A conversation taking place about the lack of cultural-spaces in Ireland led to the Kickstarter campaign that raised €47,634 from 594 backers
Hen’s Teeth is a cultural destination and lifestyle store in Dublin. Founded in 2015, Hen’s Teeth is the vision of three locals and lifelong-friends: Greg Spring, Russell Simmons, and Rosie Gogan-Keogh. Launched with DIY roots, Hen’s Teeth began as a traveling concept with pop-up dinners and exhibitions hosted in its founders’ houses. The brand today collaborates with artists and designers, from Honey Dijon to Accidentally Wes Anderson, curates’ products including homeware, art, sweet-treats and alcohol, and operates a creative agency: Hen’s Teeth Studio. «Hen’s Teeth is a place where art, music, culture, and design meet to create experiences and to bring color into people’s lives. That is the driving force of what we do», says Managing Director, Rosie Gogan-Keogh.
From its inception, the objective of becoming a cultural-hub was accounted for. «We built a community of Irish and international artists via the website», says Gogan-Keogh. Hen’s Teeth was encouraged by sales from Australian and French customers. It took two years for Hen’s Teeth to establish itself as a cultural-nexus. «In 2017, we were involved in an exhibition called 60×60 in the Royal Dublin Society (RDS), featuring sixty Irish artists with Richard Seabrooke, creative director of Irish festivals and events. This introduced us to the artistic-community. We founded our brick-and-mortar premise on Fade Street in Dublin. These milestones solidified us as a brand and put us on the map». When Hen’s Teeth began, the support base consisted of their extended-community – people in the music, design, and art world. The demographic has changed since. «We have students and seniors, art collectors, and customers from around the world». Today Hen’s Teeth operates from Blackpitts, Dublin 8, on the outskirts of the city, but it first laid tracks in the heart of Dublin’s creative-quarter, alongside independent-retailers and local-businesses. «The Fade Street location gave us a space where we could start expanding our vision. We had a limited-area, but we would pull it apart for events, turn it into a pop-up dinner venue or an exhibition space. It was a short-term lease, and when it came to moving on, it made us question ourselves: ‘What is Hen’s Teeth? Is it a lifestyle store, or a gallery?’ We stood back, looked at what we hoped to achieve, and realized that we wanted to create a destination for the relevance of culture, and required a space where we could expand». Faced with the financial implications of the project, Hen’s Teeth sought community support. The move to Dublin 8 was the result of a Kickstarter campaign that raised €47,634 from 594 backers. «It was a challenge because you are putting yourself out there, and asking your community to invest in you. To know that they are rooting for you is validating». Gogan-Keogh was aware of the conversation taking place about the lack of cultural-spaces in Ireland. She says, «The Kickstarter campaign was around the time that Bernard Shaw closed down. That struck a chord with people». The 2,600 square foot Hen’s Teeth store in Dublin 8 is open plan with sections utilized for a purpose. «The area holds significance to us; it is our neighborhood. When we first visited the site it was a shell, but it was clear to us how we would design the space: the cafe, the store, and the gallery. When we opened, the back area was intended to be our studio and office. We are now moving that, and making it a continuation of seating and a music space. We had a vision of what we wanted the Dublin 8 space to look like, but we could not have put it down on paper. That is where Acky and AB Projects came in – to bring Hen’s Teeth to life. We have known Acky Fakhry, who used to be with Design Goat. He is the Creative Director of AB Projects. We had a vision in mind for Hen’s Teeth, as a brand, but he was able to realize those concepts through design, by incorporating color, and materials into the space». Yellow curtains allow the space to be transformed for events, sectioning it off or allowing for traffic to flow. A table consisting of recycled-bottle caps and the use of reflective-glass is implemented.
Creative Director, Greg Spring is the lead curator of products, but the team chips in and are involved in capacities through the creative process. «A trait of our stock is design-led products, from prints to a bar of chocolate». Apart from coffee table books, lifestyle products, apparels, and printed works, the brand is working on its food and beverage offering. «Lily Finlay manages and grows the Treats and Booze offering. These products need to remain design-led and uphold our aesthetic. Lily sources products and brands from across the world, and has grown this segment of our business during the pandemic». During Dublin’s first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, the store stayed open, moving its Treats and Booze offering up front. The commerce was a cue for things to come. «We have taken this offering online». Brexit has made its mark. «While we have worked with producers from the UK, this is becoming a challenge. Our focus is to collaborate with independent businesses and brands from around the world. We strive to create a network of people who share our values». Artistic collaborations are characteristic of Hen’s Teeth. Collaborations include American musician, Honey Dijon and award-winning Brazilian illustrator and artist, Marina Esmeraldo. The collaborative exhibition presents a series of neon signs entitled Black Girl Magic. In conversation, Rosie shares the process behind collaborations at Hen’s Teeth, «There is a list of people we would like to work with. In the case of Honey Dijon, we knew that she was a born curator, but had not curated a show. We brought her the idea of ‘Black Girl Magic’, and she agreed. To pair her with an artist like Marina Esmeraldo exemplifies what we do as facilitators». As Gogan-Keogh describes it, a diary of exhibitions and events to take place will engage the community and international-artists in the Blackpitts location. «We are moving away from workshops and putting energy into hosting a select number of exhibitions per year. Dinners are an aspect of Hen’s Teeth. These include takeovers where we transform the space». For the team behind Hen’s Teeth, a food division was inevitable. On moving away from the city center to Dublin 8 the realization of a reduction in footfall was met with the opening of the Hen’s Teeth Diner in November 2019 to boost turnover. «Our Head Chef is Killian Walsh, a friend, who has worked at Michelin-star restaurants including L’Enclume and Pied a Terre. We want to keep our offering limited, with options that change on the regular. The dishes are inspired by our choice of cuisines from around the world».
Hen’s Teeth Studio is another branch of the brand, founded in 2019. Rosie Gogan-Keogh defines this agency as «collaborations, curation, and connecting brands with creatives for collaborative partnerships». For 2020, a wealth of events was planned, including tie-ins with Body & Soul and Jägermeister. This was wiped clean by the impact of the pandemic. The change impelled Hen’s Teeth to reevaluate its business model. «We have shifted our focus, and now treat Hen’s Teeth as our number one client. This has allowed our brand to become self-sufficient. We are selective about who we work with at Hen’s Teeth Studio. We ensure that the people we work with are brands that align with the studio and can add value». A collaboration with Lego and a series of illustrated-print releases is lined up for 2021.