What made you decide to become a collective rather than operate as individuals?
Peepshow was set up as a way of facilitating self promotion, collaboration, sharing clients and expenses and to make the experience of being an Illustrator more fun. Power in numbers as they say. Although our key practice entails working on our own individual commissions, we come together to work on specific commissions, namely installation and animation projects.
What are some of the biggest benefits of working as a collective?
A shared studio, website & promotion, expenses, client list and library as well as a group of trusted people to look to for advice. Also by collaborating we end up working on projects that challenge us and take us out of our comfort zone.
How does the collaborative process work? Do clients choose which members will work on a brief or is it decided by Peepshow?
It depends on the nature of the project, some clients come to us with a particular illustrator or aesthetic in mind but on other occasions they are open to our interpretation of the brief. We'll come together to discuss ideas and see who's work is best suited to the brief as well as who's interested and available, leaving a smaller team to see the project through to the end.
Why the name Peepshow?
The original website was designed to show a 'peep' of our individual illustration work using a peephole device, so the name Peepshow seemed perfect and just stuck.
How often do people confuse you with the TV show and have you ever considered suing them, baring in mind that you came first?
It's not really an issue as we're not in competition, besides we all like the show too much and it's not as if we own the word, it's been around since the 15th century. We did have a strange letter once from some fans of the TV show suggesting we make an all female version, they even sent plot & casting suggestions. Robert Webb wore a T-shirt in the last series with a design by Andrew on it that must have been bought as a bootleg from a market. It's not legal so don't buy it.
You all have very varied styles. Is this something that works in your favour or does it make the collaboration process more difficult?
Collaborating on a shared drawing rarely happens because everyone's work is so different. The most enjoyable part of collaborating is being able to leave what you know, move away from your established visual language and try something new and be a bit more surprised. I don't think we'd all still be working together if our work all looked the same. We quickly realised that the most successful way to collaborate is if everyone contributes ideas and works in a way unassociated to their personal work. A great deal of our collaborative projects in the last 5 years have seen a smaller group of people working on it, this team varies completely from project to project but the work is still credited to 'Peepshow'. We also collaborate with photographers, animators and other Illustrators, the extended peepshow family so to speak.
What's the most exciting/fulfilling/interesting project you've worked on?
I'm sure each member of Peepshow has their own personal favourites but off the top of our collective heads, 'Hi-Life' with Graham Rawle, a 4000 sq ft supermarket installation for Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany that kicked started the whole Peepshow thing and was seen by a staggering 40 million visitors. 'Pick Me Up' at Somerset House last year for the ace print workshop we ran for the duration. The 'making characters, buildings & objects from three vegetables' stall at the V&A fete in 2006, just because we didn't realise just how much a corn on the cob resembles Jimmy Saville or a purple beet resembles Eddy Grant until then. Someone spent an hour making the Sydney Opera House from three onions. Our first collaborative animation project for Diesel, the 'Sleeproom', 'CBeebies' and 'Culture Show' animations, because we learnt an awful lot along the way, and finally the windows of Saatchi & Saatchi in 2007 because its not everyday your given the front of a massive building to make look nice.
You have a phenomenally impressive client list. How have you built up such an impressive reputation?
It is the client list of 10 people over 12 years but we have been lucky enough to work with the best advertising agencies and some of the best magazines and newspapers. In all honestly it's just good old hard work, professionalism, meeting deadlines and delivering quality work, all things we take great pride in.
Last year you turned 10 years old. What are the secrets to remaining a creative collective for so long?
Giving each other space, keeping things loose, playful and fun.
One of the things that really sets you apart from other collectives is your use of animation. Was this a conscious decision to straddle both print and moving image?
Well only two of us have ever actually studied animation, we stumbled into it quite by accident when someone from an advertising agency in Amsterdam saw our individual illustration work appear side by side on our website and asked if we wanted to contribute to an animation project commissioned by Diesel. Animation is the most natural and successful way for us to collaborate. It allows everyone to have an input in the process even if you can't see their work visually in the end result.
How has the world of illustration changed since you started out back in 2000?
Deadlines seem to have sped up, and although on the whole budgets haven't necessarily decreased, they certainly haven't increased and clients expect more for their money. Ten years ago I think most of us were still having zip disks couriered around London or having artwork drum scanned instead of sending final artwork by email. The way clients find your work and employ you has changed with the vast majority of work coming in through websites and blogs instead of hardcopy folios.
Illustration is much broader and more exciting now. An illustrator can be his/her own author self publishing is easier etc but the traditional skills of illustration are getting lost, being able to communicate an idea seems to be less and less important. Style is still wrongly king.
What would you (all) be doing if you weren't part of Peepshow (or illustrators/animators etc)?
Spencer: "I'd like to think i'd be working with wood, either crafting or chainsawing"
Miles: "Accountant, Librarian, work in a record shop or TV Detective, i'm not fussy which"
Pete: "I'd run a tuck-shop"
Andrew: "I'd be little unhappier"
Jenny: "Probably something much less varied and interesting with more predictable hours, pay and holidays. I wanted to be a vet when I was little but then realised you had to be good at science"
Chrissie: "Hopefully i'd be making things in some capacity. I think my gymnast days are over"
Elliot: :"I'd probably be someone who drinks less coffee and has better posture. But, that someone would have an overwhelming sense that a big part of their life was missing"
What does the future hold for Peepshow?
We are planning a book, which was originally set to mark our tenth anniversary but is increasingly looking like it will mark the 11th or 12th. 2011 should also see our first solo show outside of the UK, more 'Heavy Pencil' live drawing and music events and hopefully lots of exciting commercial/personal illustration and animation projects.