Katrina Sophia

By Kate Marsden

I “met” Katrina of Katrina Sophia Art & Illustration online a few years ago, and finally met her in person (and bought Christmas cards!) at an event in London some time later. She’s since moved to Nottingham where she creates her beautiful paintings from a rather larger studio. Here she talks about her work and the importance of small purchases when you’re making a living from your art…

Tell us a little about you. What do you do? 

I am an artist and freelance illustrator living in Nottingham, previously London. I run a business selling original paintings and products on my online shop, and offer commissions, such as pet portraits, wedding stationery and hand lettering services. I also create bespoke illustrations and letterings for brands and companies. Nature is my biggest inspiration, I collect ideas and inspiration on my sketchbook and then paint them with watercolour, or sometimes oil. 

I studied two art related degrees and they didn't work out after the first year due to several barriers I faced as a deaf person and sign language user. As I still wanted to get into a creative field, I applied for internships and every one of them got rejected because I didn't have the experience. I was baffled, because I needed these unpaid internships to gain experience! After three years of working odd jobs while applying for internships and assistant roles, I realised my situation was not going to change until I started making things happen for myself, so I took control and started my business.

To this day, even though running a business is not easy and the communication barriers I faced will still be there for the rest of my life, I am proud of what I've achieved so far and feel determined to keep improving my business, and grow as an artist while I am at it. 

What does a typical day involve?

In the morning, I reply to emails and work on personal projects. Then after 11, I pack any new orders and head to the post office. For the rest of the day I work on any paid projects I have at that time, and in downtime I work on improving my product photography, updating my website or writing posts for the blog.

Self care is also important so I go to badminton every Tuesday lunchtime with my boyfriend, and swimming or walking every other day.

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

I work from home. My studio is pretty simple - white walls, wooden floors and plants. I have two tables, one for daily work with a computer and one for painting bigger, messier pieces. When I am not working, I enjoy making things out of clay, reading arty magazines, photography, looking after plants, and walking. I love discovering new parks and nature reserves. 

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

To stand out. The creative industry is getting increasingly bigger and saturated. Getting my name out there and growing my profile proved very hard in the first few years of my business, and I think it is the same for most.

Staying visible is also difficult. We have to be consistent, self-promoting online to remind people that we are still around and selling our goods or services. I find that if I become busy for a few days and slow down online, or even go on holiday, I lose attention very quickly. It's a tricky balance.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

I hope to find more stockists for my products and build a bigger audience. I would like to be able to make a comfortable living through my business.

My biggest dream is to own a cafe-slash-gallery supporting independent artists but I think it is a bit far fetched at the moment! I just hope to live long enough to achieve this.

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out? 

Start growing your email list right now! I regret not doing this from the start. Also, a continuous tip I always give myself is to keep creating as much as you can and focus on self development.

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

Handmade Nottingham! An amazing shop in the city of Nottingham, supporting small businesses from Nottinghamshire and beyond. It is a must visit if you haven't yet. I am stocked with them, and I am surprised at how my products sold well there and I am thankful for them.

I love Shedquarters, a beautiful online shop selling homeware and stationery. I've shopped with them since they first opened - they are always friendly and reliable.

I've recently discovered a shop inside Nottingham Contemporary. They stock lovely and unique gifts by independent artists. All their proceeds support their artistic and educational work, which I think is a good cause.

Had you realised  the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?  

I realised that as I follow Just A Card on Twitter and the message is always crystal clear. When I learnt about this campaign, I realised how it was very true and might be part of the reason why my business was sometimes struggling, so I've been telling this simple but vital message to my family and friends. 

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

It is a big deal. Just a small purchase makes a big difference to my business, and to me too, because this is my living.

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

I heard about this campaign on Twitter, which I am trying to be active on. I am generally rubbish with social media! My favourite social channel has to be Instagram, it is a perfect place to share work in progress photos and share pretty things! I post there daily, though I always remind myself not to put all eggs in one basket so I post on Twitter and Facebook Page quite regularly as well. 

People can support the message of Just A Card by sharing their tweets and blogposts; telling their friends and family about Just A Card and their favourite independent artists; and of course, by actually buying lovely gifts and giving them to people!


#HandmadeHour… the most talented place on Twitter!

Guest Post from Owen Birkby of Handmade Hour

We were chuffed to bits when Kate from Just A Card asked us to help them with a blog post; we were particularly delighted to hear they wanted to write one all about the wonderful world of #HandmadeHour!

Back on 5th April, we dedicated a #HandmadeHour to the Just A Card campaign, and all the pictures you see accompanying this post appeared with the #HandmadeHour hashtag during that session.

Who we are…

To introduce myself, I am Owen, to my friends I’m known as ‘Big O’ to others I’m Mr #HandmadeHour. I’m really just a loving son, husband and dad who wants to try and help as many as possible realise their dreams.

I set up #HandmadeHour in March 2013; it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I wasn’t exactly sure the direction we would go in, but I knew it would eventually be a fantastic platform for all the hard working small independent businesses out there. Having a background in social media, and a keen interest in handmade and craft due to my wife’s business over at @NeverlandKC, I was determined to use Twitter as a platform so all these businesses could promote themselves to the world.

Although #HandmadeHour was born in March 2013, our first official session wasn’t until June the same year. I was initially in two minds about it (I shouldn’t have been) and I spent a good 2-3 months getting word out about #HandmadeHour. I remember the first ever #HandmadeHour as though it was yesterday. We had around 300 tweets altogether, and I was as high as a kite afterwards, it was well and truly awesome! #HandmadeHour has gone from strength to strength since then, we had to extend the Wednesday session to 2 hours (yep, we think we’ve found you that extra hour in the day that you need).We introduced a second #HandmadeHour on a Sunday, and a shorter session on a Friday from 12.30-1pm which we named #HHLunch.

Why take part…

#HandmadeHour regularly trends in the UK top 10; we’ve been the number 1 trending topic on several occasions. We’ve gone from 300 tweets and retweets in an hour to around 5000-7000 in the 2 hours.  Our hashtags are seen by around 70 million people every week, and have been known to reach 119 million people in just one week alone! It is humbling that people give up their own free time to join in with our sessions.

#HandmadeHour continues to grow in size. We love to meet new people and we’re constantly blown away by the talents on display. It’s great to see small independent handmade, craft and artistic businesses thriving throughout the world. The energy is contagious and it’s always an exciting moment when we see that businesses have found customers and made sales through one of the sessions.

So then we did this…

We always wanted to do more, and so we tossed around the idea of Handmade Nation. Handmade Nation will be launching in all its glory at the end of Spring 2017. We cannot give the game away, but we’re very excited to show you what we’ve been doing behind the scenes. Our dream is to have one place where all the wonderful businesses out there can log in to just one system, sell in their own shop, do all their accounts, schedule and interact with social media, and basically do everything all in one place!

Supporting the campaign…

The Just A Card campaign struck a chord with us straight away - the message was plain and simple, we all have a responsibility to support each other, to support all the wonderful independent shops, galleries and Designer/Makers out there. We bought into the campaign, and we’re delighted to support them in any way we can whether giving them a shout out on Twitter, mentioning them in our newsletter or tweeting people like mad in the build up to a Just A Card Thunderclap moment. In many ways #HandmadeHour and the Just A Card campaign are very similar, with the ultimate goal of supporting as many small independent businesses as we can.

Top tips for Twitter hours…

We’re regularly asked about Twitter etiquette, and for any tips we have in joining in with a networking session on Twitter. In all honesty we’d love to retweet more than we do, but Twitter place strict limits on tweets and retweets so we do have to play by the rules and not get too carried away! Here are a few of our tips, there are lots of Twitter chats and networking sessions out there and you have to find the right balance for you:

·       Master the art of photography, and take the best photograph you can with the best equipment you can afford. Without a doubt, we are immediately drawn in by a well-taken photograph.

·       Be yourself… tell us about who you are, we love to hear your story, to see that your business is run by a nice, warm hearted human being.

·       Be creative. We can spot the odd scheduled post and they all look the same, so try and change your wording, it’ll give your business a bit of originality and we love a bit of that!

·       #Hashtags… #dont #use #too #many… all too often we see people trying to cram those hashtags in. We understand why but you really don’t need to, and you’ll probably be more successful if you cut them down a bit. If you’re taking part in #HandmadeHour then use our hashtag and maybe something that describes your product, e.g. #handmade #pottery. This also gives you more characters to play with.



·       Have fun and join in! The more you tweet the more chance you have to promote your products with everyone who’s watching. Don’t just tweet your own pieces but also promote and chat with other people. There are some seriously talented people out there and we all love a virtual pat on the back every now and again.

·       All you need to do is ask. If you have a question then please do ask us. It’s best to get us outside of the networking sessions and we’re knocking around most of the time so we will get back to you. We’re also there outside of the networking sessions to help to promote you so please think of us and tag us in a couple of tweets every day; we’re regularly tweeting from Monday to Sunday.

We hope that our tips have given you a little food for thought.

In our opinion, #HandmadeHour is the most talented hour in the world, you can join us on Twitter every Wednesday between 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm and on a Sunday between 8pm and 9pm, we’d absolutely love to see you there!

Spring Shopping Guide

By Sarah Cowan

Spring has sprung! And at Just a Card HQ we’re celebrating by bringing you a kaleidescope of lovely things in green, blue and yellow. You’ll find twenty seven of our favourite pieces from the designer-makers and independent shops who support our campaign.

Take a look at what we have chosen - you might find something bright and cheerful to banish the last of the winter greyness!  

Where to buy:

Leaves print from original watercolour
By Shirley Payton at Oh Hello Shan Creative

Felt and bead flower brooch
By Rachel at PepperPot

Cactus print drawstring bag
By Annie Walker at Mac and Morris

Mo-Tea-To tea
By Angie Young at Craft Tea Company

Topiary garden drum lampshade
By Jennie Jackson at Jennie Jackson Design

Fair Isle pattern merino long scarf/wrap
By Ulla Cronin at Finesse Knits

Forget me not greeting card
By Hannah Miles at utensils0

Hedgehog zip pouch
By Kathleen Meaney at Kathleen Meaney Illustration

Monstera A5 notebook
By Lydia Meiying 

Where to buy:

Small copper enamel bowl
By Gail Cadogan at My Cherry Pie

Blue and white Porto plates tea towel
By Ilze at Made By Ilze

Aquamarine pendant
By Sarah at Chalso

A5 journal
AUS $9.95
By Tilly & Type

The Squawks Collection box of 12 greetings cards
By Ruth Thorpe at Ruth Thorpe Studio

Superb Fairy Wren - wall sculpture
By Jose Heroys - Fibre Artist

Blue and white sailor suit
By Caroline Stansfield

Flight Paths
By Lily Corcoran at Petal to Petal

Lovebirds and violets card
By Louise Slater

Where to buy:

Yellow jersey Tour De France Yorkshire terrier keyring
By Helen Rodgers at MisHelenEous

Dotty cushion in mustard
By Georgia Bosson

Daisy card
By Sue Bee at Bee Designs

Striped butterflyfish screen print
By Rosa Doyle

Congratulations card
By Christine Gardner at Christine Gardner Design Studio

Yellow stretch felt bracelet
By Melissa Latto at Nine Angels

Loop necklace
By Ruth Lyne at Ruth Lyne Contemporary Glass

Happy pineapple card
By Victoria Tojeiro at VictoriaDraws

Acanthus notebook
By Liz Clamp at Liz Clamp Designs

A Fantastic Giveaway and Campaign Update!

By Kate Marsden & Sarah Hamilton

A rallying cry from Just A Card founder Sarah Hamilton for you this week – we’re also celebrating a year of this here blog with a fantastic giveaway – a chance to win 3 (yes THREE!) of my absolute favourite art/business books. Make sure you read the post right to the end to enter the giveaway, but now over to Sarah for all the news…

Hello wonderful Just a Card Supporters.

I hope you’re all well and enjoying the Spring! I do hope you’ll also take part in our fantastic giveaway – and help us spread this latest campaign update far and wide. The fabulous ‘Just A Card’ team and I firmly believe a vibrant High Street and creative community is achievable - if only people realise just how valuable and appreciated every single sale is.

Running an independent shop/gallery, or being an artist and designer, is incredibly rewarding – it’s brilliant fun, creatively fulfilling and best of all are the amazing people you meet on the journey. However there are challenges – making a living can be tough.

I started the campaign a few years ago when I read this most poignant quote, by gallery owners who'd recently closed “if everyone who had complimented our beautiful gallery had bought just a card we’d still be open”.

The campaign aim is that the buying public see our distinctive logo in an independent shop, at a design/craft fair or on an artist’s website, and are reminded of our simple yet powerful message - ALL sales, even just a card, add up (N.B cards are just an example of a small sale). Compliments are everything - they make the world a sunnier place - but if at all possible, please try to make a small purchase. The shop, maker, artist will thank you enormously and appreciate it hugely. Independent shops are not all about shopping - they're about diversity, creativity and passion. Sales are not all about money – they’re a boost in confidence – an affirmation of someone’s hard work and talent.

If you’re passionate about the future of creative businesses/people then work with us - spread the word, not just amongst artists and makers but, most importantly, to the wider buying public, that supporting these businesses is vital. If you do then our high streets and artists/designers will thrive - that’s your business, your dream, your neighbourhood.

It really is as simple as just a card

Are you in? - If so please read on – play your part – MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

The Giveaway

To encourage you to share this post, and to follow us on social media, we’re running a great giveaway! Three fabulous books – check them out – you’ll love them!

Maker Spaces by Emily Quinton

Online Marketing for Your Craft Business by Hilary Pullen

House of Cards by Sarah Hamilton (follow House of Cards Book on Instagram for more info!)

Read on to the end of this post to enter.

New Instagram Spot – called Have You Met?  

Every Tuesday we’ll select a maker/shop/event who actively supports the campaign (retweets, shares posts, comments etc.) and feature them on Instagram. The aim is to introduce you to fellow supporters and new people, and to help that person build their Instagram following.

It would be ace if you’d follow that person on a Tuesday. Be kind - it could be you next week!

#JustACard Hour!

Our team member Michael Fram from Leaping Hare Gallery will be running a new Just a Card Hour on Thursdays from 8 – 9pm on Twitter. The first #JustACard hour will be next Thursday 11 May – share your favourite shops, pictures of Just A Card in action, and of course your own work! The main aim of the hour though is to share, support each other and build awareness of the campaign (so not just for pushing your latest product) – come along and join in the fun!

Just A Card Website – Can you help?

We'd love to update our website, but need a few hundred quid to do this - if you’re a website designer and would be kind enough to donate your services to the cause – then please get in touch. Alternatively, if you’ve a few hundred quid in your sock drawer we’d love to hear from you…

Just A Card on Facebook – Please read, LIKE the page and share the posts

As you know Facebook’s a great way to spread the word. I’ve been using my Sarah Hamilton Prints business account very effectively for some years to spread the campaign message, and whilst it could be preferable to have a designated Facebook page for Just A Card, it’d be crazy to start all over again from zero. So I ask you to PLEASE share the posts, especially as I’m loathe to pay £7 every time to boost them (I already pay to host the Just a Card website and other bills associated with the campaign). We’re incredibly lucky that the extremely generous Design Trust initially funded our website and helped us get on our feet, but essentially we have no funding. I'm of the option that we, as a community, should work together, so let's override that algorithm nonsense and share the posts far and wide without me having to raid my piggy bank - just because we're amazing!

Just A Card Spring Shopping Guide

Our team member Sarah Cowan is sifting through the shopping guide submissions and putting together the blog post for next week – Thank you Sarah – you’re a STAR – we know it’s lots of work for you. 

Fingers crossed, but don’t forget if you’re not successful, there will be others, so keep entering. Please make sure you always read the entry instructions carefully.

Social Media Banners - Can you help?

Here are examples of a couple of banners/lettering we've used on Instagram and Social media - made by Sarah Cowan and myself.

WE NEED MORE! Can you help us out by making images like this which we can post?

Please Pop Over to Artists’ Open House – Saturday/Sunday 13 -14 May

I’d so love to meet you!

So I hope you’ll pop over to Peckarmans Wood, Dulwich, London next week for the annual Artists’ Open House. If you’re an architecture/interiors fan you’ll enjoy these Mid-Century split-level houses. Open House is always great fun (AND we do great cakes!) – I’m at number 49 and the lovely Justine Ellis, our wonderful sunny Just A Card team member, is at number 10, so two for the price of one!

That’s all for now folks.

Best wishes and thank you all for your amazing support. A big thank you too to all the team who work so hard on this campaign – oh and don’t forget to read on to enter the giveaway!

Sarah H xx


1.     Follow us on INSTAGRAM – Like our posts.

2.     Follow us on Twitter – Please Retweet our tweets as well as liking them.

3.     Like the FB page (see above).

4.     Display our posters and give out our postcards - free to download on our website. They work!

We also have a new mailing list - please add your email address so we can get in touch with you with campaign news.


For a chance to win the following, fantastic books please click on this link and complete the Rafflecopter form. We will need you to do the following:

1.     Follow @justacard on Instagram

2.     Follow @justacard1 on Twitter

3.     Follow Sarah Hamilton Prints on Facebook

4.     Tweet about the giveaway (you can do this every day for extra entries – the aim is to spread the word about our campaign!)

The giveaway closes at midnight on Thursday 11 May and is open to UK residents only. One winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter and they will win ALL THREE books. The winner will be notified as soon as possible after the giveaway closes.

You can win…

Maker Spaces by Emily Quinton

Online Marketing for Your Craft Business by Hilary Pullen AND

House of Cards by Sarah Hamilton







Georgia Bosson

By Kate Marsden

Back to London today to meet textile designer Georgia Bosson. Most of my friends and family have received a little bit of Georgia’s work at some point over the last few years, and the calendar from her collaboration with Cecily Vessey is gracing my kitchen wall as I type!

Read on to find out more about Georgia’s work and to hear why she supports the Just A Card campaign.

Tell us a little about you. What do you do?

I am a textile designer working with screen printing, embroidery and quilting techniques. These processes manifest as a range of products from cushions and quilts to limited edition notebooks.  I try to make my work as environmentally and socially conscious as possible; using only linen or organic fabrics and working with social enterprises for the production of my products, which enables me to support education and employment opportunities for the prisoners at HMP Downview.

What does a typical day involve?

A great day will involve lots of drawing and messing around at the print table followed by yoga, however a normal day is usually a split between ‘proper’ business work and production, with hopefully a bit of creative fun squeezed in. I have just implemented a new routine where I don’t do any computer work or answer emails until after 12pm. I found that my days were being absorbed responding to other peoples requests, and my creative work was being pushed aside, so I now keep the mornings for printing, drawing and making new things which is working really well so far!

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

I have a space in a shared studio in an industrial estate near Millwall football stadium (oh so glamorous!) I am incredibly lucky to have space for a large print table where the majority of my work is produced, and my workshops are taught. My desk area is always full of piles of drawings and samples as I am often working on more than one design or project at a time, and I find that if the work sits next to each other it can spawn new ideas.

When I’m not working I am usually either off on an adventure on my bike, swimming at the lido or shopping for delicious food at Brockley market!

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

Aside from the obvious (ahem Brexit and inflation) I think the main challenge designer makers face is their own insecurities, we are always ready to dismiss an idea or feel that we aren’t good enough in the face of an endless barrage of beautifully curated Instagram photos. One of the best things I have read this year was from Patricia van den Akker at the Design Trust; ‘Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle’ we all have to remember to be our own people and trust our instincts and sometimes just ignore everyone else and do what makes you happy.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

I have endless plans and ambitions, however my top priority at the moment is to expand my range of fabric by the metre, which should enable me to expand my current product range and hopefully work on some large scale pieces. I would also love to keep working on collaborative projects such as the Landmark Locations series that I launched with Cecily Vessey last year, there are a few things in the pipeline so we will see what happens!

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out? 

Don’t expect to change your life in the next five minutes, it takes time and dedication to build a brand. Even when you reach a goal (such as a trade show) it might not look or feel how you expected, but embrace it and treat everything as an opportunity to learn and meet people. You will never feel that your work is finished but remember to take time to look back and see how far you have come, it will make the next hurdle much easier to handle.

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

And Keep are one of my newest stockists and I love their ethos. They source products that are designed to be kept forever, and if you have had enough of your purchase they even offer a re-homing service for any unwanted items ensuring that it will continue to be loved.  

Unlimited Brighton a brilliantly bright and fun shop in the heart of Brighton selling prints, stationery and homewares, with a regularly changing rosta of designers and an amazing exterior wall it’s not to be missed.

Had you realised  the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?

Yes, I have known about Just A Card through Sarah Hamilton since it was first conceived. I think it is a fantastic way to remind people that small sales make all the difference, and to a small business every sale feels like a victory!

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

I started my business at craft markets and have gradually moved on to showing at trade shows and working on a larger scale. However, those initial card and tea towel sales gave me the confidence to keep going with my business, and helped build the foundations that hold everything up today. When I was starting (around four years ago) there was much less competition, so I think it is great to have a network that supports designers old and new and reminds people that every £3 sale really does count.

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

My favourite social media platform is Instagram, as a designer the ability to convey a message through an image feels like a fun challenge, and it is a really friendly platform. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook, but Instagram gets all the fun stuff! The algorithms on all social media can make getting your work seen difficult to say the least, but I think the most important thing to do is keep engaging with other small businesses, ensuring that you like and share their work, as everyone is essentially in the same boat and needs as much support as the next person. 

Georgia will be popping up at Sarah Hamilton's house for Dulwich Artists Open House next month - so make sure you head over there and see them both (and Gabriela Szulman too!). All the details are here.


How to stop being scared of shopkeepers

By Clare Yuille

Creative people are often scared of pitching their work to stores. That’s a pity because indie retailers and artists make a great team. Together we bring creativity, distinctiveness and variety to the high street. Stocking your work allows me to offer an experience customers can’t get online or at a big shopping centre. In return, I can give you access to an audience which values quality, skill and craftsmanship.

Sounds good, right?

The problem is we’re never going to be able to work together if you’re too scared to get in touch. So how about we take a quick look at what’s making you break out in a cold sweat.

Is it this?

"I don't know what to say when I sit down to write an email to a shopkeeper. I don't know what you expect, or how things work. What if I make a mistake?"

Most artists and designers don't know how to pitch their work to retailers because no- one ever taught them. If you went to art school, you might have learned about sixteenth century embroidery techniques and the finer points of brushwork, but I bet no-one ever said "By the way, here's a bunch of stuff on how to actually, you know, RUN YOUR BUSINESS when you graduate."

Or maybe you're self-taught. Perhaps your interest turned into a hobby, your hobby turned into a business, and now you're here, wondering what the heck to do next. In both cases, understanding what retailers want can help you feel much less scared about pitching us your work. Here it is in a nutshell:

Retailers need to know who you are, what you sell, how much it costs and why their customers will care.

Answer those questions as simply and clearly as you can. Show me bright, clear pictures of the lovely thing you make, provide all the relevant details, then stand back and let me make a decision.

There are lots of ways to tip the odds in your favour, but in its simplest form that's what shopkeepers want from you. And you know what else? We actually want you to get in touch. Seriously, we do. We want you to waltz into our inbox and blow our socks off.

If your product is a good fit for my customers and your pricing allows both of us to earn money, you just made my job (and my life) a whole lot easier. Indie shopkeepers are rooting for you. We’d much rather say “yes!” than “no.”

Two things are guaranteed to increase your success rate:

Target the retailers you pitch to with pin-point accuracy

If I shook you awake in the middle of the night, shone a torch in your eyes and whispered "Why did you write to that indie shopkeeper last Tuesday?" you should be able to give me at least three reasons right off the top of your head.

Those reasons might be to do with style, price, location, the store’s philosophy or how your product fits into their existing collection. Doing your homework before you get in touch is crucial, but lots of artists and designers just don't bother. Make sure you do.

Use a tone of voice in your pitch email that's friendly, professional and actually sounds like you.

Knowing what to say and how to say it in a pitch email can be hard.

If you’re struggling, think about how you talk to your customers, friends or teachers about your work. The way you naturally express yourself when you aren’t under any pressure is the tone of voice to use in your email.

At the moment, this particular tone voice might run off and hide under a bush when you ask it to help you pitch to a store. It will be coming out to play somewhere in your life, though, so track it down.

My final thought on taking the fear out of writing to retailers is this.

If you make a good product and send it out into the world in the right way, the buyers will come.

Your work will find its right people. The shopkeepers and customers who naturally love what you do will be attracted your way. It'll all get so much easier. But in order to get to that point, you need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It takes time. It takes energy and consistency, and it also takes you doing the best you possibly can on a daily basis.

I know that's scary too. But good scary. EXCITING scary. And I really believe you can do it.

Clare Yuille owns Merry + Bright, an award-winning lifestyle store in the Scottish Borders. She's also the founder of Indie Retail Academy, where creative people learn how to sell their work to shops. Her students work in all disciplines and range from start-ups to established suppliers with dozens of stockists. Clare's been teaching artists to sell their work to shops since 2012, and her programmes have been taken by over 10,000 artists.

Craft Tea Company

By Kate Marsden

Just A Card is about supporting small, independent businesses – not just artists and designer makers… This week we’re heading to Sheffield for something a little different – a nice cup of tea with Angie Young…

Tell us a little about you. What do you do? 

I love tea, I have been obsessed with it for years, and once I started drinking loose leaf it went to a whole other level. At the time, I found it very difficult to buy, and the ones I could find often smelled great but didn’t taste anywhere near as good, so I started experimenting and creating my own. Initially I was entirely self-taught, I played around with different flavour combinations, and found some really great blends. Since then I have completed various tea blending workshops and training courses, but have found that I’ve learnt the most by just doing what I love, drinking lots and lots of tea, trying new ideas and discovering what flavours work well together.

Then last year I had the option to take redundancy, and coming from a long background in retail management, I had always wanted to set up on my own and the obvious direction had to be tea, so Craft Tea Company was born. I initially started selling locally at fairs and festivals, as well as online and the response so far has been fantastic.

My first collection was inspired by cocktails using my husband’s background as a Bar Academy trainer. The aim is to create some really unique blends that look and smell just as good as they taste, and by using all natural ingredients, without the need for additional flavourings, making sure they are full of all good stuff.

What does a typical day involve?

I try to get all the business and computer stuff out of the way first thing, and work out my plan for the day. At the moment, I do most things myself - social media, web design, photos etc. so lists help to keep me focused. I like to get everything written down and try to only spend short periods of time throughout the day online, as it can be so easy to get distracted.

I find I’m at my most creative in the afternoon, so try to do all my blending then. I have so many ideas for new combinations I want to try. I’ve a book that I keep them all in and am trying to work through it, but the list just keeps getting longer! Because I don’t use flavourings in any of my blends, some can be trickier than others - not all the ingredients I want to use can produce a strong enough taste, it’s about finding the right balance.

Where do you work? What is your workspace like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

At the moment I work from home, doing all my blending in the kitchen, however tea is slowly taking over, and so it’s looking like I will need to expand in the very near future.

Otherwise, I like to work from the table in my dining room, looking out over the garden, and usually trying to work around one of my cats who likes to lay right across my computer.

I try to get out for a run at lunch time, so I can get some fresh air and blow the cobwebs out. Where I live in Sheffield, the scenery is beautiful, and I’m planning on running my first half marathon later in the year.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing small independent businesses at the moment?

I think it can sometimes be very hard to have the confidence in yourself, and believe in your own ideas and capabilities. But taking that leap of faith is absolutely worth it, as there is nothing so satisfying as seeing your own business ideas and products succeeding.

Also, the lack of awareness in the value of handmade items. There are so many cheap, mass made alternatives available, it can be very difficult for customers to appreciate the time that goes into designing and producing them, along with juggling everything else that’s involved in running your own business.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

My dream is to eventually have a little shop and café where I can get even more creative with my blending, and ways of serving my teas, as well as holding events and workshops - really making the most of the Tea Cocktails idea.

Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out? 

Love what you do, do what you love and be prepared to work hard, but enjoy it! Plan your time well as it can be easy to get side tracked, and have a really clear idea of the direction you want your business to go in. But most of all don’t give up if something didn’t work out, learn from your mistakes, not everything is a success first time.

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

It’s so difficult to choose just a few, I have met so many amazing people over this last year but here are some of my favourites:

Upsy Daisy Craft - makes fabulous handmade ceramic jewellery and gifts  

Fizzy Pigg – fun, quirky quotes on prints, cards and embroidery hoops

Maxwell Harrison Jewellery – creates beautiful handmade silver jewellery

Dandelion Cocoa – sells the yummiest handmade chocolates

Birds Yard – a lovely independent shop in the centre of Sheffield, with an eclectic collection of local designers and makers

Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?  

Yes, I don’t think people really appreciate how much small businesses value every sale no matter how small, to be honest I don’t really think I did before I started my own business, now I try to support as many as I can.

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

Very important; many of my sales, especially at fairs, can come from lots and lots of small tea purchases which really makes you value every single sale.

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

I first heard about Just a Card when I applied for Crafty Fox Market in Leeds last year and started following you on Twitter, I have since been spreading the word by sharing the campaign.

I also have the logo on my website, which links back to your page and I always include it in my newsletters explaining what the campaign is all about.

I mainly tend to focus on Instagram and Facebook posts, and think the more we can share the campaign across all social media the further the message will be spread, and the more well known it will become.


Yellowstone Art Boutique

By Kate Marsden

We’re heading to Staffordshire this week to visit a shop I’ve been wanted to go to in real life for years! Yellowstone Art Boutique looks just gorgeous, and has something for everyone. Owner Hannah talks us through her 364 day a year business, and explains how the Just A Card campaign is vital to shops like hers.

Tell us a little about you. What do you do? 

I'm Hannah and I'm a designer based in Staffordshire. I run Yellowstone Art Boutique which is in a gorgeous log cabin on the Trentham Estate. The boutique sells contemporary products made by British designers and makers. Think cards, prints, ceramics, stationery, textiles, jewellery and homeware.

What does a typical day involve?

It's impossible to say as one day is so different from the next. Most days include packing online orders, topping up and cleaning displays, serving customers and a bit of social media.

Where do you work? What is your shop like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

Our bricks and mortar store is in Trentham and we also have a studio in Stone, Staffordshire. I have a team of 4 wonderful women that help me run Yellowstone and it’s three online stores. We normally have one or two of us in the shop, and one or two in the studio, depending on what’s happening that week. We wholesale our own products to other shops around the UK, as well as sell online so there's always plenty to do!

Yellowstone is a very colourful and cheery shop with a laid-back atmosphere. We encourage people to browse, and really take in all of the products. We also love a chat, so you'll usually find us nattering to customers about the artists and what’s new in store.

The shop is open 7 days a week, 364 days a year so when I'm not working myself, someone else is and I feel like I should be on call just in case. I never really switch off from work but I do practice hot yoga 2-3 times a week, which is good for my body and mind! It's lovely to empty my head for an hour.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing shop/gallery owners at the moment?

Overheads. Our bills seem to be going up and up, but we can't keep charging more and more for our work! We are lucky to be in a very busy shopping village, so footfall is always great and our customers really do support us. They understand that we are an independent shop trying to keep our head above water.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

I'd love it to keep growing steadily as it has over the past 6 years. Nothing too drastic, just so that we can continue to represent lovely artists from around the country and carry on meeting new customers.

Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out? 

Don't spend money you don't have. Live within your means and budget when it comes to buying stock or materials. Slow and steady wins the race.

Had you realised  the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?  

Definitely. Customers often apologise that they're 'only' buying a sheet of £1.60 wrapping paper. But I always reassure them that all the small sales add up, and we are so grateful for those little purchases. They're our bread and butter.

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

It's vital. Seeing other gorgeous shops close around us is heartbreaking, and the thought of Yellowstone Art Boutique closing makes me shiver. It's so important to support independent and unusual shops now so that they're still around next year. We have a few customers who come in every month and bring friends, and tell them they love our shop and come in for inspiration. But we have to say if they never make a purchase (even just a card every other time) then we might not be here next month to inspire them! It sounds drastic but it’s true.

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? 

I heard about the campaign on Twitter a few years ago and it struck a chord straight away. It's definitely a campaign I am 100% behind. I am most active on Instagram, but find that Twitter and Facebook are where our 'paying customers' hang out, so maybe I need to concentrate on those a little more. I feel that Instagram suits us, being so visual, and I love the new stories feature.

What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

Pop in to that 'cute shop' on the way to the supermarket. Follow them on social media. Shop there for your friend’s birthday gift. Just that one purchase could be all they need that week to keep going. 

We promote the campaign with posters in our shop and talk about Just A Card on our website too. It's fantastic and I wish everybody knew about it! And it really makes people think about the costs of running a shop.


Agnes Becker - We Are Stardust

By Kate Marsden

Art and science collide this week as enter the world of Agnes Becker of We Are Stardust. Agnes’ beautiful, detailed science inspired greetings cards, and gorgeous styling, have had me swooning since I first saw them a few months ago. Read on to find out about Agnes’ business and how she feels we’re on the cusp of a shopping revolution…

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

Tell us a little about you. What do you do? 

I am the creator of we are stardust – a greetings card shop where art and science collide. Each card captures a fact, story or curiosity to inspire a moment of wonder for the natural world. There are four collections:

·       Anatomy - discover your inner beauty

·       Astronomy - journey through the heavens

·       Botany - step into the wilderness

·       Zoology - explore the animal kingdom

Growing up I never sat comfortably within the sciences or arts, I’ve always been somewhere in between. As a child, I used to imagine I was an explorer in a jungle gathering unusual animal specimens on mysterious tropical islands, or discovering ancient civilisations. I’d draw maps of my explorations and collect strange stones, shells and flowers. The boundaries between art and science weren’t there - it was all about exploring the world.

I studied natural sciences at university but I never stopped making and drawing. Eventually I ended up in the field of science communication, where I have the privilege of working with some of the best scientific minds and at some of the oldest research institutions in the country. I first had the idea for we are stardust when I worked at the Science Museum and looked at the products in the shop all for people who love science. I didn't want we are stardust to be a shop just for those who love science, I wanted it to be a place for everyone who loves learning about the natural world. So I opened my shop in 2013 for all sophisticated, curious minds, wild natures and loyal hearts.

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

What does a typical day involve?

I have recently gone freelance in order to spend more time on we are stardust so I have had to create a whole new routine! I get up around 7.30am, do some morning yoga, have breakfast and update Instagram. Once showered and dressed I sit down to do some painting around 9am. I research, illustrate and design each card. Ideas come from lots of different places - a conversation with a colleague; reading an interesting article; an exhibition; looking at why nature is the way it is and wanting to learn more. Once I have an idea I try to find a good photo or – if possible – find the original plant or specimen I can use to draw or paint the illustration. I try to make sure I look after myself and go out for a run around 11am and then get ready to either make up the card designs on my computer or to work on my marketing – emailing potential stockists, looking up craft fairs to take part in, and creating blogs and my regular newsletter. After lunch, I usually get any orders ready to post, then head into town to drop them off at the Post Office and work in a café for a bit – it may be creating new designs, writing blogs, interacting on social media or ordering new supplies. I try to finish around 6pm ready for dinner and quality time with my lovely man!

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

My studio is also the music room and spare bedroom in our little flat! It is a light space filled with plants, books, craft materials and interesting drawings and postcards I’ve collected from exhibitions. I try to keep it quite tidy because it’s so small.

When I’m not working, I love going for long walks or bike rides outside, meeting up with friends and family for dinner as well as playing my violin, knitting, travelling, cooking, reading and dancing. I have too many hobbies! That’s the trouble with the world being such an interesting place.

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

I haven’t been in this game for very long, but it feels to me the main challenges are around battling the big high street brands who can price their products for a lot less than a designer-maker can, and who have huge marketing power that we cannot compete with. For example, I have done some bookbinding and hope to create a few books for my shop one day but the time it takes to create a book from scratch – folding and hand stitching the pages, creating the spine, measuring and cutting out the cover boards etc. – would mean I could not compete with the £10 journal you may find in stationary shops. Similarly, on the marketing front, I have to work quite hard to find and convince customers that they want to buy their cards from me online, rather than buying greetings cards in a hurry at lunchtime in the high street shop.

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

However, one thing us designer-makers have got going for us is that our products have personality. Our personality beats both the price and the marketing. People want to buy from us because of who we are and why we create the work we do. I am also optimistic that there is a slow shift in attitudes at the moment, particularly in the middle classes, to buy less and buy better. Perhaps now is our time?

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

I have so many ambitions – it makes me get butterflies in my tummy when I think of them! I am excited to be launching the first small print run of A4 prints in April. At the moment there are just 25 or 50 of each design printed on acid free, archival quality Forestry Stewardship Council certified paper. In the future, I hope to expand into producing notebooks too. I would also love to partner with a scientific institution (I have my eye on the amazing Kielder Observatory – I love that place!) and another maker to create some of these new products.

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/ small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out? 

Well, I’m not a particularly seasoned designer maker, but one thing I have found really helpful was spending a good 3-4 months thinking about my brand. By brand I don’t mean the logo and colours, although that was helpful too, it was more about what I promise my customers, what I want to be known for. It has helped me narrow down my creative energies so I have more focus. I’d really recommend using Fiona Humberstone’s “How To Style My Brand” book. I found it enormously helpful.

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

Oh dear. There are SO MANY! I’ve narrowed them down to three science-art related people and places:

Anatomy Boutique – Created by Freelance Medical Illustrator and teacher of Anatomy to medical students, Emily Evans, this shop is filled with anatomy inspired homeware and clothing, including some beautiful fine china cups and saucers I am saving up for!

Libby Ward – An exciting jeweller who uses experimental methods to mix materials you wouldn’t expect to see together, like a rehabilitated moss ring! She uses chemical processes to create biological inspired surfaces on the metal and combines it with natural objects. The tactile nature of her work aims to connect people with textures and revaluate how they perceive preciousness through materials. I am also saving up for one of her moss rings – so beautiful!

Wellcome Collection Shop – I love the Wellcome Collection Museum in Euston, London. Their exhibitions and events are always thought provoking and challenging mix of art and science. Their shop is full of interesting medicine and science themed books, cards and home wares – many by independent designer makers (and they stock we are stardust cards so I may be a little biased)!

Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?  

Yes, and I think it’s a fantastic campaign. I don’t think many people realise the costs involved in creating your own business. For example, many of my friends didn’t know I had to pay for stalls in craft fairs. All of these small purchases aren’t just about buying things, they are about buying into a different kind of materialism. Instead of fuelling the abusive consumer culture of cheap, exploitative and badly made products, buying from small businesses, who often have an ethical approach to their work, means supporting a considered and thoughtful kind of materialism. Who doesn’t want to be part of that?

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

It is hugely important – not least because we are stardust is primarily a greetings card shop! I was recently at a craft fair where many people who passed through commented how lovely it was that there were such passionate people creating beautiful things…and then walked past and didn’t buy anything. All of the stallholders at the fair had a really bad weekend selling. The trouble is, if people don’t buy, us “passionate people creating beautiful things” won’t be creating for much longer. Buying from a designer maker means you are contributing to their livelihood rather than the high street stationer’s shareholder profits. This is why I love the Just A Card campaign message – it shows what a difference we can make to real peoples’ lives if we buy from designer makers, even if it is just a card.

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

Image (c) Neil James Spicer Photography

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

I heard about the campaign on Twitter. I really appreciate all the hard work the Just A Card team does to spread their message. I mostly use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and aim to post every day. I think others can support the campaign by writing about it on their blogs and talking about those blogs on social media and in their newsletters, as well as supporting each other by buying small. I did this before Christmas and it had a great response. One joyful thing about being a small business designer maker is the wonderful support this community offers. In complete contrast to the high street chains where it’s all about competition, I feel our community’s strength lies in its ability to lift each other up. The Just A Card campaign is one way we can introduce others to our wonderful community.

Jose Heroys

By Kate Marsden

Something a little different, but absolutely beautiful for you this week. I think Jose was meant to feature on the blog as she was suggested to me by a fellow team member, but I was already aware of her stunning work as I’d met her at a workshop last spring – clearly fate!

Jose makes the most exquisite, detailed bird sculptures I think I’ve ever seen. Read on and be prepared to drool…

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

Tell us a little about you. What do you do?

Hello! I’m Jose and I make life-like bird sculptures out of wool and other natural fibres. I make each bird by hand using a mixture of crochet, needle-felt and embroidery. I sell my work online through my website, Etsy and at craft shows.

What does a typical day involve?

I don’t really have a typical day, but I do try to get out for a walk in the morning to help get my brain in gear. If I’m starting a new bird, I spend some time sketching it to get a feel for its personality and proportions. Then I’ll choose the yarn colour and texture to suit the bird I’m making (I need a LOT of different wool!), and start crocheting the body. The face, tail and legs are added separately, and I use needle-felt and embroidery to bring out fine details.

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

I like to ring my birds as a finishing touch; I used to breed budgies when I was growing up and it seemed like a natural extension to ring my handmade birds too! I’m something of a perfectionist and it’s a labour intensive process, taking anything from a few days to several weeks to finish a single piece.

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

I’m lucky enough to work from home in a converted bedroom. It’s not huge, but the light is lovely and it’s bright and peaceful. It overlooks the garden, where I have a great view of our bird feeders that bring in a wonderful array of birds - and inspiration!  

In my studio, I’ve got a rather crowded workbench which is usually covered with lots of half-finished birds and ideas, an area to take photos, and my essential wall of wool! I often work into the evenings and weekends too - I find the creative process quite meditative and restful so it doesn’t really feel like work.

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

When I’m not working, I really enjoy walking in our local woods, bird-watching (obviously), and (when I have the energy) going for a run - I completed the couch to 5K last year and am trying to keep it up!

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

Getting the word out about your work is one of the biggest challenges, I think. Social media, especially Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have really helped there, as has exhibiting at shows.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

This year, I’m planning to make some more exotic birds - hummingbirds and Birds of Paradise maybe - and I’ll be exhibiting at more shows in the UK (MADE Canary Wharf and West Dean College Art and Design Fair). 

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

In the future, I would love to do a large-scale installation at a gallery - I’ve done a gallery window display, which was fun, but I’d really like to do something bigger. One of my personal goals is to have some of my work accepted by the V&A museum, then I’d feel like I’d really arrived

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/ small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?

The main tip would be to keep the faith, and don’t be afraid to charge what you need to earn a living from your work. It can be so hard when you’re starting out to believe that people will like what you do and buy from you - but keep going! If you can, find someone with experience who’s willing to give you advice and encouragement. I was very lucky to meet Suzanne Breakwell, whose fantastic support and practical advice helped me gain the confidence I needed to keep going.

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

Suzanne Breakwella talented artist and the creator of some truly exquisite bird sculptures made from recycled paper and wood.

IO Gallerya lovely independent gallery in Brighton, run by artists, for artists and stocking a huge range of beautiful work from local artists.

The Found Gallery featuring both emerging and established British makers, this is a gorgeous little gallery near Edinburgh, which gives special emphasis to work using upcycled and recycled materials.

Had you realised  the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?

When I first heard about the campaign, I had thought the message referred just to the sales of cards. But any sale, however small, is an important one.

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

‘Reproduced with kind permission of Sussie F Bell and LandLove Magazine’

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

The Just A Card message is a really important one for me. Not only do the small sales mount up and help keep you going financially, but every sale is like a little pat on the back, a morale boost that encourages you to keep going!

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

I heard about the campaign last year through Twitter which is the platform I use the most. I also use Instagram quite a lot as it’s so visual, and do still post to Facebook.

I retweet Just A Card tweets whenever I can, and show the logo on my website. This year, I’ll be printing out the poster and displaying that on my exhibition stand as well. I think the more we can raise awareness about the value of even small sales, the better for everyone trying to run a small creative business.

Kate Marsden - Made By Mrs M

By Sarah Hamilton

As you know Just a Card is run by a team of seven volunteer artists, designers and creative business owners. I’d run the campaign single-handed for some time and people were loving it, yet I was run ragged doing everything myself - you can’t imagine how much ‘behind the scenes’ work goes on.  I then had a lightbulb moment – perhaps some of the amazing people so passionate about the message of supporting artists and independent businesses might consider donating some time to helping spread the word. I tweeted a call out and imagine my surprise when over 60 people responded – in under a day! Every single person who retweets us, shares our FB posts or Likes us on Instagram is part of our wider team – and this is what this campaign is about. There are however seven of us who coordinate this and we thought you’d like to meet the team. If you’ve been featured on our blog you’ll have met Kate Marsden, our blogger in chief and all round V.I.P. We’re incredibly grateful for the hours of work Kate puts in – she’s a marvel and we value her hard work and commitment hugely…. So we thought we’d turn the tables and find out more about Kate…..

Kate, can you talk us through all the fantastic things you do for the Just a Card campaign?

My main role in the Just A Card team is writing this here blog. I liaise with the people we’re featuring (and coordinate any guest posts), put together the schedule, then edit and put the actual posts together. I also run the Instagram account which I mostly use for the purpose of promoting the blog posts, but I think there’s potential to do more with that.

We’re so lucky to have you putting the blog together for Just a Card. But you also write for other blogs as well, I think?

Yes, I write a blog for my business and I also have a personal blog called Sundays in Suburbia, but this is currently on hiatus as I’ve been so busy!

What else do you do when you’re not blogging for Just a Card?

All manner of things, mostly related to my business - I’m a textile designer and illustrator. I’ve recently launched a new collection of fabrics, notebooks and accessories, which is always quite an undertaking, and I’ve also been working on commissioned illustration and licensing jobs.

Alongside this I’ve just started running the Instagram account for a new local artists’ open studios event we have coming up in Carshalton in the summer, so you can expect to hear me harping on about that over the coming months!

I do all this around school hours as I have a son who’s just coming up to 7 years old (so SATS to get through this summer too – eeek!).

Have you been working for yourself for a long time?

Just over 3 years. Things didn’t go too well when I returned to work after maternity leave, and after nearly 3 years back I finally took the plunge and started working for myself on what had been a hobby business.

And is there anything you’ve learned during the last three years that might help other designer/makers who are just starting out?

You need to be tenacious. Make sure you have some savings or something to fall back on, then work really really hard and don’t give up. The temptation to give up is often very strong. I only need a couple of bad weeks and I’m thinking about applying for “real” jobs. Ask the Just A Card team...

The people who are successful are successful because they didn’t give up – and you very rarely see the years (someone said it takes 10 of them!) of hard graft, Tesco Value beans, and blood, sweat and tears that have gone into that success.

Oh, and if something really isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it, and mix things up every now and then.

So, what’s next for Made By Mrs M? Do you have fabulous plans for the next few years?

I’m keen to teach more workshops, take on more commission work and license my designs more often. In a dream scenario, I’d license my fabrics to one of the large fabric houses, license surface pattern designs for a variety of products, and continue with what I do now.

I like to have the personal touch of a small Etsy shop, and to do fairs and markets, but on their own they don’t pay the bills. I’m aiming to grow my business at a rate which will allow me to expand fairly quickly when I’m no longer relied upon for the school run!

You must be incredibly busy! How do you find the time to fit everything in?

Ha! I don’t know… I do often look at people who are managing to engage intelligently in Twitter networking hours at 10pm and wonder how on earth they manage that – I tend to be absolutely knackered in the evenings, so try to do the more mentally taxing stuff during the day if I can.

I work on social media in bursts (mostly Twitter and Instagram)– so when I get up/before the school run, while cooking dinner, and in the evening, are the main times, with 5 minute bursts throughout the day. I’m quite good at being disciplined while working from home and not getting too distracted by other stuff, and I think that helps enormously. I used to work from home quite often in my old day job so I’m used to it, oh and constantly clock watching for the school run keeps me focused!

And do you have a dedicated work space at home?

I work from two rooms. I’d love to have a studio elsewhere, but at the moment this works well as it enables me to make the best of the time I have, and allows me to keep working once my son’s in bed.

I have a small studio space/stock room and a separate study in the box room (which I share with Mr M so sometimes I have to manage without computer access – not always a bad thing!). I don’t have a computer in my studio so I tend to spend a lot of time in the study, moving into the studio for making, packing orders etc. I’m hoping to save up for a laptop though this year so I can be a little more flexible.

So, what was it about the Just a Card campaign which made you want to volunteer to help?

I’d been following the campaign since the start and already knew you. I could see there was a need for such a campaign from first-hand experience. Many of my friends and acquaintances didn’t appreciate the cumulative value of small sales, or the value of simply sharing people’s work - and how both things can really help support tiny businesses. So I figured that if my friends didn’t know this - even though they knew that I was trying to build a business myself - then plenty of others needed to be told too.

When you put out the call for help on Twitter I replied straight away. At that point I didn’t have a lot of work on, so I had capacity to spend some time getting the blog up and running!

I love being part of the team! An unexpected side effect has been the camaraderie between the team members, which is so helpful when you work by yourself at home most of the time. I hadn’t expected this and now feel as though I have a little support network should I need it.

Many people reading this will be wondering how they can be featured on the Just a Card blog. Is there anything in particular that you look out for? How do you choose who to feature?

I’m always on the lookout for something a bit different, quirky or fun. I feature people who support the campaign, share and retweet our message etc. One thing that really makes someone stand out though is good, clear photos (there are some great photography tips in this guest post from Emily Quinton) – The posts with the best images get the most traffic and benefit those featured the most!


Thank you Kate for such an insightful interview, and for everything you do for Designer/Makers and Independent shops, by working so hard on this blog and campaign. Huge round of applause - make sure you follow Kate on Instagram and Twitter and support her work too. We're huge fans here at Just a Card HQ!

Speaking of following - we're really trying to build our presence on Instagram so please make sure you're following Just A Card on there.  We'd love lots of followers and generous sprinklings of likes.

Thank you wonderful Kate - Thank You wonderful Just a Card supporters!



Georgina Westley

By Kate Marsden

Harking back to the golden age of travel this week as we take a look at the stunning poster prints of graphic designer Georgina Westley. There’s even one for all you music festival fans…

Tell us a little about you. What do you do?

I am a graphic designer from Bedfordshire. I create modern travel poster prints of places that are special to people and I sell them online through my Etsy shop. I was an in-house graphic designer for many years and then turned freelance when I had my family. The travel poster prints came about after my sister-in-law asked if I would design a piece of artwork around Emley Moor Mast in Yorkshire. She had lived near the mast growing up and wanted something on her wall to remind her of it. Thankfully, she loved it, and other people saw it and liked it too, so I decided to do more. As with most new businesses it grew slowly, but each time I released a new print it seemed to spark more ideas from people about their favourite places. Pretty soon I had a very long list of exciting places to explore.

I really enjoy the buzz of starting a new piece of work. Through researching the locations, I try to get a feel for how I could approach the design. What time of the day does the scenery come alive? Is it sunrise or sunset? Is there something quirky about this area that I can play with or would a more traditional treatment work better? Is there an iconic view of the place? Are there any well-loved local landmarks that could be included?

These are the questions that I am constantly asking myself. It helps me capture the spirit of the place and also stops my work from becoming too formulaic. I want to grow as a designer and meeting new customers and finding new places helps me do that.

What does a typical day involve?

After taking the children to school I go running, cycling or walking with friends. Usually for about 45 mins. I find if I put my trainers on first thing in the morning then it’s harder to make excuses not to go. Getting a daily dose of fresh air and a rush of endorphins sets me up with a positive mind-set. I find the regular connection with nature very grounding too.

After a quick shower and a coffee, I sit down to start work. Before I get stuck in I take a quick look at my diary to make sure I am where I’m supposed to be. I use a Moleskine A5 diary to organise myself. I’ve tried various systems over the years but paper and pen wins every time. I am a voracious note taking, list making, mind mapping, sketching, crazy lady. My brain feels full most of the time so I find offloading information on to paper is essential to me functioning properly.

The ideas for my travel posters often come from my customers and visitors to my website, and I have a long list of locations that people have suggested to me. This list is the backbone for my work. I regularly ask people via social media where their happy places are. I collect all this information on my website and if I think I can design a poster out of it, I add it to the list. I like the list. It allows ideas to form overtime and I get pick which one to do next depending on my mood.

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

I have my studio set up in the conservatory and I feel very grateful to be able to work from home. The whole idea of setting up my own business was to be completely flexible around my family. Working within viewing distance of the oven allows me get ahead with the dinner whilst doing my design work. The downside of working from home is that it always feels like there is something else to do. Washing to hang out, dishes to wash, bathrooms to clean; but not getting distracted from my design work is something I am getting better at dealing with.

I have a Macbook Pro, a large external monitor and I use a shiny Apple Magic Mouse. I keep trying to switch completely to my Wacom Intuos tablet but I can't quite get away from my reliable rodent. I have my trusty Epson printer which very rarely lets me down and a whole raft of pens and pencils. I use Adobe Creative Cloud and all my travel posters are designed in Illustrator. Working on your own can be quite isolating so I have the radio on a lot. I listen to audiobooks too but I have to be in the right mood for those, sometimes that can be a bit distracting especially if they’re good.

When I am not working it’s all about the family, having fun, and relaxing. I am learning to play the piano and the guitar. I train in Shotokan karate and I practice yoga. Once a week I volunteer at my local hospice which is a huge privilege. I love sewing, music, dancing, baking, eating and making stuff.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

Finding the courage to start and having the self-awareness to stop.

Starting a new business or creating a new product in the creative industry takes courage.  Every time we put something out there we make ourselves vulnerable. We are showing people what we can do and saying look at me, this is the best I can do at this moment in time. That takes courage and I admire anyone who does it. I wish more people would make that start; ignore the worry about what others might think, and just do it anyway.

That said, knowing when to stop and tune off can be a big problem for designer makers these days. An inquisitive mind and a creative nature combined with running your own business can make it hard to stop thinking, plotting, planning and doing. It is really important to try to get beyond this though, as I often find that it's in those moments of nothingness that the best ideas set seed. 

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

I love my job. My ambition is to carry on talking to customers about their happy places and finding more beautiful and quirky places to draw.

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/ small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out? 

Don’t wait for everything to be perfect before starting. Just start. Some people wait for all the pieces of the puzzle first. It’s tempting to put things off until you have your own room with the all the right tools. You can research the life out of a good idea and sabotage your own spirit. Just start. Share your ideas with friends and family, get feedback and start small. You can change and adapt your designs overtime but if you never make a start you’ll never know how great your ideas could be.

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

Cambridge Contemporary Crafts - A small but well stocked and curated independent gift shop that is a pleasure to look around.

The Art Nest – Hitchin - A diverse collection of work by local artists.

Kate Lycett - An imaginative artist whose work I really admire.

Welbeck Tiles - Beautiful handmade tiles from glorious Cornwall.

Silverpebble - Fine silver jewellery designer and teacher with a passion for botany and a keen eye for a good news story. What’s not to like? I’ve been on one of her courses and really enjoyed it.  

Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?  

I think Just A Card's message is an important one. It resonates with me as a customer as well as a seller. In the past I have felt a little pang of guilt when I have visited galleries or gift shops and only bought a card rather than a big ticket item. Nowadays when I buy cards, postcards and other small items I know that many little purchases keep independent shops open whether they be online or creating the much needed interest and diversity on our high streets.

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

Very. I hope it helps people realise how valued and appreciated every purchase is for independent designers/makers/shops.

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

When the Just A Card campaign was asking for entries for its 2016 Christmas Gift guide, someone kindly tagged me on Twitter suggesting that I might like to apply. I did, and I was genuinely surprised when I was told my work was to be included. My Glastonbury Festival print was featured and my sales for this print soared. I was then able to use Twitter and Facebook to sing about the Just A Card Christmas Gift guide and hopefully in turn promote other independent designer makers. I display the Just A Card logo on my website and this links back to the campaign site explaining what it’s all about plus I will continue to tell small local independent shops about the campaign so that they can put up a poster in their window.



By Kate Marsden

Something a little different for you this week – not a greetings card in sight! Aabelard aprons are really pretty special (I’m coveting an apron – never thought I’d say that!) and today we meet the founder Philippa Hayward who tells us all about her business, and why she loves a nice apron...

Tell us a little about you. What do you do?

I’m the founder of Aabelard, a new British-made brand of luxury, customisable, leather and waxed cotton aprons.  I’ve designed them to suit both men and women equally fabulously and to make them enormously robust yet truly comfortable to wear.

I wear an apron ALL the time, so I’ve worked really hard to ensure that Aabelard aprons not only look great but are really able to take whatever your day may throw at them – be that baby food, cake mix or mud.  I’ve put in lots of extra details such as double-stitched pockets and leather-backed rivets to make sure they really work well.  Plus, they come in two different styles, two sizes and five glorious colours.  Handmade in the UK by skilled leather craftsmen, they really are a piece that you can pass on to the next generation.

What does a typical day involve?

I have three children, 2 cats, 9 ducks and a husband who travels a lot, so a typical day involves a lot of making sure I’m organized enough to dedicate four or five hours solely to my business without it causing chaos within the family. 

As an online startup I spend a LOT of time on social media.  I post daily, so photography is now a big part of my life and I post recipes and blogs regularly. I’m trying to create a sense of community around the type of people who wear an Aabelard apron and that strategy seems to be working well.  It’s great because it means that I get to connect with all sorts of people, so another part of my day is spent connecting with customers old and new to learn more about them and their stories.  I’m starting to include them on the site as well.

Plus, I do all the customisation and fulfillment from home too.

Then, its back to the family, homework, after-school clubs etc etc.  Then hopefully some downtime in the evening.

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

I work at home at a large desk looking out onto my garden.  It’s lovely, I get to watch the day in all its moods and there’s a fat pheasant whose keeping me entertained at the moment.  

I have to be careful not to disappear into a black hole of work – there are never enough hours to do everything I want to do, so I’m learning to structure my day as I would a ‘normal’ job. 

I’ve got an enormous mood board filled with ideas – I pin new stuff on there everyday. 

My other key workspace is my kitchen.  All the recipes I post are my own so they have to be tested, photographed and written up in what I hope is an entertaining way.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

One of the main challenges is a lack of consumer awareness of exactly how labour and time-intensive a handmade item is.  Combine this with the price of raw materials and often things have a high make cost.  Customers are very used to getting things cheaply and sometimes see that as a given.  It seems to me that this disconnect is one of the biggest problems. 

People want something original and beautifully made with love, but they don’t want to pay for it.  This makes a small, artisan producer’s life a constant juggling act.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

I’d like Aabelard to become synonymous with practical luxury; to be one of the go-to names for quality gifting. I have other products I’d like to design to fit into the brand and I’d also like to curate other people’s work under the brand ethic of ‘Useful made beautiful.’ 

I also hope to use Aabelard to show my three sons that their mother is more than just someone who gives great hugs and picks up socks!

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out? 

My advice would be to have a clear idea of what you want out of the business.  If you want to stay small, stay small – you have to love what you do to do it everyday, particularly if you are working by yourself. 

You will work your proverbial behind off anyway but don’t let it take over your life completely.  Schedule the hours you work as much as possible and stick to that.  Have a weekend (at least once in a while).

Trust yourself – you will have moments or great doubt and stress, but if you have faith in your product that will give you the strength to go on.

If you’re feeling stuck – just do one small work-related thing that day.  One small thing will turn into a bigger achievement the next day.

Ask for help and advice.  Friends and family are there for a reason.

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

I love Catesby’s in Cambridge – a great selection of classic interior products. 

The Foodie Bugle in Bath is a cornucopia of foodie delights.

I’m in neon heaven in God’s Own Junk Yard in London’s E17; visit their café and wait for your eyes to pop out of your head!

Re-found Objects is one of my favourite sites to browse for a wonderfully colourful selection of finds.

Such&Such the online boutique has a subtle and thoughtful collection of items that make great homeware and lifestyle gifts plus their blogs and magazine are beautiful.

Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?

Yes, I was aware of the message behind the Just A Card campaign and I think it’s vital.  Any sale is a sale and can help keep the small businesses’ self confidence afloat as well as boosting their bank balance.

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

I discovered the campaign on Facebook if I remember correctly.  I use Instagram daily, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and try and put slightly different messages on all sites. 


By Kate Marsden

Now anyone who knows me will be aware that I’m rather keen on drawing buildings… this week we’re meeting someone else who is at least as keen as I am, if not more so! Read on to meet Amalia of Linescapes whose illustrations grace a whole range of products.

Tell us a little about you. What do you do?

My name is Amalia and I run a brand called Linescapes. I specialise in creating products featuring illustrations of iconic buildings. I also undertake private commissions.

What does a typical day involve?

The first thing I do is go for a walk with my whippet Mylo. Then I have breakfast and reply to emails. Afterwards, I work on commissions, or develop new designs and products. In the afternoons I organise and deliver any orders I may have.

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

My studio is in the spare room. Well, it is 80% studio, 20% spare room. I have a 3m long floating desk for my iMac and printer and a little space for my husband when he works from home. I try to keep the studio tidy but it's hard... I have lots of storage drawers and wall cabinets where I store all my materials and stock.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

Competition, and shop chains driving wholesale prices low. Also navigating social media is quite a challenge, and something everyone should learn, as it is becoming increasingly important for promotion and marketing.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

I want to focus more on my private commissions and target more galleries and museums.

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?

Don't run, just walk and make sure you know what you are doing when committing to do things. I made a lot of mistakes when starting out because I wanted to sell quickly without thinking about costs, prices, T&Cs, etc.

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

Pen to Paper in Brighton's Sydney street. They have a wonderful array of stationery.

Present and Correct: heaven for stationary buffs like me.

Had you realised  the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?

No, I thought it was about cards only but this is great. I like the fact that you are using cards to entice people to buy from independent shops and designers.

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

Very, not just to promote my own products but also to encourage people to buy from independent designers and shops.

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

A friend of mine, Jo Angell, talked about the campaign on social media and I joined in. I primarily use Facebook and Instagram. I'm going to download the logo and add it to my website and social media as well as sharing any relevant posts.



Melanie Smith - Story

By Kate Marsden

Back to the coast this week to meet graphic designer Melanie Smith, who has come up with a rather wonderful Walk-in-Book concept for children. I think I might need to get my hands on one of these for the little man!

Read on to hear more about Melanie’s work and "books" along with some lovely shopping recommendations…

Tell us a little about you. What do you do?

I'm an illustrator and graphic designer based in sunny Brighton. I am also the director of STORY, which was set up specifically to sell a product I invented, called a Walk-in-Book. I'm over the moon to have just found out that I've been selected to show at New Designers One Year On this summer, especially as the organisers received a record number of applications. It will be a great opportunity for me to connect with new audiences for my work - I can't wait! 

What does a typical day involve?

I like to get my emails out of the way first. So, after dropping my daughter at school, I'll come home and make some coffee and sit down to reply to as many people as I can. If there are orders, I will print off delivery notes, and leave packing until the afternoon.

After emails, I will then either split my morning into doing some marketing, or drawing/writing for new projects. I find I'm much more creative in the morning, so I like to use this time to make new work. I'm also a freelance designer, so if I have a freelance job, I will try and balance the day with a bit of my own work, plus completing work for my client.

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

I currently work from home. I'm lucky enough to have my own office space, where I have a desk which is overflowing with notebooks and pens! I also have a rather lovely view out towards Hanover in Brighton, and I can see the sea. So if I need a breath of air, I often open the window and crane my head to look at the sea for a moment, and experience a bit of space outside.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

Marketing! I think it's a tough thing to turn your hand to as a creative person. Whilst we might all be good at drawing, making, designing - we're not all natural salespeople, or have the skill set or extra time to spend chasing leads, honing our keywords, and spending hours on social media.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

I would love to see my Walk-in-Books in some major retailers and galleries! And also, I'd love for more families to begin using and enjoy sharing the books with their children. To see them as a quick and easy (and ready-made) way of spending some fun, quality time with their children. When we are creating something together with our children - it can be a really powerful experience.

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/ small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?

I think one of the things I'm learning is that things take time. We're so used to things being instantly available to us, that sometimes it's hard to remember that business success is going to take time, and won't happen overnight. I also read recently that we should be marketing and making in equal measure - which I don't think I fully understood until now!

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

I love Luna & Curious in London, as it stocks a collection of really beautiful, and often UK made, gifts and kidswear. The shop is also beautifully styled. I could spend days in there.

Another favourite of mine is Castor & Pollux in Brighton - I'm a real  bookworm, and they have the best books, and lots of great prints, cards & jewellery by local makers & designers too.

And lastly - Unlimited - also in Brighton. They have such a beautiful collection of prints, ceramics, jewellery - and are also really lovely people!

Had you realised  the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat? 

Yes, I did realise that the idea was to promote buying from independent boutiques and retailers. It's a neat way of reminding people that every little helps. It's such an important campaign - small businesses and makers really need to be supported!

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

It's really important, because without campaigns like Just A Card, small businesses will always be struggling to get a foothold in the market. With more awareness of the importance of supporting the small business economy, the more chance people will have of making a living.

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

I first saw the Just A Card campaign on Twitter, and since then I will always retweet and share whenever I see a post - and encourage others to do the same. I use Instagram most frequently, but I do like using Twitter, as I find people chat to you more often - which I like!

I think people can support Just A Card by mentioning it on their blogs, and newsfeeds. By encouraging their friends and followers to support small businesses, and to raise awareness of the campaign.

Perhaps there should be a 'Just A Card day'?!


Tips for Your Product Photography

By Emily Quinton

It is more important than ever to have beautiful, inspiring images of your products. We live in amazing times where we are able to sell the things we make from our kitchen table. The online world is incredible and the tools we have at our fingertips are seriously amazing. 

But, as a Maker, you need to be able to stand out and be noticed. One powerful and rewarding way you can do this is through beautiful imagery.

Below I have shared some top tips for creating great products images that also tell your story. 

Shoot in Natural Light

Natural light is so important for your photography. There will no doubt be images that you take with studio lighting but for the type of product imagery that people can really engage with and tell more of a story, natural light is key.

To make the most of natural light indoors you need to move to a window. Take one item and photograph it in the middle of the room and then take it to the window and photograph is there. You will see a difference straight away, which will hopefully encourage you to make an effort to move to the window when you are taking your images. Having the window to one side of you works really well. 

If the light is too strong then you can put up a white sheet at the window to diffuse the light. You might also want to use a reflector or sheet of white card to bounce the light back onto the products you are photographing.

Take some photographs next to different windows in your home or studio. This will help you to get to know which windows work best for you and which windows work at different times of the day.

 It is also important to be mindful of how the light changes throughout the year. In the Winter you don’t have as much light but the light is not as harsh as Summer light, so it is often easier to shoot in than harsher Summer light. In the Summer I usually shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon/early evening. Spring and Autumn are my favourite times for outdoor photography. 

Think about your Backgrounds

Paying attention to the backgrounds you are using for your product photography is really important. This is the case whether you are shooting jewellery or large pieces of furniture, or anything in between. The background of your photograph is like your canvas. 

I love to use old wooden backgrounds, marble (I have a cheese board to use for photographing small items), wrapping paper and linen. For outdoor images I like to find great walls, old doors, gates and beautiful trees.

Try taking images of your products on different backgrounds to see how they look on different ones. Some backgrounds will suit your products more than others, so it’s great to experiment. Your backgrounds will also help you to develop a style and look for your product images that make them unique to you. Your backgrounds will help your images to stand out and be recognisable. 

Composing Your Images

Practice your composition like crazy! Take photographs every day if you can, so that you are improving all the time.

Turn your grid on on your smartphone, so that you can think about straight lines and where you place your product in the shot. Using the rule of thirds will really help you and the grid will help you with this. Choose one point where the grid lines meet and place your product on this point. This simple but so effective technique will help your composition straight away. 

Gather Your Props

Start to gather a selection of props that go with your products and tell your maker stories. Think about colours, textures, tools of your trade for example. 

Don’t feel like you have to have lots and lots of props. People love to recognise your props. They feel like they are getting to know you, which I think is so lovely. Think of your props as part of your story telling. This will help you to choose things that are unique to you and the things that you make.

I love filling shoe boxes with props. I have some for seasons and some for topics. This makes it easier to find things when you are taking your photographs. It also helps with practising your photography. You can take out your prop box and practise your composition when the light is good and you’re near that window! 

Telling Your Stories

I like to think of product photography in two ways. First, there are the white background images of your product. This is great for your online store and for magazines. There is no doubt that you need them but I think you also need product images that tell your story. 

Product images that represent a lifestyle or tell me more about the maker and how the product has been made really draw me in. These images are wonderful to see not only in online stores and on sites like Etsy but also on social media.

Think about your ideal customer. How can you tell a story that they can relate to? How do you want people to feel when they see your products? How will your product enhance their life? Create a Pinterest board or moodboard of images that make you feel the same way. Use this has a great launchpad for creating product images of your things that could fit onto this same board of images and be part of this feeling or lifestyle. 

Practice, Practice, Practice

The more you practice the better your images will get. Try to take images every day. If some days you can’t take images because you don’t have any time in natural light, then still spend a few minutes thinking about your photography. Research images you like, gather props or style something ready to shoot the next day when you can use the natural light.

Emily Quinton is the founder of Makelight, an online learning platform for creative entrepreneurs. 

Photography For Makers started this week and there’s still time to join! Use the discount code ‘inspire17’ for a 10% discount.  


The Valentines Gift Guide

By Sarah Cowan

What better time of year to choose a handmade card or gift for your special someone? When you buy direct from the designer-maker, or independent shop, you’re buying the result of years of education, experimentation, experience and expertise. With all that wrapped up in one small package, the difference between these lovingly-created items and their mass-produced alternatives could not be greater.

The lovely designer-makers and independent shops who support our campaign are the perfect people to help you find something that has been made with love and care! Here we present a small selection of their products. We hope you find something that’s perfect for your special person.

Where to buy:

‘Raptor Arms Around Me’ card - £2.50 each

By Charlotte Filshie

‘Be Mine, Valentine’ greetings card - £2.95 each

By Jennifer Ings at Sweet Oxen

‘Next Valentines’ Valentine’s Day card - From £3.25 each

By Charli Appleton at The Two Wagtails

Valentine’s Day anatomical heart card - £3.00 each

By Agnes Becker at we are stardust

Palentine’s Day matching card & badge set for pals - £5.50 each

By Angela Chick

‘You’re Purr-fect’ Valentine’s Day Card - £2.95 each

By Faye Sanderson at Faysie Boo Studio

Cheesy Valentines Card  - £2.50 each

By JJ at The Gin Fox

Love Bear Pink - £2.10 each

By Lucy Monkman

Elephant Valentine’s Card - £3.90 each

By Nicola Parnell at FeltTails

Where to buy:

Heart rose gold enamel pin - £7.00 each

By Zeena Shah at Heart Zeena

‘Red’ giclee print with mount - £15 for a small print (£21 Medium, £30 Large)

By Demelsa Haughton at Demelsa Haughton Illustration

Valentine’s pink rose mouse mat & single card - £14.00 for the set

By Lesley R Stevens at Decorque Ltd

Custom handmade paper map roses - £8.00 each

By Emma Cottam at C&E Designs

Heart key fob in organic cotton - £5.99 each

By Clare Trowbridge at Little Conkers

Pendulum statement necklace - £12.00 each

By Katie Jones at KatieBetty

Mini love heart canvas - £15.00 each

By Gina Carpenter at Handcrafted by Gina

‘Beso’ 100% cotton tea towel - £13.00 each

By Jo Angell at Jo Angell Designs

Red leather rose in bottle - £12 for one

By Kate Hansord at DaphneRosa

Where to buy:

Waxed canvas travel pouch - £32.00 each

By Kate at Wild Marshmallow

Hammered heart earrings - £20.00 for a pair

By Julia Metcalfe at Juliamdesigns

Set of three open paper peonies - £49.00 for three

By Susan Beech at A Petal Unfolds

Handmade linen cushion with embroidered quote “Love you to the moon and back” - £20.00 each

By Egle Ramanauske at Emodi Home

‘My heart sings for love’ linocut print - £40 (unframed)

By Pragya Agarwal at Hedge and Hog Prints

Distressed leather flask - £40.00 each

By Jason at HORD

Medium seedhead jug - £23.00 each

By Kate Thorburn at What Kate Loves

Chunk ring (turquoise) - £50.00 each

By Cecilia Stamp

Dreaming of you - £20 for an A4 print (£10 for an A5 print)

By Michelle Evans at Roxwell Press



Michelle Evans - Roxwell Press

By Kate Marsden

Moving house or planning a wedding in 2017? Michelle of Roxwell Press has you covered with her beautiful watercolour illustrations and stationery. Read on to hear more about her brand and how and why she supports the Just A Card campaign.

Tell us a little about you. What do you do?

I'm a designer and illustrator, and run a boutique stationery shop called Roxwell Press. Following a career as a scenic painter, and later as a graphic designer, in 2014 I fulfilled my long held dream to set up a stationery studio. 

What does a typical day involve?

My day begins with a short meditation and exercise, I find it really helps to keep me focussed for the rest of the day. I try to keep to a routine of painting in the morning, with any other business for the afternoon. At the moment I'm working on some new wedding stationery collections, so will spend a few hours on watercolour painting while listening to music. Sometimes the creative work is on the mac, scanning and cutting out paintings, or designing layouts. Afternoons involve work on marketing, sales, PR and admin or website updates. It's not always easy to stick to these time zones every day, especially in the run up to Christmas, but I try to stick to it as much as possible. 

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

I work from home, in a small room for painting and a corner of our spare room for computer work. The lounge and kitchen are also useful for photo shoots. In the painting studio there are huge pin boards on either side of the room where I pin work in progress. There's also a section for images I love – colours and fonts I love, inspiring people, a beautiful watercolour swatch. Looking at this helps spark creative thought, and acts as that I'm now at work. In the spare room I've created a little nook with inspiring books, pictures and objects to help put my mind in designing mode.

I keep my stationery products, materials and files in cupboards in my studio and the spare room. I also use under bed storage for packaging. It's important to keep organised when working from home, as the space still needs to feel like a relaxing and homely place to live.

Films are a great love for my husband and I, so we spend a lot of our relaxation time watching together. We try to get out into nature as much as possible, either local parks or by the river. Time with friends and family is also hugely important, which can often mean a break away to the West Country or France. When possible we travel long haul too. It's inspiring to experience different cultures, their environment, and food. The benefits of sunshine and beach are also hugely appreciated! It’s so good to completely disconnect once in a while. 

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

Customers or clients often don’t realise how long it takes to make a product, what is involved in the process. We have all become used to paying less for many things such as clothing, home wares, even food. So the true retail value of something made by hand, that someone has trained years to be able to make, is quite a hard sell next to cheaper mass produced items. That said, there is strong support for designer makers, and if the product is good, people will buy it despite the higher cost. It's just a question of building a brand that tells the production story, to stand out as a quality product. Which is a challenge in often saturated markets. 

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

I'd like to move Roxwell Press out of my home to a separate studio, employing a small team to help with the running and development of the business. Over the next 1-2 years there will be more additions to the wedding stationery collection. It's so lovely to be working with a couple at this romantic time in their life, and I love the process of creating stationery suites. I’d like to introduce notebooks and calendars, also like to move into homewares, using pattern with textile or wood products. 

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/ small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?

One of the best things I've done over the last year is to create customer profiles. These profiles are your ideal customers, and you can start with just one. Give them a name, a job and a place to live. Describe their hopes and dreams, what worries them. What magazines do they buy, where do they shop? All of your efforts in PR and marketing are directed to this one person, and the products you create should be influenced by what you think this person will buy. 

Rather than feeling you have to appeal to an entire audience of people, you are just appealing to one. It makes things so much easier to do, and will help define your niche.

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

Elvira van Vredenburgh - Elvira's designs have a vintage feel with fresh modern colours. The patterns are gorgeous.

Lilac Coast - A beautifully curated collection of homewares, with lovely product photography.

Isobel Barber - It's incredible how inventive Isobel is with paper. Her work is so fun and uplifting.

Note and Worth - A newly launched stationery brand selling exquisitely made notebooks.

Rigby and Mac - A trio of family run stores in South London, with a fab, eclectic mix of designers, both new and established. It's a great bricks and mortar shopping experience.

Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?

I was attracted by the campaign title - ‘Just a Card’ and found out more on the campaign website. The title is a symbol of how little we need to spend in order to support small businesses.

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

The campaign helps people to see that they have the power to keep diversity and craftsmanship in their shopping experience, and keep those businesses flourishing. Buying from an independent shop (either online or bricks and mortar) means we are not only supporting them, but also those businesses who are selling their products to that shop, which are very often sole traders like me. It's like a whole wonderful ecosystem of creatives, sellers and buyers. 

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

I heard about the campaign on Twitter, which I use regularly along with Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. All people need to do in support of the campaign is to make a purchase once in a while. I regularly make small purchases from sellers at craft fairs, or independent shops. There will always be an occasion to send a card, if not for a birthday then just to send a pretty note to someone. The recipient will be so happy to receive something out of the blue. 


Patricia van den Akker - The Design Trust

By Kate Marsden

Now, I know I’m not alone in being in need of a little boost at this time of year. So who better than to give us all a lift than long term Just A Card supporter Patricia van den Akker of The Design Trust. Read on to hear Patricia’s story, get some great tips for dragging yourself and your business through these winter months, and enter our competition to win one of her wonderful Dream Plan Do planners!

Hi Patricia, thanks so much for joining us on the blog this week! Could you start by telling us a little about yourself and your role at The Design Trust?

Creativity and entrepreneurship are in my blood, as from a very early age I learnt how to sell in my mother’s gift shop in The Netherlands. My dad was an alpha male business man and my mum was creative and I got that combination inside me. After studying Graphic Design in Belgium and Arts Management in The Netherlands I came to London 25 years ago for a work placement at the Crafts Council, who then offered me a job after 2 weeks. Ever since then I have worked with 1,000s of creative businesses, especially in design and crafts, as a creative business adviser, trainer and coach.

In 2012 I took over The Design Trust from London Met University, to turn it into an online business school for designers and makers. We now get around 50,000 visits per month to the website, and are very active on Twitter too. We provide one day online workshops on topics like business planning and costing & pricing, to 6-week courses on marketing, finance & money, and how to launch and create your collection. We also have a business club with more than 100 webinars, interviews & podcasts with successful creatives and experts.

I regularly teach and write about creative business development for small businesses; for example, I was the business adviser in 2016 for the Etsy Resolution programme, have spoken at the Small is Beautiful conference in Scotland for the last 3 years, and I write the regular business column for Crafts magazine, published by The Crafts Council. And recently I launched my first book on Kickstarter, Dream Plan Do - a 12 month business planner for creative product businesses - with great success.

My official title is Director, but the reality is that The Design Trust is mostly me! I develop and run most of the online training, do a lot of the marketing, and coordinate everything. I work regularly with three freelancers who help me with specific areas including bookkeeping, web development and marketing. We are a very small team, with me working from home in North London and the others from their own space.

Please tell us about The Design Trust itself. What are its aims and what does it set out to do for the creative community?

The Design Trust was originally set up, more than 25 years ago, by a lady called Peta Levi MBE. She was a design journalist for Homes & Gardens, and she also set up Design Nation and the annual New Designers exhibition in Angel. I worked for her for a couple of years at the end of the millennium.

The aims of the organisation are still the same: to provide business training to designers and makers. Since I took over The Design Trust the focus has been on online training rather than live workshops or talks, although I do those sometimes too.

The motto of The Design Trust is: “Create a business you are proud of”. What is it that would make you really proud of your business? I hope that The Design Trust provides practical but also strategic and thought-provoking business advice to both new and more established designers and makers. Not a cookie-cutter approach, but really developing the business that’s right for you, and your clients and family. I like to offer real-life advice that gets creatives inspired and into action. You can read all the blogs and books in the world, but if you don’t do anything with it then it still won’t make your business any better!

What made you decide to support the Just A Card campaign?

I have known Sarah Hamilton for a couple of years and 18 months ago she came to visit me with an idea she had. I knew straight away that it was something that I would love to support. (Who can resist the charming Sarah?!) My mum ran a creative gift business in The Netherlands when I grew up, and I know how important small businesses like that are. Not just to sell the work from other small creatives, but also to keep the local economy going and The High Street independent.

I also love it that the campaign connects creative producers with small retailers. So often I hear creatives talk about ‘us’ and ‘them’ when it is about retailers, and I do think we really need to support each other here much more. We are in it together, and we all do need to educate the general public about how important those small purchases are to keep the country much more alive, with diversity and more pounds.

It’s just brilliant to be able to use our big network on social media and our database to support this artist-led campaign. The Design Trust is a social enterprise, and this is exactly the kind of thing I love to bang on about myself. So it was easy! And Sarah is so enthusiastic and has kept the momentum going. With the recent thunderclaps and the poster/logo design it’s only getting better!

Our readers will almost certainly be familiar with your recent successful Kickstarter project, Dream Plan Do. Can you tell us what prompted you to write the book?

Haha, many things! Basically, the idea of the book had been developing for many years. On one level, I thought ‘Who would be reading a book by me?’ and then again ‘How can I share my ideas to help more creatives in a useful way?’.

Then, last year I was invited by the marvelous Emergents Makers in Inverness to do a workshop on crowdfunding, and I decided to interview lots of creatives who had done a campaign before. The more I delved into it, the more excited I became. In the Summer, we had a lot of work done on our home, so I was a bit lost as I couldn’t really do the usual online training as easily as it was too noisy. I spoke to a friend who really got excited when I shared the book idea, and she was also able to help me with the admin and marketing, and then Yeshen was available for the video filming and the photography, and so it all kind of came together – at last!

The idea behind Dream Plan Do is that many creatives fantasise but don’t dare to dream BIG. Once you know what you are aiming for you need to work out how to get there. You will need to plan what to do. And then it’s the doing and getting into action! Not just the making and being creative part, but working on your business foundations: your marketing, the finance and the systems to get you there.

The monthly planner is split into monthly themes as most creative product based businesses are very seasonal – most of your sales will be generated in the last 3 months of the year. So the books starts in January, with setting juicy goals for the year, then in February we focus on finance and money, in March we look at what you actually do (beyond the product), in April it’s about who your client really is etc. The book works towards the launch of your new collection in September, with lots of practical advice on marketing and social media thrown in too.

It’s a beautifully designed book, heavy with nearly 300 pages, with lots of practical exercises, creative tools, and thought-provoking questions. There is lots of space for you to doodle, sketch, scribble. To me that was really important as my kind of clients love paper and writing, and the act of physically putting pen to paper is so very different from writing on a computer.

I really hope that people dare to get messy, that they dream bigger as a result, plan to make the most of their time and energy, and get into action to share their great work with the best clients for them. It’s so exciting to see how so many creatives are now working ON their business!

Finally, we’re all keen on a positive start to 2017! Do you have any quick tips for creative business owners who may feel in need of a boost at the moment? What should we all be concentrating on this month?

Oh, that’s a tough one! January is a bit of a difficult month for many as it gets so quiet. But you can also use that as an advantage! January is perfect to:

•    go on holiday! Possibly ideally to a far away land that inspires you and keeps you warm haha! Joking aside ... if you plan ahead next time this is a really good time to go away. And even if you are unable to go away now, do give yourself some ‘weekly artist dates’. This is a great exercise by Julia Cameron from The Artist’s Way, that are aimed to keep your creative alive and kicking. Now is a great time to spend some time to top up your inspiration and creativity for the year.

•    take stock and set your business goals and aspirations for the year. January is a natural time to plan ahead and think about what you want to achieve this year. Think about your financial goals and how much salary and turnover you want, but also make a list of 50 people or organisations you want to work with this year. Write that list down. Identify why you want to work with these organisations or people, and identify possible recurring themes and values. And then work out for each of them how to go about getting in touch with them, and then go for it! Approach say 8 each month this year, and just see what happens. Have fun! Get inspired.

•    have a sale and a clear out! January is the perfect month to get rid of old stock. I know so many creatives who are sitting on old stock and that’s a loss in terms of money, but also in energy. What if you could let it go and it takes less space (in your studio but also in your head!)? Give your studio or work space a bit of a Spring clean too (this can be so cathartic!). Can you make your space more ‘you’? I also would advise to check your numbers from 2016 and see what your real best sellers were, and which products were most profitable (not necessarily the same thing!). Identify your top 5 best sellers and most profitable products. Based on the 20/80 rule you might be surprised that 20% of your collection is responsible for 80% of your sales! What other new products or services can you then develop based on this new knowledge? Only start creating and launching new products if you have taken 25% of your old stock out. Review your website or Etsy shop and take 25% off, improve your images and product titles and texts, and you might be surprised that this leaner online presence might actually get you more sales!

And yes: It’s time for your tax return ... and although that might not cheer you up much – it feels good when you have done it, doesn’t it? Work out how you want to feel about money, read some ‘money emotion books’ or watch some inspiring TED talks, and educate yourself more about money and finance systems so that this issue becomes less of a drag. Charge what you are worth and make yourself more valuable! 


And now for the giveaway! To win a copy of the Dream Plan Do planner AND a 2017 Wall Planner, leave a comment below letting us know what your big business goal is for 2017, and how you think the planner will help you achieve it. Please leave your comment BY MIDNIGHT ON THURSDAY 26 JANUARY. 3 winners will be notified during the following week. Good luck!  THE GIVEAWAY HAS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED - THANK YOU FOR TAKING PART!


Do you feel overwhelmed? Are you juggling too many hats? Do you want to make the most of 2017?

On Tuesday 31 January Patricia will be running a one-day online workshop on Creative Business Planning & Time Management. In this practical online workshop you will work in 4 sessions of one hour each on setting goals for your business; find out what is not working so well in your business; you will create a one-page business plan for your creative business; and will learn lots of big stuff and practical tips on managing your time better! 

It’s online and you will be able to join wherever you are in the UK or abroad. These will be an intensive day, with lots of practical activities, thought-provoking questions and great insights. 

Patricia has kindly offered a 15% discount to all Just A Card blog readers! You can also book in addition a special coaching session with Patricia, and you will get the 15% off for that one too. For more info and how to book click here.

To claim our special discount, use promo code: justacard when you book – valid till Friday 27 January. 



Happy New Year from the Just A Card team!

By Sarah Hamilton

Happy New Year from the 'Just a Card' team. I trust you all had a relaxed and happy festive break.

We've just about recovered from the frenzy of our various Christmas events, and the excitement of the 'Just a Card' Thunderclap. With an over 1.5 million reach on Social Media, we certainly gave our creative community the huge shout out it deserves. Thank you to everyone who signed up. That it was such an overwhelming success is a testament to our shared belief that artists/designers and independent businesses are extremely precious and need our continued support. We've our work cut out for us if we're to ensure our high streets stay vibrant and our creative community thrives. We've had numerous reports that Christmas sales were slow. Times are tight and many people are concerned about the future of their businesses.

So, as the dust settles, we're rolling up our sleeves and plotting the year ahead. We're more determined than ever to champion creative people and businesses and have big plans on which we’ll keep you posted. Our wish, as the campaign goes from strength to strength, is that many more people join us. We know our campaign encourages sales. Quite simply, the more people who see and appreciate our simple message, the more impact we will have.

So many of you ask how to get more involved in the campaign. It's easy - SPREAD THE WORD - we need you! We need your passion. We need your energy. We desperately need your commitment to helping us spread the word.  Please tell everyone about 'Just A Card' by tweeting, blogging, face booking and even good old fashioned chin wagging.  Please RT our tweets and share our blogposts. Kate Marsden, our blogger in chief, works incredibly hard each week on new and inspiring features. At Christmas, we introduced the 'Just a Card' gift guide and Sarah Cowan, our fantastic team member who ran it, is planning many more including one for Valentine's Day - keep your eyes peeled for call outs. I'm sure you'll join me in thanking Sarah and Kate for their tireless work on behalf of us all. The team run this campaign in our spare time (spare time - mmm - that).  None of us are paid and it takes up a lot of time, so please support us all and share, it really does mean the world. I'm incredibly proud of our team - without their dedication and commitment, and yours of course, there would be no campaign.

Creativity, passion and commitment are at the heart of the 'Just a Card' message. We need to unite to stress that every sale even 'Just a Card' is vital to independent creative businesses.

Image (c) Kristy Noble

Image (c) Kristy Noble

Now to a couple of personally exciting things I'd like to share with you! Firstly - I've written a book - about handmade cards. As you're aware we use cards as an example of a small sale which helps support small creative businesses. I chose cards due to the quote, but also because handmade cards are close to my own heart. A chance meeting with the publishing director at Pavilion books, when I was speaking at the Mollie Makes awards led to me telling her about the campaign and my passion for cards, and over a year later I have, in my hand, a copy of my first book. All very exciting! Titled 'House of Cards' it's a comprehensive guide to making and selling handmade cards. We feature 10 professional artists and designers who've created step-by-step project to help you get to grips with their techniques. 

The artists share top tips on how to sell cards, based on their own first hand experiences as successful designers, and  how to gather inspiration for your designs. There's a chapter on the history of cards by Jakki Brown who runs the Henries Awards for greeting cards - many of you may well have entered over the years. There's also a chapter about how important sales of greetings cards are to charities as many raise much needed revenue this way. This, as luck would have it, leads me seamlessly to another project dear to my heart, and one which has come to dominate my life over the last few months…

Image (c) Kristy Noble

Image (c) Kristy Noble

As some of you may know, I'm a trustee of a charity called Anno’s Africa. We provide educational art workshops for children living in slum conditions in Kenya and Malawi. With over 1500 children participating in our intensive yearly workshops not only are these classes a great way for children to have fun but they allow them to gain practical skills that will help them build a career in the arts. We provide classes in six major disciplines, Art, Creative Writing, Dance, Drama, Music and Circus, so that there is something to capture the imagination of every child. The art captured mine - the ballet - as shown in this hugely popular video on The Guardian - has captured over 7million others.

So, what does any of this have to do with cards I hear you say. Well we're currently organising our latest fundraiser - The Anno’s Africa Charity Art Raffle. We've asked our friends, (some of the other trustees are established actors, writers and producers) to uncover hidden artistic talent to produce… guess what? A card sized artwork. Every day for the past few months, new artworks have arrived from far and wide by stars of TV, film, music and the arts. We are raffling these 'blind' online from 13 January to 22 February to raise money help build an arts centre and fund our 2017 programme. If you’re interested in the charity and want to support our work, then you can buy a ticket for £10 (the raffle goes live at 10pm on Friday 13 January - in the meantime you can visit the website here). As our message says: every sale counts and will help guarantee the future of our classes and support children in the development of their artistic talents.

So, here's to a joyful and productive 2017 - filled with creativity, books and vibrant high streets.

Happy Days!

Sarah H xx

'House of Cards' by Sarah Hamilton will be published by Pavilion books on 9 February 2017. If you'd like to pre-order a copy, then you can do so here. It will also, hopefully, be available in many wonderful bricks and mortar independent bookshops.......