Jose Heroys

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate Marsden - Made By Mrs M

By Sarah Hamilton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you been working for yourself for a long time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And do you have a dedicated work space at home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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



Georgina Westley

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welbeck Tiles - Beautiful handmade tiles from glorious Cornwall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Present and Correct: heaven for stationary buffs like me.

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

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

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

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

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

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



Melanie Smith - Story

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tips for Your Product Photography

By Emily Quinton

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

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

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

Shoot in Natural Light

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

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

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

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

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

Think about your Backgrounds

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

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

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

Composing Your Images

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

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

Gather Your Props

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

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

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

Telling Your Stories

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

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

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

Practice, Practice, Practice

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

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

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


The Valentines Gift Guide

By Sarah Cowan

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

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

Where to buy:

‘Raptor Arms Around Me’ card - £2.50 each

By Charlotte Filshie

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

By Jennifer Ings at Sweet Oxen

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

By Charli Appleton at The Two Wagtails

Valentine’s Day anatomical heart card - £3.00 each

By Agnes Becker at we are stardust

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

By Angela Chick

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

By Faye Sanderson at Faysie Boo Studio

Cheesy Valentines Card  - £2.50 each

By JJ at The Gin Fox

Love Bear Pink - £2.10 each

By Lucy Monkman

Elephant Valentine’s Card - £3.90 each

By Nicola Parnell at FeltTails

Where to buy:

Heart rose gold enamel pin - £7.00 each

By Zeena Shah at Heart Zeena

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

By Demelsa Haughton at Demelsa Haughton Illustration

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

By Lesley R Stevens at Decorque Ltd

Custom handmade paper map roses - £8.00 each

By Emma Cottam at C&E Designs

Heart key fob in organic cotton - £5.99 each

By Clare Trowbridge at Little Conkers

Pendulum statement necklace - £12.00 each

By Katie Jones at KatieBetty

Mini love heart canvas - £15.00 each

By Gina Carpenter at Handcrafted by Gina

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

By Jo Angell at Jo Angell Designs

Red leather rose in bottle - £12 for one

By Kate Hansord at DaphneRosa

Where to buy:

Waxed canvas travel pouch - £32.00 each

By Kate at Wild Marshmallow

Hammered heart earrings - £20.00 for a pair

By Julia Metcalfe at Juliamdesigns

Set of three open paper peonies - £49.00 for three

By Susan Beech at A Petal Unfolds

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

By Egle Ramanauske at Emodi Home

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

By Pragya Agarwal at Hedge and Hog Prints

Distressed leather flask - £40.00 each

By Jason at HORD

Medium seedhead jug - £23.00 each

By Kate Thorburn at What Kate Loves

Chunk ring (turquoise) - £50.00 each

By Cecilia Stamp

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

By Michelle Evans at Roxwell Press



Michelle Evans - Roxwell Press

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Patricia van den Akker - The Design Trust

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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



Happy New Year from the Just A Card team!

By Sarah Hamilton

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

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

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

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

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

Image (c) Kristy Noble

Image (c) Kristy Noble

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

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

Image (c) Kristy Noble

Image (c) Kristy Noble

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

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

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

Happy Days!

Sarah H xx

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


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


By Sarah Kate at The Paper Creative

Handmade Framed Dog


By Catherine Bell at Swift Bell Designs

Chevron Standing Zip Pouch


By Colette at Colette Moscrop

Retro Xmas Snowflakes Paper and Gift Tags

AUD $7.70

By Amanda Laing at PAPRLY

Wooden Bird Stud Earrings


By Katie Willingham at Press Send

Brass Hex-Cube Bookmark


By Charlie Mortley at Charlie Mortley Design

Mountain Sunset Brooch


By Ruth Williams and Brendan Fan at I Am Acrylic

The Blue Print Large Neoprene Clutch Bag


By Claudette Cooling at The Cool Line

Reclaimed Leather and Beech Wood Desk Tidy


By Andrew Cunningham at eastdesign

Elephant Print Eco Tote Bag


By Jes Hooper at Jes Hooper Wildlife Art

Where to buy:



By Katrin Eagle - Wool Artist

Double Arc Walnut Necklace


By Emma Garland at Little Red Apple

Snoopy Dog Washbag


By Ginger Doodles Designs

Glastonbury Festival Travel Poster Print


By Georgina Westley at Georgina Westley Art • Design

Swallow Kumo Kimono Baby Shoes


By Amelia Veasey at Amelia Veasey Shoes

Starry Roundscape Giclee Print


By Hattie Buckwell at HattieHat

Karma Circles Necklace


By Marion Barclay at Marion Made Jewellery

Organic Retro Leaves Apron


By Rachael Taylor

Leather Skinny Tie


By Janet Law at By Law

Colourful Ceramic Ring Bowl


By Carol Morley at kabinshop

Where to buy:

Green Honeycreeper Print


Michelle Campbell at Michelle Campbell Art

Eli Infinity Scarf


By Antonia Sullivan at Sprig Knitwear

Book Bag by Laura Spring


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

Jamie Almond iPad Case


By Herin at Mollum Vellum

Leather Memory Book: Crimson & Grey, Small


By Susan Green at BOUND

Medium, Silk Fox Scarf


By Holly Picthall at Wilful North

Folded Bud Silver Earrings


By Michele Wyckoff Smith at Michele Wyckoff Smith Jewellery

Scorched Bowl by Heather Scott


Available from Philippa at The Maker Place

Little Red Boat


By Jane Reeves at Jane Reeves Glass

‘Big Hen’ Mechanical Toy by Ian McKay


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:


· 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!


· 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?


· 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!