I've come across a lot of creative businesses run by small teams or one individual. It's a common challenge for these businesses to create new work and take care of the business side.
Elizabeth Carrick, designer of womenswear label Blonde + Ginger, said her biggest challenge is "Needing to do everything yourself and trying to be good enough at it all! I love the designing and the creative side of the business but I need to develop my skills in other areas, such as marketing. You are never going to be great at every role you need to do but you can’t afford to not try your very best."
This afternoon I ran into Eleanor Lewis-Bale of letterpress label Marby & Elm. She's been so busy doing business admin like invoicing and packaging that she hasn't had time to explore and be creative. She finally made it to the Library to look at our typography collection for inspiration.
To help creatives get organised, learn business essentials and stay sane(!) we've partnered up with The Design Trust to deliver a FREE webinar series. These are perfect for pre-start and start-up creative businesses including freelancers, sole traders, practitioners in design, crafts, fashion, photography, video and film.
Webinar 1: Create your business plan for
your first year Thu 17 Oct, 11.00 - 12.00 You can
write a business plan to get finance or funding, but also to plan ahead and
prioritise your workload. Think of a
business plan as a roadmap for your journey. In
the end you will have the tools to create a business plan that you will be proud of and will be using regularly.
Webinar 2: Your first 10 steps in marketing Thu 31 Oct, 11.00 - 12.00 We'll look at how to do practical market research and why niche marketing is essential
for small businesses. You'll get loads of practical tips and
marketing actions that you can use to help get your business started on the
Webinar 3: How to cost and price your work Thu 7 Nov, 11.00 - 12.00 Pricing
your products or services isn’t easy. You might
not know how to do the maths, or you find it hard to put a value on your
creative ideas. This is a step-by-step session on how pricing and costing works. Learn about different models, international pricing, discounting, premiums
As part of London Design Festival, our friendly partners over at Craft Central launched Imprint, a cross-disciplinary exhibition of print design. I popped over last night to have a look. Here are my highlights:
Don't let the rain keep you from visiting! The exhibition is open until 21 September from 10.30 - 18.30 (Craft Central 33-35 St John's Square, London EC1M 4DS. Tube: Farringdon or Barbican)
DesignK's Tea for One Table - "Handmade in England and inspired by traditions like afternoon tea, these cheery designs melt our hearts." I agree!
Katie Brown - Silk scarves designed and finished in Northern Ireland, printed in Macclesfield. On my Christmas wishlist.
Thornback & Peel's shop is just down the road from the British Library. We'd love for founders Juliet and Della to visit the Library and check out our print collection!
Eleanor is behind the Hampstead-based letterpress design studio Marby & Elm. I immediately thought of the Library's Evanion Collection of Victorian ephemera when I saw her designs. The type she uses has a very similar style and feel to Victorian posters and handbills produced for plays, exhibitions and circuses. When I told Eleanor I worked at the Library she squealed with delight and plans to come in and check out our typography collection.
There is so much for designers to be inspired by at the Library. Check out our FREE show & tell of our gorgeous Exotic Prints and Drawing Collection. I could see a lot of the birds and flowers in the collection designed for a scarf, table or wallpaper and hopefully then sold at Craft Central!
This week the Library took part in Hidden Treasures, a national initiative to celebrate collections in UK museums and archives. Our expert curators and conservators selected some unique items to illustrate the variety in our massive collections. It was a very popular event and for those of you who weren't able to join us, here are some photos.
Yantra - A miniature ceremonial bowl used in Buddhist rituals in honour of the deceased. Made of blackened brass, Khom script. Maker unknown, (1916) Shelfmark Or.16864
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam - Book cover tooled with gold and inlaid with topazes, turquoises, amethysts, garnets, olivines and an emerald. Stanley Bray (1989). Shelfmark C188c27
Goat skin satchel - Storage for a late 18th early 19th century Sub-Saharan Africa Quran. Shelfmark Or.16751
Index - Pop-up book by Andy Warhol (1967). Not yet catalogued.
Bhagavata Purana - Hindu religious text, Sanskrit on silk paper (18th century). Shelfmark Add MS 16624
The Book of the Psalmes - Embroidered silk binding (1640). Shelfmark C143a10 The British Library has a substantial collection of English embroidered book bindings dating from the 14th century to 20th century. I wonder, what is the significance of the severed head? If you know, holler at me on Twitter @BL_Creative !
Kammavaca - Buddhist sacred book in Pali language (Burmese square characters) on 14 sheets of ivory leaves decorated in gold and red lacquer. (1750-1825) Shelfmark Add.15291
These rare and beautiful items are wonderful inspirations for designers and makers. Learn more about researching our collections for your designs at our Fashion Forecasting workshop.
I met designer Eleanor Stuart last week at PopUp Piccadilly where she was selling her Alice in Wonderland-inspired collection of plates, prints and cards. The Library holds the original Lewis Carroll manuscript of Alice in Wonderland and we also have it available online through our award-winning Turning the Pages software which Eleanor used for her research. Here she tells up more about her work.
Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind your designs?
When I first came upon Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland and the illustrations by John Tenniel, I was struck by how
intricate, surreal and detailed each drawing was. What I was particularly taken
with was the expressions each character had that tell a story in themselves;
from the rather angry looking Queen of Hearts to the nervous and very late
White Rabbit to the mischievous Tweedle Twins.
The inspiration for re-working and
adding my own touches to the original work was a feeling that these original
illustrations were being lost in a sea of cartoon versions of Alice in
Wonderland far removed from these wonderful originals. The originals are also
quite small and in black and white, so I felt there was a great opportunity
available to revive the illustrations, bring them sharply back to life and add
colour, quotes and my own little spin to the work.
We love when people use our collections to make something new. Can you tell us about how you used the Library for research?
When researching Tenniel’s original
illustrations, I used the British Library’s online Turning the Pages application
to see Carroll’s original illustrated manuscript. What I had not previously
realised is that Carroll had even illustrated his original work, and it was
interesting to see that Tenniel’s illustrations do bear a close resemblance to
those featured in the original manuscript.
I think the British Library and its collection is an inspiration in itself: knowing all these great works of literature penned by authors both British and from afar are housed within this one huge building full of rabbit warrens and glass columns full of old books where you can find and stumble upon almost anything in the world of literature is pretty amazing.
I like that image - the British Library full of rabbit warrens! What fun! So what has been your biggest challenge as
a small business?
Patience! With my designs and
illustrations completed, and the ideas I always have swimming around in my
head, I always want to realise them instantly which is of course not entirely
doable. Learning to slow down and appreciate the processes involved with
realising an idea has been something I have come to enjoy. For example when I
was in the process of having my Alice Collection of fine bone china plates
produced, it was so rewarding to be able to visit the potteries in Stoke-on-Trent
to see how this traditional British industry is still applying traditional
British techniques and sensibilities to the work they produce, and I feel this
attention to detail and quality of work really shows in my pieces.
What does “Made in Britain” mean to you?
“Made in Britain” is so important to me,
I put it on my logo! Not only am I proud to be made in Britain having grown up
in lovely Richmond, but I love that through the work I create I can support
British industry and help to keep the skills we have in this country alive and
current. I have met such enthusiastic, incredibly helpful and skilled crafts
people in my search for suppliers to help create my products, which is such a
I also feel “Made in Britain” is
important not only to British people, but internationally as well. I have found
when selling internationally and in Britain that the stamp of authenticity and
that relationship between my product and globally recognised institutions such
as ‘The Potteries’ in Stoke-on-Trent is really important to people. Not only
British people wanting to buy British, but international customers wanting to
buy into the quality and skills they associate with the
British craft and creative industries.
I have also found other designers and
illustrators are equally as passionate about that “Made in Britain” stamp of
approval as I am. I have come to know and admire some really great people on my
journey into the world of design and illustration including Jo Robinson from
HAM who creates fun animal themed screen prints made by her own fair hand in
London, Cecily Vessey who designs wonderful London themed illustrations across
a range of ceramics, and Sara Smith (my neighbour at PopUp Piccadilly!) whose
selection of colourful, gilded and illustrated teacups are really rather
beautiful – and made in Stoke-on-Trent.
The shop has been super busy, I hear. What kind of feedback are you getting?
I have had some really amazing feedback;
I would say it has been one of the best things I have done as a small business
in terms of exposure, testing the market and meeting other like-minded designer/makers. (Rupert Laing from Shortbread House has made mine and my fellow designers stay
at PopUp Piccadilly particularly enjoyable with an ever refreshed supply of
delicious shortbread samples to hand).
As a predominantly online business,
coming out from behind my computer screen and meeting my customers, showing
them my products and being able to have them touch and feel the quality of each
item has been a really rewarding experience. I have also had a great response
from potential retailers, so that is an exciting direction I am looking forward
to taking my business in - with Alice and her surreal, mad and late friends in
Entrepreneur and businessman Michael Jacobsen is becoming a regular at our Business & IP Centre, advising creative practitioners on
how to keep rooted in business essentials and inspiring them to innovate and
grow. He is the author of the popular book The Business of
Creativity - An expert guide to starting and growing a business in the creative
sector. Want to earn a living doing what you love? Check out Michael's book. Or come to the Library and meet him! He’s literally mobbed after events – people are so keen to ask him
questions and learn from his experiences. He kindly gave us this interview:
What do you think are the biggest challenges today for small businesses in the creative industries?
Businesses in the Creative Industries need to realise that
they are, in fact, in business. If you wish to make your life’s work your passion
and your passion your income stream, you need to make some adjustments
to your mindset and your structure.
A lot of Creative Sector businesses think they are selling
their soul but the reality is - why not continue your gift to the world and earn
your living from it at the same time? It’s just a mindset shift!
What advice would you give recent graduates from fashion,
graphic design or film?
Don’t leave with an employee mentality. If you want to get a
job sure, that’s fine, but don’t think that is your only option.
In Britain there is so much assistance available to you to
start a business (which can involve being a contractor or freelancer also). Have a good think and work out what you
want to do with your life, but count this as a real option!
Students are taught to get jobs and are rarely encouraged to
work for themselves! This is a mistake!
What is your take on the creative industries sector in the UK? What are
its strengths and weaknesses?
The UK Creative Sector is the best in the world. Look at
William Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Indigo Jones and in this century James
Dyson, Jamie Oliver and Simon Cowell.
The business community and the City need to realise that the
Creative Sector is investable, and the reticence to get fully behind it (as
they do the tech sector ) is a weakness
and is hampering the growth of a sector that produces major financial returns
and is one of the oldest sectors in the world!
Which entrepreneurs do you follow?
I love True Entrepreneurs who take risks and are all
consuming passionate about their work. I love Elon Musk, Founder of Paypal, Tesla
Motors and Space X. He is a major risk taker and fervently passionate about his
I also really rate Simon Cowell. He has not only made a
successful brand out of himself, but he has changed the face of television
globally. People may not all like his shows, but the fact is he is a risk taker
and has made a success of it in terms of finances but also in terms of legacy!
You co-founded Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage. Are you a dancer too?
I have a trainer and do Pilates and Yoga also. I think if I
do them daily until 2025 I may be ready to do the Dirty Dancing ‘lift’!
Michael is running a masterclass on his book The Business of Creativity on 26 September at our Business & IP Centre. For more information and to book your place click here.
I have never purchased
anything on Piccadilly except for cake. That’s about to change now that PopUp
Britain has set up shop on 213 Piccadilly. PopUp Britain gives start-ups and micro businesses
from all over the UK
the opportunity to get their products onto the high street.
The initiative offers 30
retail start-ups a one week opportunity to sell their products at the
Piccadilly shop. It will run until the end of August. Other PopUps have thrived
in Poulton-Le-Fylde, near Blackpool, Camberley in Surrey, Moreton-in-Marsh in
Gloucestershire as well as several around London.
Co-founder Emma Jones said:
“We want to put British start-ups on the map and this store in Piccadilly will
be a showcase of the passion and creativity that’s out there in this country.”
(Emma also runs the popular StartUp Saturday at our Business & IP Centre
where she helps aspiring entrepreneurs learn how to turn their ideas into a
The brands selling at PopUp Piccadilly this week
P&CO CLOTHINGCool, minimalist T
shirts and accessories made by young Birmingham
graduates. BLONDE + GINGERLimited edition women’s garments
from fabric made in British mills. SARA SMITHEnglish bone china cups and
saucers finished in 18 carat gold made in Stoke-on-Trent. YOLKEFashion and home wares
designed by two former Central St Martin’s
graduates. ELEANOR STUARTQuirky illustrated ceramics
and prints made in Norfolk and Kent. SHORTBREAD HOUSEA family-run firm based in Edinburgh that makes
shortbread biscuits. Small traditional firm – first time in a
pop-up! LOST PROPERTY OF LONDONSalvaged fabric lovingly
transformed into stylish yet practical accessories. MORROW’S OUTFITTERSA resurrected family brand started
in 1912. Stylish socks made in Leicestershire. BONE & RAGDog accessories including leads
and hand-made dog beds covered in British fabrics. DASHING TWEEDSTweeds manufactured in mills across England and made into elegant gents jackets.
Here is an interview with
the team behind Dashing Tweeds:
Can you talk about the inspirations behind
Founder and photographer Guy Hills: The main concept of Dashing Tweeds is
updating traditional British sports wear and making it relevant for today. We
have taken the best of the past in terms of the performance of woven wool for
sporting purposes and made it better and more wearable. Tweed
is an ideal fabric for any pastime, its hard wearing, breathable, relatively
waterproof and dries faster than cotton.
Sporting tweeds were designed to blend
with the country side and they are also the way men wear colour, we have made
them urban by choosing the colours of town and also creating modern exciting
colourful designs as the renaissance in menswear continues and the joy of
colour at last returns. We have increased to use of tweed by creating
reflective Lumatwill fabric which we use in our cycling and evening wear.
Woven Textile Designer Kirsty McDougall: When beginning ideas for fabric collections,
I look at a range of media including film, painting, photography, magazines. As
a textile designer I always reference textural quality as I feel designing a
woven textile is 50% visual and 50% tactile. For this I can research other
fabrics old and new and a variety of other materials and yarns. I use digital
media and the real thing - obviously digital media falls down on anything
textural or tactile.
Describe your design process. Do you take
photos, draw by hand, use a tablet to sketch?
KM: For our new Autumn/Winter
collection I was interested in looking at textural qualities to complement our
other flatter, more graphic fabrics. I looked at abstract expressionism and the
texture of paint. Also the texture of paint on fabric. I used a range of media
to paint with and then translated these through a jacquard software programme.
How important is it that your products are made in Britain?
KM: "Made in Britain" is important in terms of sustaining and evolving the industry in this country. Through our products being made here we can achieve good relationships with our suppliers, weavers and finishers and hopefully contribute to a healthy and forward looking UK textile industry.
What has been your biggest challenge as a
GH: The biggest challenge at the beginning of
our small business is all the multitasking one needs to do. Luckily Kirsty
and I cover a broad range of expertise. I really enjoy the brand creation,
photography and marketing aspects but I have to say the tax and VAT side of
things I find challenging. We both love the design side.
What kind of feedback are you getting at
GH: So far it's been a very
successful event. The location in Piccadilly ensures a constant stream of
people and as the shop is by Jermyn
Street, one of the centres of menswear, we having
been getting high calibre buyers dropping in, most of them seem very impressed
by Dashing Tweeds and indeed have been buying.
What other designers do you follow?
GH: I keep my eye on the menswear luxury market in general. When I was first buying clothes I loved Vivienne Westwood and I treat myself to Missoni jumpers in the summer. I'm now more focused on personal styles rather than designers, there is a growing trend of men returning to tailoring and hence becoming their own designers I'm interested in anyone with a strong personal style from any walk of life. I find it much more refreshing seeing what an individual wears rather than people designing for a market. The joy of Dashing Tweeds is seeing men take the fabric to their tailor and having something unique created.
Our six month jewellery residency with Sarah Warsop has now come to an end! There have been lots of great outcomes: she discovered new areas of the collections including experimental music notation from the 1960s, created a new jewellery range and completely overhauled her website.
This week’s interview is with Emily Barnes who works for the successful crafts and design site, Folksy. Look out for their Summer school from 10 - 11 August 13 in Sheffield.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with Folksy?
I spent my 20s living and working in London at a very exciting though exhausting TV company. At 28 my partner and I left the cliched 'rat race' and moved to a somewhat slower paced life in Derbyshire to start a family. Ten years, three babies and a lot of 'craft afternoons' later I was approached by Folksy to start a new blog for them. James (CEO) knew me through my husband and had seen some of my writing so asked me to come in and share some ideas. I almost bit his hand off.
Two years later here I am still writing the Folksy blog but also managing their social media, PR and marketing - I'll be honest, it's bliss. I grew up in a very creative family and don't feel right if I don't have some kind of creative project on the go so to spend my days talking about and to talented designers and makers is a joy.
What do you think are the biggest challenges that designers and makers are facing at the moment?
By far the biggest challenge for makers and designers is getting seen. We get over 100 new sellers on Folksy each week and that means there's a lot of competition out there. Makers need to harness the power of tools like Google Analytics to assess their market, determine which products work, who their audience is, and who are their biggest referrers. They then need to build on this information to maximise their potential of being seen - schedule social media updates at popular times, focus on making products that are top sellers, work with bloggers to feature their work, plan collections for diary events like Father's Day or Easter to increase the chance of getting picked up for gift guides. I could go on but what I'm saying is that listing your handmade items online isn't enough, you need to take control, be proactive and don't be afraid to shout about your talents!
Which creative businesses are you really inspired by?
Bread & Jam - Catherine and Ed from Bread & Jam launched on Folksy just over a year ago. Last week they secured an order from Anthropologie in the US for a whole stack of their handmade products after being spotted on our site. They are a great example of how hard work, passion and a great design can take you from kitchen table maker to international supplier.
The Smithery - John Willshire is a creatively fertile chap from a little village outside London. He's passionate about making things people want rather than making people want things and applies this refreshing thinking to everything he creates. He's one of those people you need to keep your eye out for.
Hapuska - for creating a strong brand with a clear and unique collection of goods. Georgie not only takes great pride in creating quality products but tells a beautiful story through her product photography. Her items always stand out when browsing handmade products on Folksy which is important when you're selling on large retail platforms.
Hiut Denim - Hiut crops up time and time again as a great example of following a dream and making it work - I can't not include them in this list. Founder David Hieatt created a denim factory in Cardigan Bay, Wales with the intention of giving the town it's jobs back. He began with four local seamstresses who spend their days making quality denim jeans by hand - no production line, no huge machinery, just skilled workers and a lot of love. Perfect.
What do you think are the current trends in online retail?
Craft has become very fashionable in the past few years and with that we're seeing a trend for a more professional look to handmade. Traditional craft skills are still valued but we're seeing makers use these skills to create contemporary, clean, polished designs.
Tableware with kooky illustrations, anything with lace on (we blame Gatsby!), botanic inspired designs, pastel colours and geometric shapes are all doing well this year as well.
Which other websites and blogs do you think are useful for designers and makers?
Wow, there are so many. For inspiration I'd follow the girls from Morning Edit - they dish out a daily dose of lovely designers and makers that never fail to inspire me. For advice on starting and growing your creative business I'd go with The Design Trust and Handmade Horizons.
Our own blog is full of lots of advice for selling online as well as maker interviews and inspiring craft images. I'd also recommend Fred Aldous for craft supplies, Cut Out and Keep for project ideas, Made in Transylvania for out of the box ideas and Perri Lewis for an edgy take on handmade.