- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.6XeXEVt9.dpuf The Curiosity Project: Curb Your Curiosity: Keep Calm Gallery & Alphabet Bags

29 March 2012

Curb Your Curiosity: Keep Calm Gallery & Alphabet Bags

Today I'm ending the week with an interview with a super creative couple who I had the pleasure of working with last year (more on that later). You may or may not recognise their names but you'll absolutely recognise their products...

• Introduce yourself to us!
Hello! We are Hayley & Lucas, a husband & wife team and we run the accessories brand Alphabet Bags and online gallery Keep Calm Gallery

• Describe your style…
We design prints, tea towels, tote bags and other accessories which are largely typographic, simple, bold, colourful and cheerful. 

• What do you love about the medium you work in? 
We love being able to design products which can be produced with a great deal of care, mostly here in the UK. It's great to be able to design a product and be able to see it in person just a week or two later and for it to be ready to be shown to the world. We also love that we're not restricted to particular printing processes and depending on what we're working on we can make use of numerous printing methods such as screen printing, letterpress, foil blocking and anything else that takes our fancy! 

• Where do you find your inspiration- who or what inspires you? 
We find inspiration in all sorts of places, anything from old songs, books and movies to old proverbs we grew up with. Most old objects give us some source of inspiration and we love nothing more than wandering around an antiques shop or flea market.

• How do you translate your inspiration into a design?
This usually starts with a lot of brainstorming and discussion between the two of us, followed by sketching and having a play around to see what works best for a design. We'll usually work on a design for a bit then leave it and come back to it with fresh eyes to make sure we're still happy with the way we are going about it. When we're finished working on a design we spend a lot of time choosing colours and materials to make sure we get the best results.

• How do you structure your working day and how do you work together? 
Much of our working day is taken up with the day to day running of our online shops. We process orders as soon as they come in and make sure that our customer service is the highest priority. Then when we have more time later on in the day we get round to working on new designs and projects. We work together on pretty much everything and share our ideas all the time. We're constantly helping each other out and work closely on all of our designs. We do have the odd disagreement about design decisions but we feel very lucky to be able to work together every day!

• We all get creative block. How do you combat it?
Usually by leaving the project we're stuck on and moving onto something else. Taking a little break usually helps as we are able to come back with fresh eyes and tackle the problem with new energy. 

• Share your favourite tool with us.
Would have to be the trusty pencil. We spend a lot of time at our Macs but where ever we are and an idea pops into our heads a pencil is all we need to get the idea down and have a little sketching session.

• Describe your dream creative space…

Our dream space would be a beautiful old warehouse with high ceilings, bare brick walls and huge windows letting in lots of light. Somewhere where we have lots of space to spread out and work happily not surrounded by mess. We'd fill the space with lots of colouful rugs, plaster prints all over the walls and make the space a really inviting and creative environment. It would also be rather nice to have a slide coming down from a mezzanine level for when we need a little break (see photo of the Lego offices)! 

Image © Lego

• What lead to the moment that made you decide to sell your products professionally?
Well for us we actually started this way, we've always been interested in making things for homes and for people to use. There's nothing more exciting for us than seeing someone walking down the street carrying one of our bags, or stumbling across a beautiful home on a blog with one of our prints framed up on the wall. Often when we've thought of new products we've been trying to find gifts for friends and had ideas for items that we thought we'd like to buy, use and give ourselves.

• What are the obstacles you've encountered on your journey so far?
Our biggest obstacle so far has been finding the right suppliers and manufacturers. Getting other people to translate our ideas into great quality products consistently is a challenge. Other obstacles included the transition from working from a small room at home to knowing the right time to move into an office space. Space has always been one of our biggest problems. We're still trying to overcome this and are looking forward to moving into a much bigger space soon hopefully!

• The biggest high of our career so far is...
We're so proud to see our bags and prints being sold in some amazing shops including Selfridges, Heals and Colette in Paris. One big highlight for us is still to come, we're collaborating on a new collection of Alphabet Bags with one of our favourite artists which we are very excited about! (Cannot WAIT to see these!)

• What's the biggest lesson you've learnt on your creative journey so far & what advice would you give to a newbie?
The biggest lesson we've learnt so far is to not bite off more than we can chew. We've found it has been important to pick and choose the projects which fit with our long term goals, rather than just saying yes to every opportunity that comes our way. We've also learnt that we just can't manage every single aspect of running both brands, and that sometimes it is important to outsource certain roles to those with more expertise in a particular field. 

Our main tips for newbies would be: start off slowly so you're not putting a huge amount of pressure on yourself to make money immediately. If you can test your ideas before quitting the day job that's great. As you grow do your best to delegate, it's valuable to know how each aspect of your business works but don't get snowed under trying to juggle all of your book keeping, accounts, PR and packing if you don't need to or have time to do all of these things. Focus on what you do best!

• What's next for you?
We have a lot of new ideas in the pipeline for both KCG and AB. We hope to move office (and home) in the next few months so that we can get a larger work space. When we've moved we're planning to hire our first employee to help ease the workload. We're also looking forward to redesigning both of our websites and doing a bit of rebranding very soon which is exciting but also hard work. We've also got a number of collaborations and new product ranges for Alphabet Bags in the pipeline which we are really looking forward to introducing. It's definitely going to be a busy few months ahead for us but we're really excited about the future.

• Take us on a crawl of your favourite shops. Where do you like to shop and why?

Well there are so many but here are a few favourites:

Labour & Wait - Great quality classic and simple products, such as enamel jugs, chalkboard slates, colourful twine and leather satchels. They always have something that would make an ideal gift for absolutely anyone.

Catbird - I love absolutely everything this tiny little store in Brooklyn sells, but especially their beautiful rings.

Image © Lulie Wallace

Lulie Wallace's paintings - We recently disovered the beautiful floral paintings of Lulie Wallace and completely fell in love with them. We're lucky enough to own two of hers now and would love to have many more one day!

Image © Caravan

Caravan - Lots of lovely unique items here, we particularly love these concrete bulbs and their Jielde lamps.

Image ©Tattly

Tattly - fun designy temporary tattoos, need we say more? 

We also love nothing more than wandering around antiques shops and flea markets, we love old objects! Alfie's Antiques market is a particular favourite of ours.

• What's on your bedside table?
Coasters with pictures of our cats on (we're crazy cat people!), and old anglepoise lamp and a couple of small framed illustrations.

• iPhone, blackberry or android? And why? 
iPhone. It's the first smart phone we both bought and we've been a huge fan of Apple products for some time. Can't imagine using anything else!

• Complete the sentence: "In a past life we…"
Were cats!

• You're planning your last ever meal and celebrating with a dinner party. You have 6 seats around your table-who would you invite to join you and what would you serve up?  
Well if it's truly our last ever meal we'd invite our parents and siblings and also have two mini chairs for the cats! If it's not our last meal on the face of the planet then we'd invite a real mix of people who we think would make for interesting conversation: Brett & Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords, Steve Jobs, Stephen Fry, Audrey Hepburn and Clint Eastwood. 

For the meal we'd serve mussels to start, lobster & steak with lots of fries, followed by a selection of puddings: chocolate brownies, Eaton Mess, cheesecake and cupcakes. Sounds a bit greedy but hey it's our last meal!

• Give us a song! Which one song helps you whistle while you work? 
Hall & Oates - You Make My Dreams. This is a great song for lifting the mood. It was also the song we walked back down the aisle to after we got married last year so has many happy memories!

Thank you for a brilliant interview guys, it's always such a pleasure to see your businesses grow...and to sample some of those gorgeous bags too ;)


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