We quickly spoke to Isaac Lilos, founder of Arty Globe business to ask him about how its grown, his visions for its future and also provide us with a bit more about how its run day to day!
You can find the full interview below:
B: So first off, where do it all begin?
I: Where did it all begin? Well it all began funnily enough when Hartwig and I visited a friend of his in Amsterdam, and that friend Thomas had a little doodle of Amsterdam that Hartwig drew years ago for a gift-card design. Hartwig actually even framed it on the wall, and I remember seeing that for the first time framed in that way, and it looked so cute and different to me. I remember thinking that I hadn’t seen anything like that before. I really believed something could be done with such a quirky and fun style of drawing which inspired me to get things off the ground, and start to develop this beyond a hobby.
B: Was it initially just about developing his portfolio first before you developed onto a market-stall?
I: Yes, I mean it took a couple of years to convince him to get to the point of actually developing from doodles to large scale drawings before we could even think about commercialising his work, long debates were had about content and even the nature of committing to time and deadlines as this was something he always did alongside his architecture. However once he sat down and completed ‘London Looking North’, he was quite taken aback by what he achieved. He even tired around ad said to me “I never realised that i could actually do this!”. From there, it took quite a few years to build up his portfolio, develop his style and for us to actually figure out how best to push it publicly. We considered licensing, but that turned out to not be for us so we decided to develop our own products on a market stall basis to begin with. We started out on Jubilee Market (Covent Garden) but discovered quickly that it wasn’t the right crowd, however we developed the confidence based on peoples queries and questions to find a better location that was more of a fit. A friend recommended Greenwich Market to us, we quickly got permission to trade there and the rest is history!
B: The transition from stall to shop was extremely short (6 months), how was that possible? Did it’s popularity warrant the step up or did you just decide to take the plunge?
I: I think it was a combination of things, first of all out confidence thanks to how people responded to the products in such a positive light, with those in particular being the interest of locals. It made us feel as though this wasn’t just a seasonal business and had the potential to trade year-round. We decided quite quickly that based on that confidence, as well as the fact that I was finding it hard to manage a market stall in terms of set-up and maintenance thanks to 7am starts, long pack-up times and a bit of an OCD when it comes to presentation, it became clear we needed to source somewhere to call home with everything out on display at all times. It was also a case of knowing that it wasn’t the right environment to show off Hartwigs work in the best light, as you can imagine a lot of the products we have at the moment are sensitive to moisture and susceptible to damage, so having a place for everything to be displayed nicely in a gallery-like way and also safe became of importance. Luckily something came up on the market and thanks to me being able to successfully network (a trait which I’m proud to uphold) with the appropriate people in the area, and our first step was made. Taking to people was paramount regardless, as we were new to the area as we had just relocated from Lincoln, so it was important that we made ourselves known, developed some contacts and made some positive relationships locally, which certainly paid off. We managed to secure a shop on a 6 month basis, which proved popular enough to warrant us extending the lease and then building ourselves up further to our current permanent retail unit on the market.
B: If someone was in the position you were back then and wanted to make that jump, what advice would you give?
I: I think the advice would be network. If you have a passion and a vision, people will engage in it or at least advise you on who could. You need to get people to share your excitement, without it I think its very hard to be able to convince someone to get on your side. We’ve always had that approach, and its certainly worked well for us!
B: Describe the day to day goings on at Arty Globe, and whats the most rewarding aspect in your opinion?
I: Theres certainly many! I think the biggest one you face, especially as a small business owner is to overcome your own lackings or even personal issues that may come in-between your day to day tasks. Leaving things at the door is certainly something you have to really try and make sure you manage, because otherwise the other things suffer day to day. Cashflow can also be a big challenge as its a key part of any business as it can provide limitations. Trading can be seasonal here, so when its a quieter period we have to change how we do things to adapt to our cashflows. These are things however we’ve certainly managed well, as were still here and better than ever.
In terms of whats most rewarding, it certainly has to be just being here and meeting the individuals that come in and praise Hartwigs work, our products the shop in general, and let us know they are coming back. In particular its the people who make a point to return years and buy more things from the range, or just come back in and say hello. It reminds us all that what we do has really made an impact and that people really care and that we’ve created something really special.
B: What makes you decide what you feel is best to sell in your range? What goes into that decision making process?
I: I think theres a few elements here, first of all its definitely about what already pre-exists that sells product with artwork on. We also have to ensure they are UK made so that does limit us to a degree, and we also consider wether on not its something that we ourselves would want to purchase. We would never tend to sell anything for the sake of something purely for the purposes of profit, or create products that revolve around fashions and trends that we would struggle to sell long term. It has to be unique, useful but also display Hartwigs work in the best way possible, so these are all factors we consider when we want to either introduce something into the range, or make a decision to commit to a product serving a longstanding purpose in our shop. Our choices don’t always work out, and we have removed items from our range in the past that haven’t performed as we hoped, so there is an element of trial and error involved. Its also important to us to have a ix of products and various price points, as accessibility is important to us for our customer so that everyone can have a piece of Hartwigs art, wether that be in the form of a jigsaw postcard or a large canvas.
B: What do you think is the most popular product that you sell?
I: By far its our jigsaw puzzles and I think thats down to the fact that Hartwigs art itself is extremely quirky and fun. Marrying that with something that you could liken to the same experience when you do a jigsaw itself, i think has really captured peoples imaginations and has ensured it as a staple product in the shop. Coasters are also up there with some of the most popular products larger down to its lower pice, tea towels also prove extremely popular here and sell extremely well.
B: What would your dream product be?
I: I cant say its something I’ve thought about in great depth before, as I find it hard to think beyond what ‘works’, but I will say that, we did do something for the ‘Edinburgh Jungle City’ which involved unitising his Edinburgh artwork and wrapping it around a 3D version of a crocodile. Being able to do that with other objects was always something I would have loved to do but never though it could work on a shop basis. Marrying practicality with his art is kind of what we are about, so its something I would love to consider in the future if I could justify it financially.
B: Lastly, whats next for Arty Globe?
I: I think the next thing for us definitely is branching out from Greenwich. Its something we’ve discussed and talked about for such a long time now and in the form of wholesaling our more established product lines but also in terms of displaying Hartwigs art in separate locations and getting our products into other stores in the UK and online, and really taking this business to the next level. Hartwigs current UK map development and what it could do for our range, as well as the pre exiting ‘Our Wonderful Planet’ work we think have th universal appeal to achieve success outside of our Greenwich store. As mentioned before, we have the confidence and we believe we offer something unique, practical and above all beautiful so we really want to get more people to see it in a variety of ways.