Maker Profile: Anna's Drawing Room

By Kate Marsden

I'm really happy to share our first Just A Card maker profile with you today. Another keen supporter of the Just A Card campaign since the outset, I've followed Anna Vartiainen of Anna's Drawing Room online for a long time, and have also sold alongside her at a number of events. Read on for more about Anna, her work and her take on our campaign.

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

Hello, my name is Anna Vartiainen, working under the name Anna's Drawing Room. I draw, paint, make prints, and design cards and home-wares, all inspired by nature.

What does a typical day involve?

Having one school-age daughter and a toddler, most of my day is spent being a parent! So I work before the school run, during nap-times and stolen moments when a film is on. On a Friday the youngest goes to nursery - this is when I can get my teeth into something in a bit more depth. I'll make a to-do list and start with whatever is most important, replying to emails, perhaps filling out an application, designing, researching, or ordering stock. I also try to do things I can't get done with the children around like organising my workspace, packing, framing, or printing.

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

I work from home, and from a shared beach hut studio-shop on Worthing's seafront. The home workspace is a lovely room, if usually messy. It has potential! At weekends I usually go to the studio. It's in a concrete block of huts, all leased to artists and makers. It feels like somewhere between a studio, a shop and a market stall. Here I get to meet customers face-to-face, be part of the little community, and I love to sit and draw, drink tea, looking out at the sea.

When I'm not working I love meeting friends for food and drinks, or dragging the kids on long walks and trips to historical places. When we get a longer amount of spare time we usually renovate part of the house!

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

Being up against fierce competition from retailers producing desirable products at low prices, you have to offer something they can't. Also with the sheer volume of handmade businesses, trying to get heard is quite overwhelming. It's easy to feel disheartened, imagining everyone else is doing so much better than you. Keeping up that stamina and morale is difficult on your own

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

I would like to sell to many more shops, mainly cards and some home/gift items. I dream of collaborating with, or designing for a fabric company. And I would like to create more one-off pieces, prints and paintings on a larger scale.

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

I would suggest setting deadlines you can't get out of! Sign up to markets, apply to sell in shops or at exhibitions... This forces you to think about display, packaging, pricing and how your work goes together, then you start to see who is interested in what, and where. Read some of the wonderful business advice for creatives there is online and in books. Do your research and write a plan. And join a community, online or otherwise, as there are so many people to meet in the same situation.

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

From Victoria - This beautiful shop in Lewes is run by ceramicist Victoria Turner. Her studio is there in the shop, where she also sells home-wares, plants, gifts and cards.

Found - I've not even been there yet but keep looking at their site and hope to visit in a couple of weeks when in Bath. With a nice website, this shop is a good example of an independent successfully reaching out beyond its local area.

Pallant House Gallery Bookshop - This gallery shop in Chichester has a wealth of shopping ideas, perfect when you're already inspired by an exhibition in the historic building.

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 didn't at first, but it totally makes sense. The badges, the keyrings, the little stocking fillers that makers rely on selling, so they can keep making the bigger stuff!

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

The message is very important - cards are my bread and butter really - it's not every day someone needs an art print, and my gift items aren't suitable for every single recipient. But cards are easier to choose for a wider range of people, and an affordable way to make a nice gesture. It's lovely when a person comes to me for a card for a special someone, or even put it in a frame.

Where did you hear about the campaign & 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 Just a Card on Twitter first, but I use Instagram most frequently. I retweet, like and share, and have downloaded the poster to put up in my studio-shop. As people share the message, I hope more of us will remember to shop from our favourite independents