CC/26 - One Year On

Jon Wheeler

Man wearing a black tshirt

It’s a little strange to think, but today marks exactly one year since the launch of Clouds & Cups. It was on a sweltering, humid morning at Glebe Markets that this brand made its entrance into the world. It’s been a pretty interesting journey so far. For the first time in a long time, I feel as if these last 365 days haven’t gone as fast as the previous sets. Ramping up my commitment to learning and growing has resulted in a more emotionally and mentally intense year. It seems that being busy and constantly exposing yourself to challenges will slow your perception of time. It’s been a difficult year, but ultimately, a very rewarding one too.

I still remember the adrenaline rush that powered me through that first day at the markets. I was on my feet all day with an empty stomach, but I barely felt it. The preceding year of planning and preparation had all built up to that moment, and it was as an absolutely wicked feeling seeing it all come together. It was like being in a dream.

Clothing market stall

What happened the next day, however, was totally unexpected. I crashed hard. All the energy, motivation, and optimism left me and the reality of the journey ahead sunk in. It dawned on me that not every day is like launch day. I didn’t have a clue as to what my next step would be. There were no concrete plans, no other designs or collections drafted, and absolutely no idea how to run a business. The realisation that you’re only a tiny drop in a vast ocean is pretty dismal.  It was a bizarre experience to suddenly lose all your motivation for a project you’ve nurtured for the past year and this was only the second day...

Eventually the feeling passed. My boss at my day job reminded me that the reality of business isn’t pretty. Once I began internalising this idea, things started to roll again. I just had to figure it out somehow, and keep trying until things worked. It’s hard to know what’s right and wrong when you have no prior experience, but you just take lots of small, tentative steps and adjust as you go. Each piece I’ve released, I’ve learned something new. To be completely honest,  I’m still trying to figure myself out as an artist. This self-doubt, I’ve realised, will always follow you around, but you need to remind yourself it’s okay to not have the answers. Everyone else is just as confused. Each one of us is on our own path, haphazardly trying to piece all the bits together. The beauty of being a small brand is that you have a huge amount of flexibility to pivot and adjust, and it won’t kill you if you mess up. The road is riddled with potholes, so just do the best you can, and if you’re determined to make it work, you’ll always find a way. All my systems and workflow I take for granted today didn’t exist when I launched. All the books I’ve read now, I didn’t even know existed a year ago. As long as your mindset is committed to growth, it’ll come together one way or another.

Man wearing a white tshirt

Learning to screenprint has been one of the most interesting, and admittedly, unexpected skills I’ve picked up this past year. When I was setting the brand up, I never expected to be printing my own shirts by hand. The idea was born out of the desire to be more hands on with the process. Cutting out the print shop middle man also allows for much greater flexibility and control with your output. Screenprinting, as anyone who has done it before can attest, is a real test of patience. You will end up scrapping a lot of brand new shirts due to error. Luckily, you can practise on these ones, then use them as rags, but in that moment of error, the frustration is like no other. There were many times I considered ditching the whole printing idea, but I’m glad I persevered. The key is knowing that you will struggle before you become competent. We’re all programmed to crave instant skill acquisition because we forget that professionals spend years of training to get where they are. I’m definitely not a professional screen printer by any means, but accepting that you’ll have to eat shit before you make progress will help you get through those trying times. Knowing this may save your wall from a few punches too, but that’s no guarantee. Despite all this, it’s been worth it. It feels great having an active role in physically producing the garments that people wear. Getting your hands dirty is very rewarding. I’m very thankful that I have the means to provide a touch of DIY love to anyone who chooses to invest their hard-earned money into Clouds & Cups.

Man wearing a long sleeve white tshirt

I’m also thankful for the new relationships that have been born out of C&C. I’ve met a tonne of amazing people throughout the running of this label, both online and in real life. Actively involving yourself in a community that coalesces around self-expression does wonders for your own creativity and happiness. It’s inspiring to know there’s so many people out there exercising their creativity and in turn, growing as individuals. I never really understood the concept of feeding off other people’s energy until I began opening myself up to others doing similar things. I often get trapped in my own head, shutting out the rest of the world, and it’s not the best way to be. We are social creatures who thrive on forming bonds. Making new friends, becoming exposed to new ideas, and working together brings about a sense of fulfillment words can’t describe. We all have a role to play in actively shaping our communities in a positive way because a rising tide lifts all boats. There’s an entire world out there doing amazing things, so don’t blind yourself to it!

Three men wearing tshirts

As for the coming 365 days, I’ve got more planned than I did this time last year. I’d like to branch out into different types of garments, particularly accessories and heavier winter gear. I’d also like to engage in more collaborative work. I’ve been quite slack with the ‘In The Making’ blog series. (Don’t know what that is? Click here.) It wasn’t as easy as I thought to maintain it’s consistency, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to step it up this coming year. I’ve spent some time with a couple of local Sydney musicians, picking their brains about creativity, motivation, and life, and I’m really excited to share it all. I’m also aiming to take the screen printing up a notch, improve my print consistency, and try for some multi-coloured designs. I recently acquired a four-colour carousel, so once I find some space, expect some more colour! Apart from that, I’ll continue refining my style, tweaking the system, and learning - all whilst having as much fun as possible.

A white sticker on a grey box

(Photo: Paul Huynh)

Upon reflection, it feels a little surreal that C&C has made it through it’s first year. I still recall wondering whether the idea would ever manifest itself in physical form, and here we are a year into the journey! Any creative will tell you that it’s very nerve-wracking releasing your work into the world. Not knowing how people will respond induces a lot of uncertainty and self-doubt, so I’m blessed to be surrounded by such a supportive network. A big thank you to everyone who’s come along on this journey - you’re the ones who keep C&C alive. A brand is nothing without it’s audience, so I owe it to you all for being so supportive and encouraging. I’m really grateful to those who have bought things, as well as those who’ve shown support in any way shape or form. It warms my heart to know that other people care and support a project so close to my heart. I appreciate you being here. Here’s to another year!


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