Studio Visit: Dorothy
Dorothy are Ali, Phil, Jim and Tich. Together they make beautiful design products that tickle your eyeballs as much as your funny bone.
Michelle Collier takes a trip down the yellow brick road to visit Dorothy’s studio in Emerald City a.k.a. Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
Hello! Let’s get to know each other a bit… what can you tell us about Dorothy? Who are you, where did you come from and why ‘Dorothy’?
Each of us did a tour of duty in the field of advertising before going AWOL in 2010 to work on our own ideas under the moniker of Dorothy. We’re from all over the country (A scouser, a brummy and a Mancunian: so we sound a bit like the beginning of an old joke) but met and became friends while working in Manchester. Ali and Phil worked together at TCW, and I met them later when we all worked at LOVE creative.
One of our friends (hi Si!) came up with the name Dorothy and it stuck. It feels pretty appropriate now as we on this weird adventure together, not really sure where we’re going!
Dorothy is all about making things happen, creating the work that interests and excites us, and just hoping that other people are interested in it too.
How would you describe the lovely things that you make?
All our work is self-initiated and self-directed so it sort of reflects what’s interesting us at the time – be that vintage horror or contemporary political issues – expressed through print or products, or artworks and installations.
A lot of what we’re doing at the moment is about the connections in culture and music, whether that’s creating a map built entirely from references to Film names or locations, or Star Charts that are constellations made up Hollywood movie stars.
Recently my Dad looked at our website and referred to it as an Intellectual Junk Shop, which I kind of like as a description.
What does a typical day (if there is one) look like down the Dorothy office?
I’m not sure that there is a typical day! The Dorothy office is part studio / part postal depot / part storage unit. We all work differently, for example I work from home in Liverpool most days and just pop over to the studio a couple of times a week, but the others are in the studio most days working on new pieces and dispatching peoples orders.
Most days have a similar theme: Radio 6 Music / coffee from Eastern Bloc / rolling prints to send out / talking about things we want to watch, but haven’t watched yet / talking about the things that we’re making or the things we want to make.
So is there anything in your studio that you couldn’t live without?
Probably the radio / music.
Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment (if it’s not top secret)?
At the moment we’re gearing up for our first show, we’re going to be having a selling exhibition at KK Outlet in Hoxton Square in London throughout December, so we’re getting everything prepared for that and making some new things for it.
What inspires you? Where do your ideas crop up from?
I think the best ideas come from when you get away from everything, when you’ve got some mental space… And when you’re just dropping off to sleep. (Always when you can’t find a pen or pencil to note it down!).
Personally, I’m inspired by creatives who do what they believe in, and do it their own way. And comics… And science fiction.
When it comes to your maps and star charts, it’s clear that you have an obsession for detail! How long can it take for a map or chart to come together?
Way, way too long. They take until we can see that Ali is starting to lose her patience, and then we stop! The research for those pieces takes a long time: finding connections between elements and bringing them together. It helps a lot that they are based on things that we care about, so we have a load of useless trivia and geeky knowledge that we bring into them. They mainly take about 3-4 months, but sometimes a bit longer.
Most of your creations are imbued with a great sense of fun. From the playful humour of the Rock n Roll Zoo to the perhaps slightly more niche Slag and Slut range. Who is the joker in the pack, or can you all take credit for that?
Definitely Phil, but I think we all bring different aspects of Northern humour to our work, we love what we do and hopefully that comes across.
Humorous homeware aside, many of your artworks touch on more serious topics from the human cost of war to climate change. How important is social commentary to your work?
It’s very important to us, throughout our working lives we’ve been involved with helping charities and good causes and it can’t help but seep into your work.
And finally, what’s the next stop along the yellow brick road for Dorothy?
Well, we just did a big Book Map give-away for Schools where we sent out 500 maps to schools, and we’ve finally finished rolling and sending those out, so we’re full steam ahead on preparing for our KK Outlet show!
You can find Dorothy’s latest pieces on their website, including the brand new Game Map for all you Nintendo nerds, and the Rock n Roll Zoo, a delightful musical menagerie! Dorothy will be appearing at the KK Outlet in London throughout December.