Melanie Smith - Story

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tips for Your Product Photography

By Emily Quinton

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

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

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

Shoot in Natural Light

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

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

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

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

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

Think about your Backgrounds

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

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

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

Composing Your Images

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

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

Gather Your Props

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

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

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

Telling Your Stories

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

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

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

Practice, Practice, Practice

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

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

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

 

The Valentines Gift Guide

By Sarah Cowan

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

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

Where to buy:

‘Raptor Arms Around Me’ card - £2.50 each

By Charlotte Filshie

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

By Jennifer Ings at Sweet Oxen

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

By Charli Appleton at The Two Wagtails

Valentine’s Day anatomical heart card - £3.00 each

By Agnes Becker at we are stardust

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

By Angela Chick

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

By Faye Sanderson at Faysie Boo Studio

Cheesy Valentines Card  - £2.50 each

By JJ at The Gin Fox

Love Bear Pink - £2.10 each

By Lucy Monkman

Elephant Valentine’s Card - £3.90 each

By Nicola Parnell at FeltTails

Where to buy:

Heart rose gold enamel pin - £7.00 each

By Zeena Shah at Heart Zeena

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

By Demelsa Haughton at Demelsa Haughton Illustration

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

By Lesley R Stevens at Decorque Ltd

Custom handmade paper map roses - £8.00 each

By Emma Cottam at C&E Designs

Heart key fob in organic cotton - £5.99 each

By Clare Trowbridge at Little Conkers

Pendulum statement necklace - £12.00 each

By Katie Jones at KatieBetty

Mini love heart canvas - £15.00 each

By Gina Carpenter at Handcrafted by Gina

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

By Jo Angell at Jo Angell Designs

Red leather rose in bottle - £12 for one

By Kate Hansord at DaphneRosa

Where to buy:

Waxed canvas travel pouch - £32.00 each

By Kate at Wild Marshmallow

Hammered heart earrings - £20.00 for a pair

By Julia Metcalfe at Juliamdesigns

Set of three open paper peonies - £49.00 for three

By Susan Beech at A Petal Unfolds

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

By Egle Ramanauske at Emodi Home

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

By Pragya Agarwal at Hedge and Hog Prints

Distressed leather flask - £40.00 each

By Jason at HORD

Medium seedhead jug - £23.00 each

By Kate Thorburn at What Kate Loves

Chunk ring (turquoise) - £50.00 each

By Cecilia Stamp

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

By Michelle Evans at Roxwell Press

 

 

Michelle Evans - Roxwell Press

By Kate Marsden

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

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


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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Patricia van den Akker - The Design Trust

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Happy New Year from the Just A Card team!

By Sarah Hamilton

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

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

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

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

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

Image (c) Kristy Noble

Image (c) Kristy Noble

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

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

Image (c) Kristy Noble

Image (c) Kristy Noble

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

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

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

Happy Days!

Sarah H xx


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

 

The Artery

By Kate Marsden

Happy New Year everyone and welcome back to the blog!

This week we’re visiting an Aladdin’s cave of an art shop in Banbury, Oxfordshire – and if you’re local, The Artery might also help tick off that resolution to improve your painting skills. Read on to hear more from owner Barry…

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

My name is Barry Whitehouse and I am an artist, art tutor, and art history lecturer. I own The Artery art shop in Banbury, Oxfordshire, where we sell a wide range of fine art materials, and teach around thirty art classes every month. I have been an artist and tutor for over twenty years, and exhibiting my work since the age of fourteen. For the last five years I have also been the arts columnist for Four Shires magazine, a country lifestyle magazine on sale in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, and parts of Gloucestershire.

I work in the shop 6 days a week and teach my classes there, and in surrounding villages. I am also a registered tutor with the School Of Colour which looks at the science of colour mixing and colour harmony, and how to mix thousands of colours from a limited palette, and I have also had the pleasure of being the chairman of Banbury and District Art Society for just over three years. 

What does a typical day involve?

My days can be extremely varied. I get into the shop just after 8am to prepare for the day ahead - sourcing the materials needed for the class that day before opening at 9. Jacqui arrives to help out on the shop floor while I answer emails, update the website or social media, prepare for classes, order stock, or paint commissions. The afternoon is usually when the classes are held, and Sandra then arrives to look after the shop to take over from Jacqui. We hold a variety of classes each week - drawing, acrylics, and watercolours, and I teach all of them. It is fun and varied from day to day. 

Where do you work? What is your shop like?

Our shop is a small art shop located in the old town area of Banbury. We opened in 2010, and after a bumpy start during the tail end of the recession, we now share a building with three other creative businesses: a cafe at the front, our shop is towards the back, in the cellar is a picture framers, our classroom is on the first floor, and a tattoo studio on the second floor. Our customers describe the shop as an Aladdin's cave of art, as although we are small in size we have a wide range of fine art materials and traditional craft materials. We try to keep the shop looking as traditional as possible to make it more of an experience for people, so they feel they are in an independent business and not some generic mainstream shop found anywhere. 

We are the only independent art shop in North Oxfordshire and try to keep in anything an artist may want including art magazines, and more traditional art materials such a calligraphy items, Lino cutting, glass painting, as well as the more modern side of art such as graphic markers, colouring-in books and illustration materials.

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

I believe the challenges have been gradual due to the ever increasing popularity of shopping online, and some town centres have lost their appeal as destinations. It is a much harder task to get people in through the door, or even be aware that you exist. Many shops struggle to balance their time with managing the bricks and mortar store while constantly being expected to update their social media presence - but it is worth it. I do believe that this is starting to shift due to the younger generations seemingly shunning online retail for more traditional ways of shopping, painting and drawing. By retailers working together to promote the town, liaising with the local council and other bodies, then positive change will come.

In Banbury we have a strong retail group called the Old Town Association which I was the chairman of for five years. The group works alongside other groups, puts on street parties each year with the help from the town council, and work together to help bring a community back to the heart of the town centre.

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

Over the next few years I would really like to grow and expand what we already have and are doing. I am organising an arts festival in the summer to showcase local artists and craftspeople during Banbury's District Show where all exhibtiors will be making and doing on site so people can see them at work, ask questions, and buy their work.

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

Utilise social media and all the many forms of it. It is free and a great way to build a customer base and spread the word about what you do. Social media thrives on the visual, so for creative artists and makers it’s the perfect way to show what you can do!

Do your homework - if you are opening premises - look at the demographic of the area: is your target audience a minority, or where is the best place to set up for them to find 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 was aware that the Just A Card campaign was about small purchases, as compliments don't pay the bills. I love the idea as it highlights the fact that any purchase no matter how small helps the shop survive. Howard Zinn famously said 'small acts when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world', and this is exactly how the Just A Card campaign works - small purchases when multiplied by millions of customers can mean the world to a small business.

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

The message is really important. It is lovely to get people visiting the shop saying how wonderful it is, but without regular purchases going in the till, the shop can't stay afloat, so the campaign highlighting that even small purchases help is a godsend. We display the Just A card poster in the shop all the time.

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

We first heard about the campaign on Twitter and have supported it from the off.

We regularly use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to help promote the shop and classes. We have many videos on YouTube teaching people how to paint and draw, and to date the most successful video has been a 'Paint like Monet' tutorial gaining almost 300,000 views.

Over on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter we try to promote the shop in a fun and creative way, rather than just the hard sell. Our little wooden art manikins are often our tools for this. We pose and photograph them in various situations, or as spin offs of what has been on television that week. It was the idea of Jacqui last year where we recreated scenes of the Olympics and did our very own artlympics with the manikins participating in the events that were held that day. We have also recreated our own versions of Paintdark, where swarthy wooden hero Brush Paintdark gets up to all kinds of thing in the shop, Strictly Come Painting where judges Craig Modelwithwod, and Len Woodman judge other manikin's dancing, and The Great British Paint Off with judges Mary Beret, and Paul Head O'Wood look at other manikin's art attempts. The manikins also recently took part in their own manikin challenge!

Last year (2016) the shop was nominated in the Great British High Street Awards as Best GB Twitter Shop, and Jacqui and I attended the awards ceremony on 12th December at Lancaster House, London, and were very proud to be a finalist and pick up an award for being in the top three shops in the country! 

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

Everyone should get behind the campaign, make more people aware and promote is as much as possible. We also have the logo on our social media pages to keep it constantly in our customer's minds that any purchase is greatly appreciated.

 

Nikki Miles

By Kate Marsden

This week we’re heading to Essex to experience the fun and colourful world of Artist and Illustrator Nikki Miles. Read on to hear all about Nikki’s super busy life and why she thinks the Just A Card campaign is so important.

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

I’m Nikki and I love painting and making weird cute cards, prints, jewellery and accessories. I started making cards and jewellery after I graduated from my BA (hons) Graphic Design & Illustration degree in 2012. I first attempted to sell my cards at an art exhibition and to my surprise they all sold out at the private view. This is why I opened an Etsy shop and I've never looked back since! I have been lucky enough to have my designs stocked in boutiques, galleries and larger retailers such as Paperchase and Scribbler.

What does a typical day involve?

At the moment I run my business around a full time digital marketing job, which equals a lot of early mornings and late nights! Typically, the day starts with an early commute, I work 9 till 5 in the day and then during the evenings and weekends I concentrate on my business. I spend a lot of my spare time packing shop orders, developing new products, fulfilling commissions, answering emails, blogging and working on social media.

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

Everything I make is designed at my home studio in Waltham Abbey, Essex (a teeny tiny town near London). My boyfriend is a printmaker so we decided to convert the spare room in our flat into a studio to share. It’s a fun room filled with colour, inspiration and clutter!

When I’m not working I like watching The Walking Dead, collecting old tat from charity shops and car boot sales, drawing, taking pictures, eating pizza, playing video games, and going for walks in Epping Forest (near where I live).

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

I think the market is saturated, it’s particularly challenging to sell greetings cards and prints because there is so much competition. This is made even harder by large retailers selling goods at a low price that small independent businesses cannot match.

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

I would love to be able to spend more time growing my business and have a healthier work / life balance. Also I have exciting plans to design a new website and expand my range of products.

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

Just do what you love and be yourself no matter what! There will be days where you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing or just can’t figure stuff out but that’s ok. Let those negative thoughts go and keep going - most importantly enjoy your work.

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

I have so many favourite makers, I can’t list them all but here are a few!

Pony People

Lucky Dip Club 

The Printed Peanut

I Like Cats 

Faye Moorhouse 

In Twos and Threes 

Hello Harriet 

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? 

Small sales add up and they are critical to the success of any small business. A card is the perfect example of a small purchase and the campaign does a great job reminding people to support artists and designer makers.

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

The campaign is really important to my business because it encourages people to support my work. I am really grateful for this because with every sale my confidence grows and it means that I can continue doing something I love.

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 became aware of the campaign through Twitter. Using social media has been a fun and amazing tool to grow my audience. I have made lots of friends and been overwhelmed by all the support I have received from the creative community, especially on Instagram. I often retweet Just A Card on Twitter and it would be great if others could do the same! 

Gabriela Szulman

By Kate Marsden

More studio envy for you this week (sorry!) as we head to Camberwell in South London to meet a long term Just A Card campaign supporter, artist Gabriela Szulman. Gabriela shares her wonderful work (and studio space!) with us, alongside her thoughts about shopping small and sustainable…

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

I am a printmaker and mixed-media artist. My work is all about reassembling found images through collage and decoupage, and I use both these methods to create pictures, jewellery and decorative objects. I also teach creative upcycling techniques regularly at my studio and elsewhere.

What does a typical day involve?   

Each day is different for me but it normally starts with checking emails and scheduling social media posts. Then I attempt to follow the inevitable list, so it could be a full day of making, administration, research or a combination of all those things and more. Most days are punctuated by going out to a gym class, so I leave the studio at some point during the morning for a bout of much-needed exercise. 

I teach two regular classes every week: Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening. These are informal, relaxed drop-in sessions for regular students who have done a course with me before and want to carry on with their own projects. And then at the weekend once or twice a month I lead more structured workshops on specific techniques.

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

I am extremely lucky: last year I moved just a mile up the road within Camberwell to a complex of live-work units which is home to a diverse range of artists and makers. My studio is a large double-height space that allows me to work and teach on the ground floor and keep my office separate on a mezzanine. And of course the commute is just a flight of stairs as the flat is right above the studio!

When I’m not working I’ll be at the Ritzy or the East Dulwich Picture House watching anything from obscure art-house releases to comedies and documentaries (film is one of my obsessions), meeting friends for a meal or visiting an art or design exhibition. I am a thoroughly urban creature though I do like to get away somewhere remote at least once a year.

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

Where to begin? We all know it can be hard to make a living from doing what we love, and most of us are juggling several things at the same time. And while the web has helped develop our reach beyond physical boundaries, the amount of effort needed to market ourselves through a professional, interesting and current online presence does not always translate in sales.

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

I would like to expand my teaching practice, continue developing my product range and supply more lovely independent shops and galleries. I would also welcome doing more commissioned work such as custom-papered walls and furniture.

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

Say yes to every opportunity big or small. Take a stall at a local market: direct feedback from customers is crucial. Get your pricing right and understand boring stuff such as cost and profit: I despair when I hear makers say they’ve “covered the cost” of a fair when they’ve taken the same amount of money they paid for the space! To me that means they’ve given away their products and time for free: if they depended purely on those takings they would not even be able to replace the materials needed to make more work.

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

Diverse Gifts – the very first lifestyle shop in Brixton, which began as a silver jewellery stall in the famous street market long before the area became gentrified! The owner, Anita Thorpe, is very approachable and always keen to hear from potential suppliers. She stocks a great mix of work by local makers, crafts and furniture from far flung corners of the globe, plus a varied selection of greeting cards. Every November Diverse hosts a showcase of handmade work by Lambeth-based artists and craftspeople in collaboration with social enterprise Makerhood.

Brixi – very eccentric and always full of oddities: my go-to place whenever I’m looking for something unusual. I love Brixi for its individuality and the fact that it does not stock anything that is remotely “on trend” or useful. Emy Gray, the fairy godmother who runs Brixi, is another great supporter of local designers and emerging artists.
  
Bias Boutique – a lovely fashion shop in Peckham. The owner, Sally Hindle, has a very good eye and stocks independent labels from the UK and Europe, plus a range of carefully chosen beauty products and accessories. She is also a champion of local designers and often you'll find a little corner with some beautifully made home products. A second, larger shop has recently opened in Harrogate – I haven’t been there yet but hope to visit sometime next year.

A couple of shops I discovered through social media and admire from afar:

Hilary & Flo in Sheffield – I’m a fan of their Instagram feed and covet much of what I’ve seen on their online store. I imagine the bricks-and-mortar shop to be the perfect mix of stylish and bonkers, and can picture some of my own creations there. On my wish list of stockists!

Tin Design  in Leigh-on-sea – an eclectic art and interiors shop where I would also love to see some of my work. I stumbled across their inspiring Instagram feed and website sometime ago while looking for trays by French brand Ibride , a favourite of mine which is not easily found in the UK. In addition to a wonderful selection of interiors accessories and vintage finds, Tin Design also host a showcase of local artisans and artists, always a plus in my view.

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 have to confess that I hadn’t, at least not initially. As I heard more about the campaign, it became clear that the card is just an example: the perfect metaphor for any small purchase. Explaining the meaning of “Just a Card” and the campaign as a whole is a great opener when talking about its aims to the buying public.

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

Absolutely crucial! We want more people to support independent makers and shops by making actual purchases rather than just admiring what we do or “liking” posts on social media.

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 “straight from the horse’s mouth”, as it were, since it was started by my great friend and collaborator Sarah Hamilton.

My most active social media platform is Twitter, followed by Facebook and Instagram*. I think the campaign has become a lot more visible and relevant since you started the blog, which I enjoy reading regularly and also promote through my social media channels. I always have “Just A Card” cards in my studio and at any events in which I participate, and encourage fellow makers to do the same.

In terms of what other people can do, it’s really simple: support us by putting your hands in your pockets and buying handmade and independent. Make local markets, fairs, indie shops and open studios your first port of call when looking for presents or something special for yourself. Buy small and sustainable, care about provenance even if it takes a lot more effort than shopping online from Amazon or piling up a trolley at a department store.

If you're in or around London this weekend make sure you pop in to see Gabriela at her open studio (10/11 December) - find all the details here.

You can also find Gabriela on Steller.

Claire Wilson - Claireabellemakes

By Kate Marsden

Today we’re off to Cambridge to meet one very busy lady! Claire Wilson has the portfolio career down to a tee. Here she shares the benefits of many income streams for creatives, and how much our campaign means to her.

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

My name is Claire and I run the creative lifestyle brand Claireabellemakes. My business is made up of a shop selling greetings cards, gifts and accessories, a blog where I share my passions for stationery, bicycles and my life in Cambridge, and Cambridge Craft Parties where I take DIY projects from my blog and share them with others through real life workshops. I also work as a stylist and creative lead for Copper Boom Studio which helps small business owners with product photography and content. Oh, and I freelance for other creative businesses such as We Make Collective and Homedit too. You could say I like to have lots of things on the go at once!

What does a typical day involve?

On a Claireabellemakes day, I start early with tea and breakfast then crack on with emails and social media scheduling. The morning might involve product development or a shoot for a DIY tutorial or blog post. At lunch I usually take a walk to the post office to send orders or meet my boyfriend for lunch as he works just along the river. In the afternoon, it's back to the computer for some editing of photos and blog writing, or perhaps some work on product packaging which I love. If it's a freelance day, things can be really varied and if I'm working at Copper Boom Studio I might be creating a set and product story for a client. Doing something creative every day is really important to me.

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

I work at home in a studio space which was once the spare room. It's cluttered and usually pretty messy. I do share pictures online when I've tidied up! When I'm not working I usually have multiple crochet and knitting projects on the go, and I enjoy going out for brunch a lot :)

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

Copying seems to be a big issue which never really has a clear outcome for 'small' designers. The Zara pin/patch issue did make national press which was good, but most designers couldn't afford the legal fees to fight. It happens so often with high street fashion chains and their customers don't realise half the time. It saddens me when I have to contact a friend or fellow maker to tell them I've seen their work copied. It happens too often.

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

Next year I'll be working on increasing my sales and product ranges and moving into wholesale. I also want to revamp my website, but I know that will take a lot of careful planning! For my blog and content, I'm already developing video content on You Tube, so I plan to grow this and work with more brands to monetise a bit more. I use affiliate marketing when working with brands and it has been really good so far.

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

Do your research and network with your customers before you launch. It's important to profile your customers to determine how to target your products towards them. Find out which social platforms they favour, learn about their habits and connect with them in a genuine manner. I started with my blog which was a really useful tool, as it meant I could learn who my readers were and then who my customers were. It's important to also connect with fellow makers as the community is generous and you will always find someone with the answer to things you need help with! 

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

I love Yellowstone Art Boutique as it sells work by British designer makers and Hannah who runs it has a beautiful wedding stationery business too.

Locally in Cambridge we have some fantastic indie shops such as Ark and I'm a big fan of Drink Shop Do in London. I'd also love to visit The People Shop in Birmingham which is run by Allison and Christian Sadler. They share such fantastic behind the scenes snippets on Instagram that it just looks like a heavenly place to visit! Plus Allison gives the best hugs!

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

I was aware of the message behind Just A Card after seeing Mollie Makes and the Design Trust share it when it first launched. I could instantly relate, as each sale is so important - it's almost as if you're buying into someone's dream, not just their product.

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

Every purchase, no matter how small, can really effect a business. Getting the first sale when you launch is a fantastic feeling, and to continue that only motivates businesses to move forward. I started my business whilst working full-time, so I had the financial freedom to plough all my profits directly back into the business for a few years. Now my living expenses are dependent on my business making a profit, every sale helps towards my bills, food and living costs. Selling products also validates your business idea!

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, at the time it launched I was spending most of my time there. As the social media world changes, I have moved to use Instagram a little more, as its visual format seems more fitting for a design community. I still use Twitter a lot and will be sharing the campaign with all my followers on as many platforms as I can! 

Christmas Shopping the Just a Card Way

By Sarah Cowan

If you've been keeping up with the Just a Card blog over the last seven months then you'll have seen us featuring some amazing independent artists, designers, makers and shops.

Christmas tends to be the busiest time of the year for independents and designer makers as people search for something unique to give to someone special.

Well search no more! Here we bring you a reminder of some of the fantastic businesses we have featured on our blog, along with some of our favourite gift ideas from our fabulous supporters - just in time for the festive season.

Yes, it's Christmas shopping the Just a Card way!

Below you will find my top ten picks across four categories - Christmas cards, gifts under £15, gifts under £50 and gifts under £100, along with the all important information you’ll need to find out where to buy them. We were inundated with entries, and it was genuinely difficult to narrow it down this far. But I can honestly say that every single thing featured here is gorgeous!

Where to buy:

Reindeer & Penguin Christmas Cards

£8.00 for a pack of four

By Pamela Louise at Pamela Louise Designs

Cold Snap Christmas Card by local artist Kate Lycett

£3.00 each

Available from Alison Bartram at Heart Gallery, Hebden Bridge (available for posting)

Snowflake Christmas Cards

£8.50 for a set of four

By Elvira Van Vredenburgh, Elvira Designs

Christmas Lights

£3.00 each

By Sarah Westwood

CMYK Cracker

£2.50 each

By Joseph Cox at Form

Assorted London Landmarks Christmas Cards

£10.00 for a set of five

By Amalia Sanchez de la Blanca at Linescapes

Illustrated Christmas Card

£2.40 each

By Sarah Fisher at Paper Cafe

Limited Hand Screen-Printed Christmas Card Set

£7.00 for a set of two

By Siya Liu at DoodleDuck Designs

‘Tree Decorators’ Christmas Card

£2.40 each

Made by Mia Hague

Winter Botanical Gift Set

£14.00 for a set of three

By Kathy Hutton at Kathy Hutton Prints

Where to buy:

2017 Calendar

£10.00

By Sarah Kate at The Paper Creative

Handmade Framed Dog

£15.00

By Catherine Bell at Swift Bell Designs

Chevron Standing Zip Pouch

£14.00

By Colette at Colette Moscrop

Retro Xmas Snowflakes Paper and Gift Tags

AUD $7.70

By Amanda Laing at PAPRLY

Wooden Bird Stud Earrings

£10.00

By Katie Willingham at Press Send

Brass Hex-Cube Bookmark

£8.00

By Charlie Mortley at Charlie Mortley Design

Mountain Sunset Brooch

£15.00

By Ruth Williams and Brendan Fan at I Am Acrylic

The Blue Print Large Neoprene Clutch Bag

£12.00

By Claudette Cooling at The Cool Line

Reclaimed Leather and Beech Wood Desk Tidy

£15.00

By Andrew Cunningham at eastdesign

Elephant Print Eco Tote Bag

£8.00

By Jes Hooper at Jes Hooper Wildlife Art

Where to buy:

Scarf

£45.00

By Katrin Eagle - Wool Artist

Double Arc Walnut Necklace

£25.00

By Emma Garland at Little Red Apple

Snoopy Dog Washbag

£25.00

By Ginger Doodles Designs

Glastonbury Festival Travel Poster Print

£20.00

By Georgina Westley at Georgina Westley Art • Design

Swallow Kumo Kimono Baby Shoes

£22.50

By Amelia Veasey at Amelia Veasey Shoes

Starry Roundscape Giclee Print

£18.00

By Hattie Buckwell at HattieHat

Karma Circles Necklace

£50.00

By Marion Barclay at Marion Made Jewellery

Organic Retro Leaves Apron

£22.99

By Rachael Taylor

Leather Skinny Tie

£34.00

By Janet Law at By Law

Colourful Ceramic Ring Bowl

£25.00

By Carol Morley at kabinshop

Where to buy:

Green Honeycreeper Print

£55.00

Michelle Campbell at Michelle Campbell Art

Eli Infinity Scarf

£80.00

By Antonia Sullivan at Sprig Knitwear

Book Bag by Laura Spring

£52.00

Available from Sarah at Pencil Me In Shop (available for posting)

Jamie Almond iPad Case

£95.00

By Herin at Mollum Vellum

Leather Memory Book: Crimson & Grey, Small

£99.00

By Susan Green at BOUND

Medium, Silk Fox Scarf

£85.00

By Holly Picthall at Wilful North

Folded Bud Silver Earrings

£75.00

By Michele Wyckoff Smith at Michele Wyckoff Smith Jewellery

Scorched Bowl by Heather Scott

£75.00

Available from Philippa at The Maker Place

Little Red Boat

£80.00

By Jane Reeves at Jane Reeves Glass

‘Big Hen’ Mechanical Toy by Ian McKay

£100.00

Available from Ann Symes at Gallery 57, Arundel

The Fox in the Attic

By Kate Marsden

This week we’re heading down to the Sussex coast to meet Michelle of The Fox In the Attic. Read on to hear about her wonderful illustrated products for children and to hear her views on the Just A Card campaign…

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

My name is Michelle Kreussel, and I live and work in St. Leonards-on-Sea. I’m married, with a one-year-old daughter called Penelope, and a ginger tom called Floyd. I run my business, The Fox In The Attic, from my own studio and workspace in the basement of our house. My shop takes inspiration from classic children’s themes, mainly based around animals and nature. Alongside familiar stalwarts such as anthropomorphised woodland creatures and animals, customers will be able to find other mythical beasts such as the much-loved and currently very fashionable unicorn. I’ve recently added a range of cactuses, and also produce special seasonal ranges to cater for annual events such as Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and so on. All my items are tied together with a thematic unity based on my own aesthetic, loosely brought together with one eye on colour and fun, always bearing in mind a target audience of mothers and young children.

What does a typical day involve?

A typical day for me will begin with my daughter waking herself up in her cot at about 7am. I’ll probably begin my working day sewing and stuffing a few items around morning coffee, and organising my daughter’s breakfast. Over toast, I’ll check my emails, any new or current orders, and cast my eye over my social media accounts. After a shower and getting dressed, I’ll head down to the studio and get on with a couple of hours’ solid work, checking orders, planning deliveries, packing orders and checking stock. This will all be balanced with changing nappies and getting lunch for my daughter. If the day isn’t too busy, and things are running smoothly, my husband and I might be able to pop out to grab a coffee on the way to the post office and let Penelope play on the beach for a while. Back at home, I can finish the afternoon by working on any new ideas and trying out new illustrations and designs. Bath time, dinner and putting Penelope to bed take up most of the evening. Most days I’ll still be sewing and stuffing toy animals in front of the television before bed.

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 basement of our Victorian house. It is a lovely, light space to work in with sunshine streaming in from the south. When we bought our house a little over two years ago, the basement was totally uninhabitable and we had to renovate the entire space, so I’m still settling in and making it my own. I feel very lucky to have my own space, since when we lived in London my toys, fabric and threads were all over our little terraced house.

The main elements for a good, productive atmosphere for creation are probably a cup of tea by my side, my ginger cat sleeping in his basket, and possibly some 80s pop songs on the radio! When I’m not working, and if my (also self-employed husband) isn’t working, we love going on small day trips to visit any gardens, or houses, galleries or museums nearby. We’re both members of the National Trust, which we love. Other than that, just a bracing walk followed by coffee and cake somewhere usually does the trick of rejuvenating me.

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

For me personally the biggest challenge has been going from a part time business to full time and being able to survive financially. Another challenge is getting thought the quieter times, when there are not as many orders. Basically, the typical ups and downs of most self-employed people can be a real challenge. There are benefits and drawbacks to being your own boss (such as self-reliance and motivation), and the feast or famine nature of a self-employed financial income can also be tricky to deal with.

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

For a lot of makers in the current climate, I think simply still being up and running, and successful enough not to revert to a ‘proper’ job, is a priority when considering one’s possible situation down the line. Speaking just for myself, I intend to continue broadening my range, trying to always be ahead of the curve when it comes to those things that seem to become in demand, and remaining ‘on trend’, as some describe it. I’ve recently begun stocking in some independent high street shops in my local area, and it would be nice for this to continue and perhaps broaden out. Basically, in a nutshell, it would be nice to do what I’m doing now, just a bit more of it and on a slightly bigger scale!

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

Try not to be daunted or afraid - easier said than done, I know. Just think of creating as an act of play - dive in and enjoy yourself. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get something right first time, or you feel you're not getting the results you want. Perseverance is another cliché, but for an obvious reason. I still have the very first toy I made, and it is far from perfect and very different from my more polished creations nowadays, but it is still one of my most treasured possessions, and reminds me every day that if you dream big and work hard, you can get there in the end.

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

I Am Acrylic - Amazing, fresh, colourful, happy jewellery.

Viktorija from And Smile Studio - Wonderful, unique illustrations. Her work is amazing and makes me happy just looking at it. 

Lucie Ellen - Classy jewellery design from this very talented lady. I love all her products.

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 did know that promoting sales of just a single item was part of the Just A Card campaign message, and I thoroughly agree as I know just how incredibly important every single order and sale can be to a small, independent seller - and even bigger ones! In this line of work especially, each order can seem essential.

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

In the new markets that have opened up enabling people to start-up businesses from home, sell from home and promote from home, mostly via social media and the internet, the Just A Card message could not be more timely and important. Awareness is key to the success and survival of any business, let alone those small, independent ones that rely on single sales to thrive.

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

I heard about the campaign on Twitter, which is one of the platforms I use most frequently, alongside the now ubiquitous Instagram and, of course, Facebook. People can help support Just A Card not only by obviously buying from independent makers themselves, but by talking about Just A Card to friends, and spreading the message far and wide across whatever social media they’re signed up to and interested in.

 

Top Tips for Selling at Christmas Markets

By Victoria Wright

The days are drawing in and it’s very definitely getting colder, which can only mean one thing – we’re getting closer to Christmas Market season!

As we all know, for small businesses every sale counts and it is especially true at Christmas. Its is an expensive time of year but can also be a very rewarding if you are prepared – there’s nothing better than shopping for unique and handmade gifts at Christmas!

To help you get you ready for this most profitable time of year, the Just a Card team have put together a list of ‘top tips’ for selling at Craft Fairs this Christmas:

IN ADVANCE

· Research your events – there are all manner of Markets Craft Fairs and Trade Fairs which offer a variety of opportunities. Make sure you research thoroughly and find the right event for you and your products to maximize sales

· Apply early! Applications for Christmas Craft Fairs often open over summer or Autumn time, (trade events even earlier!) so keep your eyes peeled and don’t miss out on the opportunities around you

· Promote your event on Social media beforehand and talk about what you are selling and any special offers/seasonal gifts

· Plan the layout of your stall in advance – make sure you have a welcoming display which shows off your items in the best possible way

· Make sure you have your branding in place – signage, business cards and a clipboard and pen for people to sign up to a mailing list if you have one – sometimes people will follow up online with a purchase!

· Consider you stall decoration – seasonal fairly lights or Christmas decoration could make it seem more inviting

· Think about packaging – bags, bubble wrap or boxes if your items require it, perhaps you want to offer a gift wrap service?

· Invest in a card reader – it really is worth it, especially if you are selling higher priced items! Make sure you also have enough change and cash for the occasion.

· Print out your Just a Card Poster and Leaflets – available from our website here, and encourage those sales!

ON THE DAY OF THE MARKET

· Arrive early and give yourself enough time to set up

· Have fun – smile and be approachable. If you chat to people about your work and processes they are much more likely to make a sale

· Chat to your fellow stallholders! It’s a great chance to make friends and pick up tips from fellow makers

· Make a note of your sales – it’s always good to know what has sold well and what hasn’t –it can help you plan for next time

· Support other small businesses! You may not have time to shop at the event but grab some business cards and take notes, Christmas Craft Fairs really are the best places to buy handmade, unique items for your friends and family at Christmas, and you’ll be supporting a fellow designer/maker too! What could be better than that?

AFTER THE EVENT

· Follow up on Social media and let people know what you bought/how you did and what you thought of the event (positive comments only!)

· Contact anyone who may have signed up to your mailing list and remind them of your fabulous products while its all still fresh in their mind

· Do a stock check and start planning for next time!

And that’s it, we hope it helps maximize your sales this Christmas. Don’t forget – if you’re doing any event this Christmas let us know by tweeting us on @justacard1 or adding our logo and the hashtags #everysalecounts and #justacard and we will share as many as possible. The Just a Card message really helps to remind people that as a small business you really value every sale, so we hope it gets people talking and shopping from small businesses this Christmas!

 

 

 

Rebecca Handy

By Kate Marsden

Another reminder that “a card” is actually any small purchase this week, as we meet jewellery designer Rebecca Handy. Read on as Rebecca talks about the importance of supporting small shops and one another…

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

I’m an award winning jewellery designer maker based in the West Midlands and have been creating jewellery for those with a love for the British coast and the countryside for over 8 years. I predominately enjoy working with metals in rustic coppers and bright silvers along with polymer clays and am hugely inspired by nature themed lino prints and my own love of the Cornish coast.

What does a typical day involve?

It varies quite a lot day to day but my general routine starts with the checking of emails and I tend to like to spend a fair amount of my time, more so in the morning, focusing on social media. At the moment I’m working on finalising new collections to be sold in stores and galleries which means I’m mostly honing in on all of my potential designs/ ideas and editing product photography etc. Late afternoons are spent making up orders whether they were received online or via a stockist. In the evenings I’ll revert back to social media and will crack on with any lingering research – I’m always researching something!

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

Up until last year I had an open studio based at a museum which had been my work ‘home’ for 7 years. I took a big step and decided to move into a private studio so I could follow my dream and concentrate on jewellery created specifically for stores and to also sell via my website. My private studio is lovely and bright and peaceful. I am surrounded by shelves that are, to be honest, over flowing with jewellery tools, materials and beads. It’s very much a working space! I like to display my jewellery and so have glass display cabinets full with both jewellery in the planning stages and complete collections. My walls are decorated with favourite lino prints and a rather splendid print from Roald Dahls Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! (I’m hoping to one day find that golden ticket!)

When not at work I enjoy strolls along local canals and the countryside and I love a good potter around nearby riverside towns. An ideal weekend would be spent near the coast, failing that a good amount of rest and relaxation with a decent box set or film is all that I need!

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

I would have to say that the real challenge is being able to have your voice heard and to be found. We are little fish in a pretty big ocean after all and it’s being able to get our stories across that’s the key. If we can do that customers can understand and enjoy our special and creative designs knowing that they just aren’t comparable to items that are mass produced and sold on the high street. I would also say we can be our own challenge, having confidence in your own work can arrive in waves! A designer maker can often be their own biggest critic, sometimes you just have to ride the waves and enjoy it!

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

I’m keen to develop my current collections further and possibly venture into the world of miniature 3D art work or even 2D work with the use of metal. I have many, many ideas that are twitching to be made into a reality. In the next few years, ultimately, I wish to continue to find beautiful independent stores to sell my work to in the hope that it will then enable me to be able to employ another ambitious creative.

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

It’s great to keep an eye on other colleagues or competitors, it keeps you in the loop but try not to compare yourself too much as it can only add unwanted and unnecessary pressure. Your designs are unique because they are made by you so the best idea is to focus on that and you’ll find that you’ll be one step closer to achieving your goals. The other tip and it’s a simple one; always be kind! Being kind goes along way, whether it be helping one another when at a craft event, someone needing advice and so on, you never know who you might be talking to and as my Dad likes to say ‘The universe is watching!’

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

There are 3 wonderful stores/ galleries that immediately spring to mind:

The first is a wonderful shop called Thistle and Weeds which I spotted while browsing on Instagram and I’ve been hooked on their posts ever since. It’s a treasure trove of nature-y goodness!

The second is a gallery named The Dotty Dog Gallery (complete with Dalmatian!) You can find an abundance of lino, lithograph and screen prints. Utter heaven for a lino print buff like myself!

The third is a beautiful gallery in Dartmouth; Baxters Gallery. I discovered the gallery a few years back while on holiday and treated myself to some earrings (I like to support other jewellers and designer makers with small purchases) I would call it my dream gallery/ 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?  

Yes, I had realised that it’s for the encouragement of all sales and I think it is such an important message. I am also a social media and marketing assistant for a lovely family run greetings card company Berni Parker Designs. The majority of their stockists are gorgeous independent stores who all need support in this very way. It could be ‘Just A Card’ or something larger, every purchase counts.

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

I think Just A Card is a great way of putting a healthy message across. Customers can be and should be encouraged to spend in the right places. I myself have on occasion walked into a fantastic store, unsure what to get, have said to myself ‘I’ll pop back another time’ when a small purchase would have made all the difference. After all we don’t think twice about that chocolate treat we all buy when at the supermarket each week, why not consider buying that pair of earrings or greetings card that caught your eye in that amazing shop you always admire?!

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 caught on to the idea of the campaign quite early on as am an avid Twitter user! I often retweet and share the message on Instagram and have also created my own Facebook posts about the campaign using the poster you can download via the website and of course will continue to share. I encourage people to do the same, share and retweet when you can, it literally takes just the click of a button! The more people that know about Just A Card the better.

The Just A Card Way to Make Someone's Day!

By Kaylene Alder

Hello!  Welcome ‘Just a Card’ fans and friends. 

And welcome too, if you are new here!  Your normal host, the lovely Kate, usually writes a brilliant, interview blog here each week – showcasing amazing makers and independent shops.  You should definitely read it. It is awesome.

This week, however, I am TAKING OVER!!! Mwhaahahahhaa! I shall be regaling you with a recap of the purpose behind the Just a Card campaign and revealing some of my learnings since joining the team supporting it.

The Just a Card message is simple, yet profound – even small sales add up to help artists, makers and independent businesses keep going.  And keep going they must!  They are what add colour to our walls, taste to our food, quirk to our high streets.  

Q:  How bland would the world be if all we had were things that were mass produced and big chain stores? 

A:  It would be super bland, blandsville, boringtown. Fact.

As an artist / maker myself, I was instantly drawn to the campaign, knowing from personal experience how even a small sale can boost confidence and make the difference to a good day or a bad day.  I was keen to help spread the word and joined the team supporting the campaign.

In the months since then, I have learned a lot.  I’ve learned that social media can be a huge force for good – encouraging people to make little changes that add up to big change.  I’ve learned that internet friends can become real, solid, flesh and blood friends and that working together on something you feel passionately about can forge strong bonds.  I’ve found too, that encouraging others to ‘shop independent’ and spreading that message has made me even more aware of my own purchases - I try, whenever possible to take my own advice!  Sometimes that means travelling a little further or waiting a little longer but knowing what it means to a person running a small business makes those things worth it. 

It makes a difference. YOU make a difference.  All of those little choices – buying a card from a small gallery or a coffee from your neighbourhood café keeps those places going, keeps our world a more diverse and interesting place. 

So keep it up you lovely lovely folk.  Tell everyone you know where you bought that cute little handmade such and such.  Get the word out on all of the social medias.  Pop in to that amazing independent shop you walk past on your way. 

How amazing, that by doing those little things, every day can be a day that you MAKE SOMEONE’S DAY!

Betty Etiquette

By Kate Marsden

Love a bit of hand lettering but don’t know where to begin? Rebecca of Betty Etiquette teaches modern calligraphy and brush lettering as well as applying these techniques to her beautiful products. Read on to find out more about her business and her thoughts about shopping small…

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

I'm Rebecca and along with my husband David I run Betty Etiquette. Betty Etiquette is a stationery brand and design studio based in South East London. Launched in 2014, we design our own stationery range and work on bespoke wedding, events and promotional projects. Everything starts with good old fashioned pen on paper, I am a big fan of hand-lettering and use modern calligraphy in all my designs. A big pleasure and privilege of mine is to be able to have the opportunity to share my love of lettering by teaching modern calligraphy and brush lettering workshops around the UK.

I can usually be found in my dungarees with ink all up my arm and an emergency biscuit tucked in one of my pockets.

What does a typical day involve?

Days start with packing up orders from the previous day and a large cup of coffee. If we have bespoke or personalised orders I start these first and then move on to our wholesale and online orders. Once I've had my daily bit of banter with the man at the post office I settle down to emails and new design work. At the moment I'm working on and new range of Mother's Day cards and some lettering visuals for a new Cabaret night in London. I love how different each project is and the interesting and inspiring people I get to work with.

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

My studio and workspace is currently in my flat in London. It's a little room with great light in the mornings but we are busting out of it and I am currently sitting between precarious piles of orders and envelopes. We hope to be in a new studio space by next year which would be fantastic but I will have to get used to not wearing my pyjamas to work!

When I'm not working, a dream day would involve some kind of cream tea, a National Trust house with lavish interiors and a sketch book.

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

I've seen a sharp rise in the amount of large corporations plagiarising small independent designer's work. It's so sad to see major brands not having any integrity and imagination to find great ways to actually collaborate with artists and makers instead of simply ripping off their work. This kind of mass production without any respect for the creative process is offering consumers great designs but with no understanding of the work and skill that goes into their making. Small designer makers have to find new innovative ways to reach their markets, promoting the provenance and quality of their work. With little or no marketing budgets, this takes time out of already very busy days.

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

I've learnt a lot over the past few years, achieved some major goals and made some stupendous mistakes. It has been an amazing adventure so far and I'm really grateful to be doing something I love even if some days it feels like I should just retrain as a travel agent (they get nice job perks right?). In the next few years I hope to extend the ranges we have, collaborate with people who inspire me and push my learning and do lots more teaching in my workshops. 

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

Whatever you're making ... get it out there. Don't worry if it is not quite the right blue, if you'd imagined the packaging in a different way or the table cloth you have for the craft market is a little bit too short. Just get your fabulous things you make out there. Book a stall at a local craft market, set up an Etsy shop or send a sample to your favourite store. Your customers will tell you everything about your products you need to know, ask them questions and try to see the answers as learning, not criticism. You'll see if the blue was too blue or the packaging works or not by what they buy. And celebrate your small wins. When you're not working in a big team it can be easy to forget to take time to celebrate your achievements. Even if it is just taking yourself out for a coffee and slice of damn fine cake, make sure you remember to take time to celebrate along the way.

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

We love Honeybourne's, they are local stockists to us and have been a fantastic supporter of our business as it has grown. Hannah has a great eye and knows her community of customers really well.

Kettle's Yard - I grew up near Cambridge and this gallery has always been a place of inspiration and joy. Their support of designers and artists is embedded in the very walls. 

Hero in Stockbridge is championing creativity through their events programme. I love teaching workshops there and I'm inspired by Laura, managing a great business and her family. 

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, it's a great way of reminding people to source things from small businesses and not just click straight away on Amazon. It's so easy to do, but can mean the difference between make or break for a small business.

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

We rely on wholesale orders from small independent shops and our online sales to keep us going. We need people to be thinking about their shopping in a more sustainable way and heading to their local shops and searching out individual designers to support. 

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 found out about the campaign through Sarah Hamilton's twitter feed a year or so ago. It really chimed with me and I have shared it on all our social media platforms. We've displayed the flyer at our market stall last Christmas and we'll be doing so again this year and taking to customers about it. 

I think we can all support the movement in small ways by thinking locally and more creatively when we purchase. You could order a birthday cake from your local cake designer not a supermarket, or commission a local artist to make something truly meaningful as a gift this Christmas. 

 

Just A Card Campaign Update

By Sarah Hamilton

The festive season is so critical to the livelihoods of many artists, designers and independent shops so, as it fast approaches, now seems the perfect time to stress how and why it's vital to support them. I'll also take this opportunity to update you with campaign news, and answer some of your frequently asked questions. 

The campaign began when I saw the quote "If everyone who'd complimented our beautiful gallery had bought 'Just a Card' we'd still be open." by gallery owners who'd recently shut up shop. As an artist and designer with over 25 years of experience, it struck a chord. I well know how tough it is to make a living in a creative field, and appreciate every sale, not just from a financial perspective but also as a morale boost. I've seen many galleries and fellow creatives come and go. Small businesses are closing every day. Many artists and designers are walking away from their dreams because they simply cannot keep afloat.

I couldn't stand by and watch this happen. Nor could the fantastic team who've joined me since I started this campaign. We're desperate to see a flourishing creative community with vibrant independent shops and galleries. So are you, judging by the volume of messages we receive. We so appreciate all your individual stories. This one, shared by Alison Bartram at Heart Gallery in Hebdon Bridge illustrates our message very well: 

"It might feel early to some but yes...we have started to put our Christmas stationery out! Why? Well I was reminded yesterday just how IMPORTANT the Just A Card campaign is. Three ladies browsed for about 15/20 minutes. They made all the right noises about how beautiful the gallery was, how calm and serene it felt, how unique and unusual our stock was because they'd not seen it anywhere else. Great news. They also spent five minutes talking about how much money they had spent on new underwear from M&S as they felt they needed a whole new drawer of frillies. They left without buying a card! So my friends, our Christmas stock of cards and wrap has gone out this morning to remind me how much the little sales matter.”

I've shared Alison's pertinent message to remind her lingerie loving visitors (and us all!)  that sadly, perhaps, the next time they try to pop to the beautiful gallery the doors could be locked and the shop empty. If  only they'd bought 'Just a Card' then hopefully they’ll find the gallery still open and bustling. Make no mistake - compliments are wonderful - they ensure the world is a sunnier place, but when people appreciate our simple message, they can also comprehend the part they can play in supporting ventures which they value. So PLEASE, if you can, make a purchase. Actions speak louder than words!

We receive many messages about the campaign so I hope the following helps clarify some points:

Why are you called 'Just a Card.' Is the campaign only about cards?

Cards are just an example - any small purchase helps. Of course we hope people make bigger purchases - however a small sale is better than no sale. 

Who runs ‘Just A Card’?   

A small volunteer team of creative people run it around our busy lives. We so appreciate everyone who gets involved - this campaign is for and about everyone who’s passionate about the future of artists, designers and independent shops. We don't have funding, but we do have a fantastic like minded community - WE NEED YOU!

Apologies if we miss your notifications - we get lots - as you can imagine.  If we don't follow you, it's not personal - it probably means the baked beans are burning or the dog needs a walk.... Say hello – nudge us....and don’t forget to meet the team, there are lovely smiley pictures on our website

Why do we LOVE Retweets and find likes less....well.....likeable? 

Remember we are a campaign. Retweets help spread the campaign message. If you like our tweets please retweet them. Likes go nowhere yet a retweet, which is just as easy, often leads to more people knowing about the campaign – and the aim is to encourage people to support artists. So PLEASE by all means like our tweets…but retweet too!!

How can the campaign promote my specific artwork/business?

We support individuals via our blog and with the #justacard hashtag. Please share your individual artwork/business using #justacard. We’d LOVE to be able to support each and every one of you personally, but we have our own businesses too and this campaign takes up so much of our time as it is, so the focus of our effort has to be about the wider creative community.

How can I be featured on your blog?

We aim to feature people who help spread our campaign message - it seems only fair to reward those who join our community and appreciate that everyone will benefit from the message. Therefore please share our message, retweet us etc. Do get in touch though, we often miss fantastic supporters and we very much value your commitment .

How can I get more involved in the campaign?

The MOST IMPORTANT THING is help spread the word. Our logo reminds people to consider the implications of their choice to make a small purchase. It's vital that people connect the two. Help make the logo instantly recognisable. This way our entire community will benefit. Put the logo on your website, display the free downloadable posters/cards - that's what they’re there for.

How can I use Social Media to help with the campaign? 

Use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Share the message – more than you do now! We at “Just A Card” thought we tweeted a lot – yet a recent survey told us only 28% of you knew we had free posters and postcards for you to download. See – you can’t tweet too much when you have something important to say! Please retweet our pinned tweet. We add a new one every time they hit 100 retweets. Please remember that you can both ‘quote’ a tweet and retweet it. This means you can simply click ‘retweet’ but you can press "quote tweet’ and write a small message above it. Doing both is best – one tweet – double the reach - good hey?

 

I hope this clarifies things for you. We SO need to up the anti  to  make this campaign work for you.  If we mutually support each other we can ensure that we all thrive - we need lots more followers on Twitter and Instagram so please tell your friends! Many of you invest heavily in events, buying materials, paying for stands and you need sales to keep afloat. If you’re a small business owner or an artist/designer then please share our message with your customers. If you appreciate creativity and small businesses, then please consider buying 'just a card' and please tell your friends how much it helps to keep these businesses viable.

 

Thank you so much to all the ‘Just a Card’ team, especially to the lovely Kate Marsden who works so hard on our blog, for all your wonderful help and commitment.

And a HUGE Thanks to you all for your continued support.

WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE - LET'S WORK TOGETHER.

 

Love Art

By Kate Marsden

This week we’re visiting the vibrant Tooting Market in South London to take a look at shop, gallery and workshop space Love Art. Gemma and Claire tell us all about their shop and the importance of valuing small businesses and buying into the work of artists.

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

We run Love Art, a shop, gallery and workshop space in Tooting Market.  ‘We’ are Gemma Lloyd and Claire Rudkin, we met at Kingston University training to be film & television designers.  Before that we were both at art college.

What does a typical day involve?

If we’re running morning art classes it’s brilliantly manic.  We have a small space so it entails clearing our display table and then filling it with all the materials we need for the class. Once the class is over all the shop items are put back on the table, myself and Claire are getting very deft at table displays now.  If it’s a day without classes we sit in the space and serve and talk to customers and attempt to create our own work.

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

We work at Love Art in Tooting Market, it’s one of the market units and there’s a great sense of camaraderie amongst all the market traders.  Both myself and Claire have other jobs, Claire works as a television designer and I work as a theatre producer and actor’s agent, so when we’re not in Love Art we’re charging around everywhere.

When we’re not working at all is rare, but we enjoy long walks, cycling, trips to Tooting Lido, mysterious adventures across the UK and abroad, cinema, good food and socialising.

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

The reluctance for people to pay for art unless it’s very affordable - we try to keep our prices very reasonable but there’s some work that has to be the price it is and it’s often tough to convince people that it’s still ok to buy.  Battling with on-line companies that can of course be a lot cheaper than us….  but overall we don’t really have any complaints and love what we do and our customers.

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

We would love to run more of everything, more classes and expand into other locations while still maintaining our ethos that everything is designed or made by a real live artist.

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 underestimate the long hard slog, you have to be the eternal optimist that you will be able to pay yourself one day and you need to be continually marketing the hell out of everything. 

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? 

Completely with you on that one, cards are our biggest seller and we love them all and of course, a sale is a sale.

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

Terribly important, we really rely on people valuing small businesses and the value of buying into artists.

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

I saw it on Twitter. We use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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

Market and talk about it as much as possible...  We’d also be very happy to have some flyers in the shop.

 

 

Trudi Murray

By Kate Marsden

I have some serious studio envy this week, as I chat to artist and illustrator Trudi Murray. Find out more about Trudi and one of the best Just A Card related stories I’ve heard so far (almost brought a tear to my eye too!).

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

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

Hi! I’m Trudi Murray and I’m an artist and an illustrator. I make original paintings and illustrations for sale to private clients, online and at art fairs and markets.

Image (c) Juliet Mckee

Image (c) Juliet Mckee

What does a typical day involve?

My teenage children leave for school at 8am, and I go out for a walk then too - in the opposite direction! After that I whizz round tidying up while the kettle boils, and then I take a tray of tea upstairs to my studio in the loft. I paint in the morning, do emails and social media tasks in the middle of the day, and illustrate in the afternoon. After that it’s back to the computer for marketing and following up leads etc.

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

I’m so lucky to work at home, in a big studio space in the loft. It has a huge window with my desk and easel, and beautiful light. It’s both highly organized and covered in paint. I have a desk for my computer and a long table on wheels for laying out work or packing up parcels. I love it!

Image (c) Juliet Mckee

Image (c) Juliet Mckee

When I’m not working, I write, or bake. I used to be a writer for children, and I love having fun with words and writing stories and poems. And I enjoy cake very much.

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

Getting noticed in a crowded market. I sometimes feel like I am locked in a cupboard, shouting through the door while the world goes by outside! Tenacity and hard work, along with a steely determination to be yourself and never swerve from it, are essential.

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

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

So many! I’d like to work with galleries to get my work out there more widely. I’d like to do a solo show. I’ve just made a collection of work and it was fun to work in such an extensive way, so I’ll definitely focus on doing that again.

I’d welcome more illustration work on a regular basis. I’d love to illustrate the stories I’ve got stashed away, and I’m working on an illustrated book of poems for children, so I’d like to get that published.

I’d like to try to enjoy doing the accounts more! I’ve done a few talks recently on confidence and creativity, and it has astonished me how simply being honest is so powerful and helpful. I’d like to do more of that sort of thing.

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

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

Be kind, helpful and generous, online and in person. Be confident! Be yourself, always.

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

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

Big Bird, Little Bird – fantastic handmade textile creations

Wilful North – beautiful silk scarves

Lisa Berkshire – wonderful illustrations and constantly inspiring

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? 

It’s such an important message, as small purchases are what keep me going, both financially and in terms of morale! Even the sale of just a card at a market is a chance to chat, talk about inspiration and swap ideas. I love (and am amazed by) the idea that people choose my work, and enjoy it – it’s so special to know that something you have made resonated with someone else, and that feeling can’t be beaten.

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

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

It can be summed up for me by the time when I watched a little girl go round the whole market at which I had a stall. She was about 6. She looked at everything carefully, before coming back to my stall, telling me proudly she had £1 to spend, and that she wanted one of my cards, please.

It was my best sale ever, and I cried a little bit behind my stall! Does just a card really matter? Yes, it really does. It pays so generously into my bank of confidence.

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

Image (c) Yeshen Venema

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 it on Twitter – it’s such a useful resource for making friends and networking, and following up on opportunities. I like Instagram, and my Facebook page is very dear to me as it’s where I started.

I’ll be displaying my poster at my next art fair. And I’ll be making some more cards, as I have currently sold out!

 

Mary Kilvert

By Kate Marsden

If you’re after inspiration, you need look no further than today’s post! Illustrator and Designer/Maker Mary Kilvert’s successful business includes her very own shop in Somerset. Read on for Mary’s thoughts on the Just A Card campaign, and a reminder of the need for tenacity and perseverance in our businesses…

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

I work as an illustrator and designer maker. After ten years working as an illustrator in London, I relocated and opened a shop in the beautiful town of Frome in Somerset, our shop has now been open for three and a half years. I work from the studio above my shop where I create illustrations and designs for homewares, gifts, prints and stationery. I now employ a small team who help me send out products to customers and we also stock shops in the UK and worldwide.

What does a typical day involve?

Now I am a mother a typical day involves looking after my little girl as well as working on the business. I usually go to the shop in the morning and have a meeting with Bek who helps us in the shop. We go through orders, stock management, shop display and marketing. Then the afternoons or evenings I dedicate to working on new designs or illustration commissions.

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

I have a studio above our shop with views out onto the beautiful old buildings and roof tops in Frome. I have a long desk area so that I can spread out, mood boards for inspiration, lots of shelves for my collection of books, art materials and various animal ornaments that I have made or collected. When I am not working I love to go for walks with my husband, daughter and dog Bertie in the beautiful countryside surrounding Frome.

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

Knowing where to focus your time can be a challenge for designer makers. We all need to make a living however with running your own business as a designer maker there are many demands on your time. Including designing, making, marketing, social media, trade shows, retail shows/markets, fulfilling orders, taking care of customers, updating websites, taking product photos etc…

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

I would love to keep developing new designs, extend the shop and offer workshops.

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

Perseverance. Keep going and have a clear vision for what you want. Surround yourself with positive people.

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

Frome has a wonderful collection of independent shops, I always love to explore the shops on Catherine Hill and Cheap Street. Hay on Wye in Herefordshire also has a great collection of independent shops and bookshops.

When I lived in London I loved to visit shops on Lambs Conduit Street like Persephone Books and Pentreath and HallI also loved to visit the shops on Columbia Road.

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 came across Just A Card earlier this year and think it is a brilliant idea. It is a great supportive message for independent shops.

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

This campaign helps remind people that buying just a card is a great support for local independent shops and galleries.  One reason Frome thrives is that is has a lovely collection of independent shops which are supported by the local community. I have seen the logo appear in a few local shops recently on Catherine Hill.

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 would be very happy to have a card in the shop. We like to use all social media platforms especially Instagram and Facebook. It would be great for other independent shops and galleries to have Just A Card notices and cards on display, it is also something you can talk about to customers.