I went to get a Father’s Day card for my Dad last week. I obviously didn’t look at it closely enough in the shop (I was in a rush on my way to the Scarlet Souk fashion show but more on that later…) because when I got home I realised it had glitter on it. GLITTER. Totally unnecessary, twee and just a little bit annoying. I regaled this story to Karen over tea at Teacup during the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend and she started laughing “bet you wished you’d bought one of mine!” Damn straight!
I met Karen at a networking event in April. It was the usual ‘stand up, say your name and your business’ type affair where she introduced herself as the business development manager for The National Football Museum. The networking meeting rumbled on until its close and we all filed out but as we were leaving she gave me her second business card and my blog-ears instantly picked up: Karen designs her own cards. And after a bit of investigation I discovered that they are endearing, innovative and cool as hell.
“I have always made cards for friends and family and then one year I made a Christmas card for my boyfriend with Christmas themed robots on it: Santa, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman. He loves robots and needless to say he loved the card!”
So the seed was planted. All it took then was the herculean life of her boyfriend, Mark, to inspire her to get her arse in gear, “he is always busy. Always. He works fulltime but designs websites, DJ’s and produces music in his spare time. There were only so many nights I could watch Eastenders whilst he was …”
“Taking over the universe?!” I interject.
“Exactly! So I started doodling with people in mind and that’s when I realised that I had the beginnings of a business.”
Taking inspiration from people she knows and everyday objects such as speakers, phones and kitchenware she creates robot characters for her cards. Her passion for art has always been evident; Karen did A-level art and has a B-Tech in jewellery design but getting to grips with a computer illustration programme was a whole different ball game,
“I taught myself to use Illustrator: some nights there was a lot of shouting at the computer!”
But despite the techno rage, she succeeded and her creations are heavily design lead: clean lines and block colour,
“I wanted them to feel hand drawn but still have a slick and professional feel.”
And they do. There isn’t a whiff of glitter about them yet they are suitable for all ages and the detail in each design is amazing. She designed her own branding, sourced a printer and set about wrapping the cards in cellophane herself. As well as working on a new line of characters (including a garden inspired robot!) and contacting independent retailers with a view to them stocking her work, she has her first commission,
“As soon as my friend started talking about what she wanted I just knew what I would draw – a bee robot! She now has the character on her blog.”
Her contacts on the Museum circuit have helped launch a capsule collection of her cards into local museums and galleries in Salford, Bury and Oldham. She also has an Etsy shop and a Folksy shop. Next on the already packed agenda?
“I am looking at a range of other products on which to place my designs: Mugs, tea towels, bags, prints, badges and wrapping paper. And my boyfriend is currently designing my website.”
As we venture out into the rain Mark is waiting and greets me with a handshake. I feel as though I am in the presence of one of Manchester’s next power couples…watch this space…