Welcome to episode one of Coffee & Conversation, where we talk to interesting people about their lives and work, gaining insight and inspiration.
In this first edition, we spoke to Christian Watson all the way over in Australia. Christian is a good friend of ours and helped create a lot of Coaltown's branding; he's a multi-talented creator with a unique style and a bricks-and-mortar store in Noosa, Queensland, selling antiques, curios and branded merchandise.
So Christian, most important question first; how have you been?
I’m really good man, todays been a busy one. We actually just finished packing and shipping off all our worldwide orders, so it’s been a long one. Obviously with what’s happening in the world at the moment we are facing some hurdles but we’re getting there. How about you? How’s business been?
We’ve been so busy; we’ve had so much support it’s been amazing it’s just a strange time for everyone. We haven’t had many issues with shipping in the UK but worldwide we have had quite a few. The support people have been showing independent businesses in Wales has been amazing and I really couldn’t have asked for more. It’s an interesting time but really appreciate everyone’s support.
One thing we’ve noticed is that online businesses despite everything have been doing really well. It’s strange for us as we will hear from one segment of reality that things are really bad but from the other that it’s getting better, it’s this weird time. For us, in more advanced parts of the world we feel like it’s easier to deal with these restrictions. We are really blessed and it’s such an honour being able to do things we love like this.
I totally agree, especially with technology it means we can connect with each other over the internet no need to get on a plane! Which is why you were the first one on my list when we thought about this new project, I've been following you since 2015, and I've seen how you've grown and how things have changed over the years and it has been incredible, and now seeing the first physical store come together.
I would love for everyone to really get to know you and your background. Could you kick us off with telling us how you started designing?
So it’s interesting to talk about that now that I’m 28. I started when I was 18 when I was in college, I started out as a Tumblr initially which was just curating images and trying to make something that inspired me on a creative day to day basis—because with architecture (which is what I was studying at the time) It was very gruelling and a lot of hard work and more detailed sort of stuff. It wasn't as creative as I would have liked it to be, so I initially found an outlet in curating imagery, but then also designing.
So I started just designing things on gimp which was a free software similar to illustrator, but a lot less detailed. It was an interesting start, and it took me about three years to get going, after that I just started honing in on getting clients. I was doing work for a friend who owned a leather shop and he taught me how to vectorise artwork and it was from there that it turned into designing some pretty crazy things.
That’s amazing. Since we last spoke you’ve moved around a bit haven’t you?
Yes! So from Oregon to now being in Australia, which is a bit of a crazy move. We're on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. It's really beautiful. It’s just been a wild ride, a lot of time worked, a lot of progress made and traveling a lot, I'm super grateful for everything.
Do you enjoy all the travelling? It must be great to visit such different places!
Totally, we’ve had so many amazing companies that have asked us to work with them, it’s been such a big deal to go there and see them. It's just astounding, I mean even to come to Wales and to see the whole town of Ammanford. I was just blown away and I still talk about that trip all the time with my wife.
On the topic of you and your wife, how did you guys meet?
The first time I had any contact with her was when I commented on a picture of hers on Instagram and I was like I was like ‘hey, when are we getting married?’ That was the very first comment I made to her and she like was you know, “now of course”.
I was just being like a little silly kid and then she added me on Facebook like two hours later and it was awesome. I was so excited, but yeah that was five years ago yesterday, which is unbelievable. A few months after we started talking on Facebook, I was living in Texas and she was in Australia. She came over to San Francisco and I just happened to be on a job for Airbnb testing out their experiences and so it just happened that we met up there at the same time and it was just really incredible, we've been together ever since so it's been really cool.
What’s it like living in Aus, pretty different to the US I’m guessing?
It's interesting for a lot of reasons. The biggest one obviously is the climate change. I mean things are so different here culturally as well. I mean coming from Oregon, which is cold like Wales (it's very similar with rugged terrain) to here which is the complete opposite.
So 1924us is very stylised; how did you find/create your ‘style’?
The style has taken a lot of time and honestly, it's kind of difficult because the initial style I created was just me. I really wanted to learn how to develop logos and design work but was really bad at it. But I just had like this kind of unweighting confidence to share it regardless of if I thought it was bad or not. When I look back at it there's a lot of stuff I'm so surprised that did so well and almost every time I get contacted it’s by people who want that original style—the rugged, you know, reminiscent of an old-school hand drawn design.
So from designing to now opening your first physical store, how has that been for you?
It’s been a surreal experience. We still sell things online, but we can't sell that experience which was why opening the physical store was really important. It was so people could come in and have variance, experience the sort of vibe that we felt inspired by all the time—like our whole life tries to revolve around the things that we love to do. We actually try to live it out as much as we can, whether it's in our cars or clothing, we really believe in that. So I think having an actual physical store allows people to interact with us in a way that they weren't before.
Are you bringing more people in? I mean it must be pretty difficult juggling everything?
Oh totally, It's just a little bit too much for two people. So we've got a guy coming over from New Zealand actually. His name is Dirk and he's amazing. He's coming on as our general manager, but the day before he was coming literally he had flights booked and everything then the borders closed, so that was a bit crazy.
I bet you can't wait to get it open to show off all your hard work. I can't wait! I mean it's been a long time coming. You probably went through a fair bit of coffee on those late nights. Tell me about how you brew your coffee. What's your home brewing experience?
Okay, so I think I'm shaming you right now and I don't mean to dishonour this beautiful mug. I'm drinking instant coffee….
I’m sorry! I normally don't, but it’s just because we bought like a huge thing of it. We went camping last weekend. Yeah, my normal go to is actually a piccolo which is what we named our dog after. It's just nice to have that little bit of cream in there.
Thanks so much for taking the time to come chat, it’s been so good to catch up with you and we can’t wait for you to come back over to Wales again.
I’ve really enjoyed it. So, thanks man, stay safe.