My Business: Hole in my Pocket creates bold, bright illustrated products including cards, prints, mugs, kitchenware and stationery. We also provide bespoke design skills on commission to both big and small clients.
Starting Out: I studied Architecture in Glasgow and Zurich before joining an Architectural Practice based in Glasgow. During my first year of working as an Architect I decided to spend my free time entering design competitions and happily I won the first few that I entered. I decided to use the prize money from these to organise art projects/ experiments and to put on exhibitions, with the sole aim to make life more interesting for those that encountered them. For example the first thing I did after winning the original competition was to convert some of the prize money into pound notes and hide them in library books around Glasgow with a little note to tell people to put the money towards making someone smile.
The competition wins led to exhibition and design commissions and for several years I worked on a host of visual art commissions while also working as a project Architect. During that time I designed a storytelling machine for a new museum in Shetland, directed a short film for Channel 4 and tried to solve the MP’s expense fiasco through a design competition I created with the Architect’s Journal and the Telegraph judged by Ken Livingstone.
About three years ago, shortly after being commissioned to create an exhibition about religion to coincide with the Pope coming to Glasgow, I was invited to design some products for exhibition of saleable works. These initial products proved very popular and so I set about creating a couple of ranges based on characters I’d used in illustrations previously. From those first few designs my entire collection grew.
Previous jobs:As well as running Hole in my Pocket I am also a qualified Project Architect working for a large practice in the centre of Glasgow. Its quite an interesting and fun balancing act between the skills required for the two very different but related jobs. I also have a Scottish arm of Hole in my Pocket that produces all my Scottish designs, this is called Eat Haggis and has its own unique identity.
“Typical” working day: I usually get up around 7:30am on days that I’m in the studio. I’ll spend the morning working my way through emails and dealing with enquiries. Around lunch time I’ll print out all the orders for that day and get them processed. The afternoons and evenings are usually spent designing or making new ideas. As I’m an insomniac I usually end up working until around midnight or 1am before I pack things up and grab a book to read before falling asleep.
Self employment highs: On the days I’m in the studio I enjoy being able to get up in the morning and decide what kind of work I want to make. My interests are very varied, from working on exhibitions and film work, to making a funny card that will make someone laugh or designing a new pattern for textiles and notebooks. I’m an insomniac and I find that I sleep best when my brain has been completely used up each day. Working for myself and being able to take on the range of different work that I do means I sleep a lot better.
Self employment lows: Sometimes getting the balance right between working as an architect and running my own business can be tricky when one or both hit a busy period. Its supposed to be a 50/50 split of my time during the week but that does sometimes slip. For example, right now I’m doing an extension on a college which requires me to do a 9 hour round trip every second week. Getting home from a 16+ hour day and then working through all that orders for that days can be quite tough, but I enjoy it and when they are all finally ticked off I definitely get a good nights sleep.
Inspiration: My addiction is books and it is from reading that I draw my inspiration. I’ve always been a huge reader and have a rather ridiculous amount of books; novels, picture books, instruction manuals and encyclopaedias. They come pouring out of our giant bookcase and mount guard in every corner of the studio, Soon we will have enough to open our own library. When trying to develop some new work I will pull down a few books, flicking through them to see how the juxtaposition of the different pages I find work together. From that combination new ideas can be formed. Small simple details can suggest whole other worlds. A page of shipping knots for example led me to an illustrated story I wrote about the life of a lonely Lighthouse Keeper.
Find me: I sell my work through my own websites www.holeinmypocket.com/shop and www.eathaggis.com. Online, I also sell work through Folksy, Etsy and Not on the High Street. You can also buy a selection of designs in around about 30 stores throughout the UK and a couple of stores in New York, South Korea and New Zealand. Mostly we work with small independents and larger galleries, including brilliant people like Curiouser and Curiouser, The Southbank Centre and the Scottish National Gallery.
Business Achievements: Recently we’ve spotted some of our products in the Guardian Christmas gift guide and the Not on the High Street TV advert.
Longterm Goals: In the mid term I’m planning on developing some activity/story books about some of the characters in the collections. In the long term, my wife Ann Nisbet (of Ann Nisbet Studio Architects www.annnisbet.com) and I would love to buy a plot of land and build our own bespoke house and studios.
Promotion: Quite often the best promotion of my products comes as a result of one of the other projects I get involved with. Usually when I put on an art exhibition or develop a project there is a good bit of press attached and you see a spike in visitors on the websites.
Popular and Favourite Products: The most popular products that I’ve made are the ones in the ‘A Life on the Ocean Waves’ collection especially the Ship’s Crew Russian dolls. People seem to really love the characters. My own favourite does tend to change depending on what I’ve most recently been working on, but I always have a soft spot for my Pig in a sweet machine card. I drew it many years ago during a lecture and it always makes me smile.
With Hindsight: I’d probably tell myself not to over think things and go with my gut on things more often.
Celebrity Clients: Jon Snow has one of our mugs and one of Taggart creators loves our “There’s been a murder” tea towels
In my Private Jet: Japan, we went there a few years ago and totally loved everything about it. We travelled a lot from the very East to the very West. The culture, the people and the buildings were all wonderful. I loved the attention to detail and the respect of tradition and of history, plus the hot spring baths are amazing.
Favourite independent shop? Curiouser and Curiouser, Bruntsfield, Edinburgh.
Favourite destination in Scotland? Plockton (Though this changes depending on where in Scotland I’ve been last. Its all great.)
Favourite Scottish Tourist Attraction? Sharmanka Kinetic Gallery in Glasgow. Great place to take visitors, its so wonderfully bonkers and brilliantly made.
Hidden Scotland: We stayed in an amazing tree house at Brockloch Farm in Dumfries.
Best thing about Scotland: Friendly people
Do you believe in Nessie? Yes
Favourite Film: Back to the Future, could watch it on loop and still love it.
Favourite Book: I’ve just recently finished The Prestige which is great but its hard to beat The Princess Bride.
Favourite Holiday Destination: Naoshima Island in Japan. Its an old fishing Island transformed by into a island of contemporary art. You can even stay in the main gallery as a hotel. It’s like living in a James Bond Layer.
Shop Scotland profile page – Hole in My Pocket
Website – holeinmypocket.com/
Etsy – etsy.com/uk/shop/holeinmypocket
Folksy – folksy.com/shops/holeinmypocket
Not on the High Street – notonthehighstreet.com/holeinmypocket
Twitter – twitter.com/himp
Facebook – facebook.com/HIMPdesign
Massive thanks to Allistair for making time to be part of In the Shop Window.