Creative Lives — “Have patience. There are no shortcuts to building your career”: Twins and business partners, Printed Goods
“Being twins, we’re pretty used to sharing,” say Bristol-based illustrators and entrepreneurs George and Raphael Greaves. Co-founders of studio and shop Printed Goods, it was a mix of frustration, naiveté and determination to pursue creative careers that drove them to do things their own way. Initially starting out as a risograph press, the pair found success selling prints of their own designs, but not without overcoming a fair few stumbling blocks along the way. “It took a year to properly find our feet,” they admit. Ever since, Raffy and George have been learning how to strike the right balance between designing and actually running a business, taking it in turns to do “the more boring admin stuff”. Here, they talk about why Bristol has been the ideal place to start a business, finding time for individual projects, and how thinking about finances is crucial to making ideas a reality.
Printed Goods (George Greaves and Raphael Greaves)
Freelance Illustrators and Co-Directors of Printed Goods Ltd (2015–present)
Soho House, Rimowa, Bulgari, Peroni, Stella Artois, Dr. Martins, The New Yorker
A string of jobs in hospitality and factories. It’s one of the main reasons we both wanted to start a business and work for ourselves.
George: BA Illustration and Visual Communication, University of Westminster (2011–2014)
Raphael: BA Illustration, University of the West of England (2012–2015)
BA Animation, Arts University Bournemouth (2011–2012)
George and Raffy. Photography by Dean Davies.
How would you describe what you do?
We essentially do two different things. We’re co-directors of Printed Goods, and also freelance designers. The work involves a little bit of everything – lots of admin, replying to emails, negotiating contracts, sorting out wholesale orders, working with suppliers to get our products produced and finding staff when we need extra help with the shop or with online orders.
“Having your own business means there is little separation between work and life.”
Then there’s managing our physical shop, quality control and keeping stock levels in check. And most importantly designing, though we don’t currently spend as much time doing this as both of us would like.
What does a typical working day look like and where does it happen?
Having your own business means there is little separation between work and life, so it’s quite hard to say how many hours we work a day. Since opening the shop, we’ve had more of a routine. Our opening hours are 11am to 6pm. We try to reply to emails in the morning, but we definitely do lots outside of these hours; designing, and other admin bits.
The studio and shop
How collaborative is what you do?
We usually take turns doing the more boring admin stuff and try to balance the amount of design work we both do. Being twins, we’re pretty used to sharing. Most of the time we find this a better method than assigning specific job roles. In terms of the creative work, we borrow ideas from each other which helps us move our aesthetic vision forward. We always create our work independently and then discuss it after.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The best thing is getting to do something you genuinely enjoy most of the time, and being your own boss (sounds cliché we know.) The least would be having to work weekends and deal with things going wrong even when you really don’t feel like it. On balance, the good vastly outweighs the negatives.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Working on the shop and studio which we opened at the beginning of November last year. It was very time-consuming but really rewarding. Since we started, Printed Goods has felt like an ongoing project. But finally opening it was a culmination of all the work and ideas we’ve had since the beginning.
What skills would you say are essential to your job?
A strong desire to do things your own way is pretty essential. Entrepreneurship is not something that’s talked about much in the creative community, but thinking about the financial side of things is crucial to making ideas a reality. Having a creative approach is not just about producing your work, but how you present and apply it.
What do you like about working in Bristol?
It’s a very easy, laid back city to live in. You have access to all the things a city has to offer, but it’s not too large to be too overwhelming or difficult to get around. Space isn’t cheap but it’s definitely more affordable than London, which makes it much easier to get started when working for yourself. It has been the ideal spot to start our business.
How do you balance work at Printed Goods with personal projects?
It’s all tangled into one thing, and it’s definitely something we are both still figuring out. So far we’ve managed to make it work, but I think as we continue to grow, knowing how to separate the two things will become more important.
What tools do you use most for your work?
We both use desktop Macs, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and an inexpensive graphics tablet called a Huion, which does the job well.
Is there a resource that has particularly helped you?
Instagram is so ubiquitous it’s almost not worth mentioning, but it was the resource that really helped get our work out there. It’s perfect for people doing creative work. We also really enjoy the Monocle podcast series The Entrepreneurs. Each episode is a discussion with someone who has started their own business.
About three-and-a-half years ago we also enrolled on the Prince’s Trust enterprise course about three and half years ago, which we found amazingly helpful. They put us in touch with a business mentor called Tino Savvas who has masses of experience in the business world. We still meet up with him to get advice.
How We Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
Raffy went through a long phase wanting to be a cartoonist, when he was very young. He loved Calvin and Hobbes, Tintin, Asterix and Obelix. George wanted to design cars, and then it was being a painter or inventor. He loved the inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci and illustrations by W. Heath Robinson.
How do you think your upbringing influenced your choice of career?
We come from a really creative family, so I don’t think there was ever any doubt that we were going to pursue anything else. Which was nice as there was never any pressure to get a ‘real job.’ I think that freedom has been very important to us in getting to that point that we have.
“Having a creative approach is not just about producing your work, but how you present and apply it.”
How useful have your studies been in your career?
Having the space and time to develop and think about your work for three years is important. But surprisingly enough, I think we learnt a lot more after leaving uni, but I think that is because it’s sometimes easier to learn by doing, which might be the case for a lot of creatives.
After graduating, what were your initial steps?
George was working in a factory for a while after graduating and was very dissatisfied and I (Raffy) was in my last year of uni when we decided to start Printed Goods. It was mainly out of a combination of being a bit naive (neither of us had had any proper commissions at that point, or any experience working in the creative industry) but also a deep-seated desire to pursue creative careers.
Printed Goods actually started as a risograph press. At the time, no one was offering easily accessible risograph printing services in Bristol, and we thought this would be a good way to embed ourselves in the creative community.
At the beginning we had no idea what we were doing, and made mistakes constantly. Looking back, that proved to be the most helpful thing, as we had to learn quickly. It gave us opportunities and a platform through which to develop and showcase our own work.
Selling prints of our designs proved popular, so we continued to do that, eventually selling the risograph machine and outsourcing printing. It took a year to properly find our feet.
What’s been your biggest challenge along the way?
Self-doubt, and trying to stay positive through the first year of attempting to work for ourselves. We had no money, lived with our parents, and it was hard to keep on going when nothing seemed to be clicking. That year taught us the importance of perseverance.
What would you like to do next?
We would definitely like to increase the Printed Goods range, develop further as a shop and studio further, and work on bigger collaborations and more ambitious projects.
Could you do this job forever?
Yes, this is something we could happily do forever because we are in charge of where it’s going and how it’s evolving.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to an emerging creative wanting to get into the same line of work?
First of all, be clear about what it is you want achieve, and then develop a plan of how you are going to do it. Have patience, there aren’t shortcuts to building your career. Things can take a long while to get going, and you have to keep trying even when things don’t seem to be working out.
Always identify what it is that is preventing you from getting to where you want to be. Be critical of your own work, it can be hard to be honest with yourself, but it’s the only way to identify any faults and improve.