This month we sit down and chat with York-based design duo PrintPunk Studio, who have partnered with Athena since we had shops on the highstreet. Becky tells us how PrintPunk Studio went from selling tourist pictures to having their prints sold on the shelves on Ikea. Read on...
Becky Quartermaine and Tom Lambert are the husband and wife team behind PrintPunkStudio, a graphic art design business based in York, North Yorkshire.
Although PrintPunkStudio was only founded in 2018, Becky and Tom have been working together as a partnership since 2001 under the name Liquid Images.
1. How did you get started in your career?
Believe it or not…Tourism was a major contribution to our careers! Being based in York (a very popular tourist destination). We both have a photographic background (Tom is a photographer, Becky is an photographic editor). Back in 2001, we realised there was a gap in the market for affordable high quality photographic artwork of the city. We sold the artwork in various shops (including a lovely shop called Athena!). From there we moved into other areas of art photography, and image licensing to art publishers, from that we also progressed into graphic design… basically for the last 21 years we’ve been evolving, growing, and most importantly learning.
2. What happens during the average day in your studio?
We like to split our time fairly equally between creative and practical (fun vs boring!).
We usually start the day at 8am, picking up on emails/orders/queries that have come in overnight (we have quite a large customer base in the US).
Once we’ve got a handle on the overnight work, we usually sit down over a cup of tea (or 2) and discuss current projects/design ideas. Tom and I have different workflow styles, he tends to focus on each project, one by one, whereas I am more of a multi-tasker, juggling a number of projects. (No comment on the difference between men and women!).
One thing we have to remember when it comes to the creative side of our business is that sometimes, you just can’t force creativity. If/when one of us hits a speed hump, we’ve worked out over the years that you need to remove yourself from the issue, even if it’s just for 5 or 10 mins. Once you’ve worked through the process, it’s usually quite easy to get back on the horse.
3. Is there a particular common process behind your designs?
There is a common process behind the actual creation of our designs - lots of hours in front of a computer monitor and graphics tablet! The interesting answer is more to do with where inspiration for a specific artwork comes from… basically, anywhere! Sometimes it can be the weirdest things that inspire you; a slice of bread, an umbrella, a spirit level! Inspiration can be a bit like a sneeze - you never know when it’s going to come, but when it does, it’s quite good fun!
4.What is your favourite piece you have produced and what is the story behind it?
Tom and I would probably disagree on which is our favourite piece of artwork, but my favourite is definitely our Bold Colourful Abstract Circles Print.
The inspiration for this piece was a rainy day in York! I was meeting up with an old friend in a coffee shop that overlooked a busy shopping street. I had an (almost) aerial view over the street and all I could see was a sea of umbrellas! Then my inner creative superpower kicked in… I imagined everyone walking symmetrically in the same direction, and then sorting all the different colours of umbrella to make a rainbow graduation… almost like a cross between an aerial display team and a marching band! I got back to my studio and started working on the picture you see today (proving that rain can be a good thing!)
5. Where have you been most proud to see your designs?
As I mentioned earlier, we spent a large amount of our business lives working in art image licensing. The way art licensing works is that you make an agreement with a publisher/manufacturer that they can use your artwork for an agreed period of time in exchange for a fixed fee or royalty payment.
There was a period when our artwork was for sale in just about every major retailer in the U.K. and Europe, from Argos to Next, John Lewis to B&Q! It was really weird to pop into your local Sainsbury’s and see your own artwork for sale!
There was one retailer who alluded us though; IKEA, for years we tried to get our artwork into that company, but never succeeded. We gave up. Then, in 2019, out of nowhere, a publisher that supplied IKEA with artwork approached us about submitting our work for consideration! Finally, our work would be featured in IKEA!
Sure enough, in early 2020, one of our proudest moments… our work was for sale, worldwide in the world’s biggest furniture/home accessories retailer. Sadly, it was a quite short-lived glory as within a few weeks of our work going on sale, Covid 19 reared its ugly head… and the world became a very strange place indeed. Suddenly, the thought of getting your artwork into shops became an insignificant afterthought considering the suffering people were going through.
But we did make it into IKEA… Admittedly, we never actually got to see the product for sale because we were on lockdown. But I am assured it was on the shelves!
6. Which other artists or designers do you admire, past and present?
The list is very long and extremely varied!
We have always been fans of minimalism in design, the principal that less is more. Sometimes uncluttered simplicity is the key. Artists like Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko, Josef Albers, Luis Medina, and many others have had such a profound effect on our own design principles.
But it’s not just the painters and the designers. We draw inspiration from music, sculpture, architecture… so many sources to draw creative energy from - it’s almost overwhelming sometimes.
You can see our full collection of PrintPunk Studio's work at