The Unemployed Philosophers Guild
‘You need funny things in woeful times’ – the Shaw Brothers
Who is behind these unique, irony-drenched gift ideas? Brothers David and Stephan Shaw, owners of the Unemployed Philosophers Guild, have been perfecting ways of making money from politics since the summer of 1989. One night around the fall of the Berlin wall, they baked a pan of clay earrings – maps of Germany - East Germany for one ear, West Germany for the other – and sold for $5 at a stand on West Broadway. Sold out!
It wasn’t fun-seeking curiosity that drove David, a history PhD student, and Stephan, a philosophy major undergrad, to the street at that tumultuous time. It was simply that they couldn’t find any work. They didn’t have a business plan, and still don’t really!
“Moreover, no one in the company had business experience. Instead, the employees’ backgrounds are in filmmaking, theatre and arts. In fact, only the Guild’s art director, who designs the products, actually does what he studied to do”, says David.
Despite the lack of business expertise, the Philosophers’ grew from making pins with the faces of their favourite philosophers, to designing mugs, mints, puppets and stationery that now sell in hundreds of stores throughout the USA and around the world. The business grew from the brothers designing things they would like to have themselves, to a much wider brief and the popular humourous political lines they produce today.
For the most part, the guild pilfers art and images already in the public domain. ''We are stuck in the past,'' Mr. Shaw said. ''Also because living people could sue.''
Live Wires have been working with Unemployed Philosophers Guild since 2004. We have a great range of their products and their mugs are an enduring popular item. Check out the range with your rep or online – there is much to make you laugh!