Many Hands' Ciara Phelan on how to set up an art and illustration label

Many Hands is a new art and illustration label and online store selling stylish prints, cards and homewares. It was set up by Digital Arts contributor Ciara Phelan and fellow Brighton University alumni Adam Ellison. We caught up with Ciara after the label's showcase debut at the Pick Me Up exhibition at Somerset House.

The Many Hands room at Pick Me Up.

Ciara Phelan (left)

DA: So how did Many Hands come to be?

CP: "We launched Many Hands in December after a year's worth of planning, which involved myself and Adam sitting in the pub for hours writing lists and filling out business plans. We set up Many Hands as we wanted to create a platform that would showcase artist products.

"We realised that most illustrators sell products and prints as a side project to their commercial work but it always remained just that: a side project. We wanted to promote this great work to a wider audience and give the artist a reason make time to produce it.

Adam Ellison

Ciara Phelan

Lizzie Stewart

Owen Gildersleeve. Available as a free desktop wallpaper

Ryan Todd

Sister Arrow

Stone and Spear

DA: How did you pick the artists you wanted to work with and get them involved?

CP: "At Many Hands my main role is artist management, so it was up to me to decide who should take part. My first shortlist was about 100 illustrators long – so I quickly realised I need a criteria that they would have to fulfil. The main reason why I chose the artists we have is quite simple: I love their work. Everyone has a different style and approach but they are all super amazing at what they do.

"The other things I look for are motivation and drive: we wanted people who were already putting time and energy into managing a shop and creating products. We need people who will update the site regularly and help keep it interesting and dynamic.

"Lastly I just wanted nice people who are friendly and approachable and who don't have an ego. Many Hands is a group project that requires people to put in extra time and help others. It wouldn't work if everyone was concerned abut themselves."

DA: How did you get involved with Pick Me Up?

CP: "In December, I approached Claire Catteral who curates Pick Me Up. We had only just launched so she felt we might be too new to take part. Luckily in late February someone dropped out and we we're next on the list."

DA: How did the show go for you?

CP: "Pick Me Up was a great experience for everyone. It's the first time we have put on a group show so it was great to have all our work in one space. I've got to know everyone involved a lot better and its shown me what a great project Many Hands is.

"The response from the general public has also been amazing – everyone was extremely complimentary and genuinely excited when they walked in the room."

DA: What's next for Many Hands?

CP: "Firstly I think everyone needs to recuperate after a hectic Pick Me Up! After then we will regroup and think about future collaborations and potential publications. I would like to see us produce some work as a group, maybe a series of prints or book. We have so many great artists in one place, it would be a shame not to use them.

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