Manufacturing Migraine

With my first three sample tea towel designs being processed (and possibly an apron too …. I may have got carried away in an excitable moment), I’ve moved on to my next mini project: greetings cards. I thought this would be another sensible manufacturing starting point: not too costly to produce; a minimum order of just 25; people always need greetings cards so I should sell some; failing the latter, always need greetings cards so they won’t go to waste.

Last year I began the first module of an utterly fabulous online course called The Art And Business of Surface Pattern Design (ABSPD) run by the hugely talented designer Rachael Taylor, and equally successful entrepreneur Beth Kempton. In it they stress constantly the importance of injecting you (the designer) into your designs; your unique style, your personality, your passion. In the same way, they make a salient point about running your own design business: the way you choose to run your business should be reflective of you, your values and your beliefs. I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. To me it’s common sense, not least because it just makes good business sense. The rather worrying question this spurred me to ask myself, however, was: Do I actually have any values? (Yes really … that question entered my head).

Thankfully, I only panicked for around 20 seconds, in which time I realised that my moral compass was not quite as off kilter as I feared it might have been …. that actually, there are things that matter to me when considering which printing company to use:

  • I would like my products to be British-made. But more than that, I would like to contribute to my local economy.
  • I want the company to really value its employees, and to treat them in a manner that reflects this.
  • I want, at the very least, for the company to have the option of printing on to recycled paper.
  • I want the company to be eco-savy and socially responsible: is it pro-active in trying to reduce waste? Does it constantly strive to make small improvements, which when put together will have a bigger and positive, long term effect on the environment and community?

Brilliant, I thought. This is a great starting point for sourcing potential printers. So off I went, on yet another Google expedition…. into which I entered completely unprepared. Who knew it would be so tricky to satisfy all my romantic notions …. at a price I can afford to pay in the first year (let alone month) of my business. Serves me right for trying to be so bloody self-righteous. Turns out I’m going to have to knock myself down a few pegs, and really think this through. Do I go for:

  • the printers 6 miles down the road, which though does an ‘Eco’ range for business cards, does not offer greetings cards printed on recycled material? (Also, when I called, the bright young thing on the other end of the phone had no idea whether envelopes were included in the price or not.)
  • the very professional looking Austrian company (with an outfit in the UK) which gives the option of printing on 100% recycled material and low carbon printing, with pre-printing checks on your design files included as standard …. at a reasonable price?
  • the UK based ‘Eco’ company, which does what is says on the tin …. but doesn’t show your artwork mocked up on a product online once it’s been uploaded (major risk – how do I know the design sits properly on the card?)
  • the American/British company which has come recommended, and (very excitingly), allows up to 25 different designs in one print run – all other printers I’ve researched to date allow only one design per run –  but which prints on paper containing only 10% recycled material (which, to me is really very poor)?

My head is now a fog of sums and moral questions, fighting the part of my brain screaming “for the love of God woman, does it really matter? Just do it!!” Meanwhile, my computer lies devoid of any new designs to put on the one (or possibly 25??) greetings card(s) I set out to design today.

A nice simple card?


Completely clueless.


Here is something I experimented with at the beginning of the year. I quite like it, but I’m not convinced it really fits with my evolving style. Still … onwards and upwards.






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