The pros and cons of making merch

Leta Sobierajski, David Shrigley and Morag Myerscough weigh in on the ups and downs of making merchandise and products – from the joy of designing tangible objects to the challenges of getting it right

“A long time ago, people thought that it was in some way cheapening your output as an artist if you made merchandise,” says David Shrigley, the reigning king of artist-made goods. Over the course of his career, Shrigley has produced everything from duvet covers and salt and pepper shakers – labelled heroine and cocaine – to a pool toy shaped like a beakless swan. And fans have eaten them up, showing that, while he might be right about the lingering snobbery, there’s real connections, and real money, to be made in this realm. Recent brand collaborations including Morag Myerscough’s set of Tatty Devine jewellery, and Leta Sobierajski’s leather goods range with Mexican brand Dan Cassab also prove that there’s greater opportunities than ever for illustrators, artists and graphic designers to find new commercial outlets.

Plus there’s something seductive about creating a physical object for someone to own. “The prospect of other people being able to live with, and wear your work, is a really titillating feeling,” says Sobierajski, an artist and designer who’s created campaigns for Comme des Garçons, Gucci and Herman Miller, and works with her partner Wade Jeffree as part of studio Wade and Leta.