A product of the love, hard work and dedication from 2 friends from Leeds, company UK Custom Plugs has seen worldwide success in the 4 years since its creation. Inkluded’s Sam Berry wanted to know more. (There’s a sneaky discount just for Inkluded readers down below too – enjoy!)
Since identifying a gap in the market for ear plugs, UKCP has since grown into something much larger. Today, they produce clothing, jewellery, phone cases and more alongside their high quality plugs, many of which can be customised with your own image or design.
They also regularly collaborate with many tattooists to create their in-house designs. Pablo Sinalma (Gold St Tattoo, Barcelona), Lucy O’Connell (Red Tattoo & Piercing, Leeds) and Kim-Anh Nguyen (Seven Seas Tattoo, Eidenhoven) are just some of the artists who have contributed in the past.
Co-founder Matthew took time out of a busy schedule to tell me more about the company he has helped bring to life.
Hello chaps! To kick off, tell us, how was UKCP born? Who is involved in the business?
UKCP started as a simple idea from us, Chris and Matt. We joked about the fact that nowhere sold any ear plugs that were half decent. Flaming 8 balls and skulls with top hats were about as exciting as the designs got and plain plugs seemed a bit boring. We thought to ourselves, why doesn’t someone get a great tattoo artist or illustrator to make some amazing plug designs? We thought that artist designed plugs would be received better than what was currently on offer in local shops and piercers.
And that was it, the spark that lit the fire under our feet and created an idea that was conceived through a need for a product that we felt didn’t exist. We got to work straight away thinking of who could design the plugs, what we wanted on them and a name for our new project to be called.
It wasn’t long before we were spending every night brainstorming and researching about everything to do with plugs and the manufacturing process. There was just one thing stopping us… money. We both had none. It was at this point we turned into professional beggars and part time risk takers, maxing out a £1,200 credit card and selling our souls to family and friends. Then UK Custom Plugs was born!
Have things evolved over time, and gone to plan like you thought they would?!
To this day it’s still about creating unique designs with dedicated artists. Over time though we have also introduced more basic designs and products into our store, allowing us to cater for different tastes, styles and budgets.
We never thought UKCP would grow to be as big as it is today so our vision has changed in that respect. We listen to our customers and what they want to see and as a result we sell a larger variety of products than we ever anticipated. It’s also not just about plugs anymore! We have a new clothing range to be released later this year and it’s going to be on a different level to our current products – we’re really excited!
By having the custom generator you potentially have an infinite amount of products in your catalogue; how do you cope with this aspect?
It’s great to see the different ideas that our customers have and we get everything from selfies, to pets, to original designs that our customers have created. We have a variety of machinery and great team members so dealing with this aspect couldn’t be done without them.
What is the most eyebrow-raising design that has been put onto one of your products?!
We’ve had some explicit images not suitable to repeat! We’ve also had some comical submissions including Harry Styles, a pigeon with a dog’s head and the late great Deirdre Barlow now immortalised in plug form.
Ultimate Skin studio in Leeds stocks your products, what’s your connection to this particular studio?
Ultimate Skin is a tattoo studio in our hometown so we’ve had a close relationship with them from the beginning, along with other tattoo studios in Leeds that we’ve worked with closely. Leeds has some great talent when it comes to tattooists and it should be on the map for one of the best places to get tattooed.
You’ve worked with quite a few tattooists on designs for products, how do you go about choosing an artist to work with?
It helps that a lot of our friends are talented artist. We pick artists that we like and give them a loose brief based on ideas we love.
If you could have any tattooist in the world do you a design could you narrow it down to one? Who would it be?
We prefer to work with people that we’ve met so we couldn’t pick just one artist based on artwork alone. It’s all about the collaborative aspect. We’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing talent over the years and we have great working relationships with all of the tattooists we’ve worked with. We have lots new designs and projects coming soon!
Tell us about your own tattoos.
Chris: I have a wide variety of work from various Leeds based artists. Tom Flanagan, Michael Gibson, Chris Lambert and Neil Dransfield to name a few. Other than that it’s nice to get pieces at conventions from artists around the world.
Matthew: The majority of my work is done by Chris Lambert Although there are a lot of great tattoo artists I prefer to stick to the same one for continuity. I’ve been getting tattooed by Chris for four years now.
What was your role in the organisation of the Leeds International Tattoo Expo?
When we knew that Sylvia (from Ultimate Skin) was organising Leeds first tattoo convention in 2014, we were excited to be asked to be a part of this. Leeds has a high calibre of tattoo artists and we wanted to see a convention become a success. After the first year we took a step back from helping out to continue our focus on UKCP but we have a great working relationship with the organisers and continue to trade at the convention every year. It’s great to see it progress year on year.
Where do you see UKCP in 5 years time?
It’s hard to say. We’ve only been trading for four years and both of us had no idea it would be such a success. We keep adding something new each day and it would be great to build the brand to a stage where it’s the ‘go to’ place for all your body jewellery needs.
Exclusive discount for Inkluded: enter discount code inkluded this will give you 25% off any UKCP product (expires 30 September).