In a box on my desk is a massive collection of cards Sam and I have collected over the years. Birthday cards, wedding cards, cards for a new baby, get well soon cards, blank cards — you name it. No matter the occasion, we are pretty much always prepared. Now that I’m at art shows fairly often, I periodically stock up with cards by local makers. I have found the quirkiest and most hilarious cards this way, not to mention some truly stunning cards.
Unfortunately, I think card giving seems to be dying out with my generation. Growing up, I remember my mom being amazingly diligent about sending out cards for friends’ and family members’ birthdays and before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Every year around this time, my parents’ birthday, and December, their piano, which is used to display the collection of cards they receive these times of years from the important people in their lives, is completely covered.
I think we need to keep that tradition alive, as Lesley Stevens strives to do with her gorgeous collection of cards for every occasion inspired by nature. As she shares on her website, “People still want to celebrate special occasions with loved ones and connect with people by sending a card. We feel pleased when we have found that perfect card for someone, and hope the amount time and thought is reflected in the pleasure they get from our choice.”
Tell us a little about your work and how you got started.
I graduated as a Textile Designer and have, for many years designed for the ladies’ fashion industry. Until five years ago my work was exclusively hand-painted; my speciality being borders for skirts printed in India for high street stores. Designing that way was largely anonymous and I decided that I wanted to put my name to my own home accessories brand to showcase my designs. Retaining the essence of the hand-painted look, I now bring this together with the use of Illustrator and Photoshop across all my products.
What’s the story behind your business name?
My daughter gave me a surprise Christmas present of a small group of my designs that had been digitally printed on cork placemats. The fantastic detail in both colour and pattern possible on this natural eco-friendly material was amazing. This sparked the idea for my new venture ‘Decorque’. The name is a fusion of ‘decor’ and cork, but spelled with an international twist ‘corque’. This new branding is now carried through to my Decorque Cards website which is dedicated to handcrafted and printed cards.
What do you like most about having your own creative business, and what do you find most challenging?
The aspect I like the most is being able to create a design theme and build an expanding collection of products. For example, the ‘Charm of Hummingbirds’ design initially produced for a cork placemat is taken forward and adapted for cards, cushions and lampshades. I am a very practical person and actually making all the cushions and lampshades and using my craft skills for the handmade cards is a delight.
The greatest challenge is getting a new brand exposed to the widest possible audience. One can have the best designs in the world, but without the appropriate marketing exposure no one will see them!
What inspires you to create?
My inspiration is all around me. I particularly love nature, flora and fauna. For example, I photograph the flowers and wildlife in my garden, which I then use as subjects in my designs. I love pattern and colour and collect examples and ideas from exhibitions, museums, shops, magazines in fact whatever catches my eye may appear later in a design.
What do you think motivates others to buy handmade?
I believe that most people are looking continuously for something original and are inspired by somebody’s creative skills.
What is your favorite handmade item that you have bought or received?
At a local craft fair, I bought from a neighbouring stall a pair of beautifully hand-turned wooden goblets; I adore the pattern of the wood grain and the tactile qualities of the finished surface.
When you are not making art, what do like to do with your time?
When possible I love live music, concerts and the theatre. I greatly enjoy my garden, visiting antique and curiosity shops, travelling overseas to tropical locations, Home & Fashion shows and museums and exhibitions. I think the V&A’s landmark exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty was the most inspirational and one of the best I have ever seen.
What is something that people might not know about you?
Although a majority of my family live in Yorkshire and I was brought up there, I was born in Manchester and moved across the Pennines to North Yorkshire when I was five. So I am really a Lancashire and not a ‘Yorkshire lass’!
What piece of advice do you offer to others with their own creative business?
Do not rely solely on one sales channel; online can be great, if you have a team to help, but you must meet and sell directly to customers. This is the best way to meet like-minded people, get direct contact and feedback and also draw inspiration for new product ideas.
Thank you, Lesley, for joining me on my blog, and be sure to check out her stunning cards on her website!
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