We caught up with Joseph Cox and Alice Thomson, the duo behind Form studio and shop.
Fancy getting your hands on a colourful composite of Hull’s most famous landmarks? Or maybe a geometric feast for the eyes? Then look no further, ‘cause Form have got you covered. Launched in 2017 on Humber Street, Form is a paradise for fans of graphic design, stocking a range of prints from the city’s best up-and-coming designers, along with stationery, homeware and greetings cards from designers across the North.
We wanted to find out more, so co-owners Joseph Cox and Alice Thomson filled us in.
WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA TO SET UP FORM?
J: I’ve been a professional graphic designer since I graduated around seven years ago and had been working at a local agency, but I wanted a creative outlet to share the work I was making in my own time and also celebrate other people’s stuff.
A: We started with a website, but we’d always go and look around places and say to each other “if we had our own shop we could sell this…” and thought, why don’t we just do it?
J: Yeah, we kind of just built it up, from doing markets with my artwork, then adding in other local artists and expanding from there. When we got the shop on Humber Street I left my job and focused more on my own work.
WHAT DREW YOU TO HUMBER STREET?
A: We used to hang out here all the time before everything got done up. We’d just come here on a weekend for a little walk and pop into Thieving Harry’s or Fruit. We’d talk about what it would be like to have a place, and then an opportunity came up in the middle of 2017 to get our first unit.
J: We thought, let’s just do it. It was a great opportunity to test a small space, and we only opened on weekends at first. That went well, so it gave us the confidence to carry on. We’ve always felt part of the street so it made sense for us to be here.
Towards the end of 2017 we moved into this shop, and we’re still working on it. We’re building shelves, we’ve got signage to come and we’re filling it with even more awesome stuff. And we’re now open throughout the week!
WHAT KIND OF GOODIES CAN PEOPLE PICK UP AT FORM?
A: Lots of nice stuff! Print is the bread and butter of Form, I suppose. We sell a lot of illustrative contemporary print that’s colourful and affordable. That’s what’s so great about print – compared to paint and sculpture, which can be expensive, it’s is a nice way to own low cost artwork that is still amazing. And then we’re trying to grow our stationery range, so if you’re a proper stationery geek like me, you’ll love it.
J: We’re also stocking greetings cards, which fit nicely with our print range. They’re more creative than what you’ll find in a high street card shop – they are produced by independent illustrators and we tend go for more abstract designs that you can apply some meaning to yourself. And books as well – we didn’t originally plan to do books so soon but they are great.
We’ve been massive fans of Nobrow for years. They’re publishers and they get illustrators from around the world to produce amazing stuff, ranging from limited edition A3 printed books through to a 5-metre long concertina book of illustrations.
HOW DO YOU FIND NEW ARTISTS TO STOCK IN YOUR SHOP?
A: Since we were both interested in art and were following people on social media, we had a list of people we’d loved for years when we first started. We were already buying cards online because there wasn’t anywhere in Hull to get them. So we just decided – we’ll stock them in Hull.
J: Since then it’s been about going to print fairs, local markets, browsing social media and websites like It’s Nice That and Creative Review – the places where you can see what current and contemporary illustrators are working on. There’s something about the way that younger designers are working that is very different.
WHICH ARTISTS CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE IN THE SHOP?
A: Locally, Rosie Barratt was the very first artist we stocked that wasn’t Joseph. Her work is a bit comic-like and is quite tongue in cheek and we just loved it straight away.
J: Other than that we have Emily Welham, who I went to school with. Her style is quite melancholy and ambient but also has a comic vibe. We have a few pieces from Alison Hardcastle, who studied at Hull School Of Art & Design, and also Lydia Caprani, who organises Hull Print Fair.
Going slightly further afield we have The Printed Peanut from Leeds and Stuart Gardiner just across the river. Stuart works on homeware that uses incredible infographics about the history of gin, plants that bees like and all the different cheeses. These are just a few of the brilliant artists we stock.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE FUTURE, BOTH FOR HULL AND ON A PERSONAL LEVEL?
J: Last year was great, so I just hope that people keep coming to stuff. Having that massive push from Hull’s year as City of Culture to say ‘Here’s what is happening, go to these things’ got people to support the city. The biggies like Freedom Festival and Humber Street Sesh, and weekly gigs at Fruit and O’Rileys and The Adelphi were happening before 2017, and they haven’t stopped.
A: The buzz of 2017 gave us the confidence to take the leap and get the shop and we don’t want people to feel that now it’s 2018, that isn’t possible. We want to feel the momentum continuing. Our next steps are to diversify a little and maybe sell some homeware, and we’d also like to sell our work and work with other artists in a wholesale capacity, because it is so hard to find places to sell your work. It would also be lovely for me to work full time here in Form!
You can browse the latest goodies from local designers at Form, situated at 16 Humber Street in Hull’s Fruit Market.