. His business partner is Stephan, who also worked alongside Gert at Radio and who shares this creative vision. The two joined forces and founded Makers Company early 2015. The studio is currently made up of three creatives and a production manager who keep the ball rolling. We chatted to Gert and Stephan about starting the studio and the illustration industry in general.
Did you both study illustration secularly?
We both studied BA Graphic Design at the North West University, Potchefstroom. We didn’t study illustration per se but our course rather focussed broadly on graphic design with illustration as a subject.
Do you think illustration is something you can learn or is a measure of natural talent required?
We believe that within a good illustrator, there is that little spark of talent you are born with and is part of your DNA, but nevertheless, art & design courses can provide a base that needs to be nurtured and developed with constant deliberate practice. The world is full of talented useless people.
If you could be a superhero for a day who would you be and why?
Gert: Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant from Adventure Time – mind reading capabilities, because… clients.
Stephan: Good old Flash Gordon – take that deadlines!
The studio is relatively new. What were the challenges in opening your own studio and what advice do you have to this years creative graduates who are considering going at it alone?
Cashflow is always a challenge and a Goliath staring in your face. But fear not, keep things small as possible, for as long as possible (studio space / decor / equipment, etc) its expensive to become a hipster. But, in the same breath, don’t let money become your goalpost, it will only stress you out, money always follows craft, so get busy crafting. Another challenge is learning to say ‘no’. We were constantly trying to (and being asked to) do things we are not oiled to do… It is great to stretch your boundaries and pay the bills, but it takes some wisdom to know when to say no… some projects just eat up unnecessary time and energy. Then, make peace with your weaknesses, rather master your strengths and focus on having fun, fun always ends up in great work.
What advice would you give a young illustrator who wants to continue to improve?
Don’t be a lone-wolf, be part of a community, allow yourself to be inspired by others, and always be open and honest to help another. Everyone always learns something from someone they meet. Keep note and deliberately practice over and over and over what you learn, don’t expect to be an expert, grow to be one.
What was your first client as the Makers Company?
We did a direct mailing campaign for a Seattle based company called Watermarks, they test your tap water through the post. It was a super fun project with a lot of creative freedom. The little guys usually let you do what you want which is awesome.
Is illustration charged at a per hour rate or do you quote on each job individually depending on style and complexity of the illustration?
Most projects are quoted individually, depending on the style, complexity and timeframe. Some clients have fixed budgets which is great and not, but then its not always about the money. With discretion, we like to take on some jobs purely for the sake of creative freedom and the benefit of expanding our creative portfolio.
Is illustration very competitive at the moment?
There are many amazing illustrators out there, which is very inspirational and encouraging, and yes competition, But a little competition is always a good thing, it keeps us on our toes, pushes for craft and makes us accountable.
How do you keep the studio busy with projects all year round?
Never underestimate the power of social media, networking and staying up to date with the world around you.
What is your creative approach?
Usually we brainstorm as a team to bounce ideas off of each other (preferably away from the computer with a glass of wine in hand), we then provide sketches and style tests for approval before we go for gold.
Tell us briefly about the working process when illustrating?
Because our work is very vector based we usually don’t rely on sketches other than to capture a concept or idea. Most of the innovation happens on-screen, that being said we always carry a dot grid notebook in our pockets.
What project are you very proud of ?
We created a set of letterpressed postcards about the beauty of South Africa which we sent to our clients overseas. We liked the tactility of an old school postcard and our clients were equally impressed.
Are there any illustrators you admire and are inspired by?
We like the abstract geometric illustrations of Minneapolis studio Eight Hour Day, as well as American illustrator Richard Perez’s character work. The Spanish based Hey Studio is also one of our favourites.
If you were stuck on an island and could pack one sandwich what kind would it be?
Ah the classic Superette Chicken & Bacon Sandwhich would more than suffice.