Archive: May 2015

A Look Behind the Scenes of Mad in England

An ‘Inspiring Indies’ Interview with Mad in England.

For this week’s ‘Inspiring Independents‘ interview we took a closer look at Mad in England. Chatting to Creative Director Nicola Grellier, we found out more about their unique business and its contemporary needlepoint and tapestry kits.

What inspired you to start Mad in England? When did you begin?

My oldest friend, Georgina Holt (& Mad business partner) had watched me making one-off needlepoints over the years. I’m a painter/collage artist and have always liked my hands to be busy while my head switches off in the evenings. She convinced me that we could start a business making kits of the designs. The name Mad In England comes from an old collage of mine from 2005.

What can you tell us about your indie business? What sets you apart from your corporate contemporaries?

We make quite graphic and modern designs and try and produce them with a bit of edge, colour, humour and style. Our ‘mini mad’ kits are great starter kits – easy to finish and cool for kids. Our difference, I think, lies in our growing bespoke service where we can produce names & numbers/dates, one-offs to suit the clients décor, and our favourite little ‘Love Pillows’ taken directly from a child’s early writings and drawings to make a beautiful and unique keepsake. We have a very personal relationship with many of our clients with plenty of consultation to arrive at the best unique design.

What’s your role in the business? What’s your favourite things about your job / running an indie business?

My title is Creative Director but I cover pretty much every aspect of the business … admin, programming and packing included. My favourite activity is, of course, designing and sewing new designs but I enjoy networking and teaching occasional workshops too.

Are there other people in your business? What can you tell us about the rest of the team?

Georgina Holt is the co-founder of Mad In England and my oldest friend – since we were 5. She lives in Camber, East Sussex and I’m in Stroud, Gloucestershire so we have an interesting and inventive MO. She takes care of the core business and website and we speak many times in the day. We love running the business together and are a great sounding board for each others ideas. My daughter, Flo Grellier, has been working at Mad since September doing admin, social media and some designing. She’s off to do her degree in Fashion soon and we’ll have a new member in the team shortly. We also have some stitchers in the Stroud Valleys and beyond, including my eldest daughter Nettle who is in her final year studying Fine Art in Brighton. Our lovely PR Lizzie Gordon has recently come on board too.

Here at Piccadilly Lane, we believe that independents offer an amazing combination of unique design and high quality. Do you agree? 

Of course! The wealth of independents throughout the UK makes for a wonderful strength of design and quality. We believe in using the best materials and use all UK suppliers for every aspect of our kits so that we can offer great quality to our clients. We sew everything ourselves so the initial designs are all handmade in house. Customer & personal service is one of the most important aspects of our business.

You recently had a student undertake a work experience placement in your business. How did you find the experience?

Beth was great fun and keen to learn. She quickly picked up the method and had fun diving into our stock of images and swatches to make her own mood board. We have strong links with the excellent Stroud College and would love to work with other students in the future.

You currently specialise in needlepoint kits. What inspires you about this type of design? Do you plan to continue in this area or do you have plans to extend your collection? 

Designing and making needlepoint is similar to painting in a graphic way. I play with wools in the same way as paint and love putting together colour and pattern. It’s a slow process but incredibly satisfying with a lovely end result. It’s also very therapeutic and extremely easy to pick up and put down, creating very little mess so can be taken anywhere. I love that you can just get stitching with no great forethought. We’re finessing our kits business this year and hope to branch out into other products next year. Many ideas but not enough time now!

Your products look like they require a lot of development and testing to ensure they are easy to follow. What can you tell us about the process of creating a new needlepoint kit?

They do take a quite a while to stitch and I’ve got many more ideas for designs than I can currently fulfill but we are expanding our stitching family so hope to be producing more designs than before. We have to make sure each one works and has plenty of wool for the stitcher. There are several processes involved in a design being ready for sale after the initial sew: stretching & making up, programming for the printer to proof and print the canvas, photography for the website and packaging, packing the kits – mini kits include backing and trim. Our kits are all printed, or hand drawn if they are bespoke, so there is no chart or eye-watering counting to be done … making a rest for the brain and a quicker result. All wools are cut to convenient lengths and the larger kits have a colour chart for easy matching. We provide good instructions, a link to more detailed help on our website and large images to show the finished piece, a couple of needles in a nice little envelope and a postcard or 2 to send to friends completes the pack.

What can you tell us about the materials used in your kits?

We use gorgeous Appleton’s Wool – a long established British company who have a fantastic range of colours in 100% wool and great customer service.

The canvases are printed in Devon by the amazingly accurate Phoenix Designs, needles are from John James – the classic UK needle company.

We use various local photographers to take images of the finished pieces and style shots and have a great relationship with IBA graphics in West London who provide all our printed materials.

Why should people shop with you? What makes you different?

Mad in England brings a refreshingly modern edge to design with our kits, hopefully complementing current trends in décor and colour, whilst satisfying the quite traditional creative itch that is very ‘out there’ these days, we’re using a very old and known craft which many people remember their mother or grandmother teaching them as they were growing up. It’s a perfect craft to be passed on down the generations and we hope to appeal to a new generation of would-be stitchers with our contemporary take. Our personal service and efficient response aim to make the shopping experience more than just the click of a button.

We LOVE independents and think more people should be supporting them. Why do you think people should shop with independent businesses like yours?

Independents like us put their heart and soul into the product and process, often taking a big leap of faith to get their dream off the ground. These business provide often very unique and cutting edge product which goes beyond the run of the mill items available on the mass market. People who buy from Mad in England and similar companies know that they are buying a unique or rare piece of art/craft which would not be available without their belief and support.

Last but not least, what’s your favourite independent business and why?

We’re currently loving Molly Mahon – we’ve adapted a couple of her gorgeous block print fabrics into bespoke designs for her to stitch – great fun getting the colours right and lovely to have such a keen new needlepoint fan. Her designs look amazing all stitched up! It’s a crossover between two small businesses.

Thank you Nicola!

Now you’ve read the interview, pop along and see website.

Posted by Charlotte 10:00 29/05/15
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Danger! New Zoo Buddies Greeting Cards Will Make You Wild

A Sneak Peek at Rocket68’s New Zoo Buddies Greeting Cards.

Rocket68 has just launched a brand new range of greeting cards for kids. Zoo Buddies is a collection of 6 quirky animal pals, illustrated in a retro style; a collection sure to brighten up any birthday!

The Zoo Buddies greeting cards range offers a great choice for any animal fan. There’s Claud the Lion, Audrey the Tortoise, Sydney the Elephant, Trudy the Koala, Hubert the Bear and Bridgette the Toucan. All ready and waiting to deliver a heap of birthday cheer.

For these latest greeting cards Rocket68’s illustrator Jill White has taken inspiration from 1960’s children’s picture books and retro fabrics. The result is vivid, fun designs that will look amazing on any mantelpiece or shelf.

Written in a punchy, handwritten-style font, the ‘Happy Birthday’ text is designed to appeal to a younger audience but we’re pretty sure they’ll be lots of adult scooping them up too. Zoo Buddies is a great pick for retro-loving teens and young-at-heart adults who grew up with, and maintain nostalgic warmth for 60’s design.

Each card is printed on a beautiful soft textured FSC accredited board. Like all Rocket68 cards and gifts, the new range is printed here in the UK. That’s environmentally responsible card and local printing all for just £2.50 per card.

We’re delighted to be able to give you a closer peek of the range and we’re sure you’ll love the vintage-inspired designs as much as we do.

zoo buddies greeting cards by rocket68 - koala

zoo buddies greeting cards by rocket68 - bear

zoo buddies greeting cards by rocket68 - lion

zoo buddies greeting cards by rocket68 - ltoucan


zoo buddies greeting cards by rocket68 - tortoise

The Zoo Buddies greeting cards will be available to purchase direct from the Rocket68 website.

You can also see more from the Rocket68 collection showcased here in the Piccadilly Lane directory.

Posted by Charlotte 10:00 20/05/15

A Look Behind the Scenes of Wallfry

An ‘Inspiring Indies’ Interview with the Unique Wallfry.

This week’s ‘Inspiring Independents‘ interview is with Wallfry founder Kylie Jackson. A look at how the company was founder and the motivation behind this unique brand of wall art for kids.

What inspired you to start WallFry? When did you begin?

My husband and I were living overseas when our oldest son was born, and we couldn’t find anything to decorate the apartment to make it more welcoming for our new baby, everything was too cutesy and babyish! Eventually I decided to paint some canvases myself, and when we moved back to Australia they received a lot of compliments, so I decided to try selling them online.

It took a while making new designs and learning how to set up a business online before it really started to take off, but when it took off I then found it hard to keep up with demand. I had to stop doing actual paintings because I simply didn’t have enough time (not to mention trying to raise two boys, by this stage). We decided to start producing prints after that, which has allowed us to grow to where we are today. But at the heart of all the prints and designs we make, it always comes back to those first canvases and trying to make something stylish that would be welcoming to a new baby and look great for the parents!

What can you tell us about your indie business? What sets you apart from your corporate contemporaries?

Running an indie business has allowed us to always remain close to our customers, which is mutually beneficial. Most purchases involve a conversation of some kind, which is great for the customer to feel that personal connection with the artist. But it helps our business too, because we get direct and immediate feedback which we can use for things like different product design, or different packaging options, or even different products. We’re busy working on a new range of Wallfry cushions, for example, which is a direct response to many people asking us for them.

That’s probably the main difference from other corporate businesses. As a customer dealing with a corporate you may be able to get a good level of service, but it’s unlikely you will be able to speak directly to the creator. And that’s a real shame, because it’s often through that conversation that you can get a product that is bespoke or that you are able to share a story about when you show it to other people.

What’s your role in the business? What’s your favourite things about your job / running an indie business?

As the founder and artist of Wallfry I really wear most of the hats, depending on what the needs are at the time! Any given day could find me handling customer enquiries, designing new artworks, printing and packaging – all on top of raising my children. Fortunately my studio is big enough to have a little space available for them to create artwork at the same time as I do!

There are two main things that I love about Wallfry. The first one is the humbling experience I get when I realise that someone has chosen my artwork to decorate the space for their little one. Customers often send in photos of their beautiful nurseries and amazing play areas with Wallfry artwork on the walls, and it’s wonderful to think of families around the world sharing my art in this way. The second thing I like about it is the fact that I can pursue my creativity and combine it with raising my family. Obviously this means a lot of late nights, and my children are very familiar with the post office, but there are not many other jobs that let you work while your children are busy painting right beside you.

Are there other people in your business? What can you tell us about the rest of the team?

My husband helps out with the business looking after social media and public relations – and he built our website too. One of the products we are working on is a line of children’s books, which he has written and is illustrated by me. Thankfully we work well together as a team so we can divide what needs to be done between us.

Here at Piccadilly Lane, we believe that independents offer an amazing combination of unique design and high quality. Do you agree? How do you ensure this happens at WallFry?

Unique design and high quality are intrinsically linked to independent business, not only because it is a key competitive element to set us apart from large-scale operations, but also because it is a matter of pride and principles that guide what we do. We’ve spent a lot of time trialling different production processes before we settled on our current inks and paper stock, for example, and we have been working to create packaging that protects the prints and keeps costs down for customers.

Because we are a smaller operation we are able to be fanatical about quality control. If a print comes out with a small speck on it we would rather re-print it than ship it, and we are able to see each order before it goes out to prevent any issues. We can also check that the customer’s expectations are being met, as we have been involved in the order process right from the start.

You feature a lot of ‘how to …’ tutorials on your blog. Do you enjoy creating these? What inspires the features?

As an online business, obviously we love the internet. But it’s not just great for business, it’s great for finding out how to do things or getting inspiration or instructions on all sorts of weird and wonderful things. One of the best things about being a parent is making stuff with your kids and as a family we have a lot of fun being creative and experimenting with new ideas for décor or birthday parties – and it’s fun to share these and give others some ideas for their own parties or décor ideas.

Some of the tutorials are entirely unrelated to what we do – for example a light fitting made from patty pans and a how to make a dip that looks like an octopus is coming out of it. It has nothing to do with our products, but it was a lot of fun!

You currently specialise in nursery decor? What inspires you about this area of design? Do you plan to continue in this area or do you have plans to extend your collection?

Nursery décor has always been important to Wallfry, because it is such a big part of what we are (and what we enjoy). As I mentioned before, having our artwork chosen for someone’s first bedroom is an honour. And it’s such an exciting time for everyone involved – we often get orders that we know are racing through the post system to get there just in time for the nursery to be ready before the delivery.
We are constantly extending the collection with new products and new ideas, but in the short-term we are still very much focused on décor for children’s spaces.

Your products feature a wide range of themes. What can you tell us about the process of creating these designs?

Looking at the different Wallfry products we have available now, it certainly seems eclectic, but at the time it felt logical and it often mirrored what was happening in our family at the time. For example, when my son was interested in various dinosaurs we created the dinosaur series, and when a niece was born I created the original doll paintings as a gift for her. For some time the creative process was really driven by the materials I used – I found it interesting to experiment with mixed media, for example by adding buttons and paper to paintings on canvas.

Now that each print is created to be printed, the process has an added step of digitizing my sketches and working out appropriate colour schemes, for example.

Because of our size we would find it too difficult to respond to every new trend that comes up, but we are able to respond to some of the trends with more longevity – for example, when we released the chevron backgrounds for many prints.

At its most simple, though, the creative process is the same as it is for a lot of people – a blank page and a pencil, and a lot of rough sketches.

All of your artwork is professionally printed. What can you tell us about the materials and craftsmanship involved in creating your range?

When we started producing prints we went to a lot of effort to design a printing process that could meet demand and produce the level of quality we needed. Subtle changes in paper stock, for example, made dramatically different results, and we were also concerned about being able to ship each print safely around the world. We use Epson archival inks and papers, which are guaranteed to maintain their colour and brightness for years. We also hand cut and package every print, so we are able to notice any defects or marks before each order is shipped and make sure it is packaged safely to reach its destination in top condition.

Why should people shop with you? What makes you different?

I think one of the key differences to our product is that it appeals to both children and adults – cute without being ‘cutesy’. This also means that the artwork will grow with the child and won’t need to be replaced as they grow. But I think the main reason that Wallfry is different comes down to customer service, because we take a lot of pride in what we do, and we are always deeply respectful of the customers’ needs. Perhaps this is why people should shop with Wallfry, because we are able to help with the entire process from concept to delivery. In the beginning we can help match colours, for example, to create prints that might match an existing rug or curtains or wall paint. Then we assist with the checkout process, because even though our business is an online retail shop, there are still many people who are not comfortable buying online. Finally, we are there to answer queries and follow ups with our customers, and to enjoy the photos they send us of their special spaces with Wallfry artwork included.

We LOVE independents and think more people should be supporting them. Why do you think people should shop with independent businesses like yours?

On the one hand there are the obvious answers – the quality of products is often better and you can get a custom service. But I think supporting independents is also a fantastic way of supporting community spirit (whether that be in your local market, or even on a global scale). Independents are often producing their goods because they are passionate about them – they might love the product itself or they might love the crafting process that goes into the production cycle. Supporting people who are doing what they love and what makes them happy will ultimately make the world a much happier place too. And besides, it’s often fun for the customer too – it’s a win for everyone.

Last but not least, what’s your favourite independent business and why?

My husband has an unhealthy fascination with all the Etsy businesses that produce metal guitar picks – he would probably have a hard time nominating just one business. Personally, I love so many of the independents and am constantly discovering new ones that I couldn’t choose just one.

Thank you Kylie!

Now you’ve read the interview, pop along and see the collection on their website.

Posted by Charlotte 10:00 18/05/15
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These Stylish Accessories Are the Must-Have Gift

Stylish Accessories are Causing a Stir at Caroline Gardner.

Are you looking to add some stylish accessories to your wardrobe?

Perhaps you have to buy a gift for a fashion-conscious friend?

Whether you’re hunting for yourself, a friend or loved one, you’re in the right place.

Designer lifestyle brand Caroline Gardner have recently unveiled their latest collection of super stylish accessories.

The collection features a host of designs perfect for both everyday use and the times when you’re on the go travelling.

Each of the accessory designs is available in a number of patterns to suit every taste; from sleek geometric prints in on-trend monochrome to bright heart prints with beautiful pops of colour there’s the perfect accessory for all.

To help you decide which accessories are right for you, we’ve hand-picked 3 combinations to kick start the inspiration.

1. Accessories for a Night Out

Finding the right accessories for an evening out are essential.

For the lady who likes to socialise there’s no better choice than the super sweet coin purse and pocket mirror.

Shown in Caroline Gardner’s ‘Ditsy’ print, the bright florals are perfect for nights on the town.

Their miniature size also ensures they’re the ideal fit to carry in a handbag.

Stylish Accessories Caroline Gardner Ditsy Coin Purse Stylish Accessories Caroline Gardner Ditsy Pocket Mirror

2. Accessories for a Weekend Away

For the stylish weekend traveller there’s no better choice than the bold monochrome prints of Caroline Gardner’s ‘Geo’ range.

The handy washbag features a lining of mustard and white stripes and tan tabs for a classic look that will never get old.

Each bag features internal pockets, and a wipe clean finish – the perfect pick for a night away or long weekend break.

Match the bag with a Geo Umbrella and you’ve got a great choice whatever the weather.


Stylish Accessories Caroline Gardner Geometric Wash Bag Stylish Accessories Caroline-Gardner-Geo-Print-Umbrella

3. Accessories for the Working Week

A simple way to add a splash of colour to the working week is sure to please any accessories fan.

With their latest collection Caroline Gardner have found the perfect way to delight colour-lovers; matching colour and style in charming accessories.

The ideal size for girls on the go are Caroline Gardner’s cosmetics bag and travel card holder.

Two everyday essentials in a bright, heart print pattern.

Stylish Accessories Caroline-Gardner-Heart-Print-Cosmetic-Bag Stylish Accessories Caroline-Gardner-Heart-Print-Travel-Card-Wallet

All of the designs showcased today can be purchased directly from the Caroline Gardner website.

You can also see Caroline Gardner cards and gifts featured here in the Piccadilly Lane directory.

Posted by Charlotte 10:00 13/05/15
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A Look Behind the Scenes of Place in Print

An ‘Inspiring Indies’ Interview with Place in Print.

Place in Print specialise in locally themed art and design. Their online shop boasts a fantastic selection of graphic design decorating art prints and homewares; great gift ideas to evoke memories, kickstart conversations and celebrate your local hotspots.

As a small business with unique vision and style we think they can definitely be labelled an ‘Inspiring Independent‘. We interviewed Place in Print’s founder Ed Povey to find out more.

What inspired you to start Place in Print? When did you begin?

Place in Print started life under a different name, South London Prints, in summer 2012. A friend and I had been talking about a lack of artwork focussed on neighbourhood-level landmarks, and the opportunities to showcase new products at local farmers markets. We put the two together, and the rest is history.

What can you tell us about your indie business? What sets you apart from your corporate contemporaries?

As a small business, we don’t have to constantly worry about producing products that cater for the mass market. We are able to avoid the normal pitfalls of our particular sector, which see a tendency to focus on major landmarks such as Battersea Power Station, the Tate Modern etc. Instead, we choose the lesser known, and locally-loved places which appeal to a smaller but perhaps more devoted market!

What’s your role in the business? What’s your favourite things about your job & running an indie business?

I run the day-to-day business, speaking to stockists, arranging appearances at events and deciding on new product lines. I love the more mundane business aspects just as much as the creative side, which is handy really, because as the business grows, I find myself having to spend more time away from the creative side, delegating that to other members of the team.

Are there other people in your business? What can you tell us about the rest of the team?

I started the business with a friend of mine Martin, who is still involved, albeit on a smaller scale; helping out with markets and events. I also work with a couple of designers who help turn our ideas into reality. It is great being able to ask for creative input from others, as it helps to keep the product range diverse and interesting.

Here at Piccadilly Lane, we believe that independents offer an amazing combination of unique design and high quality. Do you agree? How do you ensure this happens at Place in Print?

Certainly. Independents have a much greater interest in ensuring that every product is of the highest quality – at the end of the day if a  product isn’t up to scratch, we have nowhere to hide! I have always been a stickler for detail – my general approach is to always consider how I would feel if I were on the receiving end of one of my products. If there is any chance that I would be disappointed, then something is wrong and has to be addressed before that product ever leaves our studio.

You collaborate with some of the UK’s leading graphic artists. Do you have a wishlist of designers that you want to work with next?

I am constantly on the lookout for new creative talent to work with. Tools such as Pinterest and Behance are great for keeping up with the latest trends in the graphic design/illustration sector, and a handy way of keeping track of people I may want to speak to in the future.

You currently specialise in homewares and gifts? What inspires you about this area of design? Do you plan to continue in this area or do you have plans to extend your collection?

I’ve always been a big fan of graphic art, and this is where and part of the reason why our business started. We are in the fortunate position to be able to manufacture all of our prints in our own studio, enabling us to ensure a high quality finish at every stage. I think that prints will always be at the core of our business for that reason. Recently we have started to produce other product lines such as tea towels and greetings cards, and will look to expand that range further in the future – watch this space.

Your products feature maps, landmarks, typography and transport. Are you seeing any trends for what is most popular in 2015?

That’s a tough one! We are certainly seeing more people start to venture more into our business area, so we are continually working on new designs and techniques to stay one step ahead.

Your collection shows great attention to detail and quality. What can you tell us about the craftsmanship involved?

We produce most of our artwork on computers, and while that may not be ‘traditional’, in terms of time and skill we feel they are comparable. We certainly pay as much attention to our work as anyone, if not more! In the future we may start to explore other areas of craftsmanship, so long as we stick to the ‘local’ theme!

Why should people shop with you? What makes you different?

We provide the largest selection of UK locally-themed homewares and gifts. Although we are London-centric at the moment, we hope to broaden our geographical scope in the near future. We celebrate the lesser-known features of our neighbourhoods, helping those that love where they live to love it in style!

We LOVE independents and think more people should be supporting them. Why do you think people should shop with independent businesses like yours?

By shopping with independents, people can ensure that they are buying high quality, innovative products which directly support the people who do the making. A lot of the time, you won’t see these sort of products on the shelves of high street stores; having something a little different is as good a reason as any!

Last but not least, what’s your favourite independent business and why?

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting loads of great independent designers over the years, such as Pâté and Pen & Gravy. There are also some great independent stockists that we work with, such as Smash Bang Wallop in Crystal Palace and Studio73 in Brixton Village.

Thank you Ed!

& now why not check out their website to see the collection.

Posted by Charlotte 17:00 11/05/15
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