By Kate Marsden
We’re heading over to Hackney this week to meet the beautiful animals created by illustrator and printmaker Tiff Howick…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
I'm an illustrator and printmaker living in East London, I screenprint my animal illustrations onto sustainably sourced paper and textiles and have a range of digitally printed greeting cards, made in the UK by a FSC certified company. I first worked for myself straight after studying Graphic Design & Illustration at college, I didn't have a clue about running a business and ended up packing it in and getting a job. Over the next few years I worked for several companies and picked up some really useful business skills. I rediscovered screenprinting in 2012 and have been working for myself since the end of 2013.
What does a typical day involve?
I like to start off with a run on Hackney Marshes with earphones in and noisy music on. After breakfast I'll check emails to see if there is anything I need to do that day or add to my work list. Then, depending on what events I have coming up, I'll spend the day packing up orders, framing prints, working on new images, ordering supplies, updating my accounts and other business admin. On a day that I'm printing I'll head over to the studio late afternoon for an evening print session. I regularly sell my work at weekend markets so I try to take a bit of time off during the week. When I'm not working I really enjoy pottering in the garden, going to see an exhibition or watch a film and catching up with friends.
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I draw and paint at home in a room set up with two tables, one for my computer and one for art work. The walls are covered with images that I like and it's full of shelves loaded with books, materials, equipment. I'm also a member of a print studio, Printclub London in Hackney, which has all the big equipment needed for screenprinting. I usually go there once a week to print, it's great to have that mix of working at home on my own and the opportunity to meet and work alongside wonderful, inspirational people.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
There is so much amazing work out there it can be really difficult to stand out and for potential customers to find you, we need to keep reminding people about what we do through exhibitions, events, markets and social media.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
I recently licenced some of my designs with a card publishing company, I'd like to licence more of my work for other products too. I also want to grow my online business, phasing out my open edition prints and focusing on limited editions.
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
I think planning is crucial, having a clear idea about what you want to achieve and what you need to do/learn to do it really helps. I struggle with time management and I've found pre-planning my week on a Sunday evening/Monday morning into hourly chunks really helps me focus on what I need to do. Regularly being at events and markets has made a big difference to my business, even when sales aren't great on the day I've found an increase in online sales, and people sometimes buy my work after having seen it a few times, especially the larger prints. It's also good to develop a thick skin, your work isn't going to be to everyone's taste but that's ok!
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
These are all lovely places to visit with a really good selection of gifts, prints and cards:
Snap in Bethnal Green
Of Cabbages & Kings in Stoke Newington
Ziggy Played Guitar in Highams Park
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 had, I know a few creative businesses that don't sell cards but do include similarly priced items in their ranges, and regular sales of those products make a really big difference.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
Very, it helped me realise how important the small sales are, I resisted lower priced items initially thinking they weren't worth my time, but since I started selling cards and tea towels it made quite a difference to my income. Sometimes they're all I sell at markets and what seems like quite a slow day has actually been pretty good!
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 initially heard about Just A Card from a friend and started following the campaign on social media, I'm on Twitter and Instagram but really don't use either as much as I should. I regularly tell people about Just A Card and buy from independent shops as much as possible.