By Kate Marsden
We’re off to Nottinghamshire this week to meet talented artist and illustrator Corrina Rothwell. You may be familiar with Corrina’s fab illustrations which we’ve used for the campaign a few times, but you may not be aware of her stunning abstract paintings which I only discovered a few weeks ago!
Read on to find out more about Corrina, and how Just A Card provides so much more than a campaign message for us all to shout about – it’s a supportive and welcoming community too – which is particularly important for those of us who work from home!
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
Hello! I'm Corrina, I'm a self taught artist and digital illustrator living in Nottingham. I've been working as an artist in various mediums for the best part of 30 years. Gulp! Currently I design funny greeting cards (which I've recently licensed to Really Good Ltd), I make paintings and prints of cats and I paint abstract pictures (which is a new thing). The card designs and cats also make it on to things like coasters, cushions and tea towels. I also do some commercial illustration for a small number of clients. And I'm writing and illustrating a children's book with the support of a literary agent, but that's on the back burner for the time being. A couple of years ago I was doing really well with wholesale cards but suddenly it all came crashing down – right after Brexit, funnily enough - and I realised I needed to have my eggs in several baskets. Cards were going to be the 'biscuit base' of my business which I could layer other tasty things on top of, but I've had to rethink all that.
What does a typical day involve?
I don't really have a typical day but what I'm currently aiming for is a bit more of a routine - swim/run/yoga (not all 3!) first thing, try to find someone to have a coffee and conversation with (makes a big difference to how I feel for the rest of the day), work on whatever admin-type things need doing, and orders if I'm lucky enough to have them, for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. Later on I try to make time for painting, while the light's good.
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I've just moved out of a studio space and am working at home now, for financial reasons and because the studio was one where people would be walking in all the time which I didn't like! However, I'm really aware of the demon of isolation and how crappy I ended up feeling last time I worked from home. Since then though I've discovered that I really like working in different places (I'm writing this in one of my favourite cafes) and I bought myself a Surface Book so that I can do my digital drawing on the go too. My dream is to take off somewhere warm in winter and work on my children's book!
As for the rest of the time, as I'm currently a 'struggling business' there are things I rarely do that I'd like to do more of – day trips, holidays, meals out – so generally it's simple pleasures like a couple of pints with friends, cooking for people, cinema, reading, swimming. I am however tenaciously believing that things will improve!
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
Which leads us nicely into this one. Yeah, making enough money is the biggest challenge. Getting noticed, particularly online. Finding customers. I am not the world's best at this kind of thing but I know it doesn't come easily to many. And there really is no support in this country for creative businesses. I think the other biggest difficulty is staying positive about your work and your business. I find it nigh on impossible at times!
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
I really want to start exhibiting and selling my paintings. I feel like I've been dealing in tiny things for a long time and its time to go big! Big paintings, big printed cat canvases on big walls. I'd love to get into the world of interior design. The idea of abstract paintings printed onto household items really excites me. All that, and I'd love it if my children's book was published. It's called Parp! And it's about a farting dog :D
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/ small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
I think the main thing I would say is, you need to be tenacious. You have to have grit. If something doesn't work, try something else. You have to keep trying until something clicks. If you're genuinely passionate about what you're doing, and there really is nothing else you'd rather be doing, you'll find a way to make it work. And talk to people. That's why Just A Card is so important – it's a community of people just like you. They are wise! Ask, and listen to the answers!
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
There are three galleries that I have a great affection for and have worked with over many years.
Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge;
Cupola Contemporary Art in Sheffield; and
Focus Gallery in Nottingham.
They're each run by amazing strong women which is one of the reasons I love them, and these women work tirelessly to connect artists with customers, build great relationships with both and maintain really interesting, lively and engaging galleries.
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 think some people take Just A Card too literally and don't realise that it's meant as an example of something you could buy from a small creative business. The point is that all the small sales add up and it could be a card, a print, a mirror, a coaster.....ANYTHING! Just buy it!!
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
Oh it's incredibly important. With the likes of Amazon dominating retail and the high street shops struggling, it's more vital than ever that independent businesses survive and thrive. Otherwise we'll end up living in some kind of bland identikit world where everyone owns the same stuff and there's no alternative! We need to keep the alternative alive! Consumers need to know that there is an absolute wealth of creative talent in the UK and there are thousands of tiny businesses busting our GUTS to make our amazing things available to those consumers. I reckon they're bloody lucky!!
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 first came across Just A Card on Twitter, probably quite early on in the campaign. I really liked Sarah Hamilton's work so I followed her on there and that led me to JAC. Nowadays Instagram's my favourite platform. I find it has an energy that you just don't get on Twitter, and you only get to some extent on Facebook. I've had some great conversations and interactions on Instagram, many of which have more recently come about because of the Just A Card campaign. It makes marketing not feel like marketing! I hope that people will start to realise that it's really important to do more than simply 'like' posts about the campaign and will share and retweet them too. 'Likes' are 'nice' but that's about all. I also hope Just A Card will get people thinking a little bit more about how they spend their money, to think about the 'use it or lose it' scenario with those cute little businesses they like.
Get on board and then get your friends on board! I try and share as much as I can, probably boring my Facebook friends to death but tough! I've also done some illustrations for the campaign and will happily do many more :)