Interview: East Editions

East Editions launched back in 2013 with the mission to bring creative people together, collaborating with established and emerging artists from Australia and around the world to produce handmade, limited edition functional art pieces.

Started up by Australian husband and wife team Brad and Kelly Eastman, East Editions was built on their shared interests in art, design and creative culture. Now just six months on, and with five editions under their belt including collaborations with Vans the Omega and Luke Taaffe, the business is going from strength to strength.

Earlier this month we interviewed Brad Eastman aka BEASTMAN about his latest exhibition. Today we catch up with Kelly to find out more about their East Editions side project and the inspiration behind the brand.

First up, can you tell us a little bit about your background and Brad’s background – where you both studied and when you first became interested in design & illustration?

We have been together for almost 5 years now, and we have always shared an interest in art, design and creative culture. Obviously Brad has been involved in the Australian art community for almost 10 years, and in that time he has connected with a lot of other local and international artists through exhibitions and other art events around Australia and the world. He is also one third of the creative group The Hours, and they put on art exhibitions and projects regularly. I studied communications and film many years ago and spent years working in the film industry, and in recent years I have been working as a marketing, web and brand manager on a range of projects, as well as assisting Brad on a range of his projects. I’m currently spending a lot of my time being a mum to our little boy Eamon, which has also played a big role in us wanting to start our own business.

Explain the journey that lead to the launch of East Editions? Was it in response to the desire for a career change or inspired by a personal experiences?

The main drive to create East Editions was to start our own business that we could grow together as a family, and would also give us the flexibility to work from home or wherever we are into the future. We have had many ideas for different artist designed products over the years and just decided we wanted to take it on ourselves before someone else just ran off with our ideas. All the people and artists we are working with are also friends of ours, so we thought it would be great to bring together our creative friends to make some unique products.

When did the brand launch?

We launched our first couple of Editions in early December 2013.

Did you launch in a physical space for the purposes of PR or just online?

We decided not to do an actual launch event, we looked into it but the cost of putting on the event we felt wouldn’t actually translate into that many sales. We felt confident in the products, the artists, the website and the online audience we would be able to reach, so we decided to just launch it online. Being an online business essentially, its all about getting people to your website and interacting with the brand on social media, and we thought a launch event wouldn’t reach that many people.

We have had many ideas for different artist designed products over the years and just decided we wanted to take it on ourselves before someone else got there first.

What inspired the project and choice of products?

East Editions was inspired by our love of design and art, and we just wanted to create a brand that we could literally almost do whatever we wanted with. So we have tried to make East Editions a vehicle for us to release many different types of products, and not be restricted to a certain category, with our main objective to merge art and home wares together – but don’t be surprised if we release other random things in the future. The coffee tables were inspired by Vans The Omega and his geometric and painting style, we knew his work would translate well onto furniture and would be a great product to launch with and show off what we are all about.

Setting up a business can be expensive  – any advice for launching a business on a limited budget? Did you acquire funding?

We had some money saved up to potentially buy a house, but then decided to invest in the business instead. Trying to buy a house in Sydney was way too stressful and competitive! So we didn’t need to acquire any funding. All the people we worked with in developing the products and the website are friends of ours, so they were willing to help us out and work with us to achieve our vision with as little budget as possible. I think we just had a lot of faith in our vision for the brand and the products we were making, we knew the financial risks, but also just trusted in our decisions and felt confident that people would respond to it and buy the products.

Have there been any particularly challenging moments so far?

So many challenges to overcome in producing the products, the Kyle Hughes-Odgers quilt cover sets had a lot of hurdles for us to get over simply because of the process of screen printing that large and sourcing the fabric. There have been a lot of small costs that have randomly come up that we hadn’t considered or thought of, so of course everything was more expensive and more difficult that we first thought it would all be. Our branding and website was also a big challenge, it was really important to us to create an image for the brand that was clean, high end and would be functional well into the future, the website also had to function well on devices as well as desktops and our logo needed to translate across many different applications. It was good fun developing all of these things and the products – we’ve learnt a lot over the last 6 months.

How do you select artists / designers to work with? Are all your products exclusive to East Editions or do you hope to supply larger stores eventually?

The main concept behind East Editions is that all the products we make are limited editions, so having our Editions available in larger stores isn’t really relevant. We hope to gain a strong following behind the brand so when we release more Editions in the future they will sell out rather quickly. The artists we work with are invited by us to be part of the project, and we usually work on the concepts for the products with the artists, and also give them a level of creative freedom to design something they have always wanted to create.

What have been your personal highlights from the last few months – are there any product collaborations you have most enjoyed working on?

We are very proud of our edition of hand painted boxes  We recently hosted Vans The Omega here in Sydney and presented his ‘Into The Light’ solo exhibition at The Tate Gallery, we helped him develop and produce a number of different pieces for his exhibition, and it was a pleasure to once again work with him. Also currently we re in the middle of creating new editions with Numskull and Jae Copp, both good friends and we are looking forward to releasing their editions over the next few months.

Can you tell us a bit about your recent collaboration with Luke Taaffe – how did this come about & what was the reason for making a functional item and not just an art object?

Luke is an old friend of ours, and we always had in mind to do something with him. He is based in California at the moment, so doing a cushion cover was something we could produce quite easily with him being overseas. Then we got lucky with timing as he was coming through Sydney for a couple days and we lined up the printing then so he could be involved in the process. East Editions is all about blurring the line between both art and functional objects, and the cushion covers are a great and simple way to do this, although looking to the future we are looking forward to producing some more challenging editions in terms of production process and materials.

East Editions is all about blurring the line between art and functional objects

What role does social networking play in building awareness for your brand?

Social media and networking is vital to the success of our business, we are trying to build a following so that people can see what we are doing and involve them in the process – watching how products are made, created and touched by the artists. Since launching East Editions, we have found Instagram to be the best social media venue for us to promote the products simply because of its visual nature, and our brand is very visual. That being said we are also tapping into the artist’s own followers and networks which is very beneficial to our fast growth on social media.

The artists we work with are invited by us to be part of the project, and we usually work on the concepts for the products with the artists, giving them creative freedom to design something they have always wanted to create.

What are your main sources of inspiration? Do you collect visual references, make use of sketchbooks or use online tools like pinterest for creative stimulation?

We have always exposed ourselves to what’s going on in all areas of the creative industry, so of course we are switched on to the market and what’s available out there. We’re inspired mainly by the artists we are working with and their creative vision for integrating their artwork into spaces in different and functional ways.

What are your hopes for the growth & development of the brand?

We hope that we can get to a point where people are following East Editions and waiting to see what we release next, and then upon release each item is sold out rather quickly. Also pre-selling our Editions before they are completed, based on promoting the products during their creation rather than waiting until completion. We also would love to just be seen as a brand doing new, original and interesting things, and stand alone from any other brands out there.

Plans for 2014? Any exciting news you can share with us?

So many plans for 2014, now that we have launched we are really looking forward to getting the flow of East Editions going throughout the year, hopefully releasing something new every month. We can share that we are currently working on new Editions with Numskull, Jae Copp, Phibs and Marty Routledge. We are also in the process of developing more ideas with some other great artists. So everyone needs to follow us on social media and on our blog to see whats coming up and also see how it’s all being created!

Excerpts from this interview appear in Digital Arts: How to be a Creative Entrepreneur, published January 2014.



Posted on Jul 2nd, 14 by | Twitter: @lisahassell

Founder & director of Inkygoodness, Lisa is a published writer and arts journalist, focusing on creative business, graphic art and illustration and design education. Her words regularly appear in Computer Arts, Creative Bloq, Digital Arts and IdN.

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