Happy New Year from the Just A Card team!

By Sarah Hamilton

Happy New Year from the 'Just a Card' team. I trust you all had a relaxed and happy festive break.

We've just about recovered from the frenzy of our various Christmas events, and the excitement of the 'Just a Card' Thunderclap. With an over 1.5 million reach on Social Media, we certainly gave our creative community the huge shout out it deserves. Thank you to everyone who signed up. That it was such an overwhelming success is a testament to our shared belief that artists/designers and independent businesses are extremely precious and need our continued support. We've our work cut out for us if we're to ensure our high streets stay vibrant and our creative community thrives. We've had numerous reports that Christmas sales were slow. Times are tight and many people are concerned about the future of their businesses.

So, as the dust settles, we're rolling up our sleeves and plotting the year ahead. We're more determined than ever to champion creative people and businesses and have big plans on which we’ll keep you posted. Our wish, as the campaign goes from strength to strength, is that many more people join us. We know our campaign encourages sales. Quite simply, the more people who see and appreciate our simple message, the more impact we will have.

So many of you ask how to get more involved in the campaign. It's easy - SPREAD THE WORD - we need you! We need your passion. We need your energy. We desperately need your commitment to helping us spread the word.  Please tell everyone about 'Just A Card' by tweeting, blogging, face booking and even good old fashioned chin wagging.  Please RT our tweets and share our blogposts. Kate Marsden, our blogger in chief, works incredibly hard each week on new and inspiring features. At Christmas, we introduced the 'Just a Card' gift guide and Sarah Cowan, our fantastic team member who ran it, is planning many more including one for Valentine's Day - keep your eyes peeled for call outs. I'm sure you'll join me in thanking Sarah and Kate for their tireless work on behalf of us all. The team run this campaign in our spare time (spare time - mmm - that).  None of us are paid and it takes up a lot of time, so please support us all and share, it really does mean the world. I'm incredibly proud of our team - without their dedication and commitment, and yours of course, there would be no campaign.

Creativity, passion and commitment are at the heart of the 'Just a Card' message. We need to unite to stress that every sale even 'Just a Card' is vital to independent creative businesses.

Image (c) Kristy Noble

Image (c) Kristy Noble

Now to a couple of personally exciting things I'd like to share with you! Firstly - I've written a book - about handmade cards. As you're aware we use cards as an example of a small sale which helps support small creative businesses. I chose cards due to the quote, but also because handmade cards are close to my own heart. A chance meeting with the publishing director at Pavilion books, when I was speaking at the Mollie Makes awards led to me telling her about the campaign and my passion for cards, and over a year later I have, in my hand, a copy of my first book. All very exciting! Titled 'House of Cards' it's a comprehensive guide to making and selling handmade cards. We feature 10 professional artists and designers who've created step-by-step project to help you get to grips with their techniques. 

The artists share top tips on how to sell cards, based on their own first hand experiences as successful designers, and  how to gather inspiration for your designs. There's a chapter on the history of cards by Jakki Brown who runs the Henries Awards for greeting cards - many of you may well have entered over the years. There's also a chapter about how important sales of greetings cards are to charities as many raise much needed revenue this way. This, as luck would have it, leads me seamlessly to another project dear to my heart, and one which has come to dominate my life over the last few months…

Image (c) Kristy Noble

Image (c) Kristy Noble

As some of you may know, I'm a trustee of a charity called Anno’s Africa. We provide educational art workshops for children living in slum conditions in Kenya and Malawi. With over 1500 children participating in our intensive yearly workshops not only are these classes a great way for children to have fun but they allow them to gain practical skills that will help them build a career in the arts. We provide classes in six major disciplines, Art, Creative Writing, Dance, Drama, Music and Circus, so that there is something to capture the imagination of every child. The art captured mine - the ballet - as shown in this hugely popular video on The Guardian - has captured over 7million others.

So, what does any of this have to do with cards I hear you say. Well we're currently organising our latest fundraiser - The Anno’s Africa Charity Art Raffle. We've asked our friends, (some of the other trustees are established actors, writers and producers) to uncover hidden artistic talent to produce… guess what? A card sized artwork. Every day for the past few months, new artworks have arrived from far and wide by stars of TV, film, music and the arts. We are raffling these 'blind' online from 13 January to 22 February to raise money help build an arts centre and fund our 2017 programme. If you’re interested in the charity and want to support our work, then you can buy a ticket for £10 (the raffle goes live at 10pm on Friday 13 January - in the meantime you can visit the website here). As our message says: every sale counts and will help guarantee the future of our classes and support children in the development of their artistic talents.

So, here's to a joyful and productive 2017 - filled with creativity, books and vibrant high streets.

Happy Days!

Sarah H xx


'House of Cards' by Sarah Hamilton will be published by Pavilion books on 9 February 2017. If you'd like to pre-order a copy, then you can do so here. It will also, hopefully, be available in many wonderful bricks and mortar independent bookshops.......