What connects Grand Central Station; the Tour de France and the Mr Men?
Rob Ryan. His work currently hangs in Grand Central Station; he’s been commissioned for this year’s Yorkshire Tour de France and he’s just said ‘no’ to a collaboration with the ‘Mr Men.’
Rob Ryan, most famous for his beautiful print making and paper cuts, studied fine art and print making at Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham and then went to the Royal College of Art, London.
He has done numerous collaborations but at first found working by himself more fruitful. When he left college, Ryan knew he wanted to work as an artist but didn’t know how to marry that with putting food on the table. “Three years of enjoying yourself and torturing yourself now what do I do?”
Adamant that he didn’t want a job that interfered with his studio, Ryan hired an asbestos riddled space that no one wanted for £7 a week. He made the day job the one he wanted – drawing and painting 9 to 5. At evenings and weekends he worked in a cinema. He did that for years. Even after he got married and had children.
Ryan’s focus becomes evident as he talks as part of the Soho Create event in London: Creative Collaboration – making it work. He partnered up with others but noticed no one else was doing anything. As a child he collaborated on a comic about a band he invented. But he did all the work. Ryan wanted to partner up with someone ‘just like me, with the same drive’. But he only found unsuccessful collaborations where others dragged their heels. He left the others behind and went on to find a studio for an exhibition. He had to build everything himself but was much happier because he was fulfilled and felt complete. Now he’s established ”the brilliant people come to me”. He doesn’t have to wait, or rely on, the ‘flaky people’. He’s humorous and interesting. You’d want to collaborate with him if you had the chance. He collaborates with his kindred spirits at Tatty Devine. In 2013 they created a stunning collection of gold and silver jewellery combining their talents with jewellers at Hatton Garden.
Ryan has always used words and had stories to tell finding a way to keep the spark alive in his work. He didn’t want a shop but as independent cafés disappeared and there were more chains he wanted to redress that imbalance. His shop Ryantown sells one thing – his work. He’s not proud of the fact he’s refused to allow even his wife to sell her products from the shop.
He has followed his ‘punk DIY ethos’ and urges us to do the same. “Don’t sit around and wait for something. If you don’t know how to do something go and find out. “ He spent a lot of time in the local library pursuing interests and finding things out. He sits at a desk drawing like a baby all day. “I don’t answer the phone. I’ve got people in to do all the other stuff so I can draw.’
His collaboratiom with Tatty Devine is born out of a spirit of fun. The best collaborations are the ones with people who start by saying ‘this may not work.’ It’s not about selling of units or the money.