Inspiring Independents

A Look Behind the Scenes of Kali Stileman Cards

A Sneak Peek at the Ideas & Inspiration of Kali Stileman Cards

In our latest look behind the scenes of an Inspiring Independent we’re catching up with the ladies behind Kali Stileman cards, gift wrap and more.

A unique indie brand who make delightful greeting cards and paper goods for young folks, and the young at heart; each illustrated with care, love and lots of bright colours by illustrator Kali Stileman.

For this exclusive look we spoke to Kali’s business partner Lucy.

The Business

What inspired you to start Kali Stileman?

Kali founded the company back 2002 when she noticed a gap in the market for quality children’s cards. I came on board 18 months ago so that Kali had more time to design. We work from Kali’s studio in a the middle of the woods in deepest darkest Dorset. It’s brilliant!

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

For starters, we like to think that we offer un-naff cards! There are so many amazingly talented card companies out there but we hope that we can offer something unique. The biggest compliment we received at a trade show recently was that we’re offering something different, which we were really pleased to hear. Kali has been in the business for over fifteen years, which hopefully means that alongside good designs and high quality production, we also understand how to offer a top customer friendly service.

You recently changed your brand name from The Square Card Company to Kali Stileman. What you can tell us about why you made the change and what it means for the future of the business?

We don’t just do square cards now so we thought it sounded a bit silly! Kali also writes children’s books and does a lot of licensing work so it made sense to tie everything together under one name.

The Team

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

Kali is creative director and she does all the clever artwork. Although she spends a lot of time on designing she still takes an active role in how the business is run. I do the day to day administration of the business. Everything from dealing with customers to marketing. I love building relationships with my customers. My role is varied and every day is different.

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

We have a fantastic team of sales agents across the country. Communication is integral to the growth of the business and I like to think I have good a good relationship with each and every one of them. We have the most amazing fulfilment team that takes care of dispatching our orders. We’d be lost without Kerry, Tom and of course Tony at LB Warehousing.

We are just in the process of training up Julia to be my right hand girl. She will look after order input while I concentrate on other things (swan off on holiday). We love a bit of Julia!

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 with Kali Stileman Cards?

We recently passed the fulfilment over to LB warehousing which has freed us both up to concentrate on what we are good at. We will be launching two new ranges at Autumn fair and I believe they are our strongest yet. A really important part of the design process is bouncing ideas off one another. We now have the luxury of taking the time to really think about how these ranges will work for our customers.

Kali Stileman Cards & Gift Wrap

You currently specialise in fun, bright greetings cards and gift wrap. 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?.

Children’s cards will always be at the heart of what we do but I’d like to see us branching out into the quirky grown up cards market too. Kali’s latest designs are a little cooler and have a bit of an edge to them which should mean that they appeal to adults too. We have a lot of wrap designs and they coordinate well with all of our cards. Careful consideration goes into colour palette and texture so that our products all work well together.

You have some gorgeous designs perfect for little card givers. What can you tell us about the process of creating these designs?

All sorts of things can trigger inspiration for a range. We talk about what we would like to offer the customer and how we see the range working. After the initial ideas stage the next process is for kali to get her paper and scissors out. More often than not I will find a paper cut out of a space ship floating around on my desk or a panda in the scanner. Teehee! Next, she adds hand drawn elements to the collage . Later the image is played around with in photoshop and worked with until we are both happy with the result.

Kali Stileman cards and gift wrap use high quality paper stocks and bright, colourful inks. What can you tell us about the materials and craftsmanship involved in creating the range?

Kali Stileman cards are printed digitally by the imaging centre, which makes the colours really zing. . We paid particular attention to sourcing the best papers and envelopes for them and I think the quality really shows. For our gift wrap have opted for a really heavyweight matt paper, which feels lovely to wrap with, stays crisp and stands the test of time.

Shopping with Independents

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

Quality! We use the best possible quality of paper and printing but we still manage to offer really good value for money, (our most expensive card retails at £2.50). I think our cards and wrap are bright, fun and unique.

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

Why choose something that has been mass produced with little thought when you can choose something produced by talented individuals that care passionately about what they do. It makes all the difference to us little guys.

Last but not least, what’s your favourite independent business and why?
Whirligig is an independent creative gift shop based in Chichester, Tunbridge Wells and Brighton. They specialise in things to make and do – fun and memorable toys that will make children think and really enjoy the experience. They stock a number of our ranges and our bubbles personalised cards do so well as they fit in well with the shop’s interactive ethos. They are a great bunch of people and a pleasure to deal with.

Find Out More

Now you’ve found out a bit about Kali Stileman cards, gift wrap and what goes on behind the scenes why not take a look at the Kali Stileman collection featured in the Piccadilly Lane directory.

Posted by Charlotte 8:00 12/07/16
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A Look Behind the Scenes of Eloise Hall Cards

Get a Sneak Peek at What Makes Eloise Hall Cards & Stationery Special.

For our latest ‘Inspiring Independents’ interview we caught up with Eloise, creator of the Eloise Hall cards, prints and stationery collection.

Eloise has a built a beautiful range of cards and gifts that are both elegant and meaningful. Designs of greeting cards, collage-style prints and stationery gifts that are a world away from their mass produced rivals.

Today we’re excited to take a closer look at this inspiring indie business and find out more about the Eloise Hall cards and gifts collection.

What inspired you to start your company, Eloise Hall? When did you begin?

I began designing and creating artworks almost by accident. I’d just moved house and was looking for a piece that would brighten up a wall in my hall. A butterfly landed on the window and the flash of its wings inspired me to make a collage around butterflies. Visitors to our home – I was running a bespoke millinery business from my house at the time – were soon commissioning me to make collages for their own homes, and things quickly snowballed from there. In September 2014, the greetings card and stationery range was launched at Top Drawer and I’m delighted to say that our nature collection has gone down really well.

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

Eloise Hall is run from a studio in Somerset and I’m passionate about producing beautiful products. There is a huge amount of care and detail that goes in to everything we make. We also pride ourselves on very good relationships with both our clients and our suppliers.

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

My role is founder and creative director. I love the variety this role brings, one moment I might be snipping pieces of beautiful chiogami paper creating a new design and then the next I could be talking to the important buyer before being interrupted by my three children bouncing in from school!

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

It’s small and perfectly formed here at Eloise Hall! I work with a wonderful team of sales agents around the country and I also have a fantastic fulfilment house who are way better at putting the right number of cards in the orders than I ever was! Rebecca sorts out the accounting, invoices and numbers and we’re currently recruiting for a Marketing Manager to help with some exciting plans for 2016.

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 Eloise Hall?

I’m passionate about producing beautiful products. The original artworks may take days to create and the care and attention with this makes a real difference to the end result. Having always been a stationery lover, the touch and feel of every element of the product is hugely important, hence high quality paper is used throughout our range, even inside our notebooks!

Your recently exhibited at the Top Drawer show in London. Can you tell us about that? What was the reaction to your designs?

Top Drawer was a fantastic show for Eloise Hall. Unlike other exhibitors who use a standard set up, our stand is an installation based on nature with branches for shelves and the cards are displayed on two large silver birch trees. Nature is brought to life at the show. It takes hours to put together but its definitely worth it in order to stand out! The new designs were very well received and we’re really exciting to now be working with the Papyrus, a large chain in the USA.

You currently specialise in nature-inspired designs. What inspires you about this theme?

Nature is a wonderful sanctuary from the bustle of everyday life. Down here is Somerset, my studio is surrounded by fields and flowers and I love to watch how they change with the seasons. I’m also interested in the symbolic meaning behind each species, for example Koi Carp for fortune, two butterflies for love, butterflies in general for renewal and rebirth and dragonflies for living for the moment.

You designs incorporate beautiful, elegant collages, which are very unique. What can you tell us about what inspired the style used on Eloise Hall cards and gifts?

As part of my millinery studies, I undertook a fashion illustration course and the style of my work is inspired by a technique studied on this course. I’m influenced by huge array of artists, I particularly admire Matisse and also the paper cutter Rob Ryan. Other sources include floristry, gardens, botanical drawings and a life long fascination with the East.

Eloise Hall cards and prints use high quality papers and bright, colourful decoration. What can you tell us about the materials and craftsmanship involved in creating the range?

The finished product is extremely important and it must feel wonderful to receive or use. There’s a lot of time and energy on every element to make sure the end result is great. Whether it is the shade of cream for the paper, the size of the butterfly on a particular design or even the colour of the barcode, it has all been highly considered! We use luxury stock from one of the top quality paper mills in the UK for every element of our products including our envelopes.

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

I design my products to be beautiful and also to have a hidden meaning. The meaning is subtly displayed on the products with written explanations. Much of my inspiration comes from Eastern traditions. My aim is for you to appreciate them in layers, as lovely to look at or because of the meanings, or for both. For example, Koi Carp for good luck or Dragonflies for living for the moment.

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

Independents are the lifeblood of the UK. They provide an amazing array of individual and enticing products that we should be celebrating, enjoying and using. Britain’s small businesses are a creative and talented bunch, in fact we lead the world in terms of card design so lets be proud!

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

Sipsmith, London’s first distillery for nearly 200 years. Its my husband’s business so I’m biased but the gin is pretty good!

Thank You Eloise.

Now you’ve read the interview, take a look at the Eloise Hall cards and gifts featured here in the Piccadilly Lane directory.

Posted by Charlotte 8:00 29/02/16
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A Look Behind the Scenes of DecorqueCards

An ‘Inspiring Indies’ Interview with DecorqueCards.

For our latest ‘Inspiring Independents’ interview we caught up with Lesley R. Stevens, founder of DecorqueCards and recent guest blogger for the Piccadilly Lane blog, with her fabulous feature on Scrapbooking.

Specialising in handmade cards, Lesley has a built an extensive selection of unique and beautiful cards for every occasion recognising the importance of sending and receiving real greeting cards, DecorqueCards offer original designs that are a world away from their mass produced rivals.

So without further ado grab a cuppa and read more about this inspiring indie business.

What inspired you to start DecorqueCards and when did you begin?

Designing greetings cards has always been an area I have wanted to develop, even going back to when I was a Textile Designer for fashion. After launching my main brand, Decorque in September 2012 it was quickly evident that my greeting cards range was a bestseller; both online and at craft events where I was selling directly to the public. DecorqueCards was launched online at the end of May 2015.

What can you tell us about your independent business?

This business is run from my home in Oxfordshire and is multi-channel being both on and offline. The products are all British-designed and made. In addition to our successful online shops, we also sell our Decorque home accessories range alongside DecorqueCards at fairs and shows around the country. The business is really a joint family affair! Although other members all have full-time jobs, they help with the essential aspects of running and managing the company.

What sets you apart from your corporate contemporaries?

I believe that my designs are uniquely different in that the design range is extremely extensive and eclectic. Although you may recognize my hand, I am not limited to any set theme or media. This is demonstrated by a single design containing elements of hand-drawn and painted, coupled with the use of Illustrator and Photoshop images.

What is your role in the business? 

I am the founder and Managing Director and my role incorporates design, administration, fulfilment and shipping. Additionally, I have become an active blogger to help promote the business.

What are your favourite things about your job and running an Independent business?

I greatly enjoy creating new designs and actually going out and meeting customers; it gives me a great thrill to have people choose and buy something that I have created. Being an independent business enables me to showcase my own products.

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

Yes, as a family-founded brand we have a range of unique talents that contribute towards the success of the business. I am the only person working full-time at DecorqueCards; all other family members freely give their time and services to support me in this venture.

My daughter Harriet is qualified graphic designer and works in fashion retail as creative head for a leading high street ladies’ brand. Her input into the design and consistent look and feel of our online and offline presence is vital.

Her husband Aaron runs his own successful company – Evergreen SEO Ltd – that manages and promotes our online presence.

My husband Chris is an eCommerce logistics specialist and therefore helps with strategy and the corporate side of the business. He also enjoys supporting me at fairs and shows around the country.

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

Yes I agree totally, as every design is created uniquely by me and I oversee and manage the quality of everything produced. An example of the personal touch is that every order sent by me includes a hand-written note of thanks.

Your handmade cards have become a best selling part of your collection. Can you tell us why they are so special?

Every aspect of a card, from the imagination, creativity, construction and final embellishments is performed by myself. Very few items are bought in, and those that are include glass gems, bows and the like.

Customer comments at our last show in York really sum up why they think our products are special: “Wonderful to see something different”, “I never expected to find such beautiful cards”, “Wow, now this is colour!” and “These cards are just too beautiful to send”. In fact, many customers decide to buy the cards to frame.

You create both handmade and digitally-printed greetings cards? 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?

Yes, the product range incorporates both digitally printed and handmade greetings cards. The digitally printed cards are the main basis of the online business as these are produced and sold in volume as required. The handmade cards are a brilliant option in extending the range, creating cards for numerous, specific occasions with a personal touch. An example is that one design can easily be adapted by just changing the personalisation to suit the customer’s exact request.

My inspiration for this area of design stems from the fact that, unlike for fashion design, I am not restricted by either season or colour. The door is open for me to create anything I wish.

The collection will continually be extended as the greetings card industry grows larger every year with an ever-increasing demand for subjects and occasions to cover.

Your products feature incredibly authentic and meticulous artwork. What can you tell us about the process of creating these designs?

The best way of explaining how the designs are created is to use an example of one of my original printed cards; the Lazy Leopard Single Card. As with many of the cards in the collection, they are developed from ideas initially created for products on Decorque.com. The centerpiece of this card is the beautiful lazy leopard, whose image has been drawn by hand, then Illustrator, and then cut in Photoshop from a rose and leopard skin print design I created for a cork placemat. The natural colour and texture of cork is used extensively in my card designs; here it is used in this design on the arching tree trunk and in the grasses below. Authenticity is reflected by the use of the soft buttery roses and the fresh green leaves which all exist in my own garden and which are taken from my personal photographic collection. All these main elements are selected, cut and brought together to form this design in Photoshop.

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

I use photography to capture detail in flora and fauna; I also use my extensive collection of fashion textile designs to bring in pattern where needed. If I cannot find an image then I draw and paint one myself!

Unlike most designers, I do not concentrate on one single medium. I use hand-drawn, Photoshop and Illustrator where they work best and most effectively.

The handcrafted cards also bring in the hands-on craft element of hand-cutting, sticking, embellishing and personalisation to produce a unique product.

Every individual part of a design is perfected before being assembled into a composition. Using the visual qualities of hand-painted and the technical capabilities of shade, opacity and colour bring out the intricate detail of design.

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

I believe that people should shop from DecorqueCards if they are seeking a unique, design-led product that can also be personalised in many instances.

If customers like nature, the natural world and colour and pattern, then my mix of the tropical with the quintessentially-British will appeal to them.

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

As an independent business, I have complete control over my design and products. This includes knowing precisely the source of the materials and being able to support other local businesses and enterprises such as craft fairs, charities and good causes.

If customers wish to support local industries and prefer British-made products then they can be more confident that the products they buy are authentically produced. We ought to celebrate British design talent.

Customers are also more likely to receive a friendly, personal service from a small family-run business.

What is your favourite independent business and why?

There is no one independent business that I could single out, but I am the type of person that avoids the general high street preferring to give my custom to small, independent businesses. This could range from the specialist cheese shop to the smaller gift, antique and fashion outlets in a market town like Burford, as they offer more unique products and excellent customer service.

Thank you Lesley. 

Now you’ve read the interview why not take a look at the collection and visit their website.

Posted by Charlotte 8:00 19/10/15
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A Look Behind the Scenes of Bubblegum

Behind the Scenes with Bubblegum.

This week’s ‘Inspiring Independents’ interview is a look behind the scenes of the super sweet indie business Bubblegum.

Specialising in “making balloons awesome” Bubblegum add fun and frivolity to every momentous occasion. We caught up with the company’s co-founder Sally Hodge who shared a sneak peek behind the scenes of the indie business.

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

We began the business early 2013 and it came from the three of us having young kids and wanting to find something we can be passionate about, and that works with our lives. Balloons came up and the ideas just kept flowing!

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

Customer Service! We have exceptional customer service and we ensure our customer enjoys the experience of using us to decorate their parties. This sets us apart from others and as we are an independent business we can really closely monitor this and ensure we are always on top of our game.

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

I am one of the founders of Bubblegum and I cover Marketing as well as over seeing HR and Accounts, it’s busy but varied, which is probably what I love most, never a dull day!

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

We have a fantastic team, they are all very loyal and each employee knows the importance and value of their job within the company. It is important to us that they understand what their inout means and how much they are valued.

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 Bubblegum?

Yes I totally agree! Working on a smaller scale and being independent you get to really focus on the smaller detail in the quality and ensure your design reflects you as it should.

Your balloons have been spotted at a wide variety of parties and events. What’s been your favourite so far?

Erm, tough one there is a new favourite every week! I think highlights have been flying balloons over a pool in Venice and hanging balloons from a beautiful house, blowing out the windows … it looked amazing!

You currently specialise in awesome balloon gifts? What inspires you about this area? Do you have plans to extend your collection?

We are always growing our collection and constantly trying to better ourselves. We already have Xmas 2015, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day for 2016 nailed! We try to re-design the balloons regularly to keep the collection fresh and on trend.

Your products feature bright, pretty confetti and tassel tails. What can you tell us about the process of creating these designs?

It has taken a while for us to be happy with the range, we went through a few designs to get there. The range we now have covers most colour schemes and party ideas. We wanted to make it easy to buy off the shelf and our collection inspire ideas with our customers.

Your collection shows great attention to detail and quality. What can you tell us about creating a balloon gift or display?

Thank you very much! It is so easy to add to a theme or colour scheme with our balloons. Our gifts are subtle in their meaning and often give a cute or funny message. We always work with quality materials and spend time on making and re-making designs until we are 100% happy.

Why should people shop with you? What makes you different? Our products are high quality and our customer service is exceptional.

The bespoke service we offer means we can make our customers vision come to life.

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

I think the service and quality you get is better, your business is valued so much and that is reflected in what independents offer.

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

We work with some great independents it is very hard to choose! Early Hours Florists are fab, as are Buttons Parties and Dazzle and Fizz.

Thank you Sally.

You’ve read the interview, now check out the balloons! Visit the Bubblegum website.

Posted by Charlotte 14:35 15/09/15
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A Look Behind the Scenes of Vintage Playing Cards

An ‘Inspiring Indies’ Interview with Vintage Playing Cards.

Today’s ‘Inspiring Independents’ interview is a look behind the scenes of brilliant indie business Vintage Playing Cards.

We caught up with the company’s co-founder Tracy Kemp, who along with Allen Perkins founded the company 7 years ago. Tracy shared the story of how the company started, what makes it special and why you should definitely shop indie! So without further ado, over to Tracy.

What inspired you to start Vintage Playing Cards? 

We found an old box of art deco playing cards with a few missing so they were useless as a game. Therefore, we decided to upcycle them into greetings cards. We then started looking at what we could do with other games.

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

We are very passionate about what we do and are always looking for new ways to innovate. We will always go the extra mile for a customer and ensure that any personalised gift is exactly what they want.

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

I focus on marketing and customer care, I often find that the two come hand in hand as word of mouth is one of our most efficient marketing tools. My favourite thing is that every day is different, I may be researching new designs, doing admin or receiving briefs for personalised art – I’m never really sure where the day will lead!

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

I started the business with an old friend Allen Perkins who focuses on the designs. We also have a small team of lovely ladies who individually make all the frames and cards in our studio in Suffolk.

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 Vintage Playing Cards?

This is at the core of our business. We have strict quality control and ensure that everything that comes out of the studio is something that we would be proud to showcase in our homes.

You currently specialise in cards, gifts and interior products? What inspires you about this area of design?

I think our frames and cards will always be the core of our business especially as they lend themselves so well to personalisation. However, we are now looking into home furnishings and hope to launch a collection at Top Drawer.

Your products feature elements from vintage games. What ‘top tip’ would you pass on for sourcing original, vintage items?

Always be on the lookout! We all love browsing in vintage stores and boot fairs at Vintage Playing Cards and you never know what you might find!

Most of the products in your collection are handmade. What can you tell us about the craftsmanship involved?

Each vintage frame and card is individually made and goes through several processes. We ensure that at each step of the process there is quality control. We feel passionate about making things by hand and could never outsource this.

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

There is no other company that does what we do, and every customer can be assured that they receive a lovingly made product and tip-top customer service.

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

Independent businesses are at the core of the British economy and are one of the main reasons that makes Britain great. People should shop with independents to ensure that there is investment in design and customer service. Big businesses just cannot provide the personal service that independents can.

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

My favourite independent business is Gods Own Junkyard. I have a fascination with all things neon! They are just round the corner from me and every time I visit I see something even more wild and wonderful.

Now you’ve read the interview it’s time to see the design. Visit the Vintage Playing Cards website.

Posted by Charlotte 8:00 1/09/15
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