By Kate Marsden
Moving house or planning a wedding in 2017? Michelle of Roxwell Press has you covered with her beautiful watercolour illustrations and stationery. Read on to hear more about her brand and how and why she supports the Just A Card campaign.
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
I'm a designer and illustrator, and run a boutique stationery shop called Roxwell Press. Following a career as a scenic painter, and later as a graphic designer, in 2014 I fulfilled my long held dream to set up a stationery studio.
What does a typical day involve?
My day begins with a short meditation and exercise, I find it really helps to keep me focussed for the rest of the day. I try to keep to a routine of painting in the morning, with any other business for the afternoon. At the moment I'm working on some new wedding stationery collections, so will spend a few hours on watercolour painting while listening to music. Sometimes the creative work is on the mac, scanning and cutting out paintings, or designing layouts. Afternoons involve work on marketing, sales, PR and admin or website updates. It's not always easy to stick to these time zones every day, especially in the run up to Christmas, but I try to stick to it as much as possible.
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I work from home, in a small room for painting and a corner of our spare room for computer work. The lounge and kitchen are also useful for photo shoots. In the painting studio there are huge pin boards on either side of the room where I pin work in progress. There's also a section for images I love – colours and fonts I love, inspiring people, a beautiful watercolour swatch. Looking at this helps spark creative thought, and acts as that I'm now at work. In the spare room I've created a little nook with inspiring books, pictures and objects to help put my mind in designing mode.
I keep my stationery products, materials and files in cupboards in my studio and the spare room. I also use under bed storage for packaging. It's important to keep organised when working from home, as the space still needs to feel like a relaxing and homely place to live.
Films are a great love for my husband and I, so we spend a lot of our relaxation time watching together. We try to get out into nature as much as possible, either local parks or by the river. Time with friends and family is also hugely important, which can often mean a break away to the West Country or France. When possible we travel long haul too. It's inspiring to experience different cultures, their environment, and food. The benefits of sunshine and beach are also hugely appreciated! It’s so good to completely disconnect once in a while.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
Customers or clients often don’t realise how long it takes to make a product, what is involved in the process. We have all become used to paying less for many things such as clothing, home wares, even food. So the true retail value of something made by hand, that someone has trained years to be able to make, is quite a hard sell next to cheaper mass produced items. That said, there is strong support for designer makers, and if the product is good, people will buy it despite the higher cost. It's just a question of building a brand that tells the production story, to stand out as a quality product. Which is a challenge in often saturated markets.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
I'd like to move Roxwell Press out of my home to a separate studio, employing a small team to help with the running and development of the business. Over the next 1-2 years there will be more additions to the wedding stationery collection. It's so lovely to be working with a couple at this romantic time in their life, and I love the process of creating stationery suites. I’d like to introduce notebooks and calendars, also like to move into homewares, using pattern with textile or wood products.
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/ small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
One of the best things I've done over the last year is to create customer profiles. These profiles are your ideal customers, and you can start with just one. Give them a name, a job and a place to live. Describe their hopes and dreams, what worries them. What magazines do they buy, where do they shop? All of your efforts in PR and marketing are directed to this one person, and the products you create should be influenced by what you think this person will buy.
Rather than feeling you have to appeal to an entire audience of people, you are just appealing to one. It makes things so much easier to do, and will help define your niche.
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
Elvira van Vredenburgh - Elvira's designs have a vintage feel with fresh modern colours. The patterns are gorgeous.
Lilac Coast - A beautifully curated collection of homewares, with lovely product photography.
Isobel Barber - It's incredible how inventive Isobel is with paper. Her work is so fun and uplifting.
Note and Worth - A newly launched stationery brand selling exquisitely made notebooks.
Rigby and Mac - A trio of family run stores in South London, with a fab, eclectic mix of designers, both new and established. It's a great bricks and mortar shopping experience.
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 was attracted by the campaign title - ‘Just a Card’ and found out more on the campaign website. The title is a symbol of how little we need to spend in order to support small businesses.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
The campaign helps people to see that they have the power to keep diversity and craftsmanship in their shopping experience, and keep those businesses flourishing. Buying from an independent shop (either online or bricks and mortar) means we are not only supporting them, but also those businesses who are selling their products to that shop, which are very often sole traders like me. It's like a whole wonderful ecosystem of creatives, sellers and buyers.
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 heard about the campaign on Twitter, which I use regularly along with Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. All people need to do in support of the campaign is to make a purchase once in a while. I regularly make small purchases from sellers at craft fairs, or independent shops. There will always be an occasion to send a card, if not for a birthday then just to send a pretty note to someone. The recipient will be so happy to receive something out of the blue.