The future of Peep
It’s 2021, and the third issue of Peep has sold out. We couldn’t be more grateful for the continued support of our audience, our collaborators, and our friends around a subject we think is vital: creative side projects.
But in complete honesty, it hasn’t been easy. We’d like to explain to you the highs and the lows of Peep, our very own side project, so that our experience can be of value to everyone else embarking on one. Since we started Peep in 2017, we’ve learnt a lot so far, and we’re going to explain how that has influenced how Peep will continue to evolve, through peep-publication.com, from this year.
First, we’d like to take you back to where it all started. It was 2017, and we were in a bar in Amsterdam. We’d moved from the UK to the Netherlands, which seemed like an incredibly creatively fulfilling place, yet we were stunned. We’d just made our first steps into the creative industry, at a few different companies and, as fascinating as this was, we were surprised to see (naively, of course) that commercial creativity was sometimes not very ‘creative’ at all.
We were witnessing the realities of budget constraints, client influence, and deadlines for the first time in our lives. This left us feeling drained and frustrated, and a few Leffe Blondes later, we decided we wanted to do something about it: if we were feeling this, surely others were too. Our idea was to provide a platform for creativity which wasn’t centred around clients at all.
And, to our surprise, the morning after the bar it still seemed like a good idea: a magazine celebrating creative side projects. We went ahead and made a start. Contrary to our day jobs, we wanted to showcase the countless amazing side projects which were popping up around us. Creatives like Max Siedentopf, Charlotte Allen, and Jacob Wise were creating all sorts of fascinating, non-client, non-briefed pieces, just because they were interested in something, and we thought the creative world deserved to see them. That’s where we started:
we offered these three, plus many others, a few pages each in the first edition of Peep. In four weeks we had a stab at designing a magazine, and then hosted a 5-day exhibition featuring its pieces to attract attention. We’d built the first foundations of Peep, and we’d made a start creating a buzz around our focus of creative side projects. Things didn’t go exactly as planned when it came to designing, printing, or how many people came to the show, but the quality of what we did wasn’t the important thing: making the first step of Peep was. And along the way, the most incredible thing happened. In building the magazine, we did a call-out on Instagram asking for people to send us their creative side projects, for consideration. We received over 300 – from all over the world.
The big lesson from the first issue of Peep was that hundreds of people were making, fiddling, and testing hundreds of ideas that they were passionate enough about to spend their weekends and evenings doing, when they weren’t at work. We couldn’t believe it, and realised these – such pure, unconstrained, beautiful forms of creativity – deserved more attention than they was currently getting. We believed that this stuff was so much more inspiring that some of the commercial creativity we had been frustrated by, so we wanted to show it to more people.
We moved back to London, grew as a team, and went bigger with Peep. With Issue 2, the amount of submissions we received grew, the magazine got thicker, we printed more copies, and we felt we were giving creative freedom a larger platform to be seen. The pages of our second edition were graced by the likes of Erik Kessels, Yasseen Faik, and Joey Yu. There were some incredible projects in there, and we had an ever-growing feeling that we were doing something (however small) to help people get their true creative passions out there.
With this in mind, we decided to throw a launch party, designed to be a breeding ground for people passionate about creative side projects to come together and have even more ideas. Protein Studios in London’s Shoreditch were kind enough to host us, and we adorned the walls with every piece of work we’d included in the magazine, including a live DJ set, especially for Peep, beamed onto the wall all the way from Radio 80000 in Munich. It was like stepping into the magazine itself. People came, they saw the amazing display of side projects on show, and drank plenty of beer. At the end of it all, we sat in a cab home wondering what the hell just happened. Issue 2 went better than expected, and we started making plans for Issue 3.
In 2019, we got it monumentally wrong. Our ambition for Peep didn’t match our ability. We’d become so impassioned about promoting creative side projects and the freedom they represent, that we’d overestimated what we could do. We booked a launch party at Printed Matter in near New York’s Chelsea district before we’d even figured out who was going to be in the magazine (thank you, Printed Matter, for being so accommodating). We wanted to make a bigger magazine still, one which was more beautiful than before – and we wanted to print more of them too.
This was all with the best of intentions, of course – we were aiming to get a bigger audience even more excited about creative side projects, and the freedom they represent. But ultimately, our over-ambition meant the third issue felt like a monumental task, which resulted in its failure. We didn’t launch in 2019, and in doing so we disappointed a lot of people: collaborators who had given us their time in interviews, family who had booked flights, and our audience who we’d assured would have another instalment of Peep to get stuck into and get inspired by. There was a huge lesson here, and an obvious one, too: don’t put so much pressure on your own side-project that it feels like a job.
We took a step back from Peep altogether. The whole point of a creative side project (of which Peep is our very own) is to make something you really believe in; something you’ve got a passion for, on your own terms, in a way which you’re excited about, and we’d lost sight of that. “Remember, side projects should be exciting, not stressful.” We reflected that the whole purpose of Peep, from the beginning in 2017, was to celebrate creative side projects with a sense of positivity and optimism which generated excitement around this vital form of creativity in our audience. Yet how were we supposed to do that when we were becoming increasingly anxious about our side project? We put Peep down until the end of the following year.
We released Issue 3 in December 2020, in a far less extravagant way than planned previously, and with fewer copies, too. We were delighted to sell out; a massive thank you to those who were still keen to get a copy, after such a long and unanticipated wait.
Peep Issue Three, when it finally did come out, featured PLAYLAB, INC., Harry Grundy & Lily Kong, Left Alone, Chris Maggio, SSHH, and many more. A huge thank you, again, to all of the last issue’s patient collaborators. The magazine includes creative side projects, and entire self-initiated practices for the first time ever, too. In an evolution from Issue Two, we wanted to discuss self-initiated approaches and not just individual side projects, in an attempt to explore the line between creative freedom and creative constraint in a new way (a multidimensional WhatsApp conversation with PLAYLAB, INC. makes this exploration an exciting read).
Peep Issue Three is 153 pages of unconstrained creativity, which is vitally important. However, since Peep is our own side project, the bumpy road of this issue has only given us more admiration for the side projects that creatives pour their hearts into day in, day out, reminding us why we started this back in 2017. Finding the time isn’t easy, and health and happiness should never be compromised by a side project. Rule number 1.
The value in failure is the opportunity for learning, and we’d be doing ourselves, and all of our features, a disservice if we didn’t change the way we do things in 2021. So, it’s with great excitement that we can announce that we’re now adjusting our focus to be online, through peep-publication.com.
Starting now, we will publish a steady flow of articles, features, and more, covering creative side projects and self-initiated creative practices, on peep-publication.com. We’re going for a little and often approach, to take the pressure away from trying to develop one big magazine every year, and everything that that entails. We’re remembering rule number 1, which means we won’t compromise on our own health and happiness when we’re working on Peep. Plus, moving away from the magazine as a focus will also open up new possibilities in the future. Without being bound to a magazine, we’ve got some ideas for the future we’re really excited about.
We’re excited for the next chapter of Peep, a surefire way that we’ve learnt our lesson about the perils of side projects. We feel re-energised around a theme we believe incredibly strongly about: that some of the most exciting creative projects begin with personal interests, independent ideas, and no brief. By spotlighting creative side projects, self-initiated creative practices, and more, we want to inspire others to create on their own terms, because we believe freedom in creativity is vital.
Thank-you to the ever-growing Peep family:
Max Rawlins, Sammie Purulak, Max Siedentopf, The Mixing Bowl, Eddie Olin, Ferran Cardona, Sean Suchara, Charlotte Allen, Marc Blazel, Sally Holditch, Friendship Club, Felipe de Leonardo, Jacco Bunt, Jason Page, Luke Jackson, Robbie Augspurger, Ewoudt Boonstra, Anthony Burrill, Zac McDonald, Noela Covelo, Sam Wood, Kaeli Wood, Bomie Lee, Matthew Roop, Georgia Cranstoun, Joey Yu, Erik Kessels, Matthew the Horse, James McKechnie, Kieran Slater, Marisa Fulper, Johanna Burai, Yaseen Faik, Grey Jam Press, Protest Press, Faye Burnett, Aurore Demonet, Will Hudson, Oliver Dickson, Liam Morrow, Radio 80000, James Aspey, Kiosk, Eike Koenig, Jacob Wise, Jay Russell, Carlotta Di Lenardo, Alberto Di Lenardo, SSHH, Harry Grundy, Caroline David, Left Alone, Thami Nabil, Outsiders Division, Konstantinos Trichas, PLAYLAB INC., Earwax, FOOD, Chris Maggio