Look Lane

By Kate Marsden

An online marketplace with a difference for you this week as we meet Debbie Inge from Look Lane. Debbie tells us why she launched the site and how Just A Card is important both to Look Lane and her work as a designer/maker.

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

I'm Debbie, Creative director at Looklane.com and designer/maker at Duck & Duffel. I'm a fashion graduate who worked in media and marketing for 12 years before having my daughter and then setting up my design brand Duck & Duffel. In February this year, after 3 years of planning, I launched Look Lane! I was frustrated by identikit platforms that didn’t allow any creativity or individuality and wanted to launch a shopping platform that met the needs of both buyers and creators.

All the Look Lane team love shopping in cool markets, browsing beautiful things in incredible stores like Liberty’s or mooching through the lanes in Brighton where you can shop across brands and discover amazing new products without ever really knowing what you are looking for. What we wanted to do with Look Lane is to replicate that shopping experience as you browse and discover shops and products.  A place where beautiful must have items are glimpsed through the windows of shop fronts as unique as their creators.  We wanted to make a world for all things authentic and hand-made.

What does a typical day involve?

I have a 6 year old so first thing is getting her ready for school (while trying to catch up on social media!). Once she is at school I make myself another cup of tea and settle at my laptop in my office (the dining room at the moment!), check emails and update the site, post on social media and deal with any accounts. My dog Betty usually starts pestering me for a walk around mid morning so a trip to the post office or local park is a great way to clear my mind ready to get back to the computer! I tend to eat lunch at my desk whilst catching up on You Tube fashion hauls! Then a couple of hours more work before school pick up. Once homework is done, dinner is made and little one in bed I make dinner and then get straight back to it for a couple of hours...unless I get distracted by whatever series I'm binge watching (at the moment it's Rick & Morty!)

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

As Look Lane is a web-based shopping platform I currently work from home. We only launched Look Lane in February of this year but I would love to have a real office with studio space! When I'm not working I love drawing, going to craft fairs, walking my dog (@looklanebetty - you can follow her on IG!) and I absolutely love going to see live music; we have a great local music venue in Aldershot called The West End Centre which promotes local talent and artists.

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

I think the main challenges are competing with generic high street stores, and educating people on why they should spend money on handmade/independent design instead of mass produced cheap items from chain stores; the result of which would be promoting sustainability and ethically produced products and making people think about where products come from, how they have been made and who made them.

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

To increase sales for our amazing vendors, to build a team in a lovely office/studio space somewhere inspiring...and do a pop-up shop!

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

Get out to as many craft fairs as you can and talk to people, it's such an amazing community of fellow makers who are really supportive and love to champion each other! Craft fairs are a really great way of engaging with customers and creating a fan base for your work.

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 absolutely, and I make sure that I always purchase something from independent shops and galleries I visit even if it is 'Just a card' – let’s face it there is always a birthday coming up and a unique card from a designer-maker is far more individual than a standard off-the-self card from a chain store!

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

Incredibly important. Our aims are to promote designer-makers and their amazing work and create sales for them to support their business. As a designer-maker myself I know how every sale counts!

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

I heard about it from Mollie Makes and have been following the campaign ever since. My favourite social media platform has to be Instagram! I'm a very visual person and I love browsing for amazing art and design, outfit inspiration and, quite simply, I love pretty pictures! Pinterest is also a great tool and I would love to do more with You Tube; we have two videos currently on our You Tube channel but would love to do some video craft tutorials in the future.

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

Remember that every sale counts for independent business! To keep a choice of shops on our high streets we need to support small business otherwise we are going to end up with generic malls, empty shops and ghost towns. At Look Lane we are all about championing small business so we will keep promoting our makers and spreading the message that 'small/ independent is best'!

 

Honeybourne's

By Kate Marsden

We’re off to visit a gorgeous little shop this week which is right up on my list of places to actually visit! Honeybourne’s is a really pretty spot which stocks lots of my favourites and plenty of things which are new to me too. Read on to meet owner Hannah and find out more about the highs and lows of shopkeeping…

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

I'm Hannah - I run Honeybourne's, a small gift shop in South East London. I'm both the owner and main shopgirl (plus admin assistant, chief gift-wrapper, cleaner and book-keeper!) so the short answer to this question is that I do a bit of everything!!

What does a typical day involve?

I arrive at the shop at about 9.30am having stopped off for a coffee at the cafe next door; that part's non-negotiable! The first half an hour before we open is spent righting wonky stock and making sure displays look good, cleaning and opening post. I enjoy the calm quietude of this time particularly during busy periods like Christmas as it can be the only time I get to myself all day! We open at 10am and I tend to spend the morning replying to emails and doing admin, possibly my least favourite jobs involved in running the shop. When we have deliveries, which is most weeks, I unpack, sort, price and put out the new stock, thinking about what story I want to tell about the product and how it interacts with what's around it. In the afternoon I often re-merchandise particular areas, have a think about what's selling and what isn't and use the internet to find new suppliers - mainly by scrolling through Instagram which I find very soothing.

Obviously I intersperse all of these activities with my most important job - serving customers! My absolute favourite part of the day is chatting to regulars and friends; sharing local gossip and catching up with news. I also have a great relationship with the other businesses on the high street and can frequently be found either in my shop or one of theirs having a natter!

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

Honeybourne's is based in Ladywell, South East London which is where I grew up and worked as an English teacher. We're a tiny little gift shop and predominantly sell cards, gifts and art by local designer-makers or small British-based companies. We aim to have a range of products to suit all ages, interests and budgets and inevitably this leads to a very colourful and eclectic shop! When I'm not working I can generally be found walking my dog Teddy in one of our many and glorious local parks, or hanging out with friends at home, with good food and plentiful wine. I'm a simple creature!

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

Where do I start?! Rising rent and high business rates (despite the recent stay of execution this is still a worry for lots of us) combined with stagnating wages causing customers to hang on to their cash, has really depressed the retail sector over the last few years. Brexit hasn't exactly helped either as lots of raw materials now cost more and buying from abroad is also more expensive than a year ago due to the drop in value of the pound therefore margins are being squeezed left, right and centre. It's a pretty gloomy picture to be honest! However, I don't think it's hopeless, although I definitely think as an industry we'll have to consider our value to the customer going forward and adapt in order to survive. Thankfully, small independent shops and galleries have a really strong narrative and ethos and I think that will really help.

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

I'd like to get the shop to the point where I can leave it in capable hands a bit more regularly than I currently do. A website for e-commerce is in the works, but I refuse to rush or put out something that would compromise what we're about, it so it may take a bit of time to get right. Eventually, I'd love to renovate our downstairs space to create a place to buy beauty and homeware in a really sumptuous, spa-like environment - that's a bit of a pipe dream but I think it's good to aim high!

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

Gosh, one thing I totally underestimated was just how resilient you have to be to run your own business. Much of the hard graft is done on your own so surround yourself with supportive people, some who do similar things to you so you can lean on them for industry appropriate advice, and some completely divorced from your work so you can get some headspace/have a rant! I've met the most wonderful community of local female creatives and entrepreneurs and their help and cheerleading has made all the difference. One of them was featured on this blog not so long ago - Becci of Betty Ettiquette stationery and cards has been an absolute gem in terms of the help she's given me and Honeybourne's over the past two years! Also, try not to take things personally. In the first few years of running a business countless things will go wrong - big and small. Learn from mistakes but don't beat yourself up otherwise you'll struggle to find the mental energy to keep going. Conversely, (and I'm aware I'm starting to sound a lot like the song 'Sunscreen' by Baz Lurhmann) celebrate every single success, no matter how small. They are all important and will re-invigorate you. 

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 like that the message uses cards as an example of a single purchase as they're most gift shops bestselling products and are pretty much available in nearly all shops and galleries. Obviously it's not just about cards - if we only sold those we'd not survive long. But it's a great way to start the conversation about putting your money where your mouth is in regards to supporting independent business and artists. It's a really accessible message and I think that's important. I like to think of our cards as a gateway product to all our other lovely pieces so it makes a lot of sense to focus on them!

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

It's really important! I believe that every decision we make in regards to where we spend our hard-earned money is a political one. We can't just want to have lovely little shops on our high streets or galleries full of beautiful art on our doorsteps - we have to buy from them so that they aren't just a nice idea. My partner, who runs the butchers across the road from me, came across a useful metaphor for describing this phenomenon - it's like a Church in a pretty village. Everyone wants it to be there but if no-one goes apart from on high-days and holidays it won't be for very long. I know sometimes buying from small shops like mine can be frustrating. We don't have as much choice as bigger shops or chains, our prices are higher than the internet and we don't bulk buy so sometimes we run out of things or they are incredibly limited - like the local art that we sell. However, we contribute to local events and charities and help to create something which is really quite priceless - community. We curate products with meaning in beautiful spaces and there's a level of personal service you just don't find anywhere else. Thankfully our customers recognise and reward these things - we are very lucky with the support we've received from the people of Ladywell and South London in general. The people who shop with Honeybourne's have clearly got the message already!

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

I heard about the campaign on Twitter which, despite also being a really effective time-suck when I should be doing admin, is a great place to find other independents and make contacts in the industry. I love to use Instagram to find suppliers and see what other lovely independent shops are doing - there was a really great challenge over April called 'My Shoplife' which was started by a fab indie shop in Scotland called 'Pencil Me In'. I loved that as it was a great way to tell our story and hear what other people in the industry were up to - we've formed a little collective out of it which is brilliant. The more we all work together, the better we'll do. 

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

I think we as business owners can be more open about the challenges we face and how much we value every single purchase - even just a card! I think we also need to champion our role in local communities even more than we do now, and be really clear that spending money with us supports a more human and ethical form of consumerism than we're used to hearing about. Spreading the word about the campaign is key too, hence why I'm more than happy to put posters up in Honeybourne's about Just A Card!

 

Kaylene Alder

By Kate Marsden

Another chance to meet one of our Just A Card team members this week as we explore the world of multi talented, all round lovely person Kaylene Alder. Kaylene is one of our tiny army of tweeters and you may also have spotted her marching around London markets, baby in tow, making people engage with our campaign!

Read on to find out more about Kaylene’s work and her wonderful new (and very timely) project, Plant Prints for Peace.

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

Hello! I’m Kaylene and I’m a freelance illustrator, print maker, art teacher and member of the Just A Card team.  I am an expat Canadian living in South East London with my husband and our 16 month-old daughter, Nora.  I’ve recently launched a new print project called ‘Plant Prints for Peace’, which will (hopefully) be raising lots of funds for Peace Direct.

What does a typical day involve?

I teach art to primary school children in Hackney four days a week, so a typical day involves breakfast with Nora and then a lengthy commute, during which I listen to podcasts and try to catch up on my social media (including #justacard tweets). School is usually a whirlwind of creative chaos – we use all sorts of different materials and I love introducing the kids to new methods and artists.  After school I head home, reply to emails from clients, make dinner and get on with commissions, drawing and packing up any orders that need to be sent.  Most of my screen printing is done at the weekend, but I also make some linocut prints in my home studio.

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

I am lucky to have a home studio and also to be a member of Sonsoles Print Studio in Peckham.  Drawing, client work and containable messy projects are done in my home studio and the screen printing is all done at Sonsoles.  Both are places that make me feel extraordinarily lucky and content.  They are my happy places! Full of beautiful artwork by people I admire. I try to keep my home studio tidy but do not always succeed, particularly if I am preparing for a market or an exhibition.

When I’m not working, I am spending as many minutes as possible in a multitude of parks with our bouncy toddler! I also love going to exhibitions, seeing friends and cooking.

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

At the moment I certainly find 24 hour days too short!  I think designer makers have soooo many things to cram into their days – particularly if they have other jobs – that it can be overwhelming trying to stay on top of everything.  I think the immediacy of communication technology can make one feel a bit frantic.  I try to turn everything off for at least 30 minutes before bed to give my brain a chance to unwind, and to allow space for creativity to sneak back in. 

I have also noticed a trend towards big brands imitating work by designer makers which I think can lure customers away from smaller businesses.  It’s why I feel the Just a Card message is so important – small businesses depend on people seeking them out and supporting them.

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

I am super excited to have launched the first Plant Prints for Peace collection and am working hard to make sure it takes off. 10% of all sales will go to Peace Direct who are an amazing charity.  I plan to draw, print and launch a second collection ready for Christmas.  I am also aiming to have the plant prints stocked in a few independent shops and galleries.  They will be up at the Paxton Centre in Crystal Palace for the whole of June so that’s a start!  A few more client commissions are in the pipeline too so I’m definitely going to be busy.

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

You can do it! There will be ups and downs for sure but if you love what you do, other people will love it too.  In terms of more practical advice, keep on top of those finances! Cost the things that you make so that you know how much to charge for them and look over your finances every month so that you’re organized for the tax man – it’s not sexy but it makes it a whole lot easier when January comes! I mean, ahem, of course I do my taxes before January.

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

Studio 73 in Brixton has a diverse and wonderful collection of prints and cards and a chat with darling owner, Adrian, is never ever dull!

Brixi, also in Brixton, is run by the AMAZING Emy and has a collection of ceramics, jewelry, art and vintage delights that I lust over.

Diverse, Brixton again, has a wonderful selection of cards, art and gifts and owner, Anita, works tirelessly to support local designer makers.

Alexandra Nurseries, in glamourous Penge, has the best coffee in SE20, plants galore and an adorable gift shop.

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 had realized, as I got on board with team JAC when Sarah put a call out on Twitter.  I was in the early days of motherhood and spending a lot of late night feeding time on the interwebs so I thought maybe I could help.  I read the website through and through and fell in love with the message.

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

The Just A Card message is about supporting great things and determined, creative people.  It is massively important and representative of the kind of world I want to live in – where people think about others and about how their choices affect and impact the wider world.  Everything we do has consequences and we are all responsible for thinking about our choices.  Maybe that’s getting a little deep, but I genuinely feel that if we all start thinking more consciouslyabout little things, the big things will fall into place.

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 through Twitter but I use Instagram most often (and have a new Instagram account for Plant Prints for Peace here).  I was super stoked to participate in the first Just A Card hour the other week – it was fun to chat with people from all over the country about what they do, and it felt immensely positive, so I’m definitely going to try and keep up with those and I would recommend them to others – especially if you need a boost. 

I love being a part of the JAC team, and there are some exciting ideas floating around at the moment so I’m sure there will be lots more to do.  I also always bring flyers to markets and talk to people about the campaign as much as possible, which is an easy way to engage customers and spread the word!

You can join in with #JustACard hour on Twitter every Thursday evening fom 8-9pm!

Snowden Flood

By Kate Marsden

Snowden Flood’s little treasure trove of a shop on London’s South Bank is a bit of a hidden gem. Perched up on the first floor of the Oxo Tower overlooking the river, she stocks her own work as well as that of other designer/makers. Read on to find out more about Snowden, and why she supports the Just A Card campaign, then make sure you pop in the next time you’re on that South Bank stroll!

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

Hi Kate, I’m a designer-maker/artist/shopkeeper!

What does a typical day involve?

I split my time between working at home and in my shop so it depends where I am.  I am trying out a new way of organising myself so that I focus on 3 main things per week that I want to achieve.  I used to have an endless to-do list that I added to all the time, so never finished, and realised it was making me feel bad.  Loosely, I start the day by dealing with customer enquiries and orders first thing and then I focus on the things I need to do.  If I’m in the shop, I do the accounting and admin first thing to get it out of the way (hate it).  If the shop is busy I just help the customers, pack web orders and make the shop look nice.

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

I work either at home in my house in Brixton, where I have a small office and a large table in the living room for printmaking, painting and drawing. Or I work in my shop on the first floor of the Oxo Tower.  My space at Oxo was supposed to be my studio, but I found it difficult to design there as I’m too distracted by my customers (I like to chat to them!), so I turned it into a shop.  In addition to my own work, I also now stock pieces by a great bunch of designer makers plus antiques that I source.  It’s a very small & friendly welcoming space, with a carefully curated collection of things that I myself love and like the ‘story’ of. My desk faces the river so I watch the boats going up and down and the people passing by beneath on their way along the south bank - it’s a wonderful place to be and I feel very lucky!

When I’m not working I paint, draw or make my prints.  I do stuff with my son and we take Gretel, our mini schnauzer, for walks - Dulwich Woods is our favourite.  Before I was a designer maker, I was an artist for many years, so I still love to go to galleries and see all the great shows.  I run and swim and also I love to cook. When I’m working at home I often stop and make a cake if I’m a bit stuck.  Finally I like to go to markets and auctions, I’m a terrible magpie.

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

Rates and greedy property development are huge challenges at the moment - the high street is getting to be a very difficult place for the little people. I live between Brixton & Herne Hill, where independent shops have been hit very hard by developers wanting them out, so that they can put large chains like Waitrose or Wahaca in their spaces.  I also think that customers are very accustomed now to getting deals and offers on everything, so they want to buy cheaply.  That’s quite a challenge when you are selling quality things that someone made in the UK, you just can’t do that for peanuts.  Our main challenge at Oxo Tower is getting people to come upstairs - the signage is abysmal and most people don’t know we are here.

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

My main ambition for my business is to work on a lot more new designs.  I really underestimated how much work having a shop would be, so it stopped me in my tracks a bit just dealing with all the admin!  I’m happiest when I’m creating though, so that’s what I’m pushing for over the next few years.

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

Maybe to try not to do everything all at once!  When I started my business I was determined to sell all over the world, do X amount of commissions, show at Maison et Objet twice a year etc.  As a single parent I just about worked myself to death trying to prove myself.  I did achieve all those goals, but in many ways I wish I’d approached it much more simply and just kept focussed on the products and on looking after myself.  Having said that, I’m now going to say the opposite and say to try everything and see what works for you.  Another thing that worked well for me as a designer maker was joining communities like Hidden Art and Craft Central - when you are running a little business it’s great to be part of a community and be able to get involved and learn from them and from the members.

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 love the Just A Card message - it’s so important. I think we all have to think about the kinds of neighbourhoods we want to live in, and if we want independent businesses rather than Sainsbury’s Locals on every street, to really go out and support them.  Even though I have a shop myself and always have loved to shop at independents, I’ve still found that I had to really make a shift in my thinking to maybe pay an extra £1.50 to go and buy that book from my local bookshop rather than Amazon - because I really really want that bookshop to stay in my community!

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

Well we’ve had the poster in our window for some time now, and a framed flyer on the counter. It sparks lots of interesting discussion with our customers and people think it’s a great campaign. I’m proud to be a part of it in this tiny way.

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

I heard about it on Twitter.  I tend to use Instagram the most but I’m on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest too. Instagram is a bit like crack for me I’m afraid and I can easily lose half an hour scrolling through!

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

I believe it does take a bit of a shift to see that the way you shop can have a big effect on a whole neighbourhood and community.  For me for example -  I don’t have enough money to do all my shopping at my local farmers’ market, but I can afford to buy a few things there.  And if I am buying gifts or cards for people, I make sure to go to local shops or to markets like Brixton or West Norwood Feast or places like Crafty Fox Market etc. to check out the wares, and help support the little businesses as best I can.  Also to share information about Just A Card and spread the word.

 

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.

@roxwellpress

@roxwellpress

·       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
£20.00
By Shirley Payton at Oh Hello Shan Creative

Felt and bead flower brooch
£4.00
By Rachel at PepperPot

Cactus print drawstring bag
£5.20
By Annie Walker at Mac and Morris

Mo-Tea-To tea
£2.20
By Angie Young at Craft Tea Company

Topiary garden drum lampshade
£65.00
By Jennie Jackson at Jennie Jackson Design

Fair Isle pattern merino long scarf/wrap
£55.00
By Ulla Cronin at Finesse Knits

Forget me not greeting card
£2.50
By Hannah Miles at utensils0

Hedgehog zip pouch
£7.50
By Kathleen Meaney at Kathleen Meaney Illustration

Monstera A5 notebook
£5.00
By Lydia Meiying 

Where to buy:

Small copper enamel bowl
£38.00
By Gail Cadogan at My Cherry Pie

Blue and white Porto plates tea towel
£11.00
By Ilze at Made By Ilze

Aquamarine pendant
£12.00
By Sarah at Chalso

A5 journal
AUS $9.95
By Tilly & Type

The Squawks Collection box of 12 greetings cards
£10.00
By Ruth Thorpe at Ruth Thorpe Studio

Superb Fairy Wren - wall sculpture
£154.00
By Jose Heroys - Fibre Artist

Blue and white sailor suit
£45.00
By Caroline Stansfield

Flight Paths
€15.00
By Lily Corcoran at Petal to Petal

Lovebirds and violets card
£2.95
By Louise Slater
 

Where to buy:

Yellow jersey Tour De France Yorkshire terrier keyring
£8.50
By Helen Rodgers at MisHelenEous

Dotty cushion in mustard
£50.00
By Georgia Bosson

Daisy card
£2.95
By Sue Bee at Bee Designs

Striped butterflyfish screen print
£190.00
By Rosa Doyle

Congratulations card
£2.50
By Christine Gardner at Christine Gardner Design Studio

Yellow stretch felt bracelet
£8.50
By Melissa Latto at Nine Angels

Loop necklace
£45.00
By Ruth Lyne at Ruth Lyne Contemporary Glass

Happy pineapple card
£3.00
By Victoria Tojeiro at VictoriaDraws

Acanthus notebook
£3.00
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

PLEASE…

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.

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

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

 

 

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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.

 

Aabelard

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. 

Linescapes

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.