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Awesome Merchandise meets Gavin Strange

Gavin Strange is a director and designer by day, working for Aardman Animations but by night you’ll find him beavering away under the guise of JamFactory. It’s within this sideline project he can tinker and experiment, doing anything and everything he can get his hands on from music photography and film making to creating toys, writing a book and even creating custom merch with yours truly.


But with an envious full-time job for the last 11 years and a family at home, how and why does Gavin find the time to fit in so many sideline projects too?

Gavin Strange, Awesome Merchandise, Birmingham Design Festival

JamFactory started around 18 years ago. Working as a web designer at the time, Gavin didn’t want to be restricted by his title, and with encouragement from his first boss, he bought a web domain and started to explore the world of design.  


“I didn’t like being called a web designer because I just felt like I was a designer and I want to do all of this stuff. JamFactory for me really was a digital place where I could experiment with the things I wanted to do but nobody was asking me to do.”


It’s this experimentation that let Gavin not only discover for himself what he was good at, his likes and dislikes but also provided a platform for him to showcase to others his skills outside of the job titles he had collected over the years. It’s this experience that ultimately helped to get him his position at Aardman Animation.

 “So my official role is Director and Designer but I’m only a director because I made all the films in my own time first. I didn’t go to film school. I don’t have a degree in animation. About the same time that I started JamFactory I was making wonky, weird skate videos and filming stuff because I was excited and interested in film making. That just ramped up and with Aardman Animations support I started doing more projects that got bigger in scope. If I didn’t have JamFactory as my side thing, they would have no clue.


“People are really busy and they mentally put you in a box of what you can do but actually, everyone is so much broader than that. If you never shout about it or put it out online, they’ll never know.”

But even with the best intentions, it’s super hard not to just flop on the sofa when you get home after a hard day at the office and binge on the latest Netflix box set. So how do you find the motivation and more importantly, the time to bring all the weird and wonderful projects floating around in your head into fruition?


“I think it’s repetition for sure. It’s like anything. I liken it to going to the gym. It’s going to suck to begin with. It’s going to hurt, you can’t do very much, you hate yourself, you wonder why you’re doing it but over time you just get stronger and stronger and then it becomes second nature.


“ I think you just have to get into the groove but it is difficult, life happens as well. It was a lot different when I was a single man and I didn’t have any friends and lived in Bristol but that was an unhealthy balance because I worked all the time. I was constantly poorly and I didn’t have a good balance. 


“Now I have a family, I have a wife and a son, and a day job I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I feel the most productive I’ve ever been because you’re forced to find the time.”

With such a busy schedule, there has to be logistics in place. This type of discipline doesn’t just happen organically on a whim. Gavin and his wife, who is a jewellery designer and looks after their son full-time, have set aside the evenings Monday – Thursday as their time to work. 


“I come home at half 6, we have dinner, do bath and bedtime with our boy. We have some food together and then about 8:30 pm/9 pm and then it’s round two. So, she’ll go to her workshop and I go upstairs and do my thing and we just try to make a routine.”


Of course, not everyone is in the same situation and if your friends or partner don’t see the bigger picture and just see you working away behind a computer or shut off in your workshop, it’s going to be hard. Ultimately, you’ll need to find the right fit for you but here are Gavin’s top tips for getting your side project off the ground.


Top tips for getting your side project off the ground

1) Just Start

There can be infinite reasons why you shouldn’t start. You haven’t got the time. You haven’t got the energy. You haven’t got the money. You haven’t got the space. We could do that all day. But, the easiest win is to do anything that breaks you out of that habit and listen and feel proud of yourself when you have done that. As soon as you do you think ah okay and reward yourself. Again, like exercising or dieting, it’s all about incentivising yourself.

2) Have a support network

If you can, then have a support network. Explain to people if they don’t understand. Be a human being and explain to them what it means to you.  Making stuff and finding time to make stuff is an emotional process because it’s what you believe you want to see in the world and why would you not want to do what makes you happy for the small time that you’re on this spec of a planet?


Be vocal to your support network and really explain why it’s important because some people are suffering with things because they don’t feel they can talk about it. 


I just think the world is a better place if you can just say, look I just really want to do this thing. I’ve always wanted to write a book for example and I don’t know how to do it but can you just support me. Give me some space, give me some time, give me something.

3) Remember that we’re all in the same boat

Know that everyone else is feeling the exact same at any point in their career. I say this and I just hope that I’m not making it up. I hope Beyonce worries as much about her own output, her own creativity and what she’s done in the world as much as other people. 


In the Homecoming documentary, you see her talking about her struggle with her own identity after her pregnancy. I thought that was absolutely incredible. I thought it was incredible for people to hear, especially mothers. Here was this incredibly polished, curated, beautiful human being that is known around the world saying ‘I didn’t know who I was and I’ve had to work through it.’ 


I think if the greatest people on earth who we respect are worrying about who they are, what they’ve done, what they are going to do and what it means, then we are all in the same boat. It’s just scale isn’t it?

Check out more of Gavin’s work on his website here or click below to watch Rubber Republic’s episode of “How I Learnt To Be Creative” with Gavin now!

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