Honour Over Glory Q&A

Honour Over Glory is a T-shirt/ clothes company that I follow on my other blog, and a month ago they released this FAQ&A Artical on how to set up your own business to accompany your creative ideas. I thought i'd put this on my blog for future reference for next years projects, and for over the summer, because me and Mil are thinking of doing such a thing!

Q&A on starting a clothing company…

A few of you have asked me to do a bit of a Q&A on startup clothing companies - here are answers to the main questions you have raised. These are just my opinions on the questions, I can definitely be wrong and not everything always works out how it should! That said, I hope these can help a few of you out and good luck. Tom x

1. How to prioritise between each aspect of the business - designs, website, marketing.

First off, marketing shouldn’t cost you anything for at least the first few months. All that marketing should be down to hard work. Use facebook/tumblr, these are both free and allow you to see how many people are at least interested in your concept and products. The main thing is never promote without something to sell, its all well and good thinking you’re creating ‘hype’ but promoting with nothing to sell is losing potential sales.

Websites aren’t necessary at the moment, you need a basic bigcartel and a Facebook page. The bigcartel pages are easy to customise and to start with you wont need anything fancy, use the banner of your store to inform people of things like worldwide postage, or update it with news sections but ultimately its the one area of branding you can use easily - make sure everyone who visits knows who you are and what you do.

As far as designs are concerned thats a whole other issue. You can do designs yourself, thats always a good cheap way to start off but get your friends involved or local artists. If you sit down and tell people about what you want to do, they might empathise and you can start some good relationships.

Ultimately, spend as little as possible to start with as your money will need to go on stock. Unless of course you have unlimited funds, in that case commission some work from established designers, check out http://mintees.com to scout out work you like - then use some more funds to create a custom bigcartel to give off a really strong professional image from the start. One thing i have noticed recently is startup companies charging £10+ per shirt, no one can justify that at a startup level. Honour started at £8 per shirt and over 2 years prices have had to increase due to now paying taxes, vat, national insurance contributions and trademarks. Lower prices will increase your customer base and make you more available to a wider audience.

2. Legal issues - tax, vat, sole tradership etc.

Always keep records of income and expenditure, you will need to file your tax return. The best way to get all of these things sorted are via a business adviser - business gateway etc - I never utilised these services and just floated about til i learnt what i needed to do.

After a while once your profits and turnover pass certain levels you’ll need to pay taxes and vat. Right now the Honour prices have had to increase for the 2011 tax year due to passing these turnover levels for 2010.

3. Initial investment, how much?

Honour started with £120 of my own money plus £180 split between 3 friends. With this i bought 100 one colour print white tees and went from there. Each of the investors got their money back within a month and once that had been done i could focus on the sales. I didn’t take it too seriously until Ghostfest 2009 when we first hand got to see people wearing the tees.

Don’t start a company if you need this money, being able to live and eat is far more important. Save until you have funds for what you want to do, patience is key to everything no matter how hard it is !

4. How to get a buzz started / increase number of fans?

Get lucky, i didn’t do anything different to any other company and i’m fairly sure it took a long time to get any support for what we were doing, after all we never really set out to get to this point its all just happened.

The main thing i see new companies doing right now is ‘annoying’ people. Facebook business pages are great because they stop you from spamming peoples pages - being a promotional pest is never a good idea.

With the business pages you can update people through photos and statuses but thats the only way you can talk to your audience. Similarly you cant force them to ‘like’ your page, its all down to them choosing to click and therefore remain informed. If you post constantly, one post after another, over and over then you will fill peoples feeds and annoy them. I try to post at lunchtimes, in the evenings and then later on when more international customers are about too. Sometimes this might seem like too much so I leave it every now and again for important things instead.

At the end of the day you will get more fans and therefore increase your word of mouth promotion, by doing things for your customers and providing them with something affordable that they want and like. You wont get very far charging £25 for a one colour print tshirt from day one. It’ll take a lot of work and a lot of promotion to get any return and grow the business. This said, i’m sure some people have managed to pull it off.

5. Where to get shirts printed in the UK?

I use two printers at the moment so that turnaround/restock times are as minimal as possible - check out Monster Press and Somerset Print Co. I will also be working with Merch Asylum in the near future. For any startup I’d say one printer will be more than enough but don’t expect miracles, these guys are always busy as are all printers.


(WARNING: be prepared to spend money to make money - or dont bother! )

1. Designs / name / goals - a plan on paper is a great way to stay focussed on your task at hand.

2. Facebook business page - use it carefully and dont annoy your ‘fans’

3. Get your shirts printed. You need a screen printing company - try Monster Press / Somerset Print Co / Merch Asylum.

4. Build your Bigcartel page - it doesnt have to be fancy, just get a good informative banner.

5. Get your shirts / get a photoshoot sorted - dont go too big too early, keep things small and build each time you shoot. Get a photographer who you feel comfortable working with and work with them over time to understand what you both want from shoots.

6. Sell via Bigcartel and promote via Facebook - keep your prices low to begin with to build your customer base. Maybe try a giveaway or a competition to keep everyone happy.

7. Always plan ahead and know whats next, dont neglect your Facebook page or Tumblr, they are key to making sure your customers are involved and you stay in touch with what they want..


Wish i'd done this

Here is a piece of work made by a guy called Alex Mcleod (much more of his models can be found here). "Terror Twilight" depicts a scene of total destruction in an urban landscape, filled with buildings and trees, and bridges and skyscrapers; the whole narrative is full of movement from everyday life. Destruction and landscapes or skylines appear to be two recurring themes in his work, and the two parry together to create a really interesting atmosphere, one that I would aspire to do with my work if I ever go full on into 3D work. It is of a style that i am quite interested in at the moment; spending loads of time making an awesome scene that people can physically interact with, then using lighting and photography to finish the picture. In this picture, Mcleod has even used a painted backdrop to enhance the illusion of space-- it looks like the scene goes on forever, when in fact, it doesn't.

With the few projects that I have undertaken where I create small sets, the scope of my designs have only ever been limited to one or two buildings, sometimes with a simple backdrop. Mcleod has the vision to build a whole city in his work which I find very interesting as your eyes can wander about and the audience has the opportunity to explore. My way of photographing the sets has always been to use close-ups and crop pieces out to leave the audience questioning what might be going on outside the picture. Here is kind of the opposite; so much has been included in the picture, the audience has been left wondering what is going on in the picture. It creates more of a sense of narrative and movement, whereas mine have previously been quite focussed and static.

There are many components in this work that I want to take note of that should help me in my future 3D work. The first is the use of lighting. Now I have seen Mcleod’s other work and they don’t all use lighting, but I find this a very interesting element to consider in my later projects. The scene depicts a city that is on fire, and the flames that are dotted all around the buildings really add a great atmosphere, drawing the eye to certain points of destruction. Also, the flames themselves have been done very simply, showing that simple shapes can be enough to portray what might be a difficult element to make.

Next I want to comment on the way Mcleod uses “levels” in this piece. As well as including a fore, mid and background, there is also a lower level (the fires and bridges etc.), a middle level (the high-rise buildings) and a higher plane (the hanging clouds). This brings an awesome sense of reality to a set, whereas I was only usually thinking about making 3D objects and putting them onto a 2D background, which doesn’t exactly create the sense of depth that I have always been aiming for. I also love the idea of the (again, made with simple shapes) hanging clouds anyway, because of how they have such an interaction with the other levels when being photographed at different angles.

I think that one of the reasons I like making sets like this and like other designers making awesome views like this as well is because of the fun that I know goes into making the models, the feeling of accomplishment when you get to play around with composition and then the playing around with space in the picture frame. There are loads of different stages to capturing an image like this that are all so fun but essential, and it keeps the idea of the project fresh at each different stage.

One more note to make about Mcleods work, however, is that he has such an attention to detail I can only hope to ever have in his pieces, especially in the architectural parts of his work. To start with, there must be at least twenty buildings in this picture alone, and probably more at the sides that didn’t make it into the shot, and each one of them have been painted to such a high level. They all look like they are active buildings seen from afar, like a real skyline with all the lights, and I love it. However, I know that I would never really be able to achieve this level of accuracy as my style seems to be a lot more rushed and experimental, but if maybe I can bring some of this idea into my work I think it would improve a lot.

In conclusion, Terror Twilight is a piece of work that really inspires me with a lot of ideas that I can bring into my own set designs, such as composition, lighting, depth and professionalism, and if I can bring some of these ideas through to my 3D style, I’m sure I’ll be on the right path to developing some really interesting work!


Here are the best three pieces of advice I have heard all year:

1—[your work] should always be fresh looking, because this is how you can convince people – they always want to see something refreshing.

This piece of advice was given to me from Christian Barthold. It is one of the things he said to me that resonated with me because it was something that isn’t often said, and it gave me a new perspective on doing art that I shall carry through to next year. It actually works well with alot of other things he said, like “don’t be afraid to do it your way”—something I always ignore when anyone else tells me to do it my way. Maybe this advice he has given me will help me come out of my creative shell over the course of the summer and really get into my stride.

2—If you’re there for the money, you really shouldn’t be there.

I recently quit my job, which took a lot of thinking about, but stretching myself between a fixed job and uni was killing me. I began to hate my job, and when I talked this through with my mum, this is what she said. It was true. There was no other reason for me to be there, and I wasn’t happy. Quitting my job means I can now focus on the things that keep me happy and creative, like my course. I now have more freedom. This quote can also relate to design though, I’m not going to do a job I don’t like if it’s just for the money.

3—Don’t be so shy.

This came from Ian my tutor, and although I’m not sure if he was joking or not, it made a whole lot of sense in my head. I might come across as confident as a person most of the time, but I need to show confidence in my work. Then I’ll be proud to show it off to the rest of the class and then I’ll learn more about myself and my work process, and through that I should gain a style. But at the moment, I’m still shy with my ideas inside, and it results in running away from crits, presentations, missing deadlines, and this is ruining my course for me.

Contact Report: Soraan

Soraan is a designer/publisher i recently started speaking to over the internet about getting out of the uni course world and into the design world. He has managed to set up his own magazing, which at the moment is out digitally only but is quickly moving towards physical publication. I thought it wound be a good idea to interview him and ask him for advice, rather like he does with other artists and designers in the magazine, 7 Sades of Black.

1. What is it that keeps you motivated?
That I know my thought process is different to other people, try to always make the designs more clever than other people.

2. Who and what are your main influences, both inside and outside of the creative world?
Have had a great selection of tutors in A level and foundation, made me think differently. Dont think i can have a main influence design wise in honesty, alex trochut if i had to pick.

3. What was it that got you interested in design and Illustration?
It was just more fun, simply put. I loved maths but it was too serious, graphics is like 70% fun 30% maths in my opinion.

4. Could you try and explain your working process?
Thinking of something that no one else would have. Trying to pull out external stuff from fashion or fine art and see if you can combine it with a brief.

5. How do you overcome creative blocks?
I just take it easy. Dont stress myself out, i just leave it. It will come to me eventually. Chill out, dj for a bit or play video games

6. And finally, what advice would you give to aspiring designers or illustrators?
Don't copy people. If you find a designer your like, for the love of god dont copy him or her. Your work will always look like a cheap rip off. Be different, dont follow a trend.Right now for instance everyone is obsessed with animals like deers and that kind of stuff, who gives a shit. Its been so over used. Dont follow the crowd.


Contact Report with Christian Barthold!


My name is Kyle and i've always been really inspired by your work. I'm studying Illustration at University at the moment and i've used you in presentations about artists the motivate me already, so i was wondering if i could ask you a few short questions that would really help me gain a little more insight into this world after studies? I understand if you don't have the time because obviously you have a very busy schedule, but if you would like to help, please just email the answers to me at curly_hart_666@hotmail.com?

yes.. no problem..

1. Throughout your creative career you have moved across many different styles, from fashion-based work to life-like portraiture. I don't have a certain style yet so seem to be jumping between many different techniques, so I was wondering what your motive is behind changing styles regularly? And how do you settle on a certain style for a set period of time?

the reason why I'm doing this is mainly down to this:
1) that i just want do do new things, and some things work out good (in terms of commissions for some years, while in other years, it doesn't work at all.
for instance, I'ver been doing my collage thing from 1998 on.. at the moment (and also last year), i mostly get commmssioned for this.

2) i try to place myself in the market as an illustrator who is flexible..
so if someone is asking me to do something which i haven't done yet, i can partly modify and get the commission.
this is also something i always try to prove with my portfolio, and in most cases it's working out – people are astounded by the variety of styles.

in fact, I've been doing nearly everything apart from illustrating for games or doing character designs.
I found out: many styles: this is something i can impress people and keep fun.

The market is getting harder and harder, so i guess that this is working best for me, personally..


2. Do you prefer to create your own work with the idea of freedom, or to work for a client which brings you tighter restrictions?
I give in that i hardly do anything at all, when I'm not getting commissioned.
most f the time, music is in my head.. (I play guitar and compose for my 2 very different bands..)
I'm badly resticted by myself.. and have big problems to sit down drawing at all!!!

... it only works in holidays when i have time or when i make some christmas gifts for my family.

I am also not as successful as you might think i am ;-))
and for me that's something I really something that gets me moaning – I guess I'm a good one,
i think that I'm possibly the most flexible illustrator in Germany (i know hundeds of other ones.. so I can tell.)
But I also like to earn some money and want some commercial success.. this is the thing that's keeping me working mainly..
normally it works out.. and I'm working very very fast.

but for myself.. i nearly draw nothing.. big problem for me.

i try to resolve this problem by doing life drawings , really fast ones.. (20-30 minutes each piece..)
.. so i make a drawing-date with some female model and then I have to work, if i want or not.. and can't escape this.

this is something really rewarding and also helps you keeping your techniques fresh.
.. to see huge drawings on the floor after some hours of painting is just great.
and you get some direct response from your models.. who normally are very excited about the drawings, too.
.. these reaction is something which I hardly get when working for commissioners.
most people i only know from telephone. never seen them.

generally it's hard to keep the fun in your work, when getting commissioned, and if you do this for 15 years or more, it's getting hard .. really ..
so the best thing is to be working on private side-projects all the time..
in my case, these are life drawings.. (at this point: the black and white pieces..)


The Fashion style came along when i felt that this is something for me, some new style that I can participate doing (in 2005)..
and i wanted to get a cd-rom for a Free Images Company, that i had worked for in 2001, when I realised: oh.. the composing stuff will soon be out..
so i put 120 images together on 2 cd-roms within 3 months.. photography, composing.. and using some illus already done.

unfortunately, the second time doing this (the fashion stuff.) , my project was sacked, cause they sacked my art director there, just in time when i was finishing the project.
I was really angry and could't convince the creative director to finish what we started,
even if i knew that this style would be very successful over the following years, and it did so.
I couldn't convince her.. and they had no idea ...
the good thing about this was: 5 months of experimenting led to some 70 images that on one hand:
never appeared on cd-rom and i never go money for this either.. but: the style was shown in many books about illustration,
from these 70 pieces.. i guess ore than 30 appeared in books and mags..
Big image success.. but hardly any award financially.. ;-)

i guess that's how you came across me..
I'm still angry about that company, for the fashion style was at that point something that was to be very popular – I backed the right horse.
i know i lost thousands of Euros by this.... grrrrrr....


3. When working for a client how do you begin your creative process and does this affect your creative style in any way in terms of technique?

it depends.. some people have a finished idea that they want to be realized.. i prefer to devellopp ideas by myself,
and normally, i work out ideas and afterwards I see what technique would be suitable (in case the commissioner hasn't picked up a style at that point.

i have one ore two regularly commissioners who know exactly what they want
and can think beforehand how i would realize this. these are very professional..
other commissioners have no idea at all.


4. I really like your style when you mix photography and fashion together, especially with your abstract backgrounds and use of colour, for example in the fashion-music-sport section on your site. How do you go about choosing these elements?

just try out things.. and don't be threatened.
this fashion style was a style that i collected many different drawings together in photoshop and tried out..
at the starting point it was a collection of many different dwawings.

from real realistic people drawing to blind-drawings.. calligraphy, i tried out nearly everything at least i was drawn.
i did this because at that point i nearly draw nothing any more.
so this was also good for me to get back to drawing again, which i normally don't do at all.

maybe you think I'm devellopping something new every day.. but to be honest, I haven't found a new exciting style for years..
and i've had a hard time in the meantime and nearly lost my interest in drawing .. and I hardly manage to sit down and experiment - up to now..
cause I've been doing this for x years.. since 1996, when i got away from the ad agencies more and more.
but if you've been doing this for such a long time, you have seen everything possible and it doesn't excite you like it would have done when being a student.
you get the impression that you've seen everything before.

at the moment i keep doing the same things again and again (mostly collage) – this is working out all the time (commercially)..

other styles don't get commissioned at all, unfortunately.. like the painting/collage style on woodboards.. that I enjoy doing them very much..
I really tried to push this into the market – but I was not successful.
or the fashion stuff. nearly no commissions over the years, and I didn't experiment with this any more... shitty..

... so i returned to collage..

5.I usually work using analogue methods but sometimes want to touch up or add to my work digitally,
but i have trouble getting my final pieces looking finshed. Have you any tips that might help bring the two media together?

generally.. it must be a good combination, and you got to have taste.
decide whther you want t have a drawing piece in the end or a composing.

... i can't tell right now– show me some of your work.

there's at least two things i can tell you: If you devellop something,
1 ideally.. it should be looking like the work of no-one else – and always be looking to be yours so people notice this,
the best thing is: taht it looks like no-one else coult hav done it like you did.
i know that is very hard to manage...
2 it should always be fresh looking !!! because: this is how you can convince people – they always want to see something refeshing.
You should compare it to the work of other illustrators all over the world. so you get to know where you stand.
3 don't mix up too many styes - keep them minimalistic in style and consequent
4 people always should notice that you had fun doing your pieces.. (very imoportant) .. ;-)

5 and generally: and most of all:
my belief is: authenticity is the best – in any form of art.
( ...look at the work of Hope Gangloff (from NYC) – this is really really authentic.
you can always see: that's a Gangloff piece .. authentic people are the protagonists.. and the seem to be very picked from real life... next door people..
i guess that's why she is so successful.
....know what i mean?

cheers! chris
...so end me some of your work then.. ;-)