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Artist Profile: Kathy Hutton

By Kate Marsden

Another long term supporter of the Just A Card campaign is printmaker Kathy Hutton. I've long followed her work on Twitter, but nowadays I'm increasingly seeing it cheering up my Instagram feed.

Here Kathy shares how she juggles her business with motherhood, along with her thoughts on our campaign.

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

Hello, I'm Kathy of Kathy Hutton Prints. I'm a traditional printmaker working on creating one of a kind and very small print runs of handmade, original, silk screen and mono prints. My designs are all hand drawn from life and often feature the simple shapes, forms and patterns of ceramics, pebbles and plants.

I also love running workshops teaching various printing techniques.

What does a typical day involve?

I have three young girls and one of them is still crawling around my feet, so a typical day is mostly spent looking after them, and trying to squeeze some work into little slots when they are either sleeping or happily playing. My day usually starts with a trip to the Post Office after school drop off to send off some orders, and it's on this short walk that I will often notice tiny changes in my surroundings that may be the spark of a new print; be it some fresh new leaves, blossom snow or some big fat berries hanging down over a wall!

When my youngest has her lunchtime sleep, I can get on with some sketching or printing (I try to print and mix my colours up in the daylight as much as I can). Answering emails, packaging orders and other admin jobs I try to save for the evenings.

I do have a child free day on Tuesdays, so I try to plan ahead and will often book in one of my printing workshops for this day.

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

I'm incredibly lucky to have a studio space at home, it's fairly large with great natural light. It has windows on three sides, with views into my garden and the fields beyond. I really notice all the changes of the seasons when I'm in my studio. I find it really inspirational, but I can also be found daydreaming in there quite a lot! It's a brilliant space to run my workshops from, however it's normally a complete mess as I tend to work on many projects at once!

When I'm not in the studio, we like to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Come rain or shine we walk a lot as a family and there are plenty of beach trips. As long as there is hot chocolate or ice cream on the horizon, my daughters are happiest hunting for pretty patterned pebbles.

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

Competing with the high street is a constant battle. There are some fabulous products and designs out there at great prices, but these prices are achieved through volumes and sometimes quality choices. Customers' price preconceptions can then be hard to translate when selecting a piece of original art or a hand crafted product from a maker.

As a maker you can offer something a little bit different, something with a story behind it - how and why your products are made - but that's not always a simple message to get across. It's not easy to be seen or heard, and the marketing of yourself and your products can become a full time job. The balance between creating and selling can be difficult to achieve.

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

I'd like to develop my series of one off plant inspired prints that I started last December, where I incorporated many different printing techniques to produce original pieces. I'm working on some seasonal collections of these that I'd love to see in galleries. I'd also really love to sell my work to more shops, and work on commissions of my smaller simple monotypes.

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

Start small and remember you don't have to do it all at once, you also don't have to do it all yourself. There's so much free advice out on the internet, from people who have been there and have succeeded, take it all in. Find a community and become involved, be it on your doorstep or the internet. There's amazing support out there which is crucial if you mainly work on your own. Be a little bit brave.

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

Nineteen is a beautiful lifestyle shop in Clevedon run by designers and sisters Victoria and Becky Saunders, they source an eclectic mix of vintage finds and contemporary crafts and also host a selection of artisan workshops.

Spotty Herberts is a charming little shop for children in Bath. It's just bursting with colour and sells unusual little treats and clothing by British designers.

Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights is my favourite independent bookshop right in the heart of Bath. The staff are really knowledgeable and a visit there always has me so inspired.

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?

At first glance, I think I mainly thought of cards, but then I realised it's referring to all purchases even small ones, that may seem small to the customer, but bit by bit they do add up.

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

It's a really important message, smaller purchases keep your business ticking along. Perhaps most importantly they can be the first step in creating a relationship with a new customer, starting that relationship; for me that's crucial as the majority of my sales come from repeat purchases. 

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 heard about the campaign on Twitter but I'm currently using Instagram more. I've printed out the flyers and have them with me at fairs and markets. I also have the poster on my studio wall and it's a talking point at workshops.

Kate MarsdenComment