At Sandows we're proud of our roots. Launched from a basement in Hackney whilst holding down our barista jobs, Sandows is a side hustle gone wild. Although our days of trading shifts for space to brew cold brew coffee are behind us, we remember them fondly. Our latest series, Baristas Mean Business looks to celebrate other people working in coffee doing something special on the side.
Flora Grosvenor-Stevenson, illustrator and designer, has worked in coffee for eleven years. A Fine Art Graduate from Central Saint Martins, she opened Unripe Banana Coffee Shop (a coffee shop meets gallery and studios) when she was 22. She’s now a side hustling barista, balancing freelance illustration and design with a job at Thoughtfully Café, Liverpool.
We sat down with her for a Q+A on what drives her passion, her tips for balancing illustration with a job in coffee, and why she thinks it’s important to ask for help if you need it.
What drives your passion for drawing plants?
I grew up in a tiny village in the Cotswolds surrounded by fields and have been growing plants forever. I’ve also been a vegan for ten years so I guess it’s kind of ingrained in me.
Your greatest stunt - tell us about a time you pulled something amazing off?
Once I painted an entire room (including the floor), in the dark, full of UV plants for the Bacardi summer 2018 campaign. I had to do it in a day so they could film dancers in it by the evening. My eyes weren’t alright by the end of it.
What are two traits that have helped you in your hustle, and one quality you'd love to develop?
I’m really organised and don’t mind putting myself forward/ talking to anyone about my art. I would like to be better with money.
Most memorable all-nighter on the job?
One time I spent all night in the studio using oil paints and I had a mug of Ribena next to a mug of white spirit. I was using purple paint and drank the white spirit instead of the Ribena... would not recommend.
What has taken the most courage so far?
Opening Unripe banana coffee shop/ art gallery on Hackney Road at age 22 and being entirely responsible for it... then also selling it. It took about three years to become tangible and I had a lot of really great friends which helped me out. At the time I thought that I could do everything, I guess it was kind of blind optimism. Now I’ve realised that I can’t do everything by myself and it's okay to call on people. I also learnt about tax - that was a positive lesson they don’t teach you at school.
Top tip for keeping the plates spinning?
Let yourself rest if you need it and asking for help is actually boss.
Is working in coffee and illustration something that you've always wanted to do?
I’ve always worked in coffee and made a lot of my friends through it, so that’s been really amazing. I’m grateful to have the most fulfilling balance between my art and my job that I’ve ever had at the moment. Thoughtfully Café really appreciates my art practices and they're really helpful in organizing my shifts to give me time to work. Some of my prints are also available in a pop up that’s in the shop at the moment and I’ve been designing some of the invites for a garden party that they’re throwing soon.
What do you see for the future?
I’m hoping to do an MA in sustainable art practises using illustration. When you’re making work, I feel like it’s really important to consider the environmental impact it has. All my prints are printed on recycled paper at the moment, but I'm struggling to find the right packaging so my work can be sustainably available in retail shops.