A life-changing world of adventure, enchantment, and literary stimulation. Grimm & Co. is a literacy charity, with an otherworldly twist. Downstairs, a shop open only to the most discerning of magical being. Upstairs, children from across the UK gather to write stories, record poetry and script plays for local theatres.
The key to this project was ensuring that the final product felt authentic. With that in mind we set about researching every aspect of Apothecary's, typography, signage, packaging, medicinal cures, curses and magical creatures.
Jeremy Dyson (The League of Gentlemen/Ghost Stories) wrote a wonderful back story on the Apothercary's proprietor, Graham Grimm. The story tells the tale of how Graham came to open Grimm & Co, and why it's a very special place. That set the tone for us and we elaborated onto this backstory to give ourselves some visual direction.
We created a monogram (a combination of G & co), which could be stamped or burnt to act as a 'seal of approval' by Graham, as well as bringing to life Graham's handwriting.
We sourced endless amounts of typefaces, from old woodblock to letterpress, which led us to local type foundry Stephenson Blake, and their beautiful typefaces Grotesque No 9 and Windsor.
Throughout the project, we constantly referred back to Jeremy's story, and our own extension to ensure we stayed true to the character.
The premises of Grimm & Co is an old pub. Luckily it featured elements we could re-use such as the old iron chandeliers and wooden banisters. As the building features a mezzanine floor it creates an airy, open space which is the oppposite of what we were trying to create – a dark, mysterious Apothecary. The walls were painted dark grey and dark woods of various shades were used to make the interior feel more intimate.
We spent a lot of time on the smallest of details. Things which people may not even notice on first glance, all with the mission of creating an authentic environment. All around the space are shop signs, pieces of grafitti and even the odd fairy door. Grimm & Co also features it's own classified ads (less 'Caravan to rent' and more 'Broom for hire').
We created everything by hand, including the signwriting on the outside of the shop.
An Apothecary is a place to visit to cure a cold, remedy an ailment or purchase herbal medicines. Grimm & Co is no different, and it provides all the above, and more to it's customers: trolls, giants, witches, wizards, goblins, dragons and imps to name a few.
We created a whole range of products – from naming and design, and even helped to source some of the ingredients. All profit made on sales funds the charity.
The Imagination Room
We loved the story Jeremy wrote about Graham so much, that we decided to write it on every wall in the 'Imagination Room'. This room is the first area humans enter, once they travel through the secret door on their way to the writing center.
It took 3 of us 3 full days. We used around 40 Posca pens to complete, but it was well worth the effort for the impact it creates.
The Writer's Pad
As kids, we loved the film Jumanji, and wanted to recreate that iconic scene where the house is taken over by nature. In our version, the Writer’s Pad is Grahams ‘front room’ where he used to reside, but now the space has fallen into disrepair.
Water damaged walls, distressed ceilings and a space being reclaimed by nature forms the Writer's Pad, which sits above the Apothecary.
We created a water damaged effect by using watered-down paint and applying to the walls with a stippling effect. Vinery, moss and a large living wall were used to create the feeling of nature coming inside.
At the opposite end of the space we created a large mural using old pages from forgotten dictionaries.
The Writing Centre (WC)
The Writing Centre fills the space of the old pub toilets (get the name!?) and provides a meeting room for 8 people.
This space is available to rent to spice up a boring board meeting, or as an interesting backdrop for an away day. If you're interested in hiring the Writing Centre get in touch with Grimm & Co.
Curses for all
We also created 2 websites for Grimm & Co. One based around the Apothecary, and the wonderful writing centre, and the other an e-commerce platform so that everyone, no matter their location, can stock up on Grandma's Scabs and Human Phlegm.
We've seen it with our own eyes, and it's great to see children (and adults) excitedly running around the shop, but the real magic happens behind the secret door, and the life-changing impact it can have on children.
The Inside Story
When you build something as special as Grimm & Co, it gets popular. Due to ever-increasing demand from Schools to take part in their workshops, Grimm decided to take their offering on the road, and visit schools. We designed and built a modular 'classroom' that could be transported and rebuilt at each school, usually in their school hall.
Not only do crates make great temporary walls, but they can be filled with all sorts of oddities and trinkets. We built in a few suprises, including a pulley system to find a hidden key, and obviously there are a few secret doors.
"We need some way for customers to donate spare change to the charity" they said. "Spend 2 weeks building a fairy-scape masterpiece" is what we heard. Nothing at Grimm is normal, including their donation box.
In-keeping with the Grimm way of thinking, we sourced old pallets, bits of bark, and the odd fallen tree to build a magical place to get rid of your spare coins.
Grimm and Co has become rather popular. So popular in fact, it's outgrown it's current home.
It's new home is a 258-year-old church in the centre of Rotherham. After the best part of 12 months planning, and with enourmous amount of help and funds from the Arts Council, and local businesses, Grimm and Co will look to be in their new home for 2021. We'll be spending the best part of 2020 helping them achieve their ambitious plans
Watch this space.