In April 2014 I headed to the South Island with a 2 week road trip planned a head of me. I looked over my loose itinerary taking me from Queenstown to Wellington and pinpointed a spare 24 hour hours, naming it “Jon Thom Day”. While there are SO many more people that I want to meet in Dunedin, I had a small window which involved a 7 hour round trip drive and room for just one interview in the southern city – and I was determined more than ever that I would finally get to meet the young artist/creative/savvy entrepreneur that I have been following for years.
Lucky Jon Thom was cool to meet ME!
Jon grew up in the small Central Otago town of Clyde, his parents both teachers at the local Dunstan High School. He was always heavily into art and as a teenager was encouraged to take part in a group show in the regional centre of Alexandra. His work was then picked up by a Wanaka gallery who he sold exclusively through for a couple of years.
Jon may have been the only student of his year at Otago University who funded his lifestyle via his art from day one!
But Uni wasn’t all paint brushes and charcoal stained hands! Jon initially set off with the plan to enter Health Sciences and the aim of becoming a doctor. He then had a change of heart and headed off toward Law studies instead….but that didn’t stick either. Finally he decided on Art History + Design.
During his second year of studying (2010) Jon started to exhibit with terrific Dunedin gallery; The Artists Room. However, it had occured to him that his art was out of reach of his friends and peers, so he set about doing something about it. Following his interest in fashion he turned to t-shirts which acted as a canvas AND provided a familiar and functional vehicle for his art and a younger audience. He started with a limited run of 50 which promptly sold out. The next run was 270 and while he continued to increase his production from there he kept each design down to a limited edition of just 20.
With the wheels starting to turn on this business he began a hunt for wholesalers but with little luck, so as a local early adopter of “independant business direct to customer” he opened an online store and started to leverage social media in his favour.
By 2012 the business not only had the name of “Moodie Tuesday” it also had a partner in crime with the arrival of Chris Brun. Jon recognised that while he had the creative direction and communications down, the business was needing a slick push and management in the production side. Also hailing from Clyde, Chris had started out as a builder but due to injury was retraining and in his final year of teachers college when the call up came. Perfect timing for both of them!
2012 also marked Jon’s first solo exhibition at The Artists Room as well as what was meant to be his honours year. By the middle of the year he made the bold move to pull out of University and take on an inner city studio where he could go full time on his art and give Moodie Tuesday some room to grow.
During this time he was approached by a talented young filmmaker called Sam Stuchbury who wanted to collaborate by filming one of the creative Moodie Tuesday campaign shoots. This was the beginning of what was to grow into a valuable partnership! The pair recognised an unfilled niche locally of creating beautiful, emotive content for brands/business for marketing collateral.
They pitched to the marketing department of Otago University and went on to create interview style clips for their use online. The content caught the attention of Tourism Dunedin and by 2013 they had been commissioned to produce a 12 part series focusing on locals and their love of the region; aptly titled “Insiders Dunedin”. This relationship developed to include a custom website designed by the growing team and management of the posting and sharing of the stories online – thus Motion Sickness Studio was born!
In late 2013 the Dunedin based company split with Sam and his team moving to open an Auckland office and Jon remaining to continue to run the Dunedin based studio combined with Moodie Tuesday and of course his own art practice. Recognising the need for more space he moved his team into a large industrial site (formerly a garage for a car yard) just out of the central city. The guys got busy fitting out the mezzanine with desks and on the ground floor a separate painting room, sewing area and on my visit, the development of a meeting/reception/showroom.
In mid 2014 Jon and Chris decided to diversify (obviously you are getting that he is an expert spotter of opportunity!!) and set up custom screen printing service, The Print Room - a business that now works with companies, corporate, sporting and private projects nationwide! They have seen rapid growth in the company during it’s first year mostly likely due to their design skills and experience with what potential customers actually “want” to wear when it comes to branded apparel. With the fashion world being so fickle, Jon knew that printing and designing for others would help fund the progression and ideas for the growth of Moodie Tuesday. And by all accounts…its working!!
Jon has this calm, focused ability to not only continue his own art, but work across all his ventures, bringing in like minded people and presenting such a professional front that would put many larger companies to shame!
He just “gets” it.
The content produced by both Motion Sickness studio’s is not only beautiful, honest and real – the teams are acutely aware of “how” to deliver content and “what” an audience is looking for…eg- no stupid dumbed down campaigns that lack any engagement.
It has been ragingly obvious to me (even prior meeting Jon in person) that he innately understands the concept of creativity vs. business and demonstrates maybe the most awesome forms of that!
One to watch. Businesses to watch. Results to inspire.
Photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM JON:
This post was made bought to you with the partnership and support of The Artist’s Room.
Know your audience.
Age is of no barrier.
Let your work speak for itself.
Please take the time to check out the businesses that allow us to bring this cool content to you!
Tomorrow Jon is launching a beautiful new exhibition!!