His Nibs Joins the Biz
Our business journey together began in April last year. His Nibs (aka my husband, Chris) started working for me two days a week whilst still working part-time for his main employer. His new role, as my business manager, is very different from selling ‘big, bad, boring’ (his words!) IT systems in the energy sector. He began by resurrecting the outlets that previously sold my greetings cards whilst also finding new ones. By the time he gave up full time salaried employment this April, he had made a significant impact. It is something, he says, he finds far more satisfying … and he is doing it with some success, whilst also helping me to develop new products that compliment my original prints.
Our aim this year is to develop the ‘product’ side of the business. Original prints will always be the bedrock of what I do but relying solely on the traditional sale or return of original work through galleries is just too precarious for those of us artists who need to earn a living out of our art.
His Nibs and I have been testing out new ideas, with the aim of identifying something a little bit different from what others are doing. Last year we introduced the ‘print-in-a-box‘ giclée prints that have been doing well, particularly through gallery outlets like The Biscuit Factory. We’re keen to work with existing and new trade customers to develop ideas that work commercially whilst reflecting the quality of the original work that underpins everything. It is a bit of a learning curve, getting the balance right between, quality, affordability and practicality.
His Nibs managed to ensure that I’m now officially a supplier of Fenwick in Newcastle and, more recently, The National Trust. The National Trust only set aside a small amount of retail space for locally sourced products so it’s quite a challenge to a) become a listed supplier and b) remain on the list. We’ve jumped the first hurdle and hopefully can jump the second. Part of the issue is down to limited physical space at some National Trust venues like Cherryburn, the home of Thomas Bewick. For those reasons, we have worked hard to create a new product that works within those constraints.
It was out of discussions with The National Trust (and also the Northumberland National Park) that the next new idea came – the landscape collection of box frame mini-prints. These have got off to a flying start. They are now stocked by Housesteads, Cragside and Cherryburn, whilst Wallington Hall will have them in stock from early August.
We will, no doubt, learn as we go. The key to success I think, will be to keep the dialogue going and to make sure we are always learning what works and what doesn’t and adapting accordingly. His Nibs and I are both up for the challenge!