I first came across Orwell and Goode a couple of years ago when I was looking for some unique prints to frame and put above our sofa after having moved house. I fell in love with their quirky Dandy Deer and Dandy Doe prints immediately and promptly ordered and framed the pair whom now sit very proudly above our respective heads when we lounge in our living room! Their beautiful designs span many covetable and practical uses from cushions, wallpaper and footstools to stationery and lampshades. Distinctive designs that work beautifully well at home or in the office - adding a unique and interesting, yet comfortable and practical touch.
Now all this was long before this blog was born but, having been a fan for sometime and intrigued as I am by those who set out to create and bring to life their own businesses and ideas, I decided to contact Bronagh and Zuzana to see if they would be interested in telling me more for an interview on this here blog.
Unsure whether my email may just become one of many in the ether of hundreds out there on the email highway, I was really chuffed when Bronagh came back to me saying they would love to answer my questions.
Getting to know the duo through various emails and phone conversations has been a lovely experience. With a great sense of humour and approach to their work and their working partnership it has been a pleasure to find out more about them both, how they set up their business and what it is that makes them tick. So without further ado lets take a deeper look into the world of Orwell and Goode and learn a little more about setting up your own design business and partnership - oh and fab name as well don't you think?!
What is it like to be your own boss/bosses?
Bronagh: When you run your own company you have to wear many hats, this can be a challenge and a joy at the same time – so the short answer is - a joyful challenge!
Zuzana: Responsibility. To be responsible for every action you take (or don't take) on daily basis. It can be very empowering but has its drawbacks - can get a bit weary at times.
Where do you find your inspiration for the designs and ideas for your products?
Zuzana: I think I am more subconsciously inspired, when I walk my dogs in the woods, it's here I have peace to think and absorb/appreciate colours and patterns. On occasions people comment on a ‘folksy’ feel to our designs, so I wonder if I am influenced by my Slovakian heritage with its folk art.
Bronagh: We both really enjoy being outdoors and living in the country, this is very evident in the content of our work! I grew up on a farm in Ireland and just couldn’t imagine not living in the country.
What is it that you love most about what you do?
Bronagh: The variety. I enjoy learning the different parts of the business and seeing the results as we grow.
Zuzana: I’m happiest when I’m alone designing and creating new products.
Setting up alone must come with challenges has it been worth the risk and been similar to what you initially expected?
Bronagh: We are very lucky in that we haven’t actually set up alone, we have each other. We lowered the risk by starting out part time and keeping our other commitments. For instance I worked full time for the first 2 years of the business and Zuzana had her own wallpaper design and print business.
Zuzana: I think it is pretty much what we expected – a lot of long days and hard graft.
How do you find balance between work and life when your workload gets too busy?
Bronagh: I find this element the hardest. As I don’t have kids it's all to easy for me to keep working into the evening and over the weekend. My husband is good at dragging me away from work to go mountain biking, it’s a great stress relief and I usually find I am more energized afterwards with a clearer head.
Zuzana: My kids are my priority when work finishes, although when they go to bed and there is a lot of work on, it’s difficult to avoid going back to the studio. I’m not sure there is a balance when you’re a busy small company.
What are your top tips for staying positive when facing difficult situations, stress at work or indeed in life in general?
Bronagh: There’s a great Irish proverb for this: “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures for anything!” And I do love a long sleep!
Zuzana: I'm afraid with two children, the Irish proverb doesn't exactly work for me; maybe only the ‘good laugh’ bit. Stress is sometimes useful; it gives me a push which I need on occasions and makes me creative in a way I did not think I would be. However, it can push me to the edge…
What has been the most important thing you have learnt since starting out?
Bronagh: That my husband is the most amazing supportive and patient man I have ever met! In a work sense, I would say think big and act small - it’s the small steps and accomplishments that will lead you to your big goal, just don’t loose sight of that end goal.
Zuzana: I have learnt that being precious about your own designs doesn't get you anywhere. I feel I'm more relaxed and experimental when it comes to designing; I take criticism slightly better and therefore enjoy the whole process much more.
What have been the biggest surprises?
Bronagh: I discovered quite early in our partnership that Zuzana has a penchant for latex rubber!
Zuzana: I'm afraid it is not the latex but vinyl gloves I prefer to wear! On a serious note though, I was quite surprised to realise that, as much as Bronagh is a pain in my ass I love her very much!
Bronagh: Honestly I cannot think of any nasty surprises. However, when we won the award for best new product for our Fox Footstool at Top Drawer Autumn 2013 well that was a very pleasant surprise!
Do you have any tips, secrets or anecdotes you are happy to share with us – either relating to your company or just as part of your careers as a whole?
Bronagh: Not many people know this but when we were only 14 months into our business, at that time it was still just the two of us, I had a 4 month tour in Afghanistan and Zuzana had her first boy (a month early), all orders managed to go out with minimal delay and not a single customer knew what was going on behind the scenes!
Also when Zuzana had her second boy last summer, we had 7 weeks to go to the Top Drawer show, this was when she designed the Wildlife collection, introducing 3 brand new products to our range, our first venture into digital printing but it was all ready in time and then we won the Best New product award for it.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to set up and do something similar?
Zuzana: Try it and see. Don’t be too disheartened if things are not going the way you wanted. Sometimes you have to go with the flow.
Bronagh: To thrive in business you need three bones; a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.
Zuzana: My husband suggests a fourth bone for motivation, but that's not suitable for publishing!
A huge thank you to Bronagh and Zuzana for their time (they put this together in the lead up to Christmas a very busy time for them both) and for taking part and giving us an inside look at their business. If you're looking to get involved in something similar then I hope this piece helps to inspire the journey ahead of you. Great anecdotes and advice well worth bearing in mind. If their designs inspire you then take a peek at their website, with everything from stationery to furniture I'm sure you won't fail to find something to tickle your fancy and smarten up your daily working lives and liven up your office space! Until the next post - farewell for now and have a wonderful day all.