Yep! You heard right – The worlds first 100% recycled artist ink. When we heard about what Oli Ruskidd & Mike Eleven were doing at Lousy Ink we couldn’t wait to spread the word! We sat down with them a few weeks after their launch to talk about the ups and downs over the last few years; reducing their impact on the environment; and why lists are the greatest things in the world!
What is the design landscape like on your city and where do you fit in? Melbourne has the luxury of being such a culturally engaged city that you can find influence from almost every corner of the world here. It probably has something to do with Melbourne’s multiculturalism and it’s love for embracing grass-root initiatives. I think right now, we’re seeing a huge rise of artist-run brands and hand-crafted goods. I think Australians, not just Melbournians, really appreciate craft and honest companies that speak a similar language to them. Which is where Lousy fits in, I suppose. We try to approach every aspect of our brand as genuinely and consciously as possible. We’re not trying to be too big for our boots and with our pockets full of ambition, we’re ready for the long hike; we think people have responded pretty well to that.
How important is networking to you? Both Oli and I are terrible in social situations, but we’ve both learnt that networking is just the business term for ‘making friends’ – and when you look at it like that, it ain’t so bad. Our brand relies heavily on being in tune with the creative community, so we’re always looking to meet like-minded individuals, whether that be artists, illustrators, photographers or just people who share our sense of humour. If there’s anything that we’ve learnt in our years of being in the industry, it’s that you have to leave your ego at home and embrace new ideas from new people.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? Although Lousy has only been around for a month or so, it’s actually been in the works for almost a year. What we’ve learnt so far is:
1. Communication is key and collaborating in real life can’t be topped. We had the luxury of living together so we’d always put aside time in the evening to talk about the brand and product. This would often start at 10pm and sometimes end at 2am some nights.
2. Never be too proud to ask for help. Trying to put together an exhibition with close to 50 artists is a lot harder than we thought it’d be and we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without the help of our friends. I’ll admit, at first I didn’t think we needed the extra hands, but as we got into the nitty-gritty details, we couldn’t put aside our pedantic tinkering and desperately needed some help – many hands make light work.
3. When you’re pressed for time lists become a great reference point. In the flurry of setting up the Lousy Show, Oli and I would constantly be splitting responsibilities so we didn’t double-up on anything. Ever since, we’ve been making lists for everything from our PR list, potential stockists and general to-do-lists.
4. Embracing technology in this day and age can both optimise and maximise your general working day. We use everything from Google Docs to make lists keep records, to housing all of our outward-facing marketing in dropbox folders. There’s no excuse these days not to have Dropbox Pro – it’s a life/time saver. Trust.
5. Getting into the habit of properly labelling your work, your files and your emails not only makes you feel like a professional working adult, but it helps so much in the long run. Colour-coordination, folders within folders and dated files help you find things quickly in dire situations like last-minute print jobs or sending off PDFs to important business people before they close for the week. Don’t sweat the little stuff, colour and label your emails, yo!
What advice would you give students starting out? There’s an endless list of trials and tribulations we could borrow from, but we both keep a few things in mind as we move forward: Firstly, never be too afraid to dream big. Being overly-ambitious to the point of lunacy is how great ideas are born. What we like to do is imagine the most extreme example and then left logic and reason slowly pull us backwards until we reach the sweet spot.
Fully invest yourself in the things that make you happy and leave enough energy to the side to find ways to pay the bills. We’re both constantly juggling the things we love to do with the jobs that, although aren’t as glamourous or soul-enriching, help us to carve out new opportunities. Money can be gross, but it doesn’t have to be the be-all-end-all. Also your peers are your companions, your friends and your shoulders to lean on when you’re creative self-doubt kicks in. We’re always looking at each other’s work, whether it be personal or Lousy and we’re constantly challenging, supporting and helping to solve the problems that come up along the way. No one person can have all the answers, so don’t shy away from showing your work to the world. If you ever meet someone who you respect and loves to talk about the creative realm, try and sponge as much info out of them as possible – it’s literally a uni lecture you don’t need to pay for (but maybe buy them a beverage or hot chips).
Lastly and probably the most important lesson is to have fun. It may sound cliche, but there’s a good reason why you hear it so often. So whether that be during your creative pursuits or away from them, we should always look after our own well-being, both physically and mentally. It’s a matter of self-preservation and self-love. We’ve seen enough cases where people have burnt out too quickly or lost the drive to go on because they overloaded themselves with work. Working hard is admirable, but it’s not everything. If you like to lay on the couch and watch Netflix as we do sometimes, or go out with friends for a tasty bowl of ramen (as we do also), then make time for it. Work. Play. Rest. Repeat.
Whats the big goal in the next five years? Beyond just selling ink, we’re really interested in hosting bigger and better events. Lousy is a great vehicle for bringing artists together and we want to take full advantage of that through our 100% recycled ink. At the moment our scope is only on artists, but we want to find creative ways to engage other genres of art and design. We’ve already got a few things up our sleeves in regards to photography shows. sculpture and hopefully fashion too! The potential is crazy and seeing as we’re both so intertwined with our ideas, nothing is impossible at this point.
Besides the fluff, we’d love to see how much of an impact we can make environmentally with our product. We’re always running the numbers on our sales against the last recorded amount of ink from our local plastics recycling company and we’re hoping in the years to come, we’ve found inventive ways of making better use of ‘waste ink’. If one day the demand becomes so high that our supplies dry up then we can say we’ve succeeded, right?