We chatted with the owners and creators of 2B or Not 2B, to find out what got them going in the independent artist world.
What is your main focus? Did you study creative arts at University?
E: We’re two sisters who through a mutual love of illustration decided to combine our forces for good, two heads being better than one and all. Our core practice is fairly similar based on combining hand-drawn illustration, storytelling and humour so occasionally it’s hard to tell where one of our pieces begins and the other ends. We design together, starting our business from a Manchester kitchen, and it’s a great motivator to get the other to do some work.
Sarah studied Illustration Animation at Kingston University and Elsa did a brilliantly bizarre course at London College of Communication that was called Surface Design which has not existed now for a number of years (R.I.P). Studying in London definitely gave us both a different perspective to work from, as there was so much to draw and gain inspiration from.
What made you get into pins?
E: We like to think of our art and how it explores the world independently of us. Part of the narrative of someone owning your illustration is that it gets a life of its own completely reliant on what they choose to do with it. We don’t get to get a sneaky peek into people’s bedrooms to see our prints on their walls, so having a wearable piece such as a pin appealed to us greatly. Also, pins have this precious collect-‘em-all quality to them which put them at the top of our dream products list. We just didn’t think we would be capable of making them as the process and cost seemed so daunting. We luckily had some much more experienced pin making pals who demystified the process and helped us launch our first 4 designs.
Do you have a favourite pin that you've designed so far?
E: I think it would have to be Sarah’s Fishbutt pin. It’s been a long time coming, starting its life as an illustration for a uni project, and they have been booty dancing themselves over so many products of ours before becoming a pin. It’s essentially a reverse mermaid, if you can imagine that, with the chipper face of a fish and rotund bum of a person. I think it just perfectly balances our love of humour, mythology, and design.
We have sent them around the world and one person ordered about eight from us online. We had to ask why as our minds were going to all kinds of conclusions, and it turned out they were a wild swimming group looking for some sort of special medal to bring them together. We were so thrilled to have our fishbutt pin as badge of honour.
S: Yes! It was the very first illustration we were sure we wanted to make into a pin, so it was the first time we got to see the idea realised. The first time we actually got to see one of our pins in real life. I’m proud of the fishbutt as I’d been wanting to make a pin badge for a long time and to make one of my characters into a badge was my dream. There’s something hilarious about so many people having a fish with a bum on their coat but luckily people seem to agree.
Any advice for anyone that is thinking of becoming a pin designer?
Don’t feel too daunted. Ultimately it can feel like it is a bit of a numbers game as it’s the kind of thing you do have to invest in but honestly, people love pins! Make the pin you’re missing from your collection, that you and your friends will love. Don’t copy or try and emulate other people, as those pins are already being worn. Forge new ground, make people laugh/smile/cry/feel seen and you’re already partway to finding your audience. Have a little doodle of some ideas and don’t be afraid to ask others what they think, but make something you would love to show off on your own lapel.
What is your favourite pin design at the moment? Do you have any favourite designers?
E: I have to say I’m currently massively lusting over anything Natali Koromoto does and her “hat on hat” enamel pin just makes me so happy.
S: One of my favourite pins of all time it a little hotdog with a cane doing a dance by Shake Bristol! I also love the designs by Alexandra Cook as the little faces she draws for her characters are perfect.
Do you guys have any big plans for the future?
S: We actually have some brand new pin designs that we were hoping to debut soon, but sadly these have had to be put on hold due to recent events. We’re hoping to expand our range of zines, prints and other products but self-isolating without each other means that 2B is currently living in the virtual world.
We’re hoping to take this time to reflect and plan all of the big ideas that are brewing in our heads, and hopefully, we’ll come out of it with a whole bundle of new fun things. It’s at least given me time to work on the new storyline behind my latest choose your own adventure zine so at least there is a silver lining.
E: We usually take part in lots of markets and events all around the country which is a real joy for us. Unfortunately, every single booking we had has, quite understandably, to be cancelled. We’re having to adapt, especially as we’ll not isolating together. We’ve had to become a lot more digital in our outlook.
I’m currently running an illustration “Battle Royale” on our Instagram which lots of different artists have taken part in. I think we’ll probably try and do more to reach out and collaborate as the community is totally keeping us afloat in the sea of uncertainty. We were booked in to do our first ever 2B mural on Magma Manchester’s window which will be an exciting new direction for us and hopefully be a way of celebrating finally having our freedom to be outside.
We know getting started in this creative world can be quite daunting so we hope this enlightened you and has kickstarted a plan you maybe have had.
Check out the 2B girls work on our curated section now! We are sure it'll brighten your day!