Words by Sandra Baczek

Artwork: Thea Løvstad – ‘Untitled III’
Artwork: Leonie Sinden David – ‘Nude I’

In these unstable times, we found ourselves looking for firmness and balance. Something that will restore the order of the everyday life we all know. As the world currently faces a wave of uncertainty and many of us try to adjust to the ‘new’ normal, others focus on turning this situation into a more hopeful one. James Holborow, founder of Service Shop, is one of those individuals. Service Shop almost signifies a light at the end of the tunnel – especially for all the artists and creative individuals out there. Was this idea solely born out of the current crisis that shook up the world, or rather, was it something that you had in mind for a longer period of time? 

When Boris Johnson first announced social distancing measures, almost immediately I had clients cancelling all future shoots over concerns for the safety of the people involved. Of course, this was the right decision for clients to make – but it doesn’t stop the sudden shock of realising you now, as a freelance creative, have no future income to speak of indefinitely. I took a second to process, and then spoke to a friend. He was fortunately in a more stable financial situation than myself, and asked if I would consider selling some of my work as prints. He said he would gladly buy one, because as he put it “we all have to look out for each other in one way or another”. That’s when I thought, if I can set something up to sell my own prints, why can’t I get other artists involved? And why not use this as an opportunity to also raise money for charities at the frontline of  the pandemic?

Artwork: Scott Licznerski – “All Bark and No Bite”

I’ve personally taken a strange path through my working life; I jumped from working as a graphic designer, to an in-house photographer, to art director and eventually became a freelance creative. Mechanically, I combined all the skills I had learnt along my career journey, to create ServiceShop. In this sense I think the idea seemed like the perfect, and right, thing for me to do at this moment. The platform currently displays a selection of incredible artists. Can you tell us a little bit more about the collaboration process? Can anyone become a part of Service Shop?

Right now the collaboration process is incredibly grassroots; I initially reached out to artists within my peer group or contacted people whose work I was aware of. Since then, the selection of featured artists has organically grown, with artists reaching out to me about getting involved through social media. We’ve been incredibly lucky so far that such talented people are wanting to take part. The only requirement is that you are a working creative, whose creative work has been affected by the challenging times – which right now is practically everyone in the arts!

As we move ahead, I would love the store to be a place that can champion amazing work from creatives who wouldn’t normally look to print or sell their work. People such as fashion photographers, who have impassioned personal work that doesn’t get seen as much as their commercial or editorial images. Or painters that sell originals, but would love a way to expose their work more through reproductions and prints. I feel incredibly privileged to have so much interest in the platform by such amazing creative minds.

If you’d have to choose your favourite artwork currently available on the website, which one would you pick?

This is a tough question, as every work on the site is fantastic. If I had to choose, I would say a personal favourite of mine is Thea Løvstad’s ‘Untitled I’. It has a beautiful classical sensibility to the image, but is rich with modern themes. It speaks of how the physical body affects its surrounding environment, a very vital conversation that speaks volumes about how humans have created climate change, and in a sense, the current situation we find ourselves in.

What makes Service Shop different from all the platforms and stores out there following a similar path?

Again, I think that sense of showcasing work that wouldn’t normally be seen is what makes the platform different. Its foundation is so grass roots, that it’s very nature has to be community driven. Friends can buy work by their friends who are photographers, but wouldn’t normally sell their work. That’s the experience I had when my friend said he would gladly buy one of my prints, if not just to help me out, but also to show his appreciation for the work I do, and to enjoy it himself.

Artwork: Liam Mertens – “I could tell you felt the same”

Those who are fortunate enough to be in a secure financial position are able to make a purchase that will directly help someone who needs it. To me, that is a powerful idea. There is a joy in the fact that by making one small purchase now, the customer will  acquire something they can cherish for a lifetime. The platform is so new, that I know the store will shift and change, but I certainly want for this ethos of community to remain. As the current challenges fade and the world returns to (let’s hope) normal, can you see Service Shop continuing to grow? Is this a project that’s here to stay? 

Sadly I don’t believe that the challenges creatives face – or the everyday struggles for basic needs of the poorest members of society – will fade away at all. With the threat of economic recession in the aftermath to the virus, and the huge loss of jobs already experienced, people who are already sitting on the poverty line will be pushed below it. As members of society, a community, we must reach out a helping hand and offer assistance where we can. With so many people in the UK already living in poverty, I felt it was important for us to give to a charity such as The Trussell Trust, who service food banks for those who need it the most.

Looking ahead to the future, I think there will definitely be a place for ServiceShop. Trying to make it in the creative industries is tough, and sadly so many talented people cannot afford to support themselves in their desired career. The pool of incredibly talented artists who are not being championed is huge, as is the pool of charitable causes that are worth backing. As things stand, that doesn’t look likely to change soon. When the time comes that we can all return to work in public spaces again, let’s just say that I have a few ideas brewing. It’s a matter of watching this space!