By Kate Marsden
This week we have a great post to illustrate how the Just A Card campaign isn’t just about cards! If you’ve ever met me at an event or in the street, you’ve probably seen an item from my I Am Acrylic jewellery collection, and I’m really pleased to be able to introduce you to the folks who design and make these fab, colourful pieces…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
Hello! We're Ruth & Brendan - AKA I Am Acrylic. We met at Art School in the 90's and have been working together on our little jewellery brand for about 12 years in total now.
We create hand-cut jewellery and other stuff mostly made from acrylic! We use a fretsaw to cut out all the components for our designs (we don't use a laser cutter) and then we spend time filing and sanding the edges before piecing them all together!
It's a bit of a labour of love, but it's how we did it back in CDT at school, and we enjoy it too!
What does a typical day involve?
We don't really have typical days at I Am Acrylic HQ - there always seems to be something new and unexpected to do! In general, a typical day will involve coffee, breakfast; some noisy fretsaw-ing, filing and sanding for customer orders & wholesale orders; admin and accounts; staring and cooing over the blue tits on our bird feeder; lunch, lots of tea breaks, a walk to the post office, a cycle round London for Brendan and a walk round the block for me, dinner, bit more filing and sanding...Oh and at least an hour spent taking photos for and messing around on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook!
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
We work from home in Spitalfields, East London. Our flat has gradually become less a home and more a studio as we have become busier. The sofa went quite a few years ago to be replaced by a packing table, our coffee table has long since been replaced by a Workmate that houses our fretsaw, that sits next to the pillar drill. When it comes to dinner time we have to clear a little space on the work bench to eat! It can sometimes be a bit overwhelming to be surrounded by work all the time, but most of the time it doesn't feel like work as it's fun for us to make things!
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment.
Ignoring the last couple of week's events for just a moment(!)....it actually feels like a very positive time for designer makers. There are lots of great craft fairs and markets out there, easy to use portable card machines, tons of support and advice available (that wasn't so readily available when we were starting out 12 years ago), lots of e-commerce platforms on which to sell your wares, and access to the whole world (almost!) with social media.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
To be honest, if we are able to carry on doing what we're doing now and keep challenging ourselves each day to keep things fresh and interesting for everyone (and ourselves!) then we'll be happy!
Do you have tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
We found that doing markets & craft fairs - a lot of markets! - was a great way of testing new products and meeting new customers, although this isn't the right thing for everyone!
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
Magma has to be our all time favourite independent shop, as it's where I worked for 7 years and where our little business was effectively born! Back in 2004 we were playing around with some acrylic we'd found, and my Dad's fretsaw that he'd lent us. We were just making things for ourselves and handbag handles for some bags that I was making, and then Brendan made me a bird shaped keyring for my birthday. The owner of Magma saw it and said we should try and sell them in the shop, and that it where it all started!
Had you realised the Just a Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all small sales as they keep business afloat?
Honestly, I didn't realise initially that the campaign wasn't just about the idea of buying a card from small businesses.... but have been aware for a while now that it is about all (small) purchases! I liked it even when I thought it was just about cards though - as it keeps the idea in your mind to buy from independent shops over massive chains - so even when I didn't get the whole message, it still had an impact on me as a consumer!
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
It's just so great that it gets people talking about small businesses! We massively depend on the lovely small businesses that stock our things and we owe them a great deal - so anything that helps raise awareness of shopping independent is brilliant!
Where did you hear about the campaign? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
I can't remember where I first heard about the campaign - maybe on Twitter initially - but it has certainly become part of our everyday conversations now and has resulted in us buying even more independently than we already did! We often talk now about buying "just a coffee", "just a cake", "just a plant" and brilliantly for me, as it legitimises my addiction, I am quite often heard saying that I'm buying "just a brooch"!