11 Rugby Road A Business Review

Dan Mackay and partner Adam Johnson are two halves of 11 Rugby Road, a Brighton based creative duo.  Having opened their doors during the Artists Open House festival for the past 12 years, 2019 saw them being voted in the top 3 houses, focusing on affordable, local design and makes.


A man of many talents, Adam is a multi-disciplinary artist having initially studied Sculpture & Glassblowing, but is also highly talented in ceramics (fired in their very own 11 Rugby Road kiln) and is a coveted illustrator.  Dan studied graphic design, enjoys creating clean, flat artworks and can often be found with Adam’s sketchbook, turning his illustrations into work that people can enjoy.

With Brighton Artists Open Houses 2020 fast approaching in may,  Absolute Magazine caught up with Dan Mackay to find out all about their journey, what its takes to succeed as an artist, their inspirations and what the future holds.

How has the brand grown to be where it is now? What has contributed to your success?

Although we have been a part of the Open Houses for quite a while, I started our online shop 5 years ago to allow us to reach people outside of Brighton, plus those who can’t make it (Brighton is so busy during May and Christmas goes by in a blink!) It also meant we could think about other things to make – Valentine’s is now our busiest period online as we focus of alternative cards that aren’t available. We make items and art that make us happy and it’s a nice feeling that other people enjoy it enough to want our prints on their wall too.

What inspires you and your designs ?

Living by the sea is amazing for feeling creative. Brighton inspires so much of our artwork. I enjoy stripping down landmarks (which have been drawn a lot) to their bare minimum, such as the West Pier made of thick lines balanced on a block of sea, or recreating the murmuration flock but drawing the birds as simply as possible. Adam almost likes doing the opposite – his line drawings are packed with tiny details as he tries to squeeze in locations from around Brighton or capture the ornateness of the Pavilion and Bandstand.

Now you’re recognised for your artworks, have you done any gallery shows and have you worked with any brands or commissions you can share with us?

I was asked by the Duke of York Picturehouse whether I could turn my minimal drawing of their rooftop legs into a wallpaper they could use in the refurbed sections of the cinema. It’s nice to be in a building with such a long history in Brighton! But collaborating with other artists and brands is something we’re both trying to do more of as it keeps everything exciting.

How has the advent of social media impacted on you.  We can see from your online presence you seem to embrace this?

In addition to having my own social media channels, I update the @11RugbyRoad Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and @BrightCraftFair is a market we organise.  Even our dog @Egg_the_Pug even has his own account! Social media has always been a great way of keeping people updated with what we’re currently up to and what’s planned for the future. It has taken over from email with the main way people get in touch, I think as it feels more personal.

What materials or spaces do you enjoy working with most?

I am often jealous of Adam when we are both working. Nearly everything I make is done digitally so I’m fixed to my laptop, but he gets to use his hands while working with clay or drawing. Illustrating with a stylus straight into a digital format seems to be the norm now, but all of his intricate drawings are pen on paper – so mistakes are harder to undo!

Which project’s are you really excited about for 2020 and are there any future plans you can share with us?

Our calendar is booking up with creative events. We are signed up for the Artists Open Houses in May and Christmas and in July we open our garden in aid of Macmillan for an Open Garden Event. We transform our home during these times removing all our furniture to make it easier to navigate room and fill them with everything we make. In the past we have put on pop up shops in empty units around Brighton which is something I’m keen to do again, especially as there are so many vacant shops at the moment.

Why are your designs so different to other artists within the industry? Explain what a client commission gets?

We have found the most popular application for Adam’s fine liner illustration is pet portraits! Proud owners send over a photo and in return get a detailed illustration. Like the Brighton cityscapes, each

is drawn onto paper before being scanned where I clean it up digitally and can add colour if the client wants. We will always favour pen and paper over drawing with a stylus straight into a digital format – it’s a longer process but the fine lines are captured perfectly.

How has being based in the south helped your business? Do you feel the regions high creativity levels have contributed to your further success?

One of the contributors to our success is people knowing the huge difference that buying from local creatives makes. I get excited when someone wants to buy something I’ve made for 99p or £99. There is a nice community of makers in Brighton that always makes turning up to a craft fair or market more enjoyable.