Georgie St Clair

By Kate Marsden

We’re heading to the coast this week to see the unique and beautiful artwork of Georgie St Clair.  Georgie’s work has seen her become quite a star on Instagram – read on to see why and how the purchase of “just a card” helps to give her a boost…

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

I’m an artist and illustrator based in Brighton, UK. I create floral and botanical artwork collaged from real flowers and foliage, and make them into prints as well as products such as phone cases and homewares.

After 20 years in digital marketing and being a mum to my 3 kids, in September 2016 I decided to go freelance and pursue my dream of making a living from my creative business.

What does a typical day involve?

I set my alarm at 6am so I can have an hour to myself. I’ll maybe paint or write in my sketchbook. Or simply enjoy the peace and quiet with a cuppa whilst making a plan for the day in my notebook. At 7am things go a little crazy when the hubby and kids get up (Daisy aged 4, Jake aged 13 and Zac aged 15).

I work at home so I tidy and do household jobs before I sit down to work at my desk because I can’t stand mess! I’m at my desk by about 9.30am when I’ll check emails, organise orders, sort out my social media for the day and procrastinate over a few cups of tea.

The mornings are usually for more mundane or admin tasks. Packing orders, sorting out my website, writing a newsletter or blog post, photography for Instagram or products. Business planning.  In the afternoons I’ll do the more creative work, work on commissions and I’ll go to the post office with orders to dispatch.

By 3pm the boys are home so my flow goes a bit by then. I’ll do bits, but usually it’s time to focus on homework, clubs, dinner etc. Daisy is picked up from nursery at 5pm, and the hours between 5pm and 8pm are family time and therefore hectic again! Once Daisy is in bed I’ll return to the drawing board or laptop. I’m my most creative in the evenings so this is when I’ll draw or do any Photoshop work.

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

My tiny studio is a small extension connected to the kitchen. I also have a studio shed at the bottom of the garden which more of a storage space at the moment. However, I’m planning to make that into more of a working space sometime soon.

When I’m not working or taking care of the kids and family life, I exercise in some form, otherwise I go stir crazy. I maybe go for a walk, do some yoga, go to the gym or take a Zumba class. I’m really not that fit, it’s more of a mental stress buster. Exercise is the only activity that calms my mind and really helps me live in the moment, rather than thinking about all of things I need to do that day.

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

There’s a huge amount of competition, especially on the internet, so being found and standing out from the internet noise is a challenge. Bigger companies who have larger budgets for SEO and online advertising present yet more challenges for the smaller businesses and designers, to be heard. Finding the time to create our wares, whilst also marketing yourself is a constant juggling act.

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

I’d love to expand my art and illustration into different product ranges to retail and wholesale. I’d also like to run workshops and collaborate more with other designers and makers.

My ultimate ambition is to make enough from my creative business to support my family and have a more flexible lifestyle. Maybe be the next Kate Spade or Anna Rifle Bond? That would be nice ;)

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

Learn the basics of SEO, social media, product photography and styling. They are essential.

If you want to create a business you have to wear many hats, especially when you start out - marketing manager, operations director, delivery expert, credit control, accountant, website support etc etc. Over time, when you start making a bit more, you’ll be able to delegate these jobs.

But when you start, realise that only a third of your time, if you’re lucky, will be spent actually creating. If you’re not prepared to do all of this, for little return in the beginning, keep your creative passion as your hobby. There is a good podcast by Tara Swiger on the subject of having a business vs a hobby.

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

I live in Brighton so there are too many to choose from!

I’ve recently been lusting over the collection at Little Beach Boutique in Brighton’s North Laine They specialise in handmade and locally sourced gifts and design and produce their own range of fused glass on site.

I also adore Bluebelle and Co, again in the North Laine of Brighton with their unique and vintage inspired designs.

For inspirational businesses I turn to Posh Totty. Alice Rivers Cripps started her business in 2004 after returning from living in Mexico. She spent all of her spare time learning to make jewellery and discovered an unconventional way of stamping silver. Fast forward to 2017 and Posh Totty has many celebrity fans and shops in London and 3 shops in Brighton (yes you’ve guessed it - one is in Brighton’s North Laine as well!)

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

Yes, and I think any sale, even ‘Just a Card’ gives an enormous boost to designers and makers not only financially but also in confidence. People believing in our products enough to buy, is also a message that they believe in us as designers and makers.

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

I think it’s an absolutely brilliant campaign. If I hadn’t made those smaller sales, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to expand and grow. In fact, I’ll admit in the early days I planned to give up about once a week!

Buying locally or from independent designers and makers is so important. Every product has a story. Every product is created with thought and care. Small independent businesses like ours are so important to the economy as a whole and it’s fantastic that this campaign exists.

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

I heard about it on Twitter via a tweet from you Kate! I’ve recently seen it pop up on Instagram more too . My favourite social media platform is of course Instagram. This is where I started sharing my creations many years ago and the place that gave me confidence to start selling. I adore it over there. I pop into Twitter from time to time as well.

I’ll be spreading the word via my blog and my social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

We can all support the campaign by simply buying from an independent designer. Most have online shops, Etsy or Not On the High Street stores. So it’s easy, Just Buy A Card!



 

Just a Card goes Into the Woods

By Sarah Cowan

If you go down to the woods today, you’ll find a delightful array of lovingly designed and handcrafted treasures. There are trees and animals all around - a hare sleeping peacefully, a hedgehog uncurling - and the sweet smell of nettles in the air. Join us as we go Into the Woods...

Where to buy:

Trees Notebook A6

£3.50

By Angela Savage at Mary’s House Designs

Flushed Pheasant Greetings Card

£2.50

By Olivia Hicks at Olivia Hicks Art

Bone China Twig Jugs

£15.00

By Jinny Ngui at Jinny Ngui Design, All Original, 20 The Green, Eailing, London W5 5DA

Silver Birch (tea towels)

£10.00

By Alison Hullyer at Alison Hullyer Illustration

Cherry Wood Bear Brooch

£12.00

By Ella Goodwin

Happy Apple Badge Card

£3.40

By Lindsay Marsden at The Black Rabbit

Sleeping Hare Hardbound Notebook

£4.50

By Sarah Peel & Ruth Viqueira at Folded Forest

Woodland themed Enamel Mugs

£12.00

By Alice at Alice Draws The Line

Hedgehog unrolling art print

£18.00

By Ceri Mair Thomas at Look into nature

Where to buy:

Woodland Walk - Lino Print

£68.00

By Melanie Wickham at Melanie Wickham - Lino Prints

Fern Two Charm Necklace

£37.00

By Sophie de Taranto at Shutter Jewellery

Handcarved Oak Cooking Spoon & Spoon Rest

£36.00

By Vic Phillips at SingleMaltTeapot

Fox Print

£30.00

By Rowanne Anderson at Rowan Tree

‘I Was Following’ woodcut print

£70.00

By Jane Duke

Cover Story lampshade

£50.00

By John Bloor at John Bloor Design

Free motion embroidery picture

£75.00

By Emma Giacalone at Emma Giacalone Textiles

Woodpecker Sky

£42.00

By Tiffany Lynch at Little Lynch Designs

Lace Fern

€40

By Lily Corcoran at Petal to Petal

Where to buy:

Acorn and oak leaf pendant

£115 (18ct yellow gold vermeil oak leaf), £105 (Sterling silver oak leaf)

By Dorte Januszewski at Lewes Map Store

Hedgehog Large Square Silk Scarf

£160.00

By Holly Picthall at wilfulnorth

Large Ash and Brass Trug

£220.00

By Jane Crisp at Jane Crisp Designer Maker

Embroidery wall hanging

£98.00

By Juliet Turnbull at Juliet Textile Artist & Crafter

Black nettle composition

£300.00

By Hanna at Ashleaf London

9ct yellow gold little leaf studs

£84.00

By Catherine Woodall

Forest Diorama

£95.00

By Cal Scott at Hooperhart

Wild Meadow Hat featuring A bumble bee

£250.00

By Anne Tomlin

Entwined ring

£110.00

By Jacqui Brazier at Scarlett Willow Designs

 

 

Joanne Hawker

By Kate Marsden

A bit of a star of the designer/maker world for you this week, as I chat to someone I expect most of you have heard of, on Instagram if nowhere else! Joanne Hawker gets us all sharing our work every day each March, read on to find out more and about her recent award win!

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

Hello! I’m Joanne, a designer, maker and the creator of the hashtag and award winning Instagram Challenge #MarchMeetTheMaker. Wow that sounds weird to say! Thank you Mollie Makes! I also have a particular love of stripes, the colour yellow, and talking to every animal that I meet. I design and make special occasion greeting cards and pocket mirrors from my home studio in Somerset that I share with my infographic designer boyfriend, Ross.


What does a typical day involve?

Despite not wanting a 9-5 job, I am in the studio every morning at 9am where I check emails, social media (scroll for too long on Instagram), customer reviews and load up my programs for the morning. Between 9 and 11am, I print any cards that have come through, answer enquiries and order supplies. Between 11 and 1pm I make badges and mirrors and pack the orders for that day. After lunch I pop to the post office to see Lois who does my post for me every day. The afternoon is then free to do whatever it is that needs doing that day. It could be anything from catching up with my to do list (which is huge), writing a blog post, drawing, photographing new products, updating product listings or labeling packaging.

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 be able to work from home. My boyfriend and I purchased a town house, which meant that we are able to have an entire floor for a dedicated studio space. We painted everything white, wallpapered one wall with white hexagon wallpaper and even bought white furniture. Can you tell I have a thing for white too? This helped to keep it nice and bright, especially in the dark winter months. When I’m not working I like being outside and going to places that I’ve never been to. I’m really rubbish at relaxing, so I always have to be doing something.

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

I think being seen is a huge challenge for designer makers and is something that everyone struggles with at some point. Social media is essentially a big shouting match where everyone is shouting for attention. But once you’ve got the attention you desire/need, how do you turn that into sales? #MarchMeetTheMaker can help with this throughout March, as it has such a large following, it’s a great time to get your work and small business out there. However, for the rest of the year it’s just about doing your best to try and intrigue people, draw them in and hope that they will become a fan and potential customer.

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

Over the next few years I hope to grow my range of cards across all of my online avenues, and actually create a mailing list! I’d also potentially like to head down the wedding stationery route (my best friend is getting married and I’m loving playing around with her invites!) or add a completely different range of gifts to my stores. I haven’t decided yet. I’m just going to go with the flow and see what happens. Otherwise if I give myself too much to do I just get overwhelmed and nothing gets done! I also have a few things for #MarchMeetTheMaker up my sleeve, but I can’t talk about that just yet! I can say that it will be going ahead in 2018 though, and it’s going to be even better! I can’t wait! 

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

DO NOT GIVE UP!! If things aren’t going so well, what ever you do, do not give up. Use it as an opportunity to work out why things aren’t working as they are supposed to, and figure out how to fix it or up your game. I nearly closed my Etsy store twice or maybe three times, I can’t remember, but the point is I very nearly closed the door on the lot, and look where I am now. Success doesn’t come over night; it’s a gradual thing that requires a lot of hard work. All you need is the belief you can do it and the determination to make it happen.

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

Ginger Fig, is a gorgeous little gift shop tucked down in Bath Place, Taunton and sells a variety of gifts and greeting cards from small businesses. I love going in there and seeing work from people I recognise!

Frame of Mind is also a great little gift shop in the small town of Ilminster. I can ALWAYS find a card in here without fail. As well as many other gifts that should be given to other people but actually I want to keep them for myself...

The Emporium in Wellington is on my to visit list. I haven’t been yet but I’m looking for an excuse to head in that direction. The Emporium is home to nearly 50 small businesses, many from the local area. As soon as I can free up some time and grab a friend for a brew, we’ll be heading over!

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 – but that’s probably because I’ve known about the campaign for a very long time! I think I first saw it on twitter a couple years ago and have seen it about on various forms of social media since. I remember the stories of galleries closings and the owners saying that if only the people who said ‘that’s lovely’ actually purchased just a card, then they’d still be there today. I am guilty of saying that myself, but in my defense I do have a stash of cards squirreled away!

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

Being a card seller myself, it’s important because all of those little sales add up to the ability of being able to provide for myself, pay the bills and live my dream of being my own boss. With more and more handmade businesses out there, it’s more important now than ever to shop small and support handmade. Those sales are the ones that can allow someone to put food on the table, provide for their families or even pay someone a decent 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 heard about the campaign on Twitter, back in the day when I spent my life watching my feed constantly refresh. Now I’m all about Instagram (I’m a bit hooked, especially after #MarchMeetTheMaker) and occasionally Facebook. I think what people need to do is, as your name suggests, just go and buy a card. Or when they’re looking for gifts try and shop with small businesses instead of chain stores. I’ll continue to support small businesses either online or on the high street when I can, and through helping promoting those who take part in my Instagram challenge when it’s running.

Jane Foster

By Kate Marsden

I’m having a minor fan girl moment this week, as I meet someone who has long been an inspiration to me and my business. Jane Foster’s stunning, graphic signature style is instantly recognisable and seems to pop up all over the place! Read on to find out more about Jane, her gorgeous studio and her thoughts on the Just A Card campaign…

IMG_0141-1.jpg

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

Hi - I’m Jane Foster and I’m an illustrator, author and screen printer based in Kingsbridge, Devon. I illustrate children’s books, license my designs to a few companies and create a small range of screen printed products to sell to individual customers from my website. 

What does a typical day involve? 

I start work at 9 after our daughter goes to school and work until the school pick up at 3.15. I’ll then take a break to spend time with her and will return to work pretty much most evenings from 8.30 until midnight. A typical day involves checking emails / social media platforms etc. and then working out the day’s priorities. Orders are dealt with in the morning (my partner helps with the packaging and labels) and I try to use the afternoon and evenings for screen printing and sewing. If I’m working on a book deadline or designs for a company, these take priority and I’ll work as many hours as I can on these. 

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

I’m fortunate to have my own studio in the back garden that my partner Jim built a few years ago. It’s a large studio where I can screen print, design and sew. It has a large industrial sink so I can wash my silk screens. The studio was built using insulated panels (SIPS) so is very warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It’s been clad in Siberian larch and we painted it black with a yellow door as we love Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage at Dungeness. We have daylight ceiling bulbs and have painted the floor white to reflect as much light as possible.

When I’m not working, I love spending time with my family - going for beautiful coastal walks or walking on Dartmoor.  I also love meeting friends for coffee and cake and going to the odd car boot sale as I love looking for vintage fabrics and 60s and 70s children’s books (despite trying to become more minimalist!)

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

Uncertainty is definitely the first one that comes to mind. I think everyone is very concerned about the impact Brexit will have on the creative world and small businesses. I know several creative freelance friends who have already noticed an impact and are now being offered less design work. I’ve also chatted to fellow designers who are experiencing a drop in sales. Another huge challenge facing designer makers (especially new ones and graduates) is getting noticed and found. We’re living in a climate where everyone is trying to get noticed and sell online, and unless you have a great social media presence or your work stands out, it’s a huge challenge. When I first started selling my screen prints around ten years ago in Brighton, the accepted route was to book appointments with small galleries to show your work to. This can still be done but you’re now expected to have a website, blog, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram account. Juggling all these along with finding time to actually design and run a business can be very demanding.

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

I plan to illustrate more children’s books, to collaborate with more companies on licensing for product designs, to strive for a better work / life balance and to continue to develop my own designs that I sell from my own website. 

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

I think initially it’s sensible to have another form of employment whilst you’re starting out, as the stress of having to earn money and pay the bills isn’t great for being creative. You must be truly passionate and dedicated as it’s a difficult climate. I often say that talent is only a small part to becoming successful - the rest is pure grit and determination, and the ability to fail lots and pick yourself up again and again and again! I would recommend showing your work / designs / products online as often as possible to develop a social media presence. Ignore any trends or what others are doing and stay truly unique to your own designs and what you love doing. Develop a recognisable style that is totally ‘you' - a style that runs through everything you do. (It’s easy to get imposter syndrome on the internet so although it’s great to follow other people’s work, don’t spend too much of your valuable time doing this).

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 initially I thought it was about just buying a card, but now I realise this isn’t the case. I always try to have a range of affordable products so that a handmade product can be affordable to everyone. As a designer, I always make a point of buying something when I go into a small gallery or gift shop, such as a badge, post card or wonderful wrapping paper. I’m the same when I pass buskers on the street - I always give them some money as I was once a busker on the streets with my violin, and I know how hard it is to have people walk by and not notice you. (It’s recognising creativity.)

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

It’s very important to me in general as I think supporting artists/designers/makers is important to our society as a whole. I cannot imagine how dull the world would be without handmade products - imagine a world where everything was mass produced in factories and where we were living in a totally throw away nation, not caring about buying products to last a lifetime, not being interested in buying something unique and handmade and not caring about the impact on our environment or the story behind an individual maker / designer! The longevity of small independent makers and galleries totally depends on many people collectively buying at least one small item.

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

I first heard about the campaign on social media and through Mollie Makes Magazine. I mainly use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - I also use Pinterest but not necessarily on a daily basis. People can blog about the campaign, use the Just A Card button, tweet about it, follow and support other fellow makers and designers and regularly remind others on social media platforms that the campaign exists. If you google the hashtag #justacard occasionally then you’ll be able to see who else is supporting the campaign and follow others who are also spreading the word.

Jane in Foyles with our very own Sarah Hamilton and their books!

Jane in Foyles with our very own Sarah Hamilton and their books!

 

The Turpentine

By Kate Marsden

An example of how important word of mouth is in supporting our campaign today, as this week’s featured shop heard about it from me – so keep talking about it folks!

I’m heading to the rather awesome, yellow loveliness of The Turpentine in Brixton where they sell amazing products and you can learn something new too…

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

We are Amber, Jude and Alice, a trio of female entrepreneurs and founders of the Turpentine - an artsy boutique and workshop space in Brixton. We met at Uni over a decade ago and collaborated on projects for years, but it was when Amber walked past our shop with a 'to rent’ sign in 2014 we finally took the plunge and opened our shop.

The Turpentine showcases the amazing work of local and UK-wide designers and makers. From jewellery, prints, gifts and children's goodies to our Drink & Draw, Life Drawing, Painting and Jewellery Making workshops, we are all about the joy of creating. We encourage others to find their creative outlet at our regular evening workshops, and also offer bespoke classes for those crafty corporate outings or arty hen parties.

Last year we also launched our own jewellery brand, Form London with the mission to make beautifully made, infinitely wearable pieces that make as little environmental impact as possible.

What does a typical day involve?

I run our jewellery brand so most of my time is spent at my home studio making, I do 3 days there and 2 days in the shop. I love being in the shop, talking to our customers and being surrounded by the lovely things from our designer makers, but I find it very hard to focus here! Amber runs the shop side of things and Alice is our financial guru and marketing head – we each have our expertise and work in synergy.

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

Our shop is in Brixton, we happened to all end up living here so it seemed the most natural place for us to open our store. We love the community vibe there is here and how people are really supportive of independent businesses. Our shop is quite bold and industrial looking with brick walls, concrete floor and OSB and scaffold shelves – we pretty much made everything in the shop as we had a shoestring budget.

I'm a bit of a workaholic - the problem of doing what you love is it's very hard to stop and take a rest! When I do manage to prise myself away I like to go on long walks, read classic sifi, work on our garden and hang out with friends – which generally involves a considerable amount of gin.

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

The uncertainty of the moment has definitely affected buying habits; we have particularly noticed a shift in our courses with sales of our best selling 6 week workshops being over taken by our shorter one-off workshops, I suspect that is a consequence of the political atmosphere.  I guess, as with any business at any point in time the challenge is to try and notice changing buying habits as quickly as possible and be fluid enough to adapt.

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

We have just launched our jewellery brand - Form London, and are building our stockists. We're hoping in the next couple of years we will open a second shop with workshop space so we can have the shop, own range & workshops all in one place.

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

Just start! Get yourselves out there and refine as you go, it's takes a lot of trial and error so the sooner you get going the sooner you'll get to where you want to be. That being said there is a need to be careful not to over stretch yourself, know what you do best and focus on that and grow gradually. Also make sure to take a moment every now and then and look back at what you have achieved, it's really easy to berate yourself for everything you haven't yet done and not see how amazingly you have done.

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 the message behind Just a Card is great, small actions speak loudly in volume. Although only a small purchase card sales are our bread and butter and with that we can support the artists we stock too. It's a win-win for everyone, the customer gets a lovely unique card that they would have likely paid similar money for in a chain, whilst feeling good that they have supported an independent shop and the artist who made it. Designer makers are very conscious of their provenance too so it is more likely the card you buy from an independent is from recycled stock and printed in the UK – more jobs and less carbon footprint than a card printed abroad by a larger company.

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

It's huge, people vote with their purchases and we can only keep going if people keep 'voting' for us. But it's not just for us; we're in a lovey position that through our customers we can help artists to keep doing what they love too.

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

We were put on to the Just a Card campaign by Kate Marsden of Made By Mrs M and after looking at the website found ourselves nodding along to the aims and blog posts.

Instagram is our platform du jour though I have to be honest that I'm rubbish with that side of things! Give me a saw over a computer screen any day!

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

By spreading the word and continuing the conversation, we have the poster up and will keep 'voting' with our purchases.

 

 

 

Julia McKenzie

By Kate Marsden

We’re heading to West Norwood this week to explore the truly beautiful, detailed work of artist Julia McKenzie (who is also making me feel a little better about my messy studio!)…

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

My name is Julia McKenzie, I am an artist based in South London, who makes collages, prints and drawings. Increasingly my work is about my immediate, natural environment. I look at animals, birds and insects as well as plant forms in my garden and beyond - wherever I find myself.

What does a typical day involve?

I make a coffee and walk up to the end of my garden where I have my studio. I turn on the radio and start working. I keep office hours in the studio and leave about six. If I am printing, I may go to another studio, or ride my bike about and look for exhibitions and hunt for things to draw.

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

I draw from observation as much as possible, so the floor is strewn with plants, feathers, bones. I make paper cuts from old maps as well, and so at times, the studio floor is a sea of paper. I am quite messy. If it’s a small scale thing I sit at my desk, if something big, such as a large scale drawing, I work on the wall. If I am not in the studio or teaching, I will visit galleries and favourite places like the British Museum.

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

Though I think social media has been brilliant for the lone artist or designer, it is always had to get your work out there. Pricing your work is always hard and, of course, galleries take commission. Though for an artist, getting your work seen is of paramount importance.

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

I would love ultimately to be able to live from the work I sell. At the moment that is not possible, though it pays for itself and I can afford to be ambitious at times with materials and processes. I have lots of ideas for different projects; I would love to achieve a whole range of goals in the next 5 years!

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

My advice for anybody truly creative is to make work you really believe in. Try not to be swayed by trends or things you think might sell. I would still make work whether I sold it or not, but if you truly love what you do and have the expertise, people are naturally drawn to what you do and appreciate it.

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

I really love Bainbridge Print Studios as they have great facilities and opportunities to learn new skills - so helpful. 

I also love Circus in Brixton Market. Tabitha has a great eye and champions new designers and local talent.

The feast in West Norwood is amazing at supporting the local community, producers and artist/designers. I do a stall in the artisan market once a month. 

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

It’s such a brilliant ethos. I think it really helps people focus on what’s around them and to seek out the artists and designers in their area. At Christmas and for buying gifts I would always think about supporting fellow artists and designers. It certainly made me think about how important it is to have solidarity with my local creative community and to think before you buy. I completely understand that just buying a card can make a real difference.

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

I think any message that lets people know that there are amazing, creative and talented people out there, making and selling beautiful things, is very powerful in an age of mass production and faceless, poor design.

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 think I first saw Just a Card on Instagram. I LOVE Instagram, it is so interesting and, as a visual person, it has led me to discover a whole wealth of new people and exciting new ideas, it has been a great platform for me. I am seriously addicted.

 

Vic Phillips - SingleMaltTeapot

By Kate Marsden

Something truly beautiful for you today, in the form of dreamy hand carved spoons made by Vic Phillips of SingleMaltTeapot. I’d seen Vic’s work online a few times, and finally met him at Crafty Fox Market a couple of months ago. Find out about Vic’s work, exciting sounding future plans, and then dream about joining one of his workshops

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

Amongst a few other smaller pursuits, I am a woodcrafter, photographer, web builder and more recently a father. I hand carve items for the home, most often spoons in all shapes and sizes but also bowls, pots, other kitchen pieces like butter knives or spatulas and smaller display items like ring cones. I also run workshops in spoon carving that allow me to spread this craft I am so passionate about which is always insanely rewarding. My photography takes in live events and weddings as well as product and food styling. As a father I mostly dote, smile a whole lot and think up new and imaginative ways that might make a very curious sleep shy 7 week old drift off. With my partner Sam I am also looking expand SingleMaltTeapot to provide resources and events for makers, joining the dots between us and things like curating workshop spaces and markets that put makers at the heart of everything.

What does a typical day involve?

Mornings are generally a combination of copious amounts of tea, laptop based to dos and getting down designs for the afternoon.  If am working on a website or have images to process this is my main time to get a lot done. At the moment I am reaching out to makers to curate some workshops for a festival later in the year and I find this easiest to do first thing. Willow is always full of smiles for us in the morning too so I’ll make the most of being inside with her before any later making. Later in the morning I’ll go through my materials, drawing the next handful of designs ready to cut and also do any tool care needed. Around midday I make a conscious effort to move away from the screen and get making. Being dad is always at the top of my agenda so in between cuddles and nappy changes in the afternoon I try to work in focused little stints. Even when there are a lot of things going on, having a gentle stream of things being made keeps something quite core to me in good shape.

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

For the most part I work outside in the garden even when the weather gets a little grisly. I like watching the birds as they go about their foraging and seeing the bees go from flower to flower; it helps root me in a way, making me a part of that space. When the rain gets a little too heavy or if it’s just a touch too cold I head inside to a space I have sort of commandeered just by populating every available surface with tools, pieces of wood and a stack of instruments. In truth one half looks a little like a shed exploded. Closer to the window I’ll keep a variety of surfaces laid out for product styling and photography as well as neatly laying out finished pieces and works in progress as a kind of balance to the slight chaos of where I sit and carve.

I am lucky enough to spend a lot of time doing what I love and when I am not listening for the slightest murmur from Willow to use as an excuse to wander around the living room, baby in arms, I make a conscious effort to make time for carving which is ‘non work’ based. I’ll prototype new ideas (next up are ramen spoons) without worrying about how many go completely awry; my firewood pile can have some pretty interesting shapes after these sessions. I also shamelessly nerd out about a bunch of things. I love tabletop games from Monopoly and Scrabble to newer board games, Smallworld, Ticket to Ride, Takenoko…. it’s a bit of an endless list. I submerge myself into music production from time to time, mostly doing a very good job of never finishing anything and spending 3 hours tweaking a synthesizer to then head away and forget what the idea for it was in the first place. Time allowing, I have an allotment, well I have a chunk of mud I’d love to turn into an allotment and I like food DIY projects, curing bacon or eyeing up plans to build a hot smoker.

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

I think those first steps of taking that thing you love and turning that into a business are incredibly daunting, and present something of a wall to over come. This can come in a whole number of forms. We are faced with tackling social media, marketing and our own insecurities; building a website, finding your market and the simple costs that come with turning a passion into a business. Too many events don’t really support their makers (there are good guys of course, Crafty Fox and SoLo Craft Fair to name a couple) and arriving at an event and finding no plan or support and only the slimmest chance of sales can be awful for both accounts and hearts alike. It’s also so easy to become isolated and away from a support network of other creatives be completely unsure of what step to take next. It’s all pretty overwhelming and so easy to become lost while trying to navigate it all. They are in some cases unavoidable, we all have to learn and tackle them in some way but that point where you look up and see all of them waiting for you is incredibly intimidating.

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

Where I hope to build SingleMaltTeapot over the next few years sits a little outside of developing it as a business, in starting to provide solutions to some of those issues above. I have such a belief that the best way for people to succeed is when they are doing things together, when we all lift each other we all win, so I want to do more things to make that happen. Markets that get amazing makers in front of people as fairly as possibly, curating more workshop spaces and helping makers develop what they do to teach those workshops; joining the dots between makers so that more of us feel supported, and simply finding ways of highlighting the amazing talent that is out there. We’ve all had bad experiences in doing what we do I think so I really want to become part of changing that landscape for the better. In a more conventional sense, I am finding the confidence to develop some of the more expansive designs in my head and would like to grow as a product stylist and photographer, but while still bringing people something fair and heartfelt that really benefits them.

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

Reach out, say hi, drop people emails. As an incredibly shy individual I know how hard this can be, but I am really waking up to just how important doing this is. I am struggling to find a time where talking to another maker hasn’t made me smile, given me support, advised and encouraged me or just gotten me through a quiet few hours at an event. There is also so much power in simply telling someone how much you genuinely love what they do, the effect of someone popping up and going ‘Wow! This is amazing!’ really cannot be underestimated in getting someone through a period of doubt. The more dots we join the more it influences other things too. If we have a network of makers to ask ‘Hey, you did this event last year right? How was it?’ then there is a way to hold the bad guys accountable and help the good guys grow. 

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

Home By Kirsty is a favourite haunt in Cardiff, full of glorious design led pieces that are all just super cool. Closer to my home in the Brecon Beacons is The Old Electric Shop in Hay On Wye that has a wonderful mix of traditional crafts and contemporary design, that falls really close to my own feeling that amazing things happen when you blend these two approaches. I also tend to fanboy out over specific makers, drawn to their glorious Instagram accounts 2HungryBakers are just insanely talented bakers/ceramicists/carvers and Jyn Symong creates some of the most beautiful bowls I have every laid my eyes on, to name just a couple.

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 been a lover of what Just A Card is doing for a while, and yes and I think the benefit of it for folk is a two-fold thing. There is the immediate benefit that comes with a sale and the boost to our soul that goes along with that; it also means someone is heading away with something you made that people will see and talk about. Interest in the smallest part of out creative arsenal is still a powerful pathway into everything else we may be doing.

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

Hugely so, for me and everyone making, designing or indeed stocking in this industry. I think it’s easy for people to see someone selling at a market or walk into a beautiful indie store and think ‘Oh hey, well you’re here so it must all be going quite well’, but that can so easily not be the case. Things like Just A Card give those very direct boosts, but let people know that support helps us so much. As that idea grows so does our community, those of us making things, those of us giving them a space to shine and those of us who love to hold, use and own items that come with a story. Just A Card is a huge part of keeping those things growing, and that’s utterly important to all of us.

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’m pretty sure it was your first announcement about joining their team of bloggers either on Twitter or the grams, so of course I headed over in proper fan boy fashion. I’m most comfortable with Instagram, as an image based platform it suits me as a photographer, so I feel quite at home though I am spending more time with Twitter and Facebook but completely still trying to figure out Snapchat. With all these mediums, for folk looking to support Just A Card the best way is to be a part of that message; If you buy a card or anything from a maker you love then talk about it, drop a tweet, gram it next to a rainbow bagel (I want a rainbow bagel), tag the maker or shop, pop in #JustACard, spread the word. Little things that added together become powerful. I’ll be buying cards (they are always more useful than you realise. When you need to send a thank you card and all that’s in the draw are the rejects from last years Christmas card selection - yup, that, it just got awesome) and doing more to be an active part of the campaign; I’ve just spotted your Twitter hour so I’ll definitely be come to hang out there and keeping my eyes peeled for future Just A Card wonders.

Katie Duffett

By Kate Marsden

We’re heading to Stevenage this week to chat with illustrator Katie Duffett. Katie’s wonderfully detailed images of buildings, and lots more besides, grace cards, prints and even children’s books. Read on to head about her very busy schedule, love of gardening and also shopping small!

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

I’m Katie and I am an illustrator. I’ve always loved drawing so I studied Graphic Design and Illustration at De Montfort University. I carried on freelancing as a graphic designer after uni but really missed illustration so switched to that instead.

I started selling prints, cards and a children’s book on Etsy and my illustration business took off from there. I’d describe my style as quite loose but very detailed. A lot of my work is commission based which includes a lot of personalised wedding venue and new home prints with the odd children’s book thrown into the mix too.

What does a typical day involve?

A typical weekday starts quite early! As well as my illustration business, I work full time as an in-house graphic designer so I juggle my business around my day job. I work 7.30am-3.30pm then when I get home the workday starts again! But I do have a quick break first by pottering about in the garden. I’ll begin with packaging up orders and go to the post office then come back and do some admin, go through my emails and respond to customers/clients. Once this is done, I’ll sit down at my desk and get to work on my latest project which could be a commission or a personal drawing. I try and fit in an evening exercise class too!

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

My studio is actually in my home so I’m never too far away from my desk. The walls are full of prints by my friends and other illustrators so this keeps me inspired and motivated.

There are some disadvantages to working from home though as I love gardening and if the sun’s out I’ll get distracted and go outside! When I’m not working or gardening I like to spend my free time cooking, going to concerts and spending time with friends and family.

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

It can be challenging to get noticed when you’re competing with lots of other brilliant makers. Pricing is also a challenge when there are big companies that can offer prints and cards at a very low cost which can be attractive to customers. Time management can be hard sometimes as a lot of makers I know (like myself) are juggling a full time job whilst trying to grow their business, it can be challenging finding the right balance.

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

I’ve been lucky so far in that each year has been more successful than the last. I’ve seen a big rise in the number of building commissions and I hope this continues as I love drawing shops, houses and churches. I’ve recently started up a collective with two friends I went to university with, and we will be holding our first exhibition later on in the year which I’m really excited about. I’ve just finished working on a card range with one of them too.   

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

Hard work pays off, don’t feel disheartened if you don’t make many sales straight away, just keep promoting yourself and eventually it will happen.  

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

My favourite local independent shop is Seasons Interiors on Stevenage High Street. I love wandering down to the High Street and having a browse in there, it’s full of lovely home accessories and I want to buy everything in there!

I also love the work of the two friends I’m in a collective with; Chloe Hall and The Paper Creative (Sarah Glover). Chloe specialises in surface pattern and creates beautiful botanical inspired artwork. The Paper Creative is a children’s illustrator and sells a range of cards and gifts which are perfect for families, her drawings are gorgeous and full of detail. My house is full of their prints!

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 of the Just A Card campaign I thought it was a brilliant idea, the message is so clear and highlights how important any sale is to a small business to stay open.

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

Not everyone realises the cost of making a product and it all adds up once you take into consideration the price of materials, printing, packaging, exposure etc. One sale can make all the difference and it’s such a great feeling to know that somebody has enjoyed my artwork as much as I have enjoyed creating it.

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 introduced me to the Just a Card campaign. The campaign really highlighted to me the importance of using independent and small shops so I try to do that to support other makers and small business owners.

I’d say the social media platform I use most frequently for my business is Instagram, although I do get carried away posting pictures of flowers too. I think Instagram is the best marketing tool as it’s so easy to find makers through hashtags and there’s a great community of makers and designers on there.

 

Look Lane

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Honeybourne's

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kaylene Alder

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snowden Flood

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Katrina Sophia

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#HandmadeHour… the most talented place on Twitter!

Guest Post from Owen Birkby of Handmade Hour

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

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

Who we are…

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

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

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

Why take part…

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

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

So then we did this…

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

Supporting the campaign…

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

Top tips for Twitter hours…

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

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

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

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

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

@roxwellpress

@roxwellpress

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

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

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

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

Spring Shopping Guide

By Sarah Cowan

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

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

Where to buy:

Leaves print from original watercolour
£20.00
By Shirley Payton at Oh Hello Shan Creative

Felt and bead flower brooch
£4.00
By Rachel at PepperPot

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monstera A5 notebook
£5.00
By Lydia Meiying 

Where to buy:

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

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

Aquamarine pendant
£12.00
By Sarah at Chalso

A5 journal
AUS $9.95
By Tilly & Type

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

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

Blue and white sailor suit
£45.00
By Caroline Stansfield

Flight Paths
€15.00
By Lily Corcoran at Petal to Petal

Lovebirds and violets card
£2.95
By Louise Slater
 

Where to buy:

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

Dotty cushion in mustard
£50.00
By Georgia Bosson

Daisy card
£2.95
By Sue Bee at Bee Designs

Striped butterflyfish screen print
£190.00
By Rosa Doyle

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

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

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

Happy pineapple card
£3.00
By Victoria Tojeiro at VictoriaDraws

Acanthus notebook
£3.00
By Liz Clamp at Liz Clamp Designs

A Fantastic Giveaway and Campaign Update!

By Kate Marsden & Sarah Hamilton

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

Hello wonderful Just a Card Supporters.

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

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

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

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

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

It really is as simple as just a card

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

The Giveaway

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

Maker Spaces by Emily Quinton

Online Marketing for Your Craft Business by Hilary Pullen

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

Read on to the end of this post to enter.

New Instagram Spot – called Have You Met?  

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

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

#JustACard Hour!

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

Just A Card Website – Can you help?

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

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

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

Just A Card Spring Shopping Guide

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

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

Social Media Banners - Can you help?

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

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

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

I’d so love to meet you!

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

That’s all for now folks.

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

Sarah H xx

PLEASE…

1.     Follow us on INSTAGRAM – Like our posts.

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

3.     Like the FB page (see above).

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

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

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

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

1.     Follow @justacard on Instagram

2.     Follow @justacard1 on Twitter

3.     Follow Sarah Hamilton Prints on Facebook

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

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

You can win…

Maker Spaces by Emily Quinton

Online Marketing for Your Craft Business by Hilary Pullen AND

House of Cards by Sarah Hamilton

 

 

 ‘

 

 

 

Georgia Bosson

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How to stop being scared of shopkeepers

By Clare Yuille

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

Sounds good, right?

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

Is it this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two things are guaranteed to increase your success rate:

Target the retailers you pitch to with pin-point accuracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craft Tea Company

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upsy Daisy Craft - makes fabulous handmade ceramic jewellery and gifts  

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

Maxwell Harrison Jewellery – creates beautiful handmade silver jewellery

Dandelion Cocoa – sells the yummiest handmade chocolates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Yellowstone Art Boutique

By Kate Marsden

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

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

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

What does a typical day involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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