Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Hen's Teeth

I wanted to tell you about my business that I ran, self employed, for nearly five years, named Hen's Teeth Handmade Greetings Cards.
(Please excuse quality of photos, all the pictures are of greetings cards, in my portfolio and they are all in cello bags, which reflect the light, sorry)!
My business started when I finished my HND in Illustration. My final major project was self directed and basically I came up with some simple drawings worked in mono print. I thought they made good greetings cards, so I took them to my local Gallery and they sold quite well.
Monoprints are enjoyable to do but not for every card. So I came up with a brain wave....... mono print the original and then photocopy onto coloured paper, then cut to size, then hand colour, then glitter, then mount onto blank greetings cards, then bag up. Yes, I know, I can see it now but not then, (far too labour intensive) but I was too carried away with the buzz of it all!
Simple illustrations, all hand coloured, every bloody one of them.

I was lucky enough to be contacted by a sales Agent for the north west, who got lots of orders for me, who in turn put me in touch with another Agent, more orders. I eventually ended with seven Agents, covering the whole of the UK
The long legged chicken was my logo.. The one year I produced over 50,000 handmade greetings cards!
The following design is one taken from my range that sold incredibly well. This range had many designs, all under the name of 'Happy to have 100 of ........'. Such as 'Happy to have 100 pairs of knickers', 'Happy to have 100 handbags', 'Happy to have 100 pairs of shoes'. (Hens Teeth(c)2008) We all have a weak spot and I had a card for it!

Everyone was roped into hand colouring, even my husband, who 'colours in' beautifully, not going over of the lines at all!

Unfortunately, a line of designs have a limited period of time, a shop will order maybe once, twice but not three times lady! Whilst you are fulfilling orders you should be working on the next range, which I found very difficult, as I worked every hour god sent to fulfill orders which, naturally, saped by creativity.

The next range was called 'Fairy Fun'. I had moved away from monoprinting by now :-)

I think this range was my favourite.

Although I say it myself, I do love this snail's face.

Wibbly wobbly owl's eyes.
I am very proud to say that I had sales with Liberty and Selfridges.
With a various ranges in between, I went back to the 'Happy to have 100 of...' range because that was what I was best known for and I reworked the designs, as you can see below.

It all ended sadly, just under three years ago........cash flow!!! My costs were all up front and immediate i.e. materials, labour, carriage and you would hope for a quick payment but no, the length of time that I received my payment started to get longer and longer. Retailers hanging onto their money for as long as possible, nine months in some cases. Not being able to receive payment quickly enough and being permantly exhausted, meant that I finally had to admit defeat and I closed it all down.
I am so glad that I had that business though, it was a steep learning curve and I made lots of stupid mistakes, which make me cringe now but it's all in life's rich pattern! I'm on a different path now and creatively speaking, I have never been happier!
Thanks for stopping by.x


walter and me said...

Hello Viv, delurking to say what great cards! And well done for being successful, too. I find it very sad that bigger businesses can treat small businesses and the self employed so shabbily. Really enjoy your creativity here.
D x

Gigibird said...

It’s so good of you Viv to share your card story with us as you have revealed the truth about running a small business.

It is probably a dream of so many who are creative to be able to sell what they make but if it doesn’t make money and you spend increasing amounts of time on paperwork and chasing late payments then you can’t do what you wanted all along – to be creative.

Your cards are lovely.

Would you consider doing them again if you were able to sell direct?

Michala Gyetvai (Kayla coo) said...

Wow! I think I bought some of your cards or recieved one.
They are lovely.
Could you sell them yourself through etsy?

Gina said...

The cards designs are terrific Viv - pity you couldn't sell direct and avoid the big retailers. I love the "100 knickers" one best.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your story. Thanks for sharing it. I'll be amazed if I ever get my act together to sell anything.

Swirlyarts said...

Beautiful cards - I especially like the chicken one :) But goodness me 50,000 cards in one year and ALL handpainted/coloured? It's a wonder you weren't a walking wreck. I really like the direction you are going in now though and I'm determined to one of your pieces of work one day :)


HI Viv,

Your story is amazing I am now even more in awe of what you have done. Life in the arts and crafts world is tough and mean, but you still create beautiful things. You should be proud of your achievements! Its a shame that the little fish always ends up swimming against the tide in the big ocean.

Anonymous said...

great drawings- love the chooks and sheep

Jackie said...

How amazing to have had thatexperience of the 'real' world of business.
Its a shame it went pearshaped but on the other hand, what you are doing now wouldn't have happened if you were still making cards, so 'Hallmarks' loss is our gain!

gunnelsvensson said...

Thanks for telling your story Viv! So much work you have done!!! And so succesful! But I think the businessworld is really hard!!!

mimilove forever said...

50'000 coloured by hand! By 'eck our Vera it's a wonder you had any fingers left?!? :)
I for one would love to see them back in the shops...ARE YOU LISTENING CLINTONS?!

Think they're gorgeous chick; you should launch a new "not happy to have range... 100 grey hairs/big comfy knickers/wrinkles" ...I'd be first in queue for them! x;0)

x vInTaGe VioLeT x said...

your cards are absolutely gorgeous!
if you have stock left - i'd echo what others here have said and see if you can sell them on etsy/folksy.

minimalmarzipan said...

I refuse to lurk in the shadows any longer Viv. Forgot to say thanks for coffee and cake. I know this isn't facebook! Keep making and enjoy the bits I gave you. Your cards were so lovely, you should do more, but enjoy it this time!
Love T.

green phoenix said...

You dark horse!
I'm a firm believer in finding your way, perhaps in a convoluted fashion.
It's great to learn a little more about your background though, we are treading similar paths.
Your cards are fantastic, but I love your new work even more.

Pippa said...

50,000?! Now that's impressive! I love monoprinting but haven't done it in years. Cards in Liberty, eh? Now that is posh!
It's encouraging for me to see that you used to make cards and now you're off in a completely different direction - a really great direction! Thank you for sharing :o)

Unknown said...

Absolutely beautiful work! I so appreciate you sharing this story with us, as it makes us or me anyway feel like less of a failure for all the things that I have done and had to stop for one reason or another. And I am now traveling the self-employed road again, and constantly trying not to freak out. I so want this to work. I want the work I am doing now to be my life's work. I never felt this before. So maybe this is different. I sure hope so! Anyway, thank you again. This is the reason I love the blogosphere...I can reach across the world and feel less alone, less of an oddball...and find that there are people like me out there, people that have been there, done that! Amazing. thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. I didn't even know this is what i needed today!

ArtPropelled said...

I love your cards! The 100 series is charming. I have a niggling feeling that we havn't seen the last of them and that you needed to go in a different direction for a good reason. Don't ask me what the reason is? :-)

'fancypicnic' said...

I heard that L-word again! Wow - good on you. So impressive, Viv, and beautifully recounted...just a shame you had to close the doors on it - but I have to repeat what others have said here - etsy, etsy, etsy!! Mind you - 50,000? That's going some. The best bit? Look at the beauties you produce now. We all have a journey, eh? xx