Creativity to make you happy

Crafty Critters: hello DODO

Many of you will know that this interview series was originally inspired by my dog George who makes such a huge difference to my life, keeping me company and getting me outside while I work from home. Unfortunately George's health has deteriorated in the past few weeks and we've had to make the heartbreaking decision to have him put to sleep this week. I'm not sure what I'll do without him, I'm going to have to take myself for walks... but I feel very lucky to have known him. This interview series will always be dedicated to George the Pig Dog.

This month I chatted to Ali and Jam of hello DODO about their handsome rescue pug Hero. hello DODO make colourful, pun-filled screenprinted goodies, pins and patches from their home studio in Worthing, near Brighton. Their designs always make me smile and I have loved seeing how Hero has inspired their work.

What did you both do before hello DODO and what inspired your business name?

Jam studied Graphic Design with Typography at uni and managed to get a proper design job straight after graduating whereas as I studied photography (proper analogue arty stuff) and worked in loads of ridiculous badly paid jobs (hi Legoland!) and put on small art exhibitions on the side. During this time we went travelling around Europe for 4 months and that was when we first started exploring ideas about vaguely working together on projects. Neither of us knew how to screen print but we were mysteriously drawn to it and it seemed like the perfect medium for us to combine our skills. The day we came up with our business name it was 2010 and we were sat in the sunshine by the river in Windsor (where we lived for a year). Neither of us really knows where it came from but it was either going to be hello DODO or Bob! We think we chose the right one!

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Animals play a big part in your work, which are your favourites to illustrate and why?

I’ve always loved animals, my earliest drawing I remember doing was a penguin (copied from my little brother’s changing mat) and I’m still drawing animals now! I love drawing cats – big cats and small cats! I always try and sneak one into a story! They have so much character and of course I now have my two little muses.

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How do you balance the work out between yourselves? What’s it like working and living together?

We get asked fairly often how we cope with being a couple and working from home together. To be honest, we completely love what we do and although it’s taken over our entire house and we often work well in to the evening and at weekends, we wouldn’t change it for the World! In actual fact we think it would be harder if only one of us was hello DODO as we’d drive the other one barmy! With the risk in sounding cheesy, hello DODO is much more than just our business and livelihood, it’s pretty much our whole life. In regards to roles, ideas are a total 50/50 split between the two of us, Jam is the graphic design and typography wizard who gets everything slick on screen whilst I’m running our social media accounts and then printmaking and order packing is a split role again.

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When and where did you get your pug Hero?

Aah Hero! Hero came in to our life last September although it’s now hard to imagine life before him. We’d had a totally rubbish summer with my Mum being really seriously ill and we’d had to drop everything to look after her in Wales for over a month. Whilst we were there I had a message from our friend Ellie saying that her brother and his family were moving to New York and weren’t able to take their black pug Hero with them and she was asking her dog-loving friends if they knew of anyone interested in taking him on. We had been talking about getting a dog for quite a while (I had finally won the dog Vs. cat argument!) but we’d been looking for scruffy hairy mongrel terrier-types from shelters, not a pedigree pug! The photo’s of Hero attached to Ellie’s messages just melted our hearts though - he has the most ridiculously unreal adorable face! Very quickly we bombarded Ellie with questions about Hero - and then his actual owners - to try to figure out if he would be the right dog for us and also if we’d be the right people for him. I also messaged three pug-owning instagram friends - Toni Bee, Samantha Eynon and Helen of Gappy Gobs and bombarded them with questions too to try to find out as much about the reality of pug-owning as I could. We’re so grateful for their encouragement and insight because Hero is the greatest thing to ever happen to us!

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How has Hero directly inspired your products?

The two weeks prior to getting Hero we were on holiday in The Netherlands and we basically looked at the three photos we had of him on our phone every 10 minutes! So even before he was properly ours we were totally obsessed and we actually designed our Ruff Day design and Ruff Notes notebook whilst on that holiday! He is such a hilarious and ridiculous magical creature that he was always going to be a source of inspiration!

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Can you tell us a bit about your home printing press “Preston”? As someone who recently completed a screenp rinting workshop I am very intrigued about your set up! What made you fall in love with the process in the first place?

We put together Preston when we first started out as a way to screen print from home on a tiny budget. We pretty quickly realised that this piece of MDF with two hinge clamps screwed in to it was actually all we needed (other than practice!) to produce professional prints and we’re still using Preston 6 years later! What we totally love about screen printing is the process of designing an idea, physically burning it to screen and then printing it manually in the most vibrant colours. We love that it’s such an old, traditional process and you just can’t recreate the results digitally. Lifting the screen after printing something brand new for the first time is the best!

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You seem to be producing new designs on a very regular basis - how do you keep things fresh and exciting and what do you do to avoid creative slumps?

Chasing new ideas is basically our favourite thing and to be honest we’re doing it most of the time! At the risk of sounding annoying, we can’t ever really remember being in a creative slump, we always have hundreds of ideas squirrelled away in various notebooks, on envelopes and post it notes around the house. Sometimes it takes a couple of years for a doodle to become a finished design and sometimes we come up with something whilst cooking dinner and by the next week it’s on a t-shirt! It probably helps that there are two us always bouncing ideas off each other and we’re both pretty silly and talk a lot of nonsense to each other - which is where many of our best ideas come from! (Jam has just interrupted my typing to tell me he’s just doodled our next Christmas card design on an unopened envelope…point proven!)

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What are some of Hero’s quirks and habits?

There are so many! Hero refuses to get out of bed until he hears his food hit his bowl and then straight after wolfing it down he’s back in bed for a post-brekkie snooze. He shouts at me non-stop whilst I eat toast because I foolishly give him a tiny corner of crust at the end. He shouts at Jam if he’s sat at the desk until he gets lifted up and will happily snooze there for hours. He LOVES toys that are twice the size of him and one of his favourites is a disgusting old tiger puppet that doesn’t have eyes anymore and at least once a day we have to have “tiger time”. We have a big basket full of toys in our lounge and every evening he goes and peruses it and brings something different out to play with! Hero has to say hello to everyone in the park whether human or dog or even tiny toddler (the latter he is insanely good around!) he particularly has to say hello to (and harass) any other dog owners who have treats in their pockets (they all know him!) You can’t leave a coffee unattended in our house otherwise Hero will have his face in it and more often than not knock it over. We can’t watch any TV programmes with animals in as Hero goes completely mental (sorry David Attenborough). Hero loves barking at seagulls, aeroplanes and if he gets to chase a squirrel up a tree it’s basically the best day ever. Hero usually wakes Jam up by punching him in the face and then nibbling his ear lobes. All of these things make us smile and we wouldn’t change anything him!

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You’re a Brighton Etsy Team Leader - what exactly does that role involve and how valuable do you think it is to have a network of supportive creative peers (whether online or IRL)?

Yes! We’ve been Brighton Etsy Team Leaders for quite a few years now and it basically means there’s a little gang of us volunteers that run monthly meetings, talks, markets, pop up shops and craft parties as well as all of the team’s social media accounts (I run the twitter) where we promote team member’s work and give Etsy shop advice. We’ve done tonnes of design work for the team too and even designed the logo. It’s quite a lot of hard work at times for a volunteer role but it’s so important to have that sense of community and support when you run your own indie business otherwise it’d be a very lonely place indeed! The online community is equally as important and so many friends we’ve made through Instagram have now become amazing IRL friends…yourself included!

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Who are some of your favourite creative instagrammers who share photos of their work and their cute pets?

Aah there’s loads! Particular faves are @sunshine_jo’s cats Toby & Pegs, @tidyprint’s Kiki who has her own instagram @kiki.therescuedog and also not forgetting PUGS! @hellobeestudio, @samanthaeynon and @gappygobs! Also totally love your very own #GeorgeThePigDog! Can we have one more?? @morsethewhippet owned by @we_are_mountain! Hero has his own instagram too of course!

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(Photos above: @kiki.therescuedog, @hellobeestudio, @morsethewhippet) All other photos courtesy of hello DODO.

Thanks to Ali and Jam for wonderful answers. They've recently released LOADS of cool new stuf and I am sure they have lots more up their paint covered sleevs so catch up with what they're doing on instagram and pop over to their Etsy Shop to get your hands on their colourful products!

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read the other interviews in the series. Got a recommendation for a future Crafty Critters interview? Let me know on instagram, I'm @zabbyallen!

Tagged: Crafty Critters