19 July 2015

Celebrating the Independent Spirit - Jane Crick

The second artist/designer we are celebrating today, as part of our Independent Retailer Month mini series, is graphic designer, Jane Crick. She is based in Suffolk. We are thrilled to stock Jane's greetings cards, and her Christmas giftwrap designs were very popular last year. We began the interview by asking Jane when she decided to use her artistry in her own design business.

Jane Crick, graphic designer
Jane with one of her most popular designs

After school I went to Art College and I trained as a graphic designer. I worked in that industry for over 20 years! 
After having two children my focus changed and I went through a very difficult time at work. I eventually left with very low confidence and self-belief. But I was encouraged by friends and family to use the illustration skills I had learned at work to produce a few greetings cards and prints for a local art sale. The rest, as they say, is history…

Your images are bold and bright, has this always been your style or one you’ve developed?

Jane Crick coastal theme designs
Seagulls, beach huts and the pier: just a few of the designs in Jane's coastal theme
I am a bold and bright kind of person! Looking back I think my work has always tended to be that way - but how I now produce my art lends itself to that naturally. I am very careful about my colour palette when I work - this is usually the first thing I create when I start drawing a new design.

 Is your artwork hand drawn/painted, created on a computer or a combination of the two?

Allium designs by Jane Crick
Jane's 'purple' and 'winter' allium designs are very popular
My work is vector artwork created on an Apple Macintosh using Adobe Illustrator. I work in a variety of ways - I can either produce a pencil rough or use a photograph as reference (I always have my camera with me to snap that perfect bloom) or simply just draw straight in the programme. Some people use a tablet with a stylus, but I prefer to use my mouse. Sometimes I then use the final illustration to produce plates which I use for silk screen printing but I mainly print digitally directly from the vector image file.

In addition to your own products you also undertake commercial commissions; do any of them hold a special place in your portfolio?

Carrick-A-Rede, a National Trust design by Jane Crick
The National Trust commissioned Jane to produce this Carrick-A-Rede design

I am always delighted to take on any new commission work but I was exceptionally proud to be asked to produce an image for the National Trust Carrick-a-Rede. It was my first commercial commission and I guess it will always be special to me because of that!

How long does it take to create a new image?

Jane Crick giftwrapped parcels
Jane's distinctive wrapping paper designs add the finishing touch

It really does depend on the complexity of the image - usually a large commercial image for a tea towel design can take at least up to 25 hours or more to create! A simple flower design for a greetings card might be less - it's difficult to say. I don't place a time limit on myself, I just keep drawing and layering until I get it just right - somehow the image tells me when I should stop. I try to break the image down into areas of simple flat shape, but still retain the essence of the image. It is a fine line to get that balance just right.

You make a range of products (prints, cards, giftwrap, tea towels, lampshades). Which is the best seller?

Christmas giftwrap designs by Jane Crick
Jane's Christmas giftwrap designs combine the traditional with the unusual

I started out with greetings cards and I do sell a lot of them! But it is my gift wrap that I am becoming well known for - especially my Christmas designs. I think these will always be popular - everyone uses gift wrap at Christmas and my designs help make your Christmas gift look extra special!

Of all the aspects your business involves, which task do you least enjoy?

Parcel string from Jane Crick
Jane is not fond of 'red tape'!

The admin work and book keeping - it has to be done, but I am afraid I do always leave it to the last minute and wish that I hadn't!

As well as selling wholesale you also have The Handmade Shop and Gallery; is this your own venture or a co-operative? Do you enjoy retailing or would you prefer simply being able to concentrate on producing art?

The Handmade Shop & Gallery
We love this caption Jane uses in The Handmade Shop & Gallery

The Handmade Shop and Gallery is my own venture but I do run it as a combination of a rent-a-shelf and co-operative.
I have been involved in rent-a-shelf schemes myself before and found them to be unsatisfactory as a seller so I wanted to devise a scheme which was a better way of doing things and I hope I have done that. We have now been open over a year and I still have 11 of my original 12 artists involved so I hope I am doing something right!
I do enjoy retail - I think running a shop and gallery has definitely helped me to understand better what happens to your product once you despatch to the retail outlet. What sells and what doesn't, how best to package/promote your items and what customers are looking for.
I also work in The Lion House Gallery in Lavenham two days a week for my good friend Lizzi Stevens. I have learned a lot about retail from Lizzi and she has been very supportive when we were setting up The Handmade Shop & Gallery.

Do you have any exciting developments on the horizon?

Jane Crick design for Ness Botanic Gardens
A beautiful design for Ness Botanic Gardens

I have recently completed a commercial design for Ness Botanic Gardens which has proved so popular I am now working on a Christmas card. They have also put me in touch with another client in Liverpool, I can't say who it is but it's very exciting, who may want commercial images - so that would be great!
The plan is to expand my online retail shops like Etsy and Folksy - especially over the Christmas period.
We also plan to take The Handmade Shop & Gallery out on the road - and we are delighted to have been accepted to have a stall at the Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre in the Abbey Gardens this year. This event is huge and it's going to take a bit of planning!

Fox & Pheasant giftwrap design by Jane Crick
This gorgeous Fox & Pheasant design was a bestseller in Present Perfect last Christmas!

To end the interview, we asked Jane; What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t doing this?

I once thought I'd like to be a florist and I did go to evening classes for a long while. I loved it - but I am really happy with the direction my life has taken me. I love all my jobs and wouldn't want to change any of them…

It's obvious from Jane's design flair and love of flowers that she'd make a fabulous florist too! We'd like to thank her for giving us her time and for making this a very interesting interview.

We hope to have another artisan interview very soon, so do keep in touch!
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