Politics

‘I sold the rare Monopoly boards I found in my spare room for £9k’

When Christian Azolan moved back to his mother’s house in Hayes in June 2019, something needed to change.

There were 280 Monopoly boards in the spare room that he and his partner were sharing – a collection Christian had accumulated since he was 14.

They were everywhere: filling the wardrobe, under the bed, on the floor.

“I realised: ‘I’ve got to get rid of this stuff – I can’t live here with my partner in this room with all these Monopoly boards. They just have to go,'” says Christian.

READ MORE: London mum launches baby food brand using recipes from across the world to help kids discover new cultures

Christian Azolan’s Monopoly board collection

Christian, 38, had returned home to look after his 75-year-old mother during lockdown, who was undergoing cancer treatment.

It was an uncertain time for him: he’d just quit his long-term job as a corporate brand manager to launch his own art business, named Christian Azolan Art.

Although Christian had consciously been collecting Monopoly boards —friends and family would also pick up foreign editions for him when they went on holiday— he hadn’t realised he was sitting on a potential goldmine.

“I had no idea at all of their value,” says Christian. “I knew I had a couple in there that were really rare, but I didn’t think to myself: ‘Oh yeah, they’re worth lots of money.'”

So when Christian sold the collection for £9,000, it was an unexpected windfall.

Crucially, it gave him the capital he needed to kickstart his business.

Christian’s highest-earning board sold for £500 (more than 20 times the price he’d bought it for).

lt was a limited edition, factory-sealed Japanese board which featured a TV programme called Rayman.

“The only way to describe it is like a Japanese version of the Power Rangers,” explains Christian.

'I sold the rare Monopoly boards I found in my spare room for £9k'
Christian’s open studio at Stewkley House, Perivale – including some of his The Birds collection

Another rare board —and favourite of Christian’s— was a Hong Kong commemoration board from 1997, when the territory was handed back to China from Britain.

Otherwise, the boards were sold to special collectors online, whilst a number went to the Guinness Record Holder for Monopoly boards, Neil Scallan, who also lives in Hayes. (If you thought Christian’s collection was impressive, Scallan has over 3000 boards.)

“I used the money to start my online business – literally,” says Christian, who paid a web developer to set up his Amazon store, build his shop and develop his brand.

“It made a big difference because obviously the online marketplace opened up the whole of Europe to me.”

Before leaving the corporate world, Christian had been lecturing in Digital Media at Brunel University.

With a degree in fashion, he’d spend his weekends illustrating or experimenting with digital art, but he says: “I didn’t really think about the business or doing art as a full-time job until we were actually in lockdown.

“Covid gave me that release really, in terms of having the time to think about what I wanted to do next.”

Christian had been uploading pictures of his work to Instagram, but the turning point came with a phone call from his friend Gemma.

She told him she loved the paintings encouraged him to set up a business and commissioned two pieces of work.

“So then it was real – then I had to do it,” says Christian.

It forced him to formalise the business: get a bank account, set up an invoicing system and build an online shop.

He also joined the Amazon Small Business Accelerator Programme, a scheme which offers free support, online learning and bootcamp events for fledgling businesses.

With the pandemic grinding established companies to a halt, did setting up a new one feel like a risk? “I wouldn’t say it was a risk,” says Christian.

“I think [starting] any business is a risk, but I just thought: ‘how can I make it work long-term? How can I do this in this new way that people are consuming and buying online?”

Christian had some savings, whilst moving in with his mum gave him the freedom to invest in his new venture.

And, of course, it brought him back to his lucrative Monopoly board collection.

On the surface, Christian’s career change seems spontaneous – even brazen.

But Christian has a pragmatism about him; creative as well as business-minded, he was determined to make the business a success.

“My art business has to pay for itself… it’s not a hobby, it’s an actual career,” says Christian. “That was my mindset at the very beginning.”

'I sold the rare Monopoly boards I found in my spare room for £9k'
Christian Azolan with ‘Golden Flock’ – part of The Birds collection

And now, a year on, Christian Azolan Art is reaping the rewards of that careful planning.

It is on track to turn over its first £50,000 in just over a year – especially impressive, considering that few UK start-ups break even in their first year.

Christian is also represented by Ice Gallery in Windsor, and his work is being exhibited at a Design District show in November.

He’s a busy man: alongside his business, he’s also studying for an MA in Fine Art from Central St. Martins and teaching Digital Media, fashion illustration and private art classes.

Christian has been “getting a lot more notice” recently, but says: “Just as long as I’ve got a business that maintains and sustains itself, and then I can have a couple of little shows every year – I think that’s how I want it to be.”

Since becoming a full-time artist, Christian has noticed the way people talk about art: as something they did at school, but abandon in adulthood.

“I think the problem with this country is the way we approach art… No one sees it as a real career,” he says.

“In every story about artists, they’re usually poor, or they’re trying to make it, or they’re famous after they die. There’s not really a lot of amazing stories about current artists who are making it and doing it right now.”

'I sold the rare Monopoly boards I found in my spare room for £9k'
Between his business, his teaching and his MA, Christian is working seven days a week

He adds: “You can definitely make a bit of money from it, rather than just thinking: ‘I’m never going to be famous, I’m never going to sell it’.”

Christian’s lockdown collection, The Birds, depicts birds in their number – always against the moon or sun, and often offset by bright colours. Their titles are upbeat: “New Adventures”, “Fresh Start”, “Freedom”.

Although they’d always been there, Christian says he noticed the starlings in the sky for the first time as he sat in his mother’s living room during lockdown.

“There was something about the murmurations of starlings moving as one, because they all have to work together – there’s safety in numbers. I think that’s what we were doing as well, being locked down together. We had to get through it together.”

Christian adds: “I wanted to keep the series positive and upbeat – that’s why there’s a moon or sun in every single one of them. It’s about the passing of time – you know, in time, things will change, and it will get better.”

Christian’s work is digital, and characterised by a simple, practical and minimalist style.

'I sold the rare Monopoly boards I found in my spare room for £9k'

MyLondon’s brilliant new newsletter The 12 is packed with news, views, features and opinion from across the city.

Every day we’ll send you a free email at around 12pm with 12 stories to keep you entertained, informed and uplifted. It’s the perfect lunchtime read.

The MyLondon team tells London stories for Londoners. Our 45 journalists cover all the news you need – from City Hall to your local streets.

Never miss a moment by signing up to The 12 newsletter here.

“It’s also affordable. It’s not about selling expensive art, it’s about creating art that people want to put in their homes…They’re also limited edition.”

Christian is currently working on a project called Little Black Girls, a series of 21 portraits of girls aged between five and 15 which is intended to diversify the portrayal of black girls in art. It will be exhibited at Fitzrovia Chapel next March.

Christian is not your average artist – at least, he doesn’t conform to the whimsical stereotype.

During our conversation, he speaks about his achievements with a quiet confidence; there’s a careful pragmatism which suggests, despite the unexpectedness of his journey, that perhaps this is what he intended all along.

In any case, his message —that art can be more than a hobby— is refreshing.

“I would say to people, whatever your creativity is, whatever you want do – just do it, explore it, go out there, go to galleries, go to museums. We live in London and we have one of the best art scenes in the world,” says Christian.

“Explore new things as well – explore contemporary art, digital art. There isn’t just one type of art, or one type of creativity.”

Want more from MyLondon? Sign up to our daily newsletters for all the latest and greatest from across London here.

Do you have a story you think we should be covering? If so, please email [email protected]


Most Related Links :
Business News Governmental News Finance News

Need Your Help Today. Your $1 can change life.

[charitable_donation_form campaign_id=57167]

Source link

Back to top button