It’s December! Can you believe it? Christmas prep has most definitely begun, and we could all do with a little festive cheer this year! To get us in the spirit of the season, we got to know Audrey & Coco, Lellibelle and Carriegraphy a little better this week.
We’ve been thinking about all the Christmas prep we have to do, such as writing cards. As we’ll be seeing very few people in person due to Covid restrictions, now is the time to get them in the post! Cards are a lovely way to share a little kindness and remind people they’re cared for, and things like the Just A Card movement show that even just buying a card from an independent trader is a great way to support them and their creative work.
For this week’s Meet the Maker we chose three lovely stallholders who each create beautiful greetings cards amongst other things. Introducing Audrey & Coco, Lellibelle and Carriegraphy in our Q&A below.
Pedddle: Lovely to meet you all! Tell us a little more about your business.
Audrey & Coco: I’ve always loved making things, from when my Nan taught me how to knit and let me peek inside her buttons housed in an M&S shortbread biscuit tin. I’ve been brought up shopping small and local. Fast forward a few years and I studied Retail Marketing in Manchester, shopping in small indie shops and spending hours looking around Afflecks Palace, filled with quirky designers.
After uni, I started my own business making colourful, kitsch jewellery. My work was stocked internationally and sold through my own website. Eventually, I fell out of love with what I was doing and gave in to the lure of having a regular income, spending the next 10 years working as a manager for fashion retailers and department stores.
In 2016, whilst on maternity leave, I got back from a trip from Hobbycraft and started making cards… and the rest is history!
Lellibelle: I graduated in 2000 with a degree in Fashion Marketing, and started work as a Textile designer specialising in embroidery and beading for the ‘rag trade’! Somehow over a decade in the industry flashed by, before children changed my perspective (on life, and my work!) and experiments in both children’s clothing and homewares helped hone the skills I use now. A combination of appliquéd fabrics and freehand machine embroidery are used to create the original designs, and these are then scanned, and finally digitally printed onto cards, coasters, and most recently, tea towels.
From the outset of my business, I have been mindful of unnecessary plastic use and wanted my business to be as environmentally friendly as possible and, where possible, support other UK suppliers. All of my cards are printed on recycled card, in Cambridgeshire, I have recycled envelopes and the cards are protected by fully biodegradable and compostable display bags. My melamine coasters are manufactured with a sustainably sourced Eucalyptus board base, and are manufactured by a brilliant company which is only 40 miles away from where I live.
Carriegraphy: I create different styles of hand lettering, making cards, prints and many other products, including books, slate and mirrors! I offer both ready-made and bespoke services, specialising in baby and children’s personalised keepsakes.
Pedddle: How did you first get into card making?
Audrey & Coco: I started my business in 2016 whilst on maternity leave with my eldest daughter. I wanted to make simple greetings cards with a focus on eco-friendly materials and packaging.
Initially, I came home from a random Hobbycraft trip with a pack of typewriter letter stamps, some ink pads and blank cards. I stamped those first cards on my living room floor. After brainstorming names with my friends, Audrey (a glossy black cat) and Coco (a shy calico kitty) were the inspiration for my business name.
Eventually, I couldn’t keep up with the demand of hand stamping every card, around a toddler and working my 9-5 (or more realistically 8-6), so I changed methods to start printing digitally and it’s grown from there.
Lellibelle: The initial idea of designing greetings cards definitely evolved gradually; I am a bit of an over-thinker and a perfectionist, which has, in the past, stopped me trying new things, particularly starting up a new business. I was so worried that the new business wouldn’t be perfect from the outset, that for quite a long time I didn’t really commit to anything, but thought lots about it.
My husband (who works in innovation) encouraged me to take a deep breath and ‘just do anything’, helping me see that unless I tried something to ‘test the water’, I couldn’t develop and refine a more saleable product. He often talks about ‘prototypes’ and ‘failure not being failure as long as you can learn from your experiments and your consumers’ – seeing what works and what doesn’t, and what people will buy.
This is how I initially begun to make cards – it’s about small steps and now I have my designs printed onto other products too.
Pedddle: What’s in store for your business this Christmas?
Audrey & Coco: I have a large range of Christmas cards and personalised baubles. My favourite product this year is my plantable Christmas cards, which are lovely because you get to send your message to your loved ones and then they can plant them and they grow into wildflowers. I think Christmas cards are so important this year when we have so many loved ones we’ve not been able to see.
Lellibelle: This Christmas I have a brand new Christmas card design featuring an embroidered robin sitting on a holly branch. The cards are available individually or in a pack of 5, which are wrapped in tissue paper and tied up with eco-friendly raffia ribbon. The robin card has always sold very well, so I decided to make it more festive!
I also have brand new melamine coaster designs available this Christmas, as well as my beautiful robin coaster, which has been a best seller throughout the year – it just goes to show – while I would have guessed it would be a seasonally popular design, the sales prove differently!
Pedddle: We love markets and they are a great way to shop local. What first made you consider selling your products at markets?
Audrey & Coco: I think it’s really important to get out and about to markets to get customer feedback. They also create a lovely network of sellers to support you in the tough times, and it’s great to be a part of that community.
Lellibelle: I have always enjoyed visiting markets as a customer, especially craft markets. I love finding out directly about the maker, their small business, the products they make and their sources of inspiration; you rarely get this sense of connection to a designer-maker in big chain stores.
This made me want to sell at markets myself, and is a brilliant way to get feedback on new and existing products and ideas.
Pedddle: Are you selling at any over the festive period and if so, which are you most looking forward to?
Audrey & Coco: I love getting out to markets to sell my products, its so special to be able to see people’s reaction to your products face to face. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to do any face-to-face markets this year, but my favourites from last year were my local Etsy Made Local event in Lincoln and Leeds Winter Market, and I’d love to sell at them again.
Lellibelle: Over the last few years I have sold at various local craft markets, and I really enjoy the interaction with the customers, as well as the other, like-minded, sellers.
I enjoy hearing what the customers think to my products, and talking about the techniques that I use, how a product came to life, and of course – chatting with them about their ideas for bespoke orders – usually a much loved (and occasionally lost) pet.
For obvious reasons, physical markets will be very challenging this Christmas, so I am particularly excited about the Folksy and Pedddle Christmas Market this weekend, and the chance to meet some of you ‘virtually’!