We like to think that our customers receive a much more friendly and personal experience when shopping with us as opposed to when they shop with big fashion brands. The tightness of our workforce makes it feel more like a family and this shines through in our products. Therefore, we thought it was important to make this month’s blog an introduction to a less spoken about section of our team, our amazing artists! Each artist we have worked with has had a unique vision of what they wanted to create and a unique message they have wanted to say. Through collaborating with us, we have been able to help many artists to realise their vision and this has created some truly incredible prints. Therefore, this month’s blog will shine a spotlight on some of our most successful collaborations, explaining who our artists are and the meanings behind some of our most famous prints…
Kid Acne is a printmaker, illustrator and hip-hop musician born in Malawi and based in Sheffield. He began his career as a teenage street artist and has been making incredible and unique illustrations and prints ever since. His epic slogans and cool warrior prints have been exhibited and admired in Australia, the US, and the UK. Although, true to his roots he continues to contribute to Sheffield’s thriving street art scene and you can see his monumental word paintings all over the city!
Last year, Kid Acne approached us about a potential collaboration. Having worked with us briefly before, he was impressed with the quality of our printing and felt that the ethos behind our organisation was perfect for this new project. His father had recently passed as a result of a decades-long dependence on alcohol and he was keen to create a print which could highlight the difficulties of addiction. As a homeless charity, we were all too aware of the chaos that addiction can cause in a person’s life and so we were eager to help with this vision. Together, we created the incredible ‘Stick to the Plan’ design. It’s an exceptional print which aims to emphasise the discipline needed to stick to an addiction recovery plan and how difficult it can be for those suffering from addictions to get their life back on track.
All the proceeds made from the design were then split between us and Project 6, a drug and alcohol charity working across Yorkshire. We love collaborating with unique and inspiring artists as it can be a very rewarding experience. Kid Acne enabled us to further our mission of helping the homeless community in Sheffield and we were able to help him to raise awareness and support for addiction charities. Collaboration is an essential aspect of any creative process and the exceptional creativity of each individual artist we work with is what makes each of our prints so unique, enabling us to continue helping people from all walks of life.
The Level Collective
The Level Collective was founded in 2014 by British designer Mark Musgrave (Fun Fact: He also subsequently founded Printed by Us!) Musgrave created The Level Collective after being inspired by the charity project Dece in Romania. Dece trains those living under the poverty line how to hand-make knitted products. These products are then sold on, enabling those living in challenging circumstances to gain a real living wage and support their families. This showed Mark that the rigid system of fast fashion (a system which mass-produces flimsy, short-lived clothes which are then sold off at an extortionate rate!) is not a viable system, leading him to create the level Collective! All of their products are handmade in Britain from natural, organic and recycled ingredients. And as they themselves highlight on their website, “durability is an important part of sustainability,” so all of their products are beautiful, useful and designed to be enjoyed for many years.
The Level Collective believe in ‘purposeful vocation’. This is the idea that we should invest our time and energy into meaningful toil and seek to find balance between work and rest. They believe that the best way to find rest is through reconnecting with nature, and consequently they create beautiful and functional products made to be enjoyed in the wild and the city. We are likewise passionate about nature and sustainability so naturally we were thrilled at the opportunity to collaborate with them. Musgrave came to us with the idea of spreading a message of positivity in these dark, lockdown days and together we created our most recent print, ‘Burn Bright’. The print sought to remind people that life is short and we should all do those things which make us come alive and ‘burn bright’. The collaboration enabled us to continue creating jobs for the homeless population of Sheffield, whilst allowing him to gain increased exposure on our social media and distribute his designs to a wider audience. Yet more proof that creative collaborations are helpful and necessary for all creatives 😊
Lisa Maltby is an award-winning illustrator and lettering artist based in Sheffield! Passionate about art from a young age, Lisa knew that she could only be satisfied in a job which utilised her creative talents. Ignoring all sensible career advice, she pursued a course in illustration which led to a career in graphic design spanning over ten years, designing, as she termed it, “things like college prospectuses and Ronseal wood stain packaging”. However, in a bid to gain more creativity and flexibility in her work, six years ago Lisa began working as an independent illustrator and designer, never looking back. Since then, she has gone on to design a variety of commercial commissions across publishing and design and has even illustrated her own children’s book! For Sheffield residents, you may have seen Lisa’s work more recently on one of the ‘bears of Sheffield’, a trail of bear sculptures around the city which was created to raise money for the local children’s hospital.
In late 2020, Lisa approached us about a potential collaboration and we were ecstatic. She wanted to create a design which echoed her feelings after the 2020 American election in which Trump lost power. She felt as though the election gave her renewed hope for the future, but she also wanted to emphasise that everyone should still keep fighting and questioning the darker aspects of our society. In her words, “challenge your privilege, challenge your attitudes to success and power. We all play a part. Let’s aim high.” Lisa came to us because she was trying to create a design which would emphasise the ‘high hopes’ she has for everyone to make a change and challenge the actions of those in power. As an organisation who are also trying to make a positive change in the world, we loved Lisa’s message and she felt that we were perfect for the collaboration. We gave Lisa full creative control and she created her design, ‘High Hopes’, in the classic vintage, illustrative writing which characterises her work. It managed to perfectly encapsulate her feelings, helping both Lisa and us to continue our mission of making the world a better place. And it certainly gave us ‘high hopes’ for future collaborations!
Helen began her career selling handmade bits and bobs at craft markets in Sheffield. However, spending hours every night hand-making all of her products was not the most sustainable of ways to keep stock high, and so Helen began learning how to screen print at Sheffield Print club. As her passion for screen-printing grew so did the work she was displaying in her stalls and pretty soon her bungled together, hand-drawn things just became screen-printed clothing. Our collaboration came about after Helen witnessed James (now our Operations Manager) speak at Creative Mornings Sheffield about Printed by Us, and the work we were doing with the homeless population in Sheffield. Helen found the talk very moving and was inspired by the project to try and help out herself. Coincidentally, a few weeks later she ran into Mark Musgrave, creator of Printed by Us, who asked her if she was interested in a collaboration, which of course she was!
Helen loves creating simple and silly designs which make people smile and the Veg Life print she designed for us with a cute diplodocus was exactly that. Now living in Glasgow, Helen says she still loves it when her friends and family spot the Veg Life print out and about in Sheffield, as it means a lot that her work is still in her home city despite her not living there anymore. Currently she’s in the process of getting her little business restarted again in Glasgow, and she says that the exposure Printed By Us has given her will be really valuable in pointing people to her work.
Rich Wells is a Creative Director, artist and designer based in Sheffield with more than twelve years’ experience building brands, digital platforms, products and services. He goes back a long way with us, and even helped to work on the first initial concept for Printed by Us, which came about in a brainstorming session in 2016. Rich was working for a digital agency at the time called Yoomee with Mark Musgrove (Remember him, creator of the Level Collective and founder of Printed by Us) and they were given a week to think of new social project ideas. As experts in design and printmaking, Rich and Mark wanted to explore whether they could use their skills and passions to help people who need it in Sheffield. Rich created a design which aimed to emphasise northern pride and the joys of living in Sheffield and our famous Strong and Northern print, our first ever print, was born. They decided to make a short run of these prints and run a workshop to see if they could make some money for the less fortunate in Sheffield, needless to say the rest is history.
Since then Printed by Us has taken on a life of its own and Rich has designed several different prints for us over the years, from the perennial Strong & Northern bike print, the Peak District Appreciation Society (a fictitious club celebrating the local hills nearby) and the Glass Half Full milk design which was a collaboration with Our Cow Molly. He says that with all of these prints he tried to focus on positivity and fun, highlighting the little joys we can find in our day to day lives. This message of positivity was the perfect starting point for our company and Rich says that it has been incredibly satisfying for him to see his designs out in the world and to see so many people getting behind them.
A few closing thoughts…
Collaborating on creative projects has many benefits. A collaboration comes about when two groups of people realise that they can do something better together than apart. We choose to collaborate with unique artists who share our ethical ideals and want to make a difference where they can. Without our artists, there would be no Printed by Us. They are an essential aspect of our company, providing the creative designs and ideas which we then print and distribute. As a business, we can provide exposure and experience to artists trying to make a name for themselves. For the artists, they provide us with the designs we need to keep helping and employing those struggling with homelessness in Sheffield. Collaboration enables each business to thrive, and this is why we do everything in our power to collaborate with unique artists and independent businesses who we can both help to grow and who can help us to grow 😊
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." – Helen Keller
By Abigail Hattersley