I often get emails from students or aspiring designers asking for advice or information about the industry and what I do. It's not always possible for me to reply individually to everyone so I've tried to cover the 'frequently asked questions' with the points below!

Did you always want to be a designer?

Erm, well no. I originally wanted to be a doctor when I was at school but then someone told me that you had to study for 7 years so I decided I wanted to be a nurse. Then I decided I wanted to be an actress. Turns out I didn't care much for science and enjoyed art much more! {Have combined the acting by being a total drama queen!.} If and when I am no longer a designer, I would really, really REALLY love to train as a midwife. It's the only other thing I can imagine myself doing.

What is your background?

I completed an Art Foundation BTEC at Manchester Metropolitan University and then stayed on to do a BA in Embroidery. Yes, you read that right. Embroidery! In fact the course was very broad (I thought it was like a 3 year foundation course) and it enabled me to try out illustration, painting, sculpture, fashion, textiles and print. Oh and a bit of embroidery. My final collection was under the brand name 'Tammytutu" (it's what my Mum calls me for some reason!) it was a childresnwear range including cute printed and digitally embroidered girls' dresses and adorable tutu's.

Some pieces from my final university collection.

Some pieces from my final university collection.

How did you get into design?

After graduating I exhibited at New Designers which really changed my future. My final collection and portfolio went down really well and I won the Tigerprint award and subsequently undertook a month long placement in their Bradford studio. I hadn't ever thought about greetings card design as a career but I fell in love with it after my month at Tigerprint. I then freelanced for them for a while alongside other clients I'd met at New Designers or companies I'd approached independently. I also continued to take on bespoke tutu and girlswear commissions under the 'Tammytutu' brand including some for Tricia Guild (of Designer's Guild) for her Grandaughter! Eventually I was lucky enough to be offered a full time design position at Tigerprint where I stayed for 5 years, and loved every minute of it. I learnt SO much there and really developed my own style and handwriting as a designer.

A few of the bestselling designs I created for Tigerprint sold in Marks & Spencer. All images © Marks and Spencer.

A few of the bestselling designs I created for Tigerprint sold in Marks & Spencer. All images © Marks and Spencer.

How did you start your own business?

I'd like to say that I meticulously planned but it didn't really happen like that for me. I always knew that I could and would work for myself one day but it seemed to happen quite organically for me. Over my time at Tigerprint I developed a long standing love affair with stationery and knew that this was the direction I wanted to go in. After a brief (and frankly miserable) stint as a designer at Next I decided to take the plunge.  I read this amazing book, spent a long time making a lovely portfolio website and sent work off to all the people I wanted to work with. I was fortunate enough to know some lovely people who were more than happy to offer their advice and contacts when I was starting up and so I am a big believer in sharing, even if it's for your competition! (see my list of recommended suppliers at the bottom). I freelanced succesfully for a long time until I began to tire of creating beautiful designs for other companies to make money from! I designed my very first greetings card collection, 'Bella', and sent samples off to lots of shops and the day I got my first stockist was the best day EVER!  I learnt along the way (and made some BIG mistakes too!) about pricing, wholesale, retail, accounting and generally how to run a business but I don't regret a minute of it. I've never once made a business plan because I'm too impatient but I have spent time out learning new skills, and investing in courses or mentoring where appropriate. For me it's a bit of a journey and I remind myself that there's not one set path to get to where I want to be.

Designs from the first ever Studio Seed 'Bella' range. Photograph by Holly Booth Photography.

Designs from the first ever Studio Seed 'Bella' range. Photograph by Holly Booth Photography.

Do you undertake freelance design work now?

Since graduating I've always taken on freelance design projects ranging from branding, surface pattern design, illustration and design consultancy. (You can see some examples here).  I regularly worked with design agency Lemon Ribbon where I created artworks that sold to Gap, Mama's and Papa's and Bonpoint. In the past if there was a particular client I wanted to work with then I would pursue them to the point of being annoying until they agreed to work with me!  Now that Studio Seed is so much bigger, I limit the amount of freelance clients I work with every year so that I take on a handful of projects only.

Some mini card and packaging design for luxury Swiss jewellery brand, Dragonfly Zurich. All images © Dargonfly Zurich

Some mini card and packaging design for luxury Swiss jewellery brand, Dragonfly Zurich. All images © Dargonfly Zurich

How do you create your products?

I design every single card, notebook, bauble and invitation that leaves the studio! I often hand sketch illustrations and patterns and then always finish digitally. I favour Adobe Illustrator over anything else solely as that's what I'm used to. All the printing of cards and stationery is outsourced to my wonderful printers, Century Studios in Nottingham, and then all the hand finishing, bow tying and packaging is done by my wonderful team back in the studio.

Best piece of advice you've been given?

It will all be ok in the end. If it's not ok, it's not the end.

What's the best advice you would give to an aspiring designer?

Be PROACTIVE!

Nothing will land at your feet (unless you're very lucky!) If you want freelance work, remember that design studios and businesses are very busy and get a lot of interest from people like you. You need to make you and your work stand out (be creative!) and don't give up at the first hurdle - follow up on emails and phone calls and send in samples of your work. Always take up opportunities to learn new skills or to network with other creatives, it's so important. For aspiring entrepeneurs, remember that there are a LOT of us out there in the industry - don't try and be a 'jack of all trades' and focus on your strengths - do less but do it exquisitely! Invest where appropriate such as product photography or a great website and never stop learning.  Set yourself challenging but realistic goals and don't be afraid to change course once in a while. Dream big!

Do you take on work placements or interns?

I have my own team of freelancers who I work with but sometimes the workload is bigger than we can handle so occasionally during busy periods it's good to have some extra pairs of hands so I always consider applications. At the moment I'm on the lookout for a semi-regular, proactive, enthusiastic intern to help out in our studio in Warwick so if you think you might be suitable, please drop me a line here and tell me a bit about yourself!

You are self employed - how do you stay inspired and motivated?

I am a naturally motivated and ambitious person so for me it's not so much a struggle to get up every day and look forward to work. It's all about finding the thing that makes you tick - for me it's seeing my product in shops and achieving my goals, so that keeps me motivated. It's also a good idea to keep an eye out (not obsessively) on your competition to make sure you're staying ahead of the game. I do have some 'off' days when I just can't do anything or I don't feel creative, but I try and be flexible and spend those days doing less creative tasks. I'm extremely lucky in that I absolutely love what I do so most of the time, it doesn't feel like work. Apart from the accounts and admin days, when the calculator and Starbucks are my best friends!  I stay inspired by surrounding myself with visually stimulating things and inspiring people. I talk through new ideas or designs with people I know will be honest with me and this often leads to better ideas! My adorable nieces Esme (3) and Arianna (9 months) inspire me with their complete innocence and the joy they take from the smallest things!

What are your future goals?

Getting my products into Fortnum and Mason was such a huge achievement for me but I still want more and I've got my eye on a few more of the 'biggies'. I also want to expand my product range further into additional stationery items and even home decor. One day there will be a beautiful Studio Seed boutique where you will be able to buy our fabulous stationery and papergoods! Watch this space......


My recommended supplier list:

Printing (digital) - Century Studios

Printing (litho) - Hill Shorter

Envelopes (general) - Enveco

Envelopes (specialist) - GF Smith

Sparkly things - Beads & Crystals

Ribbons - Jaycotts

Packaging - Midpac

Product Photography - Holly Booth Photography