Spotlight: Sarah and James Douglas with StickerKitten
Sarah Douglas’ background is in publishing so she loves books and any kind of paper! She has been making cards and projects since 2012. StickerKitten is a rather epic extension of that! Along with her husband James, they make a range of cute and contemporary papercraft supplies. They make a good team!
How did you start out crafting?
When I was little I used to collect stickers, sequins and beads. It was my dream to own my own sticker factory. I have always loved shiny things! My mum often did crafts with us like painting eggs at Easter and making crackers at Christmas, and art was one of my favourite subjects at school.
I studied English Literature at university though and didn’t do much creative until about 2011 when we made our own wedding invitations. I spent lots of time looking at all the lovely craft supplies available and got into card making that way. Within a few years I was part of two major design teams – docrafts and Craft Consortium. Both of those helped push me out of my comfort zone and try new card styles or new crafts such as decoupage, and also drastically improved my photography skills!
What made you decide to launch your own business?
As I spent so much time crafting I began to have ideas for my own designs. I loved what some of the American brands were doing and there didn’t seem to be similar products readily available in the UK, so I thought it would be fun to make my own cute designs. At the time I didn’t consider it as launching a business – we just wanted to have a go at designing some papers. I was working in publishing so had good prepress and print knowledge and James was working for a print company so it was a good opportunity to make a small run of paper packs with little cost or risk.
Our first product was our Birthday Dinos paper pack, with illustrations based on some cute dinosaurs that James had drawn for his web comic whilst at university. A few months later we decided to do a Christmas paper pack, Penguins and Presents.
We then added more to the ranges, such as buttons, sequins, wooden embellishments and eventually stamps. Starting out selling at local craft fairs and online on Etsy, we now have our own website stickerkitten.co.uk (custom built by James who works as a web developer) and we supply a few craft shops across the UK and some in Europe too. We have also been on craft TV channel Hochanda a few times to launch new ranges.
The business part has been a steep learning curve as we knew nothing about how to price products, find customers or source supplies when we started but we have been slowly learning, helped by an association we joined, AFCI UK, who offer help and advice to businesses in the craft industry and run some great trade shows each year.
Who or what are your main influences and inspirations?
I tend to keep an eye on general trends in the craft industry – this year and last it has been unicorns, mermaids, succulents, cacti, botanical themes, llamas and alpacas. It’s important to check out what other companies are doing, not just in the craft industry but also in home decor as a lot of the trends carry over. I spend a lot of time on Instagram seeing what people are making, and I suppose all that just gets mixed together in my head and informs what I want to try next.
Often as I’m falling asleep or just waking up I’ll have a really vivid mental image of a stamp set or paper pack that I want to make and I’ll scribble it down before I forget it. I have more ideas for things to make than I have time or money to make them! So we have to choose carefully what to produce, and make sure it’s something people will want to craft with. I know what I like, but it has to work for our customers too! Our bestselling item currently is our wooden bees, so I think anything to do with nature will generally always be popular.
Our Unicorn Fairground collection was inspired by a mix of two trends. I loved the idea of doing a unicorn stamp set but wanted a bit of a twist, so I thought it would be cool if they could be on a little carousel! We took the unicorn motif and used it in different ways, such as on the little fairground tickets in the paper pack and wooden embellishments.
I also try to take inspiration from my surroundings – we went on holiday to Italy last year and I have lots of images in mind of lemons, limoncello and pretty cobbled streets that want to be made into a paper pack and stamp set! We also recently went to Kew Gardens in London and I adored being surrounded by all the tropical plants in the Palm House so I definitely want to do something leafy with bright bold colours soon.
When you begin to create, do you have a finished product in mind?
I often have a really strong image in mind of a finished pattern or stamp set. The tricky part is trying to communicate that to James. Usually I just do rough sketches and create a coordinating Pinterest board of colour palettes and inspiration and we work together, tweaking each element until we have designs we’re both happy with.
I decide on the products, themes, colours and details such as exactly which stamps we need and how they’ll work together, and which paper patterns to have in the pack, and James develops those, doing the illustrations by hand on his iPad and then turning those into patterns for the paper packs and line art for the stamp sets. Meanwhile I source coordinating sequins and design the embellishments that I want to coordinate with the collection.
We pick the overall theme first, such as birds, unicorns or mermaids. Then we decide on colours before starting any designs. For our newest collection, Mermaid Treasures, the feel of the range was inspired by a cute jellyfish sketch that James drew. I wanted to pair sea creatures and mermaids in a coordinating underwater theme. Many of the products developed from that one design!
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people? Or do you think creativity is a skill that people must develop?
I think everyone is creative – it’s just the ways we express it that are different. Some people are drawn to knitting, or cooking or woodwork or papercraft or writing or fashion. Creativity is just finding ways to express yourself that you enjoy. You become good at something through practice.
When you love doing something it becomes your default – you return to it in all your spare time. So eventually you are likely to become very good in that particular area. When I started out making cards I had no idea what to do or how to start. I followed other people’s tutorials and reproduced their styles and techniques. Now hundreds (or thousands!) of cards later I find it easy to create off the top of my head.
What does your studio look like? Where does the magic happen?
We work from home in the spare room which is now a study. It has a couple of large desks and plenty of craft storage! We recently repainted so it’s more light and airy with three white walls and one pastel pink. I try to keep it tidy but there are normally stamps, papers and tools all over the place. Even though we do small runs of products, we still have boxes of papers and stamps all over the house!
How many projects do you have going at once? Or are you one of those kind of people who only works on one creative project at a time?
Many ideas and moods boards are going at once. But we can properly work on only one range at a time. We design a few paper packs and stamp sets at the same time so they can be manufactured together. Then we finalise one range at a time. We design the wooden embellishments and ephemera packs after all the main artwork for the papers and stamps is done.
When it comes to my craft desk, I often have many projects going at once. On my desk at the moment are a calligraphy practice set, two of our most recent ranges making cards for a couple of magazine features, some new papers, dies and ink pads to try out and my half done project life scrapbook pages. In the living room I have a small pile of colouring books and a knit your own wrist warmers kit. I’ve been meaning to get round to that for about 5 years now. I also have a small pile of unfinished sewing projects! It makes me feel rather disorganised and I’d love to neatly finish one project before moving on. But it never seems to work out that way…
What’s next for you?
Our brand new collection, Mermaid Treasures, has just launched. So we are working on promoting it and sharing projects to inspire everyone. Then we will focus on our Christmas range, Alpaca Wishes. It has a soft pink and pale blue colour palette and cute alpacas with scarves! If you’d like to keep up to date with what we are working on, please do sign up to our newsletter and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. We love being part of the craft world and seeing what everyone has been making!
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