Perspectives is a series of features that looks to document how the creative industry has been affected by the ongoing pandemic. Ali Johnson of Dorothy, a visual art studio based in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle – suggests the value of creativity has been highlighted by the current social distancing measures.
Ali Johnson – Studio Director, Dorothy
Tell us a little bit about your profession and how many years have you been practicing professionally.
Dorothy Studio has been operating for 12 years. We’ve been selling our own work – specialising in bespoke prints and commissions – direct online and on the high street through stockists for nearly 10 years.
To what extent has your work been affected by the outbreak of coronavirus?
We are fortunate in that spring time is traditionally our quiet period. Our key period for sales is the pre-Christmas period of November to December. Although we have closed the studio, the impact has not been as disastrous for us as it would have been (or will be) if the crisis stretches into the winter. Online orders have dropped by 50% and trade orders have ceased completely. But we do count ourselves lucky. Our hearts go out to the hospitality sector and all the other brilliant small businesses that make Liverpool so vibrant as a city.
We are using the period to be as productive as possible. We are cracking on with using this quiet time to design the prints and products scheduled for launch for Christmas 2020. We are usually late with our Xmas launches so we are hoping this year we might hit our own deadlines!
We are also trying to support freelance designers, illustrators and photographers that work with us as their work has dried up due to the crisis. We have organised a group online exhibition of work that responds to the theme ‘Isolation Nation’ and are paying exhibitors a fee for showing their work and are selling a selection of prints on our online store with all individual artists receiving commission for sales.
If your work has been postponed or cancelled, are you hopeful for rescheduled dates?
We’d recently worked with Chemical Brothers and Design Museum to design two exclusive prints to accompany the Museum’s Spring / Summer ‘Electronic’ Exhibition. We were really excited about the project. It was a dream one for us. But the exhibition has been postponed, unfortunately.
What has been your overriding emotion(s) since the industry went into lockdown?
Confusion about what the future might hold or look like. However, we’re thankful that as a business it hasn’t ‘yet’ been as catastrophic for us as it has for some. There’s also overriding worry about how all of this might affect my 18 year old son and the younger generation. Generally, I’m staying positive and using the time to reassess what is really important.
Do you think there are enough support structures in place for artists, creatives and other freelancers in the industry and would you like to see any changes once the lockdown is over?
We are a limited company so accessing the support for us has been pretty straightforward. Freelancers and sole traders (as many artists, photographers, illustrators are) are not so fortunate and I can imagine finding out and accessing information and applying for grants is a massive source of stress for many people.
However, the value of creativity seems to have been recognised during the crisis. Kids and adults are being encouraged to stay active and be creative during lockdown. It’s painfully ironic that creative subjects are disappearing from school curriculums. Let’s hope this is remembered when the crisis is over and things don’t just go back to normal.