Behind the Brand: Shnook Decor

INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr IMAGES courtesy of Shnook

Cape Town-based artist Amber Skye Alcock (featured here) has expanded her creative endeavours to include a quirky decor range, bringing an element of cute and strange to cushion covers and tote bags under the label Shnook. We get to the bottom of what inspired her to combine her fine art background with homeware.

How did shook come into being?

When I was young I fancied myself a small businesswoman for charging my mom R50 to wash her car, or drawing up a kid’s book (also, ironically, called ‘Shnook’), or selling my family’s ’rock cakes’ in my aunt’s nursery. That fanciful idea never really faded. Over the last few years, I’ve tried out a bunch of (possibly slightly manic) creative business ideas. From mugs to stickers to prints to mouse pads, all with my quirky work printed on them. Having seen that the ‘learn while you’re at it’ mindset is by far the most effective, I threw myself into all my different passions and learnt endless lessons along the way. ‘Shnook’ is me taking all those lessons and condensing them into a sleeker little business with bigger dreams. My mom calls me ‘shnook’ and, as she and my dad have supported me endlessly in my (sometimes shaky!) business pursuits, I decided to use that nickname as the name of the business. It gives across what we are all about, eclectic and cheeky design, all wrapped up in an adorable pink ribbon. 


What are some cute decor items in your range?

Our scatter cushions make up the core of what we offer. They are made from some lovely high-quality fabric and digitally printed (the colours are vivid and never fade, as well as being machine washable). They are also essentially limited editions as we print in batches and rarely reprint the same design. I believe that cushions are one of those unassuming decor items that can change the feel of a room entirely, something that can easily be swapped around depending on the mood, and something that we can have fun with. We have some adorable designs and more coming out soon, but our most popular so far is also possibly the weirdest, ‘Perry Prawn’!

What gives you joy and inspires your items?

There is nothing more joyful for me than having that vague feeling of an awesome concept, something that toes the skinny line between the commercial and the bizarre, and capturing it neatly into a design. And then to see that come into print and turned into a lovely product that others can use to express their eclectic tastes and characters? Hell yes. On Inspiration, it can come from anywhere (Pinterest haha.) 

Do you have a particular favourite?

With every new print line we do, I have new favourites. But my loyalty must be followed, tributes paid, and so I again will give this to the audacious Perry Prawn scatter cushion, who has garnered most of our business for us thus far. 

How would you describe your works?

I would describe them as being made up of contradictions. Beautiful but odd. Cute with a bit of creepy. Charming and slightly outlandish. Modish design versus disaffected fine art. I like a drop of lemon in my sugar water, you know?

What plans do you have for 2023?

So many plans! We are hoping to get into a couple of physical stores and attend as many markets as possible. We bring out new designs in batches as the older ones sell out, so we are also aiming for at least six fresh new batches this year (new designs every 2 months.) A huge goal of mine has also been to start incorporating other artists into our business model and eventually provide a fun form of financial support for young up-and-coming creatives.

What are your thoughts on the creativity of local design?

So important. In a world where we have had to reach over our borders for so long (and spend an inexorable amount of money) to find crispy fresh products, this small boom of locality and invention is fantastic. Is there truly anything lovelier than finding a unique product right in your home neighbourhood, and knowing that with your purchase, you are supporting an individual’s life and passion? I think not!

Where do you see Shnook going?

I know now that it is good to dream big. One of my mentors at art school once said, in some articulate words that I can no longer recall perfectly, that as human beings our hearts are always calling to give back to the world in some way. I would like to take Shnook far enough to eventually be able to give back significantly, by supporting young and upcoming artists with some financial stability, and the animals I always depict through various charities. There are multiple ways to get there and I am enjoying the journey along the way!

Would you ever be interested in collaborations?

Very! As mentioned above it is a dream to eventually bring other artists and creatives into the mix.  

Any other cool bits to add?

Only to encourage anyone dreaming of something to do it! Pursue it aggressively. Tread lightly. Do it practically. Humbly accept help. I am lucky to have the best parents, so the transition from selling rock cakes as an eight-year-old to becoming an artist and scatter cushion businesswoman in my early adulthood (lol, who thought?) was always supported, but that does not mean there were not huge hurdles to be overcome along the way and endless points where I wanted to throw it all in the air and give up. Even now, we are still in the very beginning stages and it’s difficult sometimes. Doesn’t matter! Creativity is the currency of the human soul and as important an endeavour as any other. 

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