Behind the Bubble: A Chat with Redbubble CEO Martin Hosking

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Welcome to Behind the Bubble, a new feature on the RB Blog in which we pull back the curtain on the inner workings of Redbubble to find out more about the folks who make this massive art marketplace go.

In Behind the Bubble, we’ll be chatting with members of the product, content, marketing, customer service, and other teams to learn the ins-and-outs of this wondrous world and how each team plays an important role in bringing you the best experience, the best art, and the most inspiration possible.

With our inaugural installment who better to start with than Redbubble CEO and co-founder Martin Hosking (RB profile name pilgrim). If you have any questions ask away in the comment sections below and Martin will be responding.


"Hear Evil See Evil Speak Evil Monkey Skull" by zomboy

Martin, tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to Redbubble?

I started my career as an Australian diplomat and can still bore peoples’ eyeballs out talking about international affairs. In about 1995, I changed direction and was part of the original dotcom boom. I was in San Francisco until returning to Melbourne after the crash. Along with two friends, I co-founded Redbubble in 2006. The original idea was about using Print-on-Demand for personalisation (your cat on a mug). I clearly remember a meeting where we all decided that this was an OK idea but we would never use it and we didn’t want to become vegans making hamburgers. So was born the idea of using the technology exclusively to serve artists and enable really great new creative works to find a home. “We stand for artists” became the core of Redbubble. And still, for me, it is the art and creativity which delights and surprises.

A lot has been happening at Redbubble, what are your highlights?

The best thing about the last few months have been the launching of such a wide range of products: tote bags, throw pillows, 4 or so new garment products, new wall and accessory products. The new products are important as they enable art and creativity to escape from walls and run through every part of our lives. Making this happen has required a whole bunch of changes to the backend of the website so artists can easily configure for the new products. I have also been pleased with the growth in mobile sales. Our investment in our “responsive” web site is really paying dividends for artists now. Finally, the blog has been a delight to me. The way artists are engaging with it tells me it is a service they really want.

What can artists expect in the next stage from Redbubble?

We will continue to expand the product range. It won’t be random, as we believe in “honoring the art” – meaning products must showcase the creativity. The next big thing is to continue to expand into Europe. Europe has been a great market for RB artists and so many of the artists are from Europe. We have been working with our partners to improve the service into Europe and you can expect more changes over the next few months. Finally, we want to continue to build on the blog and community features to help educate, inform, and entertain artists and those who support them. In this regard you can expect our new offices in San Francisco and in Melbourne to become venues for RB artists.

Are there any sorts of artists who do better on RB than others?

I don’t think it is so much a style of art as an attitude. Art and design that is just wall products will not sell as well as those that are on the other media (from garments to totes). People only have a limited amount of wall space and when that is used up, they stop shopping. So making your creative works available on as wide a range of products as possible is important. The newer products (such as tote bags and throw pillows) are actually great for photographic and traditional art, but the artists need to enable this. In addition, success does require activity. RB is here to serve you, but artists who sell are active on RB, on social media, and in other venues promoting their work.

Is there a big vision for RB, and if so, what is it?

Yes, Redbubble stands for independent artists and those who love their work. We are the leading global marketplace for these artists and we aim to continue to serve their needs. Those who love their work are people who value and want creative and distinctive products in every part of their lives. This segment is growing as people flee the monotony and mediocrity of the strip malls and embrace more meaningful expressions of their ideals and individuality.

What is your most recent RB purchase and why?

I bought a tote bag for my wife who loves horses. Just a stunning image by an artist, George Lenz, who I have never bought from before.

"One Is A Lonely Number" by George Lenz

And finally, what is art to you?

Art is our exploration of what it is to be conscious and alive. It is the creativity which reveals the deeper meaning. It extends to me from the walls of the Sistine Chapel to the pillow on my couch.


Ask Martin your questions about Redbubble below.

[Header image: Martin Hosking wearing “Hear Evil See Evil Speak Evil Monkey Skull” by zomboy / Photo by Troy Evans]

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