No Guts No Glory is a shop, studio and gallery space, agency and awesome collective set up by Exeter creatives Nathan and Hayley Maker. These two not only possess a wealth of know-how and ever-flowing and inspiring ideas but also have a great story to tell. NGNG has recently become one of my favourite creative hubs and I love to talk about the great projects, workshops, products, publications and shows coming out of it.
In fact, the highly covetable goodie bags at YGT’s latest event were filled with treats from the NGNG shop and collective and we also raffled off a signature screen-printed tee bearing their logo. Naturally I was very keen to find out more about how the shop and studio took flight and began its evolution into one of the UK’s most well-loved and revered creative spots. I began by getting to know founders Nathan and Hayley a little better and finding out more on what goes down at the No Guts No Glory headquarters on Fore Street, Exeter.
Tell us a little about yourselves and your creative passions…
We are Nathan and Hayley Maker – we merged our two surnames together to form Maker, after the birth of our daughter Edie last year. We have a family crest and motto, that reminds us to be creative everyday, Maker by name Maker by nature.
Hayley: I’ve always been a maker, doer and general busybody, turning my hand to whatever medium I find interesting. Collectively our creative skills compliment each other. Nathan tends to have a more pragmatic and practical approach whereas I tend to do things more spontaneously.
Nathan: I was a photographer before the NGNG days, photographing the local punk rock scene amongst other things. I still pick up my camera whenever possible, although nowadays it’s mainly our little one that gets snapped! Designing things together is like cracking a nut but it works, we have similar taste but creative differences and that makes for a good team.
Where did the initial idea for No Guts No Glory come from?
Hayley: The roots of NGNG stem directly from the local DIY scene. Although Exeter is full of creative people, in 2009 it was lacking a local physical outlet for some great local illustration and photography. No Guts No Glory is about values. We aim to create a sustainable and responsible way of working, impacting the environment as little as possible and working directly with artists to help them gain exposure and keep people doing the things they love to do.
Nathan: After an evening of beermat planning, inspired by friends who were running record labels and putting on shows I began to seek a suitable space to use as a gallery and platform for emergant illustrators and photographers. The project began in 2009 in a shoebox space in a shopping arcade. With just £300 to get things started, it was the help and time that friends around the project put in that really helped it come to life. The backbone was a range of screen printed t-shirts to fund the gallery. The shop opened after just three months of preparation with furnishings made entirely from found materials and walls covered with affordable artwork and photography. It’s our lifestyle, the space is a passion-filled project and we’re so happy to still be here 5 years on!
Tell us more about Exeter and its creative scene…
Hayley: It’s a great city surrounded by countryside and very close to the sea, you can see green hills from just about any vantage point. It’s a great place if you love the great outdoors but also fancy a slice of city living. We live above the shop on a street filled with fantastic independents; we’re like one big family always helping each other out and doing breakfast together on Sundays. It’s not all tractors and farms though, there are loads of great independent creative projects flourishing here, there’s always been a real sense of community, a great music scene, wonderful independent theatre and so many more things cropping up all the time.
You’ve a fantastic network of online support, what’s the bricks and mortar space like?
Hayley: Recently we’ve totally changed the shop space. It seems that every year we spend a lot of time refreshing it with a few new coats of paint or by building new fixtures, and we’re forever on a quest to find beautiful new prints and products to fill the walls and shelves. Over the years the shop has had so many incarnations it’s important to recreate and evolve the space as our ideas change and grow organically.
Nathan: We’ve just put up a mural at the top of the shop outside, and some beautiful beams that make our narrow space feel bright and homely. We’re both really passionate about sustainable design so we use reclaimed timber whenever possible and design and build everything specifically for the space and the purpose it serves.
Tell us about your community and some of the events you’ve held at NGNG…
Nathan: In the beginning we used to put acoustic punk rock shows on in the arcade after hours, it was a great time with lots of good energy surrounding the shop. It reminds us that the shop has grown from a real DIY ethos. Since then we’ve been putting on exhibitions of work created by the NGNG collective, and most recently for our 5th Birthday Anniversary we held a retrospective exhibition as well as a day of workshops and artist talks with Becca Allen, Sandra Dieckmann and Philip Harris.
Hayley: After a few years of concentrating on building the shop we realised that the community around us was really the backbone of the project and decided to start putting on events and bringing people together, starting with our own indie art fair Handmade Arcade, which ran every month for two years in McCoys Arcade where our old shop was situated. It gave people the chance to sell their work and although it was never intended to be a networking thing sellers began to collaborate and start their own spin off projects; creating new works and events themselves.
We’ve always made an effort to travel to art fairs and exhibit the work of the collective at various places around the country. Since the birth of our daughter we’ve been keeping our efforts closer to home and this year we’re hosting a series of workshops to teach screen printing, teaming up with another local business, Arrietty. Print-Out Club gives people the opportunity to learn a new skill and create their own designs on fabric and paper.
What does a typical day of No Guts No Glory goodness look like?
Nathan: We’ll be framing artwork for the shop or customers (we run a picture framing service), working on designs for ourselves or for clients via our design agency and tweaking or planning tweaks to the shop space. And of course there’s that never-ending quest for new items to fill the space with. There are the general shop things that need tending to such as social media, and we also sell speciality coffee in the NGNG shop. All in all we’re pretty busy! In between running the shop, making our own products and picking up the constant trail of toys left behind by a one year old, I like to ride my bike and if I’m really lucky I’ll find time to read one of my favorite magazines like Lagom or Huck magazine.
Hayley: Usually our days begin with a nice cup of matcha tea while we put together a to-do-list and browse the emails, checking submissions and opening parcels while listening to something on Specialist Subject Records, a local record company run by friends of ours. Juggling it all is a balance we are constantly working on. Finding time to relax is a bit of a challenge nowadays, but getting outdoors as a family leaves me feeling refreshed as does making things, baking and occasionally doing a spot of yoga.
What inspires you both?
Hayley: I feel constantly inspired by the work that’s in the shop and the people that create it. Knowing all the artists that we work with brings their characters to life, and I think that makes the shop feel like a world filled with so much personality, humor and care. When you surround yourself with things that people have taken so much time and poured so much of themselves into it’s impossible for that feeling not to rub off on you. I feel really inspired by the people that surround us on Fore Street too; they all run projects like our own and are always finding creative ways to grow and nourish what they do. It’s an exciting place to be.
Nathan: Working for myself keeps me motivated, I’m inspired to live as independent and self-sustainable a lifestyle as possible. I love that we can have ideas and then spend our time working to turn those ideas to reality. In a world that can feel so instant and disposable it feels good to be able to dedicate a good amount of time and energy to exploring, evolving and constructing something; be it a simple piece of furniture or the way that we run NGNG in the grand scheme of things.
What’s going on with NGNG at present?
Nathan: Recently the re-fit of the shop has been at the top of our to-do-list, creating a comfortable space to work and also to frame in is a challenge in a small space but we love coming up with practical solutions. We’re also planning a rebrand of the shop with graphic designer Becca Allen, to coincide with the new interior as well as working on a new t-shirt design with her. We’ve been picking up a lot of local commissions lately that largely seem to revolve around local beer-selling establishments.
Hayley: We’re also working on a t-shirt range for little people which brings a whole new element into the shop and a whole new way of thinking about design for us, we’re introducing a homewares collection which is mostly handmade by us as well, something we’ve always wanted to do.
Tell us about some of the artists and creatives that you work with…
Nathan: We’ve been working a lot with Becca Allen lately, Becca is a graphic designer who lives and works from her house/studio/shop by the sea in cornwall. Becca was a massive part of the shop set-up, designing our first ever t-shirt range, logo, and helping to get the shop off the ground. Since then she’s gone on to work for Computer Arts, Puma and Rhythm Europe amongst others.
Hayley: Owen Gent is somebody that we work with a lot as well, he’s now based in Bristol but became an NGNG member when studying in Falmouth. It’s been great watching his style develop and change over the time we’ve known him. Recently he’s been working closely with Oh Comely Magazine – you’ll be sure to find a few of his illustrations in the next issue.
If possible, describe some of the greatest moments of NGNG…
Hayley: I think moving the shop will forever be etched into my memory as a highlight, I really enjoyed the process of designing a larger space, picking products and designing and building the fittings and furnishings. When we opened we had such a great response. It felt like we’d really achieved something. I was also pregnant at the time and it felt like so many amazing changes were happening all at once.
Nathan: Our five year exhibition celebration was for me a pinnacle and a great time to reflect. We had a retrospective wall featuring all the designs we’d worked on over the five years. It was amazing to hear personal stories about the garments, prints and products we’ve produced from people who had watched NGNG grow from the ground up.
Do you have any tips for aspiring creatives and entrepreneurs?
Nathan: It’s really important to be prepared and do the planning stage before you take the plunge, especially if you’re interested in a bricks and mortar space. It’s something that we didn’t do in the beginning but wished we had known about. Try to get to grips with the basic budgeting and forecasting, it can really help you to see the reality of the project and also lay bare any obstacles that you may not have thought about. Also make sure that you really are passionate about what you’re doing – it can take a lot of hard work and long hours, so it really has to be a labour of love.
Hayley: Adaptability is really important for a business and you need to be able to be flexible within yourself as well. Be friendly, have fun and go for it. Put your heart and soul into everything that you do and make sure that your branding, shop space and products reflect your own personal values. Remember to take time out to be inspired outside of the world you create.
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Words: Emily Beeson | @boogiemargaret