To celebrate International Friendship Day I wanted to chat to Bee and Amy about their friendship and adventures together so far, so here's a chat we had this week!
Me: How did you two meet and what was it about each other that made you feel you might be kindred spirits?
Amy: We met walking our dogs Hiro and Wolf so already knew we had that in common! However, it was when we took our first trip to Kenya together that we really got to learn about each other (five weeks in the African bush will do that!). We were meeting all these incredible artisans and both got to see each other at work, Bee busy organising meetings and exciting cultural experiences and me designing and thinking up new ideas to work on with everyone we met. It was an incredible experience to share together.
Bee: We met in our local park walking our dogs -Hiro + Wolf, who inspired our sister pet accessory brand - Hiro + Wolf. The boys did their doggy sniffy thing and the rest is history!
Me: What values, attitudes and behaviours do you think bought you together as friends?
Amy: We both really care about people, animals and design. I think we try not to take ourselves too seriously and love travelling together.
Bee: We both have a deep caring about the world and sustainable global design. Our chats whilst walking the boys (Hiro and Wolf) made us realise just how ‘on the same page’ we were. We are both deeply concerned about the environment and creating sustainable incomes for the people we work with. Our love of fun design and natural products lead us down the same pathway.
Me: When and how did Artisans and Adventurers come about?
Amy: We’d been running Hiro + Wolf for about three years when we realised we really wanted to bring on more of the amazing crafts Bee had been sourcing. I was already designing our jewellery at this point under the Hiro + Wolf brand and so we decided to move that over to Artisans & Adventurers allowing us the space to start working with new products and groups without watering down the pet brand we had lovingly built together.
Bee: We originally started as Hiro + Wolf - a brand for dogs and humans. After being invited onto an incubator programme by the British Library we decided to split the brands and Artisans & Adventurers was born.
Me: What is it about your friendship that excites you both the most about your working partnership?
Amy: I think we both have a really good eye for design and bringing together our shared ideas is always really powerful. I love talking about interiors and colour palettes with Bee and also going on inspiration gathering trips together that then feed back into our businesses.
Bee: We are on the exactly the same wavelength and we learn and grow with each other. Most days we arrive wearing very similar colours and clothing! At our roots is our love of design and everything ethical.
Me: How do you support each other when things are tough given that working together must bring up some challenging times - especially over the past few months with Covid-19 lockdown impacting so many retail teams?
Amy: We decided early on in lockdown that we were going to continue to work together. We are fortunate to live a short walk from our Margate office where we have plenty of space. It was so important to be able to support each other in person through the many challenging decisions we had to take as a business and be able to share a silly dance around the office together!
Bee: The Lockdown made us stronger and brought us closer together. There was crazy dancing, tears, tantrums and much cake eating. It got us through the hours of packing online orders and dealing with a beautiful shop that had turned into a warehouse. We made the tough decision to close our London shop which I was very attached to and I am so grateful to Amy for her logic and understanding of why it was so hard for me and for making me see that it was the right decision.
Amy and Bee in Srinagar on a sourcing trip looking for tin and paper-mache goodies!
Me: You work with so many amazing artisans and teams - how has it been working across different continents?
Amy: We worked out the other day that we work with over 30 groups which made me so proud! Bee manages all of the day to day with our artisans over numerous WhatsApp conversations but I love going out to visit them as many have become friends. We’ve been so touched by how many of our artisans have reached out to us during this time to check whether we are ok, it’s been fascinating, heartbreaking and eye opening receiving first hand accounts of how Covid-19 is affecting people living in Africa and India.
Bee: It has been mind boggling and so exciting to know that we are working with great artists across Africa and India. To see Amy's designs come to light through their incredible talent is so satisfying. Covid-19 has been challenging. We have tried to continue ordering from them as we know how they rely on orders and their well being has been a deep concern to both of us. Working with so many fantastic artists in remote corners of the world and visiting them in their homes is so humbling.
Me: I know you’ve had the chance to be able to travel together on the development trips you make to various places - what has been your most treasured with each other in all this time?
Amy: Our trip to Kashmir together was really special as it was so different to anywhere else we have been together. We were out visiting the most amazing artisans in their homes that were decorated floor to ceiling with rugs and tapestries and going back to a house boat on the lake in the evenings where there was no wifi or any other form of entertainment. The owner would come in at around 7pm to bring home cooked dinner from his wife, paneer curries or fried lotus root, then he’d light the fire and we’d go to bed under electric blankets at 8pm and sleep for 12 hours! The best friends are the ones you are happy doing nothing with!
Bee: Our last trip to India was fantastic. I feel it really cemented our working relationship and we had so many adventures and made so many great memories. One of the best memories I have was finding the most beautiful restaurant in Jaipur for Amy's birthday celebration. Everything was superb - the food, the crockery and the incredible murals. To share a meal with a friend in a magical space is as special as it gets! If you are in Jaipur make sure you visit. https://www.bar-palladio.com/home
Me: What do you think is the single most important thing you would say to people who are friends thinking of going into business?
Amy: I’d say first and foremost that you’ve got to really trust the other person and have a strong mutual respect for each others roles within the business. Its also important that you still make time for the friendship and share experiences outside of work, however much you love your business talking shop all the time can get a little dull!
Bee: It takes time. Compromise is everything and having an understanding of how each other work is very important. I can be quite moody and Amy is great when I am like this and does not take it personally. Give each other space to be creative and grow together. Learn to laugh and cry together as equally these will make your friendship and business relationship stronger.
Me: What creative partnership in the history of the world do you most admire and why?
Amy: When I finished my A Levels I went to study millinery and I always remember learning about Philip Treacy and his partnership with Isabelle Blow as his patron and muse. Although her life ended tragically the creations she inspired live on, she was so daring and bold in her fashion choices and I really admire her fearless use of colour and shape.
Bee: Warhol and Basquiat. Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat have always been at the top of my list of favourite artists. They were both truly ground breaking Growing up in rather a creative desert in South Africa when I was exposed to them when I arrived in London in the mid-80's and their work blew my mind away! The rebellious attitudes in Basquiat's work really appealed to me coming out of rather a conservative upbringing. Their experiments in art were a departure from their own personal work.
Me: What would be your perfect day out with each other?
Amy: It would be a surprise because I love surprises! But it would definitely involve cake and being somewhere really magical and inspiring.
Bee: The day we spent out last Tuesday was perfect. We try to go on Adventures with each other. On these adventures we don't discuss work at all but instead talk to each other and quietly observe the world. Last week we visited Sissinghurst in Kent - the home of Vita Sackville-West. The visit fed Amy's love of gardening and my obsession with the Bloomesbury Set.
Thank you so much for your time and it's lovely to hear about how your friendship has evolved across the years. We'd love to hear from you our Journal readers if you have a friendship you'd like to celebrate.