Native Creatives: Jill & Gill + "The Rare Bird" Exhibition

26th March, 2017

Gillian Henderson and Jillian Deering may be two of the most effervescent creatives you could ever come across. Talking through the highly-eclectic nature of their projects as both halves of Jill & Gill, I’m left convinced - and not for the first time - that the Dublin-based design duo have carved secret tunnels connecting to the same brain. Brimming with infectious energy and humour, their mental wavelengths are unfalteringly in-sync - as soon as one momentarily pauses for breath, the other swoops in seamlessly with added insights into the same train of thought.

Having taken the city’s burgeoning creative scene by storm by their harmonious fusion of Gill’s screen-printing and Jill’s illustrating, this April marks Jill & Gill’s first anniversary in business - the second birthday that they officially share (during their first collaborative session they discovered, to shock and surprise, that they were both born on the 16th of June). Skyrocketing to critical acclaim within weeks of debuting their creations, they are the epitome of modern-day artisans: championing hand-crafted practises with minimal computer work throughout each project, whilst displaying impressive social media prowess (their rapidly-growing fanbase is testament to that).

Diversity is, somewhat ironically, the main constant that permeates their work; from creating powerful symbolism for the Repeal Project to giving beloved 80s cartoons and iconic toys a 21st-century revamp. Another defining characteristic at the core of their ethos is relentless productivity. Alongside Jill & Gill’s creative output, Gill balances print-making under Gillian Prints and Oh My Days with work at Hang Tough Framing, while Jill juggles illustration commissions and frequent touring with James Vincent McMorrow - no-one could question just how prolific a work ethic they naturally possess. 

Having long proven that Jill & Gill’s vibrant works transcend pigeon-holing, it couldn’t be more fitting than their first solo show, “The Rare Bird”, will spotlight the Grand Dame of Eclecticism: Advanced Style trailblazer Iris Apfel. Staged in the Fumbally Exchange - where the creatives first cut their teeth at pop-up shops among Dublin’s best-established designers - and brimming with as much colour, creativity and vivacity as the Brooklyn lady herself, the impending exhibition will feature 25 striking prints of Iris, each one completely re-inventing her kaleidoscopic outfit choices. Such an approach entirely breaks the mould that screen-printing is traditionally based on - a quintessentially repetitive process - and wades into territory that has been left fully unchartered up to now, both in Jill & Gill’s career trajectory and within Dublin’s creative circles. Nevertheless, the duo thrive on navigating new artistic challenges - and coupled with their openness in discussing creative processes and their innate desire to collaborate, those natural traits make them key protagonists in continuing to evolve the capital’s design industry.

With OFFSET’s creative conferences unfolding nearby - and a week of intense creative labour laying ahead - I spoke to Jill & Gill at length on the organic origins of their partnership (and the cow that brought them together), the multiple facets that make up their solo showcase and their inherent championing of fellow creative talents:

Multi-layering for "The Rare Bird" 

Do either of you remember a definitive moment in which your creative interests were sparked, or a particular time period growing up where you first started to engage artistically?

Gill: For me, it was always the case - my mum was a window-dresser for Switzers, so some of my earliest memories are of sitting in a pram and watching my mum dress clothes and do props. The house has always been full of paper, colours and crayons, and my mum also taught art when I was growing up. [Creativity] was just always there - it was always a part of my childhood. It never felt like a conscious decision where I said, “I’m going to go to art college, or design college!”. I think I started to make those conscious decisions after I did my portfolio course, [realising that] I wasn’t destined to do fine art or art college - and I ended up then choosing to go into a more structured role, which was interior design and then furniture design. It was a natural progression, but just involved making decisions along the way, or not making decisions - being told “no you can’t do that!” which, if someone told me that, only made me more determined to prove them wrong. 

Jill: I’ve always done art, I think it was the only thing I was good at! Out of all my siblings, I’m the only creative one - the others all went into very practical jobs. From an early age, around 6/7, I would be drawing and I loved it - it was very therapeutic for me, something I was just very comfortable in doing. So I knew from an early age, I knew [art school] was where I wanted to go for college. 

As soon as I got to college, and properly started studying art - that destroyed it for me. Maybe I just went down a totally wrong avenue, I probably should have done a portfolio course. I went straight from school, and in the bubble of being the best drawer at school, into a college where 100 of the people in my year were the best drawers. So I was completely taken out of my comfort zone, and I lost a lot of confidence and became very unsure of what I wanted to do. 

As great as college probably is now, for me back then, I didn’t feel like there was very much a support network, you know, where you could find guidance. And that probably could’ve been my own fault as well, not asking enough questions or knowing what I wanted to do, retracting more so. So I stopped - I wanted to get out of art college as soon as possible, and then obviously that led to music. The thing that sparked [art] up back again was when James [Vincent McMorrow] asked me to do stuff for him, and once I got to do what I wanted to do again, I realised this is what I love doing. It sparked that excitement up again.

repeal project jillgill.jpg

Illustration-finalising for Jill & Gill x Repeal Project

Fast-forwarding, how did you both meet? Was there an immediate sense that you wanted to work together?

G: This is something we’ve actually been talking about, and thinking of, over and over again! 

J: We met when I had my first solo exhibition, and Hang Tough mounted everything for me. I met Gill and kind of conversed with her, but that was it - we talked briefly, for a little bit. Then Gill went off to Tokyo and I think that was the last conversation we had, I popped my head into the shop after she came back and said “ah you’re back, how was your trip?”, but it wasn’t this immediate connection - we knew of each other. 

G: I knew Jill was illustrating and that she had a solo show - I didn’t go to it… J: But you were away! That was why! G: Yes, that was why. 

J: But then when I decided to do my second [solo show], which was two years later, and I was chatting to Rubio [of Hang Tough] and he said that I should really consider getting some of my illustrations screen-printed. And I said, “screen-printed?”. I just knew that it was some other creative medium, which I did in college but couldn’t really remember. 

G: But most people are in that headspace - they don’t know the other processes that are available. I think, in my case, that was where doing a design course where you constantly have to look at other processes [was beneficial]. Making a chair wasn’t as simple as drawing a chair, you had to then go and look at the materials, and find other people who could make those bits and pieces for you - J: [discovering] how to break it all down in order to make that chair - G: - and so there was problem-solving, all the time. 

Rainbow Trolls + beloved Bosco, given the Jill & Gill magic treatment last year

When I started printing, for me, screen-printing was originally a means of getting back to working with my hands, and utilising the courses that were actually around in Dublin, and realising I loved the process while being able to still use the computer side of things - there are so many digital applications that you can apply this to. Every now and then, I would get an email from someone asking if I could screen-print something for them, and so I would, it was something just ticking away. I would always be working with really bold graphics or logos, block colours.. so when Jill was like, “Can you screen-print this cow?”

J: “How does this all actually work? What do you need from me?”. Because I know Gill would always talk about layers, so I didn’t know if I had to break my illustrations down or how this all was going to happen. G: But then in my head, I was wondering how we would do this - so we were both panicking! But I had done so much research into the more fine-art sides of silk screen, so I knew that it would hold the detail [of the illustration]. It was just knowing whether it would hold the shading or the more rounded details that Jill could achieve with graphite pencil - could I replicate that onto the screen?

I always get the artwork, do the work, send it off to the client, but Jill wanted to be there as I was doing it - which for me, was a whole other level of pressure, and stress! J: But I looked at it as, “you’re teaching me something that I have no clue about”, and even if it was messed up, I would have been like, “Cool!”.

G: So Jill arrived, and at this point I was working out of my back garden in a 10 x 14 shed - J: and it was deadly! It was perfect.

 G: It was October, we put the duplex heating on and just started printing through.

 J: Because it is a long process, and we spent four/five hours there going through everything, obviously conversation started naturally happening and we found out that we had so much in common; even our whole vision of art. It felt like we had worked together already. 

G: I had had people in the studio with me before, and I had done screen printing with other artists, but this wasn’t the same - it was just very comfortable. We’ve always said that it just happened so organically. 

J: But it was really when we printed the cow, that I went, “Oh my god - this is a total game-changer!”, because before with my illustrations I always thought that I could only get better with drawing, and that was as far as I could go with my creative medium. G: And straight away, I felt that had solved a huge problem for me - I wanted to explore this medium and push the boundaries of screen-printing. I could do graphics and typography pieces, and I could work off the computer, but when it comes to actually getting that much detail - J: - the screen-print actually looked better than the drawing. Then I was saying, “I could draw this,” - G: Then straight away I was saying, “we could input this bit of layer and then that bit of colour, and maybe we could do a textured finish?” 

J: This is the balance between us because I don’t have any knowledge of colour, at all really - I’m pencil, black and white-based, that’s it, that and details are all I know - whereas Gill knows straight away when something is going to work with colour, and how colours are going to totally change the dynamic of the image, and that’s what I need. I need someone to be able to push it to that point. G: While I need someone to produce that fine detail and produce what we imagine in our heads - Jill can just draw that onto a piece of paper. We would just bash back ideas over and over again, and that we’d come to what we want - and Jill can draw it on a piece of paper exactly the way we want it. J: It means that there are no boundaries, which is really nice. 

G: On the 1st of January, we sat down and said we were going to do The Rare Bird. We kind of knew what we wanted the end product to be, and the event at the end of it - J: - but we were then thinking of the budget and wondering if we could call any favours in - maybe [in return] we could just print for anybody and everybody afterwards..! But without even having to barter or anything, people just said, “What can I do?”

G: Obviously we would post on social media and would be quite avid in what we post - we’ve realised the huge benefit of that. We’ve never had a solo show, we don’t sell in shops really, but yet everyone knows about us and everyone knows where to go if they want a print.

J: This exhibition was the first time that I actually drew a portrait of someone, not thinking of just drawing a portrait to get as much detail for a pencil drawing. There’s that aspect to it, and then there’s the whole other aspect of, “this needs to be printed and then have at least 15-20 layers of patterns and colours”, so I have detailed drawing in sections of it, and then other bits I’ve had to leave blank because we know that’s going to be colour. It’s a whole different way of thinking.

G: Again, Jill has slightly changed her illustration style for this project. And in terms of the printing side of it, we’re utilising the screen-printing process as a means to an end - we’re not using it in a traditional sense. Screen-printing is a repetitive process where you re-create the same thing again and again to make a limited run of something - but we’re not [using it in this way], we’re creating a collection of one-offs. Each print will be individual - it’s just using this process to get the textures and finishes that we know we can get through screen-printing but not in a traditional “edition” sense. I think that we’ve both changed things in the way that we work, in order to achieve the concept that we have in our head. 

J: It’s a total challenge to take one image and do it twenty-five times, continually modifying it. G: Yet I can’t envisage this exhibition being anything else other than that way. Okay, Jill could have drawn twenty-five different Irises, but I just don’t think that would be the same in terms of a creative challenge. The way we’re doing it is the best way to merge what Jill & Gill do as a duo - J: - because if I was to do twenty-five different images of Iris, it becomes more about that, and though you see the colour and the patterns, this needs to be completely 50/50. Pushing the boundaries on both sides. Even though you’re taking one image, there’s change at every step between the first one and the twenty-fifth piece, even though it’s the one image.

J: We both came at the idea from totally different perspectives. Iris was someone I’d always wanted to draw. I had seen a couple of prints done of her, and I’m not going to toot my own horn but I just really wanted to draw her. I think Gill brought her up, I can’t remember what it was, but I had just been thinking about her the other day. I showed [Gill] a print of her, and we were kind of analysing it and saying, “Gill, you could bring out so much more colour in this - it’s a little too flat here - I know I could bring out better detail in the drawing - ” and we strongly thought that it should be a project for us. 

G: This was in June of last year. Then we did the pop-up in July, so that idea got packed. Jill initially drew a rough outline of the final sketch - I have an image on my phone that Jill sent me - J: Yeah, I think I did the majority of her face, but I hadn’t finished her hands, or down her neck or anything like that.

G: So it was parked - we just didn’t have time - it was put back into the portfolio until Christmas time. I think in giving ourselves that amount of time, we always had it in the back of our minds as something that we had to finish or start. Also when working on other projects, we kept realising, as we kept building and building and building that Iris was there to finish. 

Official poster for Iris, 2014

With the colours, I would be watching the documentary and then doing some research into her, and then understanding her background, and obviously all of her quotes and all that she stands for - all of those sides to her. I think it gave us time to think and dissect what we wanted to do with the end project - and obviously also giving me more time to experiment with the screen and the different effects and finishes that we can get. 

J: I think that another core reason for using Iris as a person kind of hits home for both of us. She had a job as an interior designer with her husband, she travelled the world, she did up the White House.. everyone wanted Iris to do up their homes. Yet people know her for her look - G: - the persona that she has created. You couldn’t really envisage anyone other than her being a model to pitch for and stand for - in terms of colour, creativity, everything, throw it all on the table. “More is more, less is a bore.” 

I think that for us, and what we wanted to showcase, we can give you so much more - right now, this is us just completely throwing out the rulebook as well. I think for someone who’s never known about Iris, or maybe doesn’t know too much about her, I hope when they come to this exhibition that they get a sense that there’s so much to her, so many dimensions. Us trying to capture even just the colourful side of her, with 25 different interpretations, is just one tiny part of her that will leave them going, “I need to go check this woman out!”.

J: It’s not just about this woman who wears these incredible glasses - oh my god, her outfits are ridiculous, they’re incredible. 

That’s why it’s even more fitting that you don’t have it as the repetitive 25 prints, because she’s so multi-faceted with all the layers she constantly has, the jewellery -

G: Exactly, there’s nothing repetitive about her!

J: The amount of videos that we’ve watched on her, and I’ve never seen the same outfit on her.

G: She doesn’t have set outfits - we’ve watched Advanced Style and all of her documentaries, and we’ve looked around in Ireland trying to find the equivalent of that. We’re quite aware of who walks by, what we see, and I think with Iris, there’s something about her - she pulls everything together with instinct. There’s no actual rhyme or reason to why she might [put an outfit on] - it just feels right. 


G: I think we’re also going to approach the printing in that instinctive way. We have ideas of what colours we like and what colours we’ve seen her wear, and the prints and the patterns and the textures, but really when it boils down to the actual printing - J: - we really don’t know what’s going to happen! We’re just going to go with our gut, and go with the process. And again, that’s going against the grain of what screen-printing is. 

G: You do need to be prepared, you need to know what colour inks you’re using - but we’re just going to feel it, really. In that case, we’ve just had to block off an entire week of our calendar to just go into the work space and literally lock ourselves in there. 

We’re itching - we’re just ready to do this! I think this has been the most pressure on us, but at the same time, it’ll literally just take that first pull of ink on the screen and from then, we’ll get in the zone. 

You have all the ideas stockpiled up, and now you’ll finally be able to unleash them.

G: Yeah, right now I feel so rigid and tight all of a sudden!

J: We’ve never talked about something so much prior to actually doing it - we usually do it the other way around. So there is that pressure there, because people are like, “Jesus, we’re dying to see this now!”. It’s become this huge thing - G: - now it all comes down to us producing the work and doing what we know we can do. It’s exciting!

And probably somewhat nerve-wracking, given that it’s a departure from the way you would have approached projects before.

G: Definitely. But we’ve proofed the artwork, we know what possible problems might come about, we know what we might need to do or change. So those things are prepared. We’ve kind of learnt from when we did prints before, when we didn’t know how it was going to print, but yet we’d already set things in motion, and other people who’d been collaborating with us were all involved. I just know that moment before I print through the screen, saying, “Is this going to do? Am I just going to have to go back to the drawing board and start again?”, and [the moment] after that one pull of the ink over the screen and pulling the screen up, being like, “It worked! Oh my god.” - J: - because then you know that everything else is going to be fine. 

G: That’s the beauty of screen-printing. When you know that [first] one is perfect, you’ll say, “Grand! I’ll do a hundred of them.” - but we don’t have that. We have that same build-up with each and every one of the prints, 25 times by 25 times - because we’re going to have 470-something layers. 

J: And if you do a single layer wrong on one piece, that could destroy it. 

G: But I would not be happy doing it any other way. I wouldn’t be happy - I just can’t envisage it any other way than us high-fiving 470 times! That’s how the best scenario goes. And then the other scenario is that we have to solve a problem, but something good will come of it - I know that.

J: And we could discover something that we’ve never come across any way in screen-printing.. I know I definitely will! ‘Cause I’m not half as exposed to it as Gill.

G: We’ve already gotten little side things that have come from it - J: - that are all linked back to Iris. So that’s cool. 

"More is more and less is a bore"... - Iris Apfel

J: We’re excited to expose Iris to the people that only know her for her glasses, or just don’t really know anything about her. She’s such a hero. She’s her own agent, and she will probably work literally until the day she dies. She’s so passionate about just being who she is, and people just want to be around her. That’s the dream! That is the absolute dream.

G: I don’t think I could ever stop. We don’t stop. The majority of the time, we have the best conversations about our work probably at around 2am. We could spend the whole weekend together and we won’t talk about our work at all. There’ll be little snippets of, “We should totally write that down, or do something about that,” but then I might go home and then have our best back and forth brainstorming - “Oh, I linked you on that Pinterest account”, “Oh, here’s a screen-grab”, “Oh, did you watch this? Watch that documentary.” and it literally will just be that. J: “Guess who I met? They’re talking about this - we should do this!”.  

G: That’s how we work. People have asked us who and where we find our inspiration from, and before Jill has said Caroline Craig. One of them is based in London, one of them is based in New York. 

J: When I came across them, I thought that [work approach] is kind of what we do. G: We have to just make a conscious effort that when Jill’s touring or one of us is working on a job, that we’re still checking in with each other; whether that means, “there’s an email there in drafts, can you look over it and just add to it and send it? And it’s coming from both of us”. When neither of us are on the same continent, it’s just having to make that conscious effort. But it’s not that conscious - it just works. Loads of people are like, “Where are you based?” - J: We don’t really have a base. G: I don’t think we’d be good at working a 9-5.

Idiosyncratic paint-palettes - "The Rare Bird" preparation

G: We’ll be able to fully show our creative process [in the exhibition], because we’re going to have videographers in with us for the week, who’ll be filming us working.

J: They’re going to come in for maybe an hour every day next week to just kind of document the whole process. 

G: We’re trying to communicate [our process] to people, but you can’t tell them properly - J: - visuals always end up being better when trying to explain these things. We’re going to have a gallery of our tools on show. 

G: We’ll be really showcasing Jill & Gill - it’s not just about the finished end result.

J: It’s all about our skills, and explaining that to people.

G: You’ll see the original illustration, so you’ll see how the prints came from that. You’ll see a screen, you’ll see the ink, you’ll see the mess, and you’ll see the finished piece. The completed process. That’s what people are buying into. They’re buying into our creative thoughts, and our artwork, and our skill-sets. I think if somebody else set out to do the exact same project, it just wouldn’t be the same. We can see that through looking at other illustrations and graphic pieces. 

J: There are endless digital images out there which are great, but we wanna get back to the physical, crafted side of things. 

G: And that’s the thing - there’s been hardly any computer work involved at all, other than scanning and breaking the drawing down for the screens. That’s the only time we’re using it.

G: We want people to know that it’s not just about the 25 pieces on the wall - it’s the whole event. I share my working space with a furniture designer, so I’m thinking, “Hmm, if we need a display, we might need different levels.. Gavin, you’re designing a few new benches, do you want to showcase them and use them as props?”. And then we’d want music, which we’d have to curate - it even comes down to the window, thinking how the window’s going to look and how the space looks when people first walk in, how the pieces are framed, what the inside of the frame is going to be, how it’s going to be mounted, whether or not it’s going to float.. All those things. Envisaging that it someone wants to buy the piece, they’d get it with the device that we’re hanging it with, and knowing that it’s all our creation. J: Everything’s going to be handmade. G: I just want to know that we can walk in there and stand behind the space, the work, how everything looks. Those collaborations on furniture and display all tie in with Iris and her love of interiors.

And it’s not natural for any of those creative elements to be cut off - they should never be boxed off from each other.

G: We had two ways to go about it. We’d either just hang the prints, white walls, back off, that’s it - or we would go full-on palm leaves, luxury, over-the-top, but still refined enough that it’s about the work. J: Creating an experience - and hopefully a little insight into us, and how our minds work.

On Dublin’s thriving creative domain:

J: It’s amazing that you can have skill-sets and can collaborate with someone, but it’s when you do that one project that leads you to that person, and then you end up learning something else that adds to your skills or to your personality. That’s how I see Ireland evolving in the creative scene - in the past three or four years, especially - that’s everybody’s kind of mixing mediums.

G: Having a perspective on someone working outside of Ireland, being able to move back in every month, and realising that [in places like London, everyone’s kind of private and they kind of keep their knowledge and skill-set to themselves for fear that someone else could duplicate it. Whereas here, there’s this openness among everyone. I know, as a print-maker, so many different print-makers around Ireland - J: - and you’re more likely to be embraced than anything. 

G: If I see somebody doing cool and ask how they did that, they’ll happily say how they did it. J: I think it’s the culture of Ireland, though, because everybody knows everybody - it’s such a small place, there’s a link to almost everyone.

G: I was talking to somebody from a creative agency last night, and they had a little bit of a different perspective on the whole thing. They would be pitching for jobs, whereas if you’re in the category of “makers”, or “creators”, you’re not just creating an idea, you’re creating a physical thing. It’s a different kind of environment. You need to have a varied skill-set to get the best of yourself. Maybe in a creative agency there’s more of a closed-door set-up.

J: In the ideas-driven advertising and design world, it’s still very competitive. We’re totally cool with sharing, before we’ve even done something, because we’re confident in our skill-sets. But an idea is different, and someone can take that idea and use their skill-sets.

Technicoloured "Trolls" by Jill & Gill

G: Ireland is a really good environment - Dublin especially, it’s buzzing right now. 

J: I don’t know if we see it because we’re involved more with it now, but the sector is flourishing!

G: There are still so many things happening that I’d love to be involved with. As much as people involved in those things are probably looking at things we’re involved with. We’re open to doing everything - between Jill’s music and her connections, and my having worked with loads of artists on different exhibitions, it brings a volume of connections to the table - J: - in Ireland, in the arts, but even the culinary aspect of Ireland is just on another level. When I see different little cafes and restaurants opening, you get to know the people - even Fia cafe, they opened up and as the couple bought one of my prints separately for their own home, they then wanted my print on the cafe wall! You’d be starting to hang out with them and their skill-sets of food and coffee are incredible, as is their space, and you’re putting your skills amongst their skills to create this beautiful environment. It’s so nice just to see small businesses taking a risk and everyone helping each other out, and saying, “Yeah, this is Ireland, and we’re proud of it ‘cause it’s deadly!” G: And we hopefully won’t be seeing as many chains coming in. 

Jill & Gill's massively-acclaimed Bosco, replete with TÁ badge + heart-cupped hands

G: I’ve been thinking about how a lot of people contact us to try get us to do work for them, and I’ve come to the realisation that when clients contact us, it almost always ends up being just one or the other of us that is needed, yet they want Jill & Gill. But I feel that, individually, as an illustrator and a print-maker, Jill & Gill is, for us, doing our self-directed project. This is our hobby, which is slowly - thankfully - becoming the possibility of a career. 

But it stemmed as a real passion project.

J: Oh, big time.

G: I think that people think we just sat down and said, “Okay, we’re gonna collaborate now”, but it just happened. I think that’s the fine line where people are seeing us as a brand, and a company and a business, while we see it as just doing something that we’re passionate about. But you can’t always communicate that back to the clients. Right now, that’s probably our biggest struggle - communicating that [doing] Jill & Gill is our passion. 

J: That’s why we’re doing this exhibition, because I think that when we did our first collaboration together, and then it was, “Oh we need to sign this piece, what are we going to call ourselves?” so we just immediately thought of our names. But then everybody’s like, “Oh who did your branding?”?! Sorry, what branding? 

I think we’re in a society now that is very much driven by brands - and that’s fine, but that’s what people kind of focused on first and foremost with us. Everything kind of escalated in a great way, with work and jobs coming in, but as Gill was saying it was more that they wanted Jill & Gill regardless of whether it’s screen printing needed or illustration needed.

A final glimpse at one of "The Rare Bird's 25 Iris prints

This exhibition is really pressing pause, going back to what we wanted to do as a duo, and really explain to people that not only why our pieces are very bespoke, and they aren’t cheap and they aren’t that expensive, we want to show people that this is all hand-crafted from the get-go. It’s a long process, and there’s a lot of thought that’s gone into it, and a lot of physical work - G: - and it’s the best of what we do together. It’s also our way of saying that if it’s a case where, down the road, we’re able to work as Jill & Gill for clients, to get the first of Jill & Gill we need to utilise both of our skills together to make that happen. It’s not going to happen with just one of us - I cannot do what Jill does. J: and vice versa. I can throw a bit of ink on the screen, but I really don’t know what I’m doing, you know!

J: I think when we were part of that pop-up shop, with Emma Manley in the Fumbally Exchange back in August, we didn’t know how we were going to fit in with all these fashion designers - with prints on the wall, we felt like we’d be total underdogs. But that was such a learning curve, those ten days, and very surprising to us because we did really well, and we sold everything that was on the wall. We kind of walked away holding ourselves a little bit higher! And again, meeting these amazing women who have been in the game a lot longer than us, who gave us great advice, and now we still meet up with them and bounce ideas off them. Jenny [Hutson, Edge Only] and Emma are just brilliant, and they’re so encouraging. They kept saying, “you’re gonna be sold out!” - G: - and we’d just sit there going, “Yeah, girls, whatever,”..!

I think up until that point it was just our little bubble, and we were just making work, doing stuff that we wanted to do, but then we realised recently that from that exhibition and the ten days that we were there, the following three weeks after that produced the Repeal print, the work with the Repeal Project and all our involvement there, we got contacted by Currabinny and ended up doing work with James [Kavanagh] and William [Murray] for their brand, and then James Vincent McMorrow got in touch and we were designing merchandise for the tour and then we met with Helen Devine and rolled out the “Original Hotline Bling” project. And all of that was literally from September. 

hotline bling.jpg

Signing off "The Original Hotline Bling" prints

That led us to realise that we couldn’t just operate from our bedroom, it had gotten too big. Also having contacted people and asked them to meet up, we realised that we needed to get some kind of space, so then we took a small studio space which we quickly outgrew - which even I alone outgrew, from the printing side of things, within a few weeks - to now having a space which I can offer other creatives. There’s space for Jill & Gill just to throw ink around and stick things up on walls, and leave them there, and they can be there for the next two or three years - just to experiment, and to work. Already, we’re thinking of what we’re going to do next, and we have ideas - so to be able to start experimenting with those ideas, to have the physical means to do that is great.

J: And the beauty about this whole thing is that nothing has been planned - nothing’s been orchestrated. This show is probably the most planned thing we’ve done - the first thing that we’ve physically sat down and planned, which we kind of have to. Everything else has been so natural, and natural change and natural growth, and it always feels right - with the people that we’ve met, that we’ve worked with, we’re not second-guessing ourselves.

J: We are all about collaborations, big time. We always say that to get the best out of ourselves, is to collaborate - because you’re not really gonna know what your strengths or weaknesses in yourself are on your own. You might have a fair idea, but it’s not until you’re someone else that you say, “oh, I’m actually better at this side of things”, and, “you are so much better at this, and this just makes it incredible now”.

You’re not putting yourselves into any box.

G: That’s it, and then even when there is that kind of sense where we take on a project or we go down a route where I might be a little out of my comfort zone, more likely than not, Jill has the skill-set to bring me along to accomplish that goal and then something happens, and vice-versa. We know where to tag team and be like, “You’re it, this is you now!”. Everyone, just go find yourself a Jill! Find your doppelgänger!

But the great thing is, from the sounds of it you weren’t looking for each other. I feel like it would almost ruin it if people went out looking for a “Jill” or “Gill”.

G: Exactly, it just happened at the time. We were just creating work, creating stuff, using what we had around us at the time. 

J: It was fun, it was easy, no pressure, except for what we wanted to do. And then people started to pay attention to it so we went, “Oh! Okay, we do have something here!”.

Jill & Gill will launch their inaugural solo exhibition this Wednesday 29th March, with public viewings of the final 25 prints open from Thursday 30th to Sunday 2nd April. Click "here" to enjoy a vibrant teaser video of their highly-anticipated showcase, while following the dynamic duo on Instagram will offer insights "from sketch to screen" and all else in between.

Amelia xx

La Femme Éclectique