By Kate Marsden
Hello, and welcome to the first of our new series of regular blog posts! I'm Kate Marsden and I'm delighted to join the Just a Card team as 'chief blogger'. We’re keen to get the Just a Card message out to a much wider audience and hope that through these posts we can do this, as well as increase our existing supporters’ understanding of our campaign and the things we are aiming to achieve.
It only seems right to start the series by interviewing the inspirational Sarah Hamilton who started the campaign in the first place, just over 18 months ago. Read on to find out why she did, what our next plans are, and how you can all help!
Hi Sarah, can you please remind us (and let those who are new to the campaign know) what prompted you to start Just A Card in the first place?
Having been an Artist and Designer for many years I’ve become increasingly aware how hard it is for Designer/Makers who’ve recently left college, or those making a career change, to establish themselves. Also Artists, Designers, independent shops and galleries are seeing overheads rise and sales fall. This puts a strain both on their businesses and on their day to day lives.
This is unbelievably sad, and results in our high streets being overtaken by corporate chains and creative people not having outlets for their work. It's also a situation which could, with consideration, change. I’d been wondering for a while how to get the message across that sales, however small, make a huge difference to small businesses. When I read the quote, by gallery owners who’d recently closed, ‘If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought just a card we’d still be open’ I had a light bulb moment. People often say they’re embarrassed to make a small purchase as it could appear mean. This is crazy. People wouldn’t feel that in big chain stores so the little guys lose out. Small sales add up! Compliments are absolutely wonderful, and hugely appreciated, but if people can manage even a small purchase it really can be make or break for that artist or gallery.
Since we started the campaign so many people have reported they've bought from designer makers, or small galleries as a result of our simple message. This makes all our hard work worthwhile.
Why expand the team?
I kept being asked how people could get more involved in the campaign whilst, at the same time, running myself ragged trying to do everything! I then thought - perhaps people genuinely mean it, so I tweeted to ask for volunteers and was astonished, and absolutely delighted, that lots, and I really mean lots, of people responded. We now have an amazing team - how exciting. We can now share the workload and reach far more people. Incidentally, thanks so much to everyone else who responded – we’d still love you to be part of the extended team so please keep supporting us!
What plans do you have for the campaign now you have additional people working on it?
Big plans - as you can imagine! This is our wonderful new blogger Kate Marsden’s first blog post for us and we aim to feature a maker, gallery or independent shop each week. We’ll select from people who support us regularly – it’s only fair to reward mutual support.
Our ultimate aim is that our logo becomes so instantly recognisable that everyone realises every sale is appreciated by small businesses, and that they are crucial to their long term survival.
Now a little more about you, what do you do?
I’m an artist and designer with a passion for drawing and contemporary design. I make colourful, contemporary prints, cards, homewares and many larger interior commissions. As well as selling through galleries and independent shops, I’ve also designed for retailers including The Conran Shop, Heals, Designers Guild and Habitat. I also run workshops on screenprinting, social media and how to run a small business. Whilst this wasn’t in the plans, I’m increasingly asked to do this and really enjoy it. It’s fun to embrace things which you hadn’t necessarily planned....
Where do you work? What is your studio space like?
I work in my light and airy studio in my mid-century house set in Dulwich Woods, South London. I'm very lucky to have wonderful views of the woods and our beautiful city beyond.
What does a typical day involve?
One of the joys of being you own boss is there is no such a thing as a typical day.
I wear so many hats. I love visiting clients to discuss commissions or collaborating with friends to organise a show or run a workshop, though possibly my favourite days are spent designing in my studio whilst listening to Radio London.
How important has the Just A Card campaign been to your own business?
Just a Card takes a lot of my time, so personally it's probably a bad business decision!! However, I'm extremely grateful to be able to be an artist, so time spent on the campaign is a way of doing my bit.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing Designer/ Makers at the moment?
Whilst there are many hurdles, it is possible to make a living as a Designer/Maker. Many of the key challenges I’ve highlighted by starting this campaign. I’ll expand on these in future blog features - and hopefully offer some advice as to how to get over them.
In what ways can shops/galleries and designer makers use the Just A Card campaign to help themselves?
The campaign works best for people when they engage with it. Share it with your customers. The things we say are sometimes tricky to point out to customers. If Just a Card can flag these things on your behalf your customers will understand just how much you value their support. Compliments make the world a sunnier place and understanding that purchases, however small, are so important makes customers feel valued and appreciated.
How can other people help the campaign if they’d like to?
Support us on Social Media. Retweet our tweets, by all means Like them but please please retweet them.
Add our logo to your work and send us pictures so we can use them on Instagram.
Ultimately help us spread the message!
Thank you so much Sarah! If you’re in the vicinity of South London and fancy taking a closer look at Sarah’s work (and her wonderful mid-century home and studio), pop along to her open house which forms part of the popular Dulwich Artists Open House weekend, next Saturday and Sunday 7/8 May.
You can meet the whole of the new Just A Card Team here – do come and say hello to us all on Twitter…
Please share this post as widely as you can on social media – every share helps to support our campaign!