Returning to Awol Studios in Ancoats, this week we met up with Jon Hannan, Ben Kither and Sarah Stapleton, who are three quarters of OWT Creative, an amorphous design collective who have been initiating collaborations and producing publications in Manchester for the past three years. Having met at university, and studied together on the Graphic Design and Art Direction MA course at the Manchester School of Art, the first OWT zine was designed as a portable and public portfolio, so that the group could reveal and promote their work outside of formal interviews. Jon, Ben and Sarah described how after having been given such creative freedom during their studies, they were reluctant to seek out roles as junior designers, instead coming up with the zine, which also served as a way to keep creatively active in that familiar post-graduation lull.
The success of the first issue of OWT zine was somewhat of a surprise for its creators, with recognition from MTV and expanding print-runs to meet demand as stockists sold out. Significantly, the OWT zine featured only work by Northern practitioners, as the collective had made a conscious decision not to seek their fortunes in London and the South, but to remain and strive in their adopted home of Manchester. OWT were also early adopters of twitter, and had made use of social media to promote their zine three years ago in ways that few others would have thought of – but that are second nature now!
Having moved on from their inaugural 12-issues, OWT Creative have since staged original events like 2012’s ‘reprocess’ and ‘interlace’, whereby participants were invited to become part of the publication process, and most recently OWT Discourse; an interactive talk inviting successful practitioners in art and design to discuss “success, failure and inspiration” with the audience. Whilst OWT Creative’s innovative projects have enabled them to take on lucrative design jobs, Sarah makes it clear that the zines, talks and workshops are not dependent on making profit, and that any profits made are simply put towards the next project, which allows for full creative freedom.
According to Jon, Ben and Sarah, an important factor in their success is open-ness; being open to new opportunities, and saying yes to challenges even if it’s something that’s not been tried before, as well as being approachable and communicative through an on-line presence on social media platforms, but also in person at zine fairs, and the like. Look out for the publication that OWT Creative will be producing with materials from their OWT Discourse event, and check out OWT’s website for videos of their live events and work for sale.
Written by Lauren Velvick / Phoos by Elle Brotherhood