We are the Crazy Squares. As a group we are all individual people with out own personal styles and influences, but this is what helps us work well as a group. The Square comes from their being 4 of us, and well, youâ€™ve got to be a bit crazy to be creative havenâ€™t you?
get a grip
60 The town
the custard factory history
The Custard Factory was built 100 years ago by Sir Alfred Bird. Alfred Bird was the inventor of egg free instant custard. In addition to this, he also invented baking powder. This was all for his wife who had yeast and egg allergies. At one point over a thousand people were working at the factory and it’s rumoured to have helped create the British empire. The Birds company moved on to a new site at Banbury and in the 1980’s the Custard Factory fell into disrepair. The Custard factory was taken over by its current owners in the 1990’s and they began to restore it. This was done in 3 phases. Phase one was Scott House, which now houses hundreds of artists. Phase two was Gib Square, which is now home to new media businesses. Phase three is called Zellig, this was assisted by Advantage West Midlands and has created 100 new workspaces and offices.
We caught up with Matt Nation and he told us his story. Provide all started with a pop up shop back in June, selling four different t-shirt brands. In September he shut down the pop up and re-opened with a permanent store. Matt chose the Custard Factory because itâ€™s the main hub of alternative retail in Birmingham. As this is his first shop, he feels comfortable working with a supportive land lord who understands what the its like to set up your own business for the first time.
Matt started off doing a fashion design course at university; he then gained experience from working within High Street stores before moving into his own project. His independent shop is very personal; as he believes the people involved in it are highly influential to the clothes he sells. You have to visit it to experience it.
Retro World is a shop in the Custard Factory that specialises in all things Cult and Retro. There are games, everything from PS2 to Nintendo 64, Records, and even Marshmallow Fluff. The shop has been around for about 6 months and is run by Rob Hadley. Heâ€™s got plenty of experience and knowledge in the business as he has been running Retro for about 10 years. He knew about the vibe and energy at Custard Factory so thought it would be the perfect place for Retro World.
â€œThe concept of the shop is at Retro and Cult. Th n a t o g e v a h t a h t s g in saying, th a e v a h t a h t s g in h t w e old feel, but also n , s t c u d o r p w e n k c o t s will e W . e g d e g in t t u c a f o bit teâ€? u o r lt u c e h t n w o d o g o t g in o g e r e h t t a h t k in if we th
Drew Roper is the founer and owner of the award winning Yamination Studios. He has a studio in the Custard Factory, so we caught up with him for a quick interview and a photo shoot. Where abouts are you from? I grew up in Walsall, which isn’t in in Poland as some people seem to think. Its in between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. So not too far away? No, hence my name. I’m a yam yam because I came from the black country, a small town called Walsall Wood to be exact. It’s a nice place, I guess. Did you always want to animate? Yes, when I was growing up I either wanted to be Walt Disney, or a footballer. A bit of my Dad’s influence there. I tell this to everyone, but when I was 16 I had two knee operations. I just said ‘yeah… lets stick to animation from now! But yeah, I always wanted to be Walt Disney. I didn’t actually realise he was the producer and didn’t do the animation until college, he just told people what to do.
When did you get into the world of animation? The world? Iâ€™m not in it yet! I donâ€™t know, you could class that as just speaking to people at festivals, trying to get your name known. I tried to go to as many animation and film festivals as possible when I was at university. I did a lot of workshops as well, such as model making and scriptwriting. However when I was in my last year of university working on my final project, I saw an online advertisement for an assistant animator, I applied for it, and got it! I spent 4 days down in London, working on projects for Nike and Audi, it was nothing like I expected. The June after I finished uni, I helped out with some of the production for the Fantastic Mr Fox film. I then did some more festivals, then I was lucky enough to get myself a studio at the Light House Media Centre in Wolverhampton. So where did you go to uni? I went to a place called Solent University in Southampton, the art institute. The animation course was quite cool because you get to do your own stuff.
Who are your biggest influences? There’s so many, the main one is Walt Disney. If you grew up loving Disney films you’ll love them for the rest of your life. My favourite film of theirs is Pinocchio. When I was younger, the films to watch at the cinema were Aladdin, Lion King, Little Mermaid, ones like that. People like Aardman inspire me too. I get inspired all the time really, anything I see, anything I do, models, drawings. It drives me on to do better. I’m influenced by Tim Burton as well, I love his style. He’s not scared to do his own thing. What do you enjoy most about being based at the Custard Factory? Probably the fact that its the creative hub of Birmingham. Theres a lot of creative people here, theres always something going on too. Everyone here is up for a giggle, and its brilliant to make new contacts. There is also a lot of heritage and history in the place too, which makes it very interesting.
Get a Grip
Sam is a print maker and shop owner for â€œGet a gripâ€?, he has been situated in the Custard factory for 6years now and chose to set up his shop here because he was attracted to the cultural differences and the artistic vibe in this area.
He has always been involved in the printing business but previously only printed on 100% organic cotton. He started off with a clothing label but was disappointed in the prints that had come out so he decided that he could do a better job himself and thatâ€™s what led him into the printing industry
He describes his shop as a sort of shop that would excite him because everything is created here in front of you which gives the shop individuality. He enjoys finding new talent within the art industry and commissions small up and coming illustrators to design for his label.
Mr BIRDS EMPORIium
m u i r Ope o p M r . Em Birds emporium nin
The Cus t a
Mr B ir
runs a Sat urday market ev ery week c alled the custard cr eam. This is where lo independe cal nt retailer s c an set up a for the day stall and sell th e ir homema items, up-c de y cled clothe garments s, pre love and indepe d ndent bran are no oth ds. There er platform s in Birmin that offer s gham uch an affo rdable and flexible sp ace, makin g Mr. Birds valuable to Birmingha mâ€™s independe nt trade.
‘Sabina’ is very new ard to the cust he has s s a , y r o t fac on the g n i k r o w been r. Birds ‘M f o t n e m develop his year. t l i r p A e c ’ sin Emporium oject of r p n o i t a v nth reno o m ry use, o 6 t c a a f n l e e a i b t i ’s It fter its in A . g r Birds n i M . d l o i i u d b u t d s l the o a dance ls of the o l t a n i w e d e h t t r l l e ing and a r o it was conv o fl l a n i the orig t p e k e v a h irrored. m e b o t d e feel it y e h t e building us s u ry beca o t c a f t vibe as n d e r d a t n s e u p c e e d up in th and, off an in t t g s e r s n i e o v d t i n g e , u s o o m They ch rmingha those wh i , B e ant to f r e o w h b ’t e u n l h o p d e o e v y i p t e ents. Th ht mix of m g is the crea i r r a g e h e t d s a i There d handm n a n o i h s you enter. a street. nt f h e g i d h n e r p o e g d n n i he bullr t o and want i t o g o h ones w be the lazy
Sabina used to be a shoe designer at Kurt Geiger for fifteen years. She has been heavily involved with high street fashion for years. It has given her a brilliant understanding of retail management and high street trends. The main aim of Mr. Birds emporium is to give young, emerging businesses, a platform to stand on. Affordable pitches are rented out to them, so they have their own area to decorate, manage, and sell their produce on. Mr. Birds is making independent businesses in Birmingham affordable. Mr. Birds is best describes as inspiring, with its quirky individual style. There are no rules or guidelines to abide by. Each stall has their separate style depending on their personal interests. Some are interested in vintage clothing, others are concentrating on their own brands or handmade jewellery. Itâ€™s like a melting pot of everything.
Shaded Rose is a Photography, graphics and print company based in the Custard Factory and is made up of Jet, the photographer and John, the graphic designer. I had a chat with Jet and he showed me around their studio.
w e i erv
h t i w
ose d R
So, are you from Birmingham? Yeah, I live over in Sutton Coldfield, not far from my colleague John, we both live over that way Did you always want to Printing and Photography? Photography yeah, I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, from when I was 10 years old I’ve had a camera in my hands. About 16 or 17 years ago I went professional and I’ve stuck with it. Its how I met John, because he’s got the graphic design background he used to do my printing when he had a business in Sutton Coldfield, doing canvases and framing. So we knew each other from there about 7 years ago, after that I lived in London for a bit, and I’d just moved back here when he closed up his previous business and we just joined up on this venture. We were round the back of Aston to start with, doing t-shirts and we decided to move over here, to the custard factory and we’ve gone on to bigger and better things. Well, were still finding our feet, but its been better since we’ve been here.
Who are your biggest influences, in a photography sense? My biggest influence is a family friend, over in Ireland, really kept on inspiring me. He really put the fire underneath me. Some of the more famous people like Joe McNally who’s got really amazing lighting skills. Chase Jarvis, one thing he taught me is it looks cool to just lie on the floor, covered in crap, and that everything doesn’t have to be at eye level. Everything about him is just cool, it does help that he uses Nikon! There’s also another guy called Joey Lawrence, he’s a young guy and its inspiring to see how far he’s got so quick. Another guy who has really nice lighting is Martin Schoeller, he shoots headshot with tube lights and its really cool. And just magazines in general, and once you’ve got a photographic eye you look at things in a different perspective. You don’t see what everyone else sees, you look at everything like a photo. And I suppose my brother is an inspiration as well, he did a photography degree, even though he hasn’t taken it up after that, it was in the dark room days but he inspires me as well.
What do you enjoy most about being based at the custard factory? Being here, I think it’s the people. Its like every body’s mates, everyone’s a friend you just don’t know them yet. The people, the like-mindedness, the willing to help, and the workflow that comes through from them. We’ve hit a niche market here, because of all of the new businesses coming here. Everyone needs business cards, promotional material, and websites. We do the photography, the work wear, the t-shirts. It’s nice to be here, we like to be here, the doors always open, and we’ve got music on and cooking food. It’s like a common room, people come in, have a cup of tea and a chat. The only thing that I’ve found funny is that no one sells custard!
R h ob t i w -When did you B w e e start working at the custard i v
factory? I stared working in the custard factory about 3 and half years ago, id help out at another shop here around 9 years ago too. -What do you like most about being here? The custard factory has a nice little community, all the shop keeps get along, its far enough away from all of the main stream chain stores in the bullring but its still close enough to only take a few minutes to walk there. Have you always wanted to be a graffiti artist, and what got you into it? I started off painting the same way as everyone else, painting on what ever derelict places we could find. That lasted for a while until I started meeting other people and traveling.
-Does the custard factory host any Graff events? The custard factory as a whole donâ€™t hold Graff events, they have been good enough to let me use some of their spaces to hold events, we recently has the shops 10th birthday here and held it across Digbeth. The custard factory hosted a few in the early 90s called Graffiti Bastards but I think that was it until I came along. -Has the business been more of a success since moving to the custard factory? The business was already thriving in the current location, the move to the custard factory was due to space and wanting to be closer to the city centre, the custard factory was just the obvious choice being in the cultural centre.
-Where do you see the custard factory being in the next 5,10 yrs.? Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen many changes in a short time, people have come any gone, its meant that only business's that are serious about themselves have stayed, the size of the place has almost doubled aswel with the new building completed. -Has the art scene changed around Digbeth since the opening of the custard factory? I’m not sure about since the Custard Factory opened but its certainly changed in the last 5 years, Newso had a studio not far from here, He was the 1st to start painting the streets here seriously then when I moved here a lot more walls opened up do to good relationships with the neighbour’s, Digbeth has always had a good art scene, I remember coming here to look at graffiti more than 10 years ago, there was also a warehouse around the corner that held graffiti and street art exhibitions and the Rainbow has been the home of Birmingham’s Secret walls competition since day 1.
-When was the bench 504 established and how? The bench started out in 2002 in the front of a tattoo studio, the closest place to get paint from was Nottingham or Bristol. -Any thing we should know about the Graff scene in Birmingham? The Graffiti scene was close to dying in around 2005, a councillor was looking for an easy promotion and thought-combating graffiti was an easy target. He made the only legal wall illegal, he thought all graffiti artists were 16 year old drug addicts, he later realised his mistake and quickly back tracked and got another legal wall erected, this was not even a 10th of the size of the original though that was legal for over 20 years and had some of the worlds biggest names paint there, There is another artist now trying to get it back legal again. -Whatâ€™s the difference between Graffiti tagging and street art? Graffiti art street art are totally different, they both seem to have been labelled graffiti in recent years though. Graffiti is free hand with spray cans, weather it be legal or illegal. Street art is all the other stuff, stickers, paste-ups, stencils, street instillations. Asking a street artist about graffiti is like asking Beckham about rugby, he uses a ball but its not football, street artists use a spray can but its not graffiti.
The town The town was a three-night action packed event, each night filled with a mix of D.js, Performers and up and coming Musicians. The event was housed in “The old Library” and kicked off at 10pm running right though till your feet couldn’t take anymore.
the scratch perverts
“Scratch perverts” are a group of the best turntablists in the world today, the group originally consisted of 4 talented d.js but recently expanded to 8 member London crew. The famous mixers came on stage at 12pm to kick of the deep baseline dancers to an energetic cheer. The fire dancers situated in cages around the laser lit room simultaneously lit their batons and began to show us their skills. The two man act were on for about and an hour and showed us a good time with a mix of Dubstep, Drum and Bass and heavy beat scratching skills. “Scratch perverts” are a group of the best turntablists in the world today, the group originally consisted of 4 talented d.js but recently expanded to 8 member London crew. The famous mixers came on stage at 12pm to kick of the deep baseline dancers to an energetic cheer. The fire dancers situated in cages around the laser lit room simultaneously lit their batons and began to show us their skills. The two man act were on for about and an hour and showed us a good time with a mix of Dubstep, Drum and Bass and heavy beat scratching skills.
“The Other Tribe” 6 x piece live act that deliver an energetic live show. Think jubilant techno, with tribal percussion, ravey keyboards and rhythms and catchy topline melodies sung in a crazed falsetto by someone eager to convey the idea that there’s a party going on right here, right now – it’s no wonder they have become a festival favorite.
The Town The best Alternative night INTOWN! FOR 3 NIGHTS ONLY.
FREE SHOT (1 PER PERSON)
Pop Up Den
8th, 9th and 10th NOVEMBER The Town, The Old Library, @ The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham, b9 4aa