This is the twelfth article in the #sellbuyart series…
To help individuals understand today’s art marketplace, #sellbuyart is a collection of guest articles written by artists, gallerists, exhibition organisers, online sellers, buyers and collectors. They provide valuable insights into the journeys, experiences and views of others in the art sector.
#sellbuyart No.12 – A summary
Stella and Gem are identical twin artists and designers from Brighton. Their story is an inspiration to anyone facing the decision to give up the 9-5 and follow their dreams. Starting up Two Faced Twins was a dream come true, but they soon realised that the realities of running a successful creative business wasn’t plain sailing.
Guest blog by Two Faced Twins – An artist’s perspective
About Two Faced Twins
We have a very unique way of working together. As a skilled artist Stella creates the initial illustrations, and once finished, hands them over to me. I then take over as lead designer, working on them digitally, manipulating them and adding colour.
We create striking artwork and homeware for contemporary homes. With its pop art-esque vibe, we like to think that having a Two Faced Twins piece of artwork instantly makes your home look funky and seriously cool! We have an impressive array of quirky and unique TFT homeware, including coasters, large glass chopping boards, placemats, clocks and cards.
Stella and Gem of Two Faced Twins
When we were at school, we were known as the ‘no hopers’. The teachers never thought we would ever amount to anything in life. We were always thrown into the lowest sets and were even advised not to take the full amount of GCSE’s due to our ‘lack of intelligence’. Fair enough, we didn’t do a scrap of work and I don’t think we gained a handful of GCSE’s between us, but luckily, very slowly, our brains expanded (a little). As twins, we always felt like outcasts. We didn’t feel ‘normal’. We were always the weird twins.
From the age of three, Stella spent most of her time drawing cartoons of horrifically violent scenes with blood, guts and gore. She grew up wanting to become a cartoonist and would spend hours in our local cafe, sneakily drawing people queuing for their coffee’s. Eventually, she went on to study Illustration at Northbrook University.
I attended Northbrook that same year as Stella and studied Fashion and Textiles. My main inspirations have always been fashion of the decades. I moved to China a few years back and became obsessed with their enchanting culture. The bright colours and buildings fascinated and inspired me! I would spend my days off painting and photographing the scenery and architecture, as well as (trying) to learn the language. I had always wanted to travel, ever since the age of 8 when I used to dream about being one of the Wild Thornberry’s, travelling around in a camper van exploring the World. Somehow, I thought travelling itself was a job?
The Beginning of TFT
The year before starting Two Faced Twins, Stella was working as a gardener and I was working in a travel company. It was a 9-5 office job and I very quickly realised I was living for the weekends and bank holidays. One day, on the walk to work, I suddenly stopped in the street and thought ”Hang on a minute. Is this it?” I’d never had an epiphany before but something in me knew that my life had to change. That night, I went home, full of excitement because I just knew something amazing was about to happen. Stel and I spoke all night, running through countless business ideas that we could do together. From becoming twin YouTubers, to running a pancake business, to opening a sandwich shop. The ideas were bouncing around all over the place.
Eventually, we realised it had been staring us in the face all along… we quit our full-time jobs and started working on our new-found ambition as an artist duo the very next day.
With that, Two Faced Twins was born.
Two Faced Twins artwork
We lived off our savings for months, scratching around for money whilst working as poor, starving artists! There was no way we were going to continue to do that. Not on my watch!! We knew we had to start becoming much more business minded. We joined the Princes Trust, got ourselves a mentor and that was when our business journey really started. And what a rollercoaster it’s been.
At first, our family were very unsure about our newly found ambition to become twin artists. They were very doubtful, and it took a while for them to come around to this new, random idea. It’s not like we had always wanted to work together as artists.
Setting up our business has been a lot harder than we ever imagined. The whole thing has been difficult. We thought we could simply quit our jobs and start earning our millions pretty quickly. Oh how naive we were…
The Creative Process
Before we started, not only had we never set up a business before, but we had also never created a piece of artwork together in our entire lives. I don’t know why we thought we could do it! Figuring out how to work together has been one long, massive rollercoaster of a journey. In our first year, we were creating countless pieces of artwork and they were all fit for the bin! It took us an entire year to create a joint piece of artwork that we both deemed acceptable. We tried so many different processes, but all of them felt very forced, which stunted our creativity massively. I used to force myself to try and create art like Stel did – detailed illustrations using fine liner pens. But there was one minor problem… I can’t draw. Once we’d come to terms with that, Stel started trying to force herself to work the way I did – in colour and digitally, which was completely alien to her.
After a while, we realised we needed to play to our strengths. We started to work separately on each piece of art, and since then, we’ve never looked back. Stella now creates the initial detailed illustrations. Once finished, I take over as lead designer and work on them digitally, manipulating them and adding colour.
As twins, we would be unable to work without the other. Stella has never been able to work with colour and seeing as I can’t draw to save my life, our opposing artistic skills mean we fit together like a jigsaw. The perfect team.
Setting up a creative business has been the opposite of plain sailing, with us sadly deciding to quit Two Faced Twins earlier on this year. We realised how much we were sacrificing our relationship as twin sisters. It got to the point where all we would talk about was the business. We were colleagues, not sisters. I would spend all my time nagging Stel to get things done and getting ratty with her from stress, which resulted in her working less and less. The whole thing became a massive chore, which was the opposite of what we were trying to achieve when setting up our own business. We just weren’t enjoying ourselves anymore.
Eventually, we decided that the only way we could get our relationship back was to end the business. I remember thinking I’d rather have Stel than have a business and money. So, we made the tough decision to end it.
Four months went by, with us chatting on the phone every day, and NO business talk!! We’d got our relationship back.
SOMETHING AMAZING HAPPENED…
One day, we decided to take part in an art event – The Artist Open Houses. It was only meant to be a bit of fun over a few weekends. But something happened over those weekends that we never expected. We sold everything. The event was so successful that we were even having people returning to our house, weeks after the event had finished, wanting more and more of our artwork and homeware.
It was then that we realised we couldn’t let this opportunity slide. We had spent months and months building something really special, surely we couldn’t just throw it all away? So, we made a pact that we would start up Two Faced Twins again, but with the intention of always having fun. If we find ourselves miserable, then we stop, immediately, and have a break. We only ever work when we’re enjoying ourselves.
Two Faced Twins coasters, part of the homeware collection on offer
The future of TFT
Ever since we got back together, Two Faced Twins has skyrocketed from there. Our vision is to become an internationally well-known art and homeware brand. Eventually, diversifying into clothing and stationary, as well as continuing to provide large artworks for contemporary spaces.
We have big visions for ourselves and the business. Currently our art (and homeware) is in Montague Gallery in Worthing (Montague Quarter, Liverpool Road, Worthing) and in Clarkes Art Shop in Brighton (11 Bond St, Brighton BN1 1RD).
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