ART OF THE MATTER
Two artists share a passion for whimsy
Happy Garaje, a creative studio from Cebu founded by Mark and Johanna Deutsch in 2009, was born out of the duo’s pursuit of happiness. The unfolding scenes from the time the couple met until the inception of their brainchild is a story seemingly lifted from narrations they fancy creating.
Their tale began in a serendipitous encounter in a grocery store that ignited a spark between the two. This only further intensified their common love for art and storytelling, and a walk home one day that revealed they were once childhood neighbors. The two wed in 2009 and brought their partnership into the business realm. “We registered as a studio in 2009, which was less than a year after we started doing illustration work as freelancers. We started it because we wanted to work on creative things every day,” they share.
Mark worked as a graphic designer while Jo was involved in market research and branding management. Their hearts were always rooted in art despite it taking a backseat as they were growing up. Mark, a comic book collector who would sell one-peso storybooks in his neighborhood, traveled a lot as a child and documented his experiences in paintings, photography, and handmade pieces. Jo, likewise, filled her notebooks with drawings of fairytales, and the people she encountered.
Happy Garaje began in an actual garage they fashioned to mirror their creative fascinations. Today, it is an art studio, visual communications agency, and store with outfits like Folk Fiction, Barrio Peligro, The Land of Flying People, Geeks on a Beach, and Weekend Barista Club. From their humble beginnings, the duo now works with a team involved in product development and web/ app design and development. They’ve done projects with companies here and abroad, with notable ones including Disney, The Four Seasons Hotel in Marrakesh, Raffles Praslin in Seychelles, and Mead Johnson in the USA. Some of these are encounters that blossom from their hard work. “Sometimes when people you do good work for move up into the world, you find out that they make an effort to make it happen for you, too,” they share. Keeping a good balance for their projects and maintaining personal discovery through experimentations, they’ve come up with solid work that have earned international accolades from the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, Luerzer’s Archive in Europe, and Tokyo Designers Week, among many others.
Spending even their breaks on art-related pursuits like playing musical instruments, reading, or drawing, they also turn to traveling and spending time with their daughter Summer to reboot from their work. In any case, it’s a partnership that works because it’s essentially grounded on love. “It’s a true collaboration process. Sometimes an illustration project comes and one of us will feel really strongly about it and will take the role of art directing it. There are also times when we pass the paper back and forth. It works for us because we have an understanding as to what the other person might think but, at the same time, we are not together 24/7 so the influences can vary. That balance of dependability and unexpected randomness is good,” they end.
ASIDE FROM BEING CO-FOUNDERS OF HAPPY GARAJE, MARK AND JOHANNA DEUTSCH IS IN CHARGE OF ILLUSTRATION AND WRITING, RESPECTIVELY (EXTREME ABOVE). THE VISITOR IS A TOY THAT THE COUPLE MADE FOR THE STRANGE BEASTS TOY SHOW IN CEBU (ABOVE, LEFT).