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Shed Sessions: RJ Allen

Author: Luke Vidamour

RJ is a bit of a "younger brother" figure to me. We first met when he was just a kid through family friends and I was immediately struck by how... cool he was? Even with a seven-year age gap we were into the same films, music, comedy... and he might have been little too comfortable with a beer in his hand.

Here's a secret, we never planned to hire him! RJ came to us for a week of work experience and then stayed in touch whilst he worked hard to hone his craft in his own time. He showed the perfect combination of talent, personality and work ethic meaning we had no choice but to ask him to join the studio.

Over the past few years, RJ has become an integral team member and a fierce creative. He's our secret weapon, an idea machine, quick to learn but also willing to lead with any gap he's given, he also loves a fleece (don't we all).

We caught up for quick chin wag.

Hey RJ, we’ve known each other for quite a while now, but for people who don’t know you, who are you and what do you love/hate?

I’m RJ and I am 25 years and 7 days old. I was born in Bad Homburg, Germany and I’m named after an Irish farmer. I love making stuff and I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. I also love the crisp sound of a snare drum rimshot and scrambled eggs cooked in Guernsey butter. I hate writing about myself as I feel like a bit of a knob.

You studied illustration at Uni, how have you found the transition into working professionally at a design studio?

Simultaneously very natural and unnatural.

The natural bit is the creative stuff, I’ve been making things for a long time. I followed graffiti a lot and numerous street artists when I was younger and after that Illustration. The street artists were all typographically based and a lot of my early artistic exploits used really terrible typefaces and fonts. Only recently have I realised it likely informs what I do now. For me, Illustration is all about the stories, narratives and the honing of your own visual style (I can remember one street artist I interviewed for a project who called it crafting your own ‘personal mythology’). There are so many overlaps with design, advertising and especially brand work. For me it’s a continuation of narrative work; understanding the subject, the people and creating beautiful solutions that tell a story.

The unnatural bit is timesheets, deadlines and computer programs. Making stuff for other people as well and the pressure that comes with it. Overall I bloody love it.

What kind of things do you do to get your "creative juices" flowing?

I don’t really have one way. It sounds super cheesy but it’s just life I suppose. It's usually the stuff I love that informs my work; characters, stereotypes, quirky human nuances and things that make me laugh. I find if I’m distracted long enough to forget about a problem, by the time I come back I am normally halfway to a solution.

Do you believe that anyone can be creative? Why?

Emphatically YES, it just manifests in different ways. My dad is musically inept, yet he whistles in perfect tune - go figure. Human beings are weird, and creativity is weirder - there isn’t a fixed route or medium. We associate creativity with the arts, but a persons craft can be found in how they lay bricks, pour coffee or colour coordinate their wardrobe.

We know that you’re a big travel fan and have some epic plans for the future, where is the best place you’ve travelled to so far and why?

When I was 19 I travelled to Nepal and India by myself. I think that was my favourite as it was a proper adventure. Crossing the border and travelling rural India during monsoon was an experience for sure - I think I went about 500km without meeting a westerner or English speaker at one point. Just that culture shift is addictive - everything from eating breakfast to driving somewhere is so exciting as everything is radically different.

How do you deal with creative block?

Do something - move, eat, have a coffee. Often it is just a case of stalling until your brain kicks into gear.

What was the last gift you gave someone?

Flowers for my legendary mother.

In your opinion, how can creativity change the world for the better?

It does every single day - you could go very deep on this topic; forcing reflection, shifting culture and attitudes, innovation and many more… but primarily it is fun, it is beautiful, it engages AND it provokes - that’s power!

Lastly, describe the most recent photo on your camera roll and why you took it (if you can post it, even better)

A picture of Tormund Giantsbane (the gnarly wildling guy in GOT). I’m trying to grow an isolation beard and was telling a friend I’m aiming for his level. (I haven’t got a hope).


Read our Shed Sessions with Al and Tabitha.

Author Luke Vidamour