A day in the life of a stationery and gift designer
After you guys went crazy for the first 'Day in the life' interview, I'm super excited to share another behind the scenes glimpse! So, let's dive on in and find out how Gabrielle Izen became a full time stationery and gift designer and what her average day is like...
I studied Graphic Design and illustration at Chelsea School of art and am very fortunate to have been taught by Quentin Blake. I set up the business in 2013 having lost a very nice editorial design job in 2009. I spent 4 years freelancing as on various publications, travelling all over the place; Teddington, London, Bromsgrove, Bristol, East Sussex, Kent. I was also sending samples to greeting card publishers all of whom rejected my designs. It was all pretty soul destroying. The last straw came when I was rejected for the third time by a large card publisher who actually encouraged me to submit more designs! My husband said I should set up my own business designing cards, gifts, and artwork. So after some research, I thought, 'I have nothing to lose, it's do or die time' and so I did!
I set up my business really to do what I love, enjoy and want to do. I design stationery, decorative artwork and gifts from my tiny home studio in Kent. I had been designing personalised products for customers, but this has taken off since joining Not On The High Street.
I produce the work by hand using traditional methods of modern calligraphy, lettering and illustration; a variety of old dip pens, Japanese reed pens, brushes, Indian inks, water colour paints and papers. Typography is used in some of the designs.
My 'studio' is the converted loft at home. It's bijou so I have to keep it tidy otherwise I fall over things. I have to get really inventive with storage, as there is so little room. I'm always on the hunt for lovely storage when I potter around markets and fairs.
The theme of love and friendship plays a big part in my work. Many of the designs feature messages of love, celebration and appreciation. Uplifting, humorous sayings and famous quotes are also used. My love of old books, romantic verses, Jane Austen and 1950s designs have inspired me along the way.
Time is taken to create the artwork, so it’s a real labour of love. I endeavour to produce original and beautiful artwork that people love to give and receive. One of the main principles about my business is that I keep all print, production and fulfilment in the UK. The paper merchants are local as are the printers. I'm also a stickler for recycling and ethical waste management as much as possible. All the paper waste is either composted or recycled. The non-recyclable waste is sent to a Kent based steam power station where it is used to generate energy for the local area.
I sell my work in a variety of independent shops and galleries around the UK. I also sell online via my website and via Not On The High Street since May 2015. Selling on NOTHS is one of my proudest achievements to date.
My business was recognised by Theo Paphitis of Dragon’s Den fame when he chose my business as one of 6 winners in his Small business Sunday awards in 2014. When I received the retweet from Theo Paphitis, I was flabbergasted!
I’m proud to say my work is made in England!
I'm usually up at 7 or so. My first job over coffee is to check emails, social media and orders. I usually spend my mornings working on any commissions, developing ideas and designs, responding to customers and orders. I work in silence as I can get so distracted by the radio.
I usually have something simple for lunch and usually at my desk, which is very bad! I pack my orders and make the daily walk to the Post Office. I do admin when I come home. Then it's a mad dash to get dinner sorted.
After dinner, I shut the studio and spend some of the evening brainstorming, researching, and working on the Marker's Yearbook 2017. Sometimes, I switch everything off and just spend the evening relaxing. A very rare treat! I like to leave the studio tidy with notes about the next day. I'm very organised; working as an editorial designer and illustrator have taught me this.
I endeavour to keep out of the studio unless I have an urgent or large order or commission to work on. At the weekends, I like to spend time with the family, doing DIY jobs around the house and tiding the garden, going for walks, outings, and country fairs.
I love having my own business. If I'm honest, it's been nagging at me for years. I had to be pushed and it's really the best decision I've made. It can be isolating and you never have the daily contact with colleagues and friends. My work is more bespoke than commercial so it can take longer for a business like mine to develop. One of my biggest challenges is to keep focussed on what my business is about and what's important to me. It's very easy to compare yourself to others, especially those who are doing really well. But for me the overall challenge and fulfilment of running a business, customers buying my products and coming back for more is worth everything. My plans are to keep at it, develop new products, endeavour to get to grips with social media and generally grow the business as organically as possible.
Thank you so much, Gabrielle. It's been truly fascinating hearing all about what your average day at work is like and how you decided to make that jump into becoming a full time business owner. You have clearly made the right decision!
I hope you've all enjoyed reading about Gabrielle's average day as a stationery and gift designer. Here are some handy links to her website, shop and social media pages: