Behind the Scenes- Art Cards Ireland24-Jul-2017
A bit about the business..
We’re based in Dalkey, just south of Dublin. We are right beside the sea and seals and scuba divers swim by our window regularly. I search for art that could work as a greeting card, from artists working all around Ireland. We now publish around for artists and our cards are stocked by fifty-plus Irish retailers, from museums and galleries to small independent shops. In 2015 we were shortlisted for a National Enterprise Award. Our printer is local to us down the road in Bray and they are fantastic. They were involved in printing the Irish passport, which has very fancy security graphics.
How I got into the greeting card industry..
I was always interested in art imagery on cards. I grew up in Newcastle on Tyne and my bedroom walls were covered in cards from Camden Graphics and Gallery Five. As I grew up I enjoyed choosing the right card for the right occasion. I never thought it was a business I’d be professionally involved in. I had lots of jobs in publishing but they were all quite serious and worthy. I worked for various quangos as an editor and wordsmith. In every job I had, I looked across at the art department in a slightly starstruck way. I remember once a very cool designer girl strolling around the studio, saying speculatively ‘minty green, minty green…’ and I marvelled at what it must be like to be all about the visuals instead of the words. I got closer to the visual by working for design and architecture magazines. I was editor of the Design Council’s magazine Design for five years. I travelled the world and met designers in every discipline, from car designers in Japan to photocopier designers in California, via fashion, furniture and textile designers in Italy.
Much later, living in Ireland where my husband is working, I noticed that most of the greeting cards available in Ireland seemed to feature British art and design, and I thought it a shame there wasn’t more homegrown stuff available. I thought, somebody should be doing that. And then I thought…maybe I could do that? I’d always been interested in the idea of business - I felt it was a missing facet from my experience, having spent most of my career in the public sector.
I did the initial research online, figuring that if an image jumped out at me on a small scale, it might have similar impact in-store. We managed to get a bit of traction straight away. Our break came when Dubray Books (an Irish bookseller) started ordering and reordering every month. They continue as one of our best customers today.
I’ve since taken a two-year higher diploma in fine art, to get more knowledge under my belt. It was a really valuable experience. It has bolstered my decision-making somewhat. In the beginning, I sort of expected the Arts Council to send the heavies round, asking who did I think I was to be making decisions about art worth publishing.
Who are my inspirations in business?
In terms of female entrepreneurs in the applied arts I was struck by Cath Kidston, Emma Bridgewater and Neisha Crosland. Further back in time, Anita Roddick. When I was working as a design journalist, I was impressed by people (mostly men) who worked on making unglamorous products and services better, like masks for firemen, bus shelters and tube trains, maps and information, the whole realm of the created world. I was always writing the backstory, the story behind the product or service, and that idea of backstory influences me today, in the captions we put on the backs of our cards.
My favourite card in the range?
I love Returning home by Brian Gallagher. It’s a nostalgic image that a lot of people seem to relate to, and very skilfully done. I posted a picture of it on a Facebook group related to Irish landscape photography recently and the Likes went crazy.
Are trends affecting our products?
This could be naive but I don’t think so. Some people find our cards contemporary and others find them retro.
Aims for the future?
I want to show our cards to British and overseas buyers. The cards have an appeal beyond nationality, as proud as I am of their Irish provenance.