Cut the Mustard?
”Cut the Mustard”
-come up to and exceed expectations; reach the required standard and beyond.
A History of Cut the Mustard
I established Cut the Mustard in 2003. I registered as a Sole Trader but needed a trading name to work under. After many ideas and suggestions from friends the one that stuck was ‘Cut the Mustard’. The phrase’s origin is a little sketchy but the term’s modern meaning is to do something very well and to a high standard. This fitted with the services in art and design that I aspire to. It also had a catchy ring to it that is easy to remember, and a relaxed tone well suited to my personality.
The Early Years
In 2003 I left my job as a Graphic Designer in Bristol and went freelance. I quickly built up an interesting selection of clients and the first Cut the Mustard website was built. In my spare time I painted portraits, defining a style of artwork inspired by iconic musicians. In 2004 I listed a selection of paintings on eBay and to my delight they all sold… for considerably more than I had expected! With newfound confidence in my portraits and my regular graphic design work, Cut the Mustard formed into an interesting combination of these creative genres.
A Slight Shift in Direction
In 2005 I was invited to stage a solo exhibition of my paintings at Amoeba in Clifton, Bristol. My first show was a great success and I sold all 12 paintings on display. My graphic design client portfolio was growing and although a recession was looming, Cut the Mustard was bucking the trend.
One of my portraits of the late John Peel (the brilliant and maverick Radio One DJ who sadly passed away in 2004) was receiving the greatest feedback and I produced 200 limited edition prints of the painting which all sold. This was a turning point for Cut the Mustard as my work reached more and more people, including organisers of Glastonbury Festival. I was offered the chance to trade at their festival in June 2005, which was exciting and nerve-racking to say the least. My image of John Peel was used as the stage backdrop for the newly named John Peel Stage at the festival. This was one of several career highlights for me.
Glastonbury 2005 was a roaring success, despite the epic rain and floods, and spurred me on to apply for several festivals in 2006. The season was hard work but worth the effort. My paintings and prints sold in large numbers. Away from the festival scene my design work was still flourishing and continues to be part of Cut the Mustard to this day.
In October 2006 Cut the Mustard found a permanent home in the historic Saint Nicholas Market in central Bristol. The shop and gallery carried on trading at this location until 2009, when changes in my personal life meant a move east to the Essex countryside.
Many other exciting things happened in Cut the Mustard’s journey between 2005-09. I supplied artwork to a publishing company, Amy Winehouse (RIP) signed a print of my painting of her, and I met Glastonbury legend Michael Eavis to paint his portrait and drink tea in his farmhouse kitchen.
On the Move
After moving to Essex I was still designing for a selection of clients but the art side of the business was so popular it took up over two-thirds of my time. Cut the Mustard’s roaming art gallery was now a firm fixture at many of the UK’s festivals. Over the years I have traded at Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, Reading, VFest, Summer Sundae, Latitude, Cornbury, WOMAD and Ashton Court Festival back in my home city of Bristol. The years had a similar rhythm. From January to May I created the paintings and from June to September I’d sell them.
Commissions kept coming in thick and fast to keep me busy outside of then festival season.
Unfortunately I began to get back pain during this period. I later discovered I had a slipped disc. It was suspected that spending years in bad posture whilst drawing and painting caused this. However there was no way I was going to let this destroy my business so Cut the Mustard carried on with lots of help from kind friends and family plus lots of pain killers! I’m very glad I
did as in June 2011 I had the most successful festival ever at Isle of Wight.
Back to the West
Onto 2013 when I moved back to the West Country, to the wonderful seaside town of Clevedon where I am still based. I took on some new graphic design clients and was still spending summers in a field or on the coast with my artwork.
Sadly my back problem got progressively worse and in 2015 I had a spinal fusion operation. Ultimately, in 2017, I made the tough decision to stop taking Cut the Mustard on the road and retire from the festival scene.
Further health problems in 2018 forced me to take Cut the Mustard offline for several months so I could fully focus on dealing with them. I am now on a more solid path and am learning to work around these issues so Cut the Mustard is live once more with a fresh feel. Regular visitors to my website will have noted some changes in direction as I adapt my creative skills to fit the adjustments in my life.
It’s been quite a journey looking back. I must say a MASSIVE thank you to family and friend’s support and to all the amazing people I have met along the way. From those who’ve worked for Cut the Mustard, promoted and bought my work, given a compliment, commissioned something special or simply clicked ‘like’ on my social media pages - it all counts! You are all stars and I wholly thank you.