TEA AND A CHAT

Get to know de­signer Katie Lea­mon

Mollie Makes - - Contents - Words: JES­SICA BATE­MAN Pho­to­graphs: IN­GRID RAS­MUSSEN

There’s a real thrill to pick­ing out beau­ti­ful sta­tionery to write a let­ter or a card, and it’s that spe­cial feel­ing that Katie Lea­mon’s lux­ury pa­per goods la­bel is ded­i­cated to pre­serv­ing.

Af­ter study­ing Wo­ven Tex­tiles at univer­sity, Katie worked for a small Fair­trade fash­ion la­bel. It wasn’t the in­dus­try for her, but Katie took the skills work­ing for a small com­pany gave her – man­ag­ing whole­sale, ad­min, and de­sign – and launched her own card range.

Katie landed Lib­erty as her first sup­plier af­ter at­tend­ing their open call day in 2011. A huge achieve­ment for a new brand, her busi­ness grew from there. From mak­ing cards her­self on a shoe­string, she be­gan draft­ing in fam­ily mem­bers to help her, and even­tu­ally they built their own pro­duc­tion stu­dio.

Katie now works along­side boyfriend Rory (who does sales and ac­counts) in her Lon­don de­sign stu­dio, while her mum and sis­ter run the pro­duc­tion stu­dio in Es­sex, and her un­cle does the print­ing. We caught up for a chat about her cre­ative ca­reer, and what it’s like to run a mod­ern-day fam­ily busi­ness. De­scribe your style in three words? Con­tem­po­rary, tan­gi­ble and con­sid­ered. Why did you move from work­ing in fash­ion to de­sign­ing sta­tionery? I’ve loved sta­tionery for as long as I can re­mem­ber – I was al­ways col­lect­ing stick­ers, colour­ing books and pen­cil cases full of di er­ent bits and pieces. I think the feel­ing of putting pen to pa­per is some­thing that can’t be beaten. There’s a cer­tain magic in how some­one feels when they re­ceive a hand­writ­ten let­ter or card, and for me, that’s the real ethos of the brand and what we’re try­ing to cre­ate.

When I was work­ing with fab­ric af­ter I left univer­sity, I found my de­signs didn’t quite trans­late the way I wanted them to. There’s some­thing about the matt, raw na­ture of pa­per that just seems to suit my style of de­sign­ing bet­ter. What’s your typ­i­cal work­ing day like? I get into the stu­dio about 8am. There are three of us based in Lon­don, and we’ll dis­cuss our tasks for the day and the week, then I’ll crack on with ad­min and all the other com­pany-run­ning bits. Then, in the af­ter­noon, I’ll take my­self down to a space I’ve got at the end of the stu­dio, and get on with some draw­ing away from my desk. I’ve got all my art ma­te­ri­als down there, un­fin­ished de­signs or sam­ples I’m work­ing

on, and any­thing that’s in­spired me, such as quotes I’ve seen, or bits from mag­a­zines. I also pin up our pre­vi­ous best­sellers to try and work out why they sold so well, and trans­late that into new de­signs. Take us through your cre­ative process. I make mood­boards with the things I’ve been col­lect­ing for a few months. Then, when I start de­sign­ing – which comes in waves; it could be ev­ery day for a few months, or only once a week for a while – I’ll pull it all out in front of me. I’ll do some sketch­ing, mak­ing boards and spi­der di­a­grams of what I’m try­ing to achieve, and re­ally think about what we need to do to build a col­lec­tion. I quite of­ten work back­wards, so I’ll have an idea of what I want to achieve in my head first, then fig­ure out how to do it af­ter­wards. Who, or what, in­spires your work? I al­ways seem to have a lot of ar­chi­tec­ture pinned up, as well as tiles and re­peat pat­terns. They tend to crop up again and again in my mood­boards. Re­cently I went

‘There’s a cer­tain magic some­one feels when they re­ceive a hand­writ­ten let­ter.’

to Kew Gar­dens and looked at the big spi­ral stair­case, try­ing to trans­late the shapes into some­thing more or­ganic. I also like to keep up with trends – as well as main­tain­ing our sig­na­ture style, I try to bring a new, trend-led look and feel to each col­lec­tion. I like to think of our sta­tionery as a fash­ion ac­ces­sory, with the lat­est note­book or diary be­ing some­thing ex­cit­ing for you to have in your hand­bag. How did you end up work­ing with so many of your fam­ily mem­bers? The first to join was my mum – she’d taken early re­tire­ment and started help­ing me print and pack. Then, when my sis­ter went on ma­ter­nity leave four years ago, she helped me pack cards in the evenings. By the time she was ready to re­turn to work, I re­alised I couldn’t lose her! My boyfriend was work­ing for a sports char­ity in a di er­ent role, but he was fed up. We’d al­ways talked about start­ing our own busi­ness, so I sug­gested he come and help me out, and we branch out into other ideas in the next few years. It still hasn’t hap­pened though as we’ve been so busy! Are there pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives to work­ing so closely with fam­ily? The good thing is that you can trust them 100%. They know me in­side out, so they

know if some­thing’s not right with­out me even hav­ing to say it – we can al­most read each oth­ers’ minds. The down­side is that it’s very di"cult to take a fam­ily hol­i­day to­gether, as we can’t all just up and leave! But the good out­weighs the bad. What’s been your proud­est mo­ment? Get­ting into Lib­erty was a huge boost to the brand. I was run­ning the busi­ness all by my­self, part-time, and I queued for hours to get seen by the buy­ers. Hav­ing them as my first ever stock­ist was in­cred­i­ble. And what’s been your big­gest strug­gle when run­ning the busi­ness? Re­lin­quish­ing con­trol. The big­ger you get, the more jobs you have to hand over to other peo­ple. That’s hard when you’ve been do­ing every­thing by your­self for a long time, even if you trust those peo­ple. Tell us about your let­ter-writ­ing cam­paign – how did that come about? We’d heard about di!er­ent let­ter-writ­ing cam­paigns in the US, and were try­ing to think of some­thing sim­i­lar we could do.

‘I like to keep up with trends, and try to bring a new look to each col­lec­tion.’

Then, one day in the stu­dio, some­one asked what we were all giv­ing up for Lent and it clicked – in­stead of giv­ing some­thing up, why don’t we take some­thing on? So we started a ‘Let­ters for Lent’ cam­paign. We sent out a let­ter, post­card or hand­writ­ten note ev­ery day, and en­cour­aged other peo­ple to do the same. My grandma loved it! We’re go­ing to do some­thing sim­i­lar next year, based around origami en­velopes that we’ll be pro­duc­ing. What other fu­ture plans do you have for the Katie Lea­mon brand? I tend to draw on what’s hap­pen­ing in fash­ion or in­te­ri­ors for each col­lec­tion, so I’d like to do some col­lab­o­ra­tions cre­at­ing prod­ucts we wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be able to make our­selves, such as wall­pa­per or re­ally high-end ce­ramic table­ware. I’d also like to make pa­per table­ware for par­ties or hen dos. Fi­nally, what’s the best piece of cre­ative ad­vice you’ve ever re­ceived? Just to get your ideas down. Once, when I was hav­ing a cre­ative block, my brother told me: “Just start writ­ing down ideas, don’t think about the process.” Some­times you might not feel in the mood to de­sign, but those are of­ten the times when you need to push through it the most.

in01 Lon­don’sKatie’s new stu­dio Hack­ney Wick has big, bright win­dows and enough space for a plan­ning and de­sign­ing area. 02 A se­lec­tion – of the lux­ury wrap cop­per foil de­signs were both best sell­ers at Christ­mas. 03 New lim­ited edi­tion prints.

01 Katie uses a foil­ing ma­chine to per­son­alise and cus­tomise prod­ucts. 02 Orig­i­nal mar­ble art­work, and the pen­cils and notepad made us­ing it. 03 Not­ing down the fin­ish­ing touches to a new pen­cil col­lec­tion.

The stu­dio 01 filled mood­board, with pinned ideas, inspiratio­n and Katie’s var­i­ous works-in-progress. 02 A few of Katie’s best-sell­ing cards, all made at the fam­ily’s pro­duc­tion stu­dio in Es­sex. 03 A peek in­side Katie’s sketch­book – this page has new...

01 Katie re­vis­its old sketch­books to help plan new col­lec­tions, de­velop themes and con­sol­i­date ideas. 02 The Katie Lea­mon brand ethos is all about mak­ing peo­ple feel spe­cial when they re­ceive their post.

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