Sarah Hamilton is a designer of cards and prints and she started the not-for–profit ‘Just A Card’ campaign’ about four years ago. Juliet Bawden speaks to her about the campaign and how she got started.
As it says on its web site, The Just a Card campaign, aims to encourage people to buy from designers, makers and independent Galleries and shops by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even ‘just a card’ are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses.
JB Did you go to art school originally and if so where and what did you study?
SH I studied fine art and print making at Manchester and then I did a post-graduate course in print making at Central St Martins.
JB After art school, what did you do next?
SH I always knew what I wanted to do and I was very focused. I made myself a press and printed some sample cards. I took them to Paper Chase, Heals and The Conran Shop. They all liked them and took them. I sold thousands and printed every one of them myself by hand.
JB You have written a book called House of Cards? Brilliant name by the way. Were you asked to do this or was it your idea?
SH The book was my idea and I had it for a while. I met my publishers, Pavilion, at an event and pitched it to them. They loved it and were so receptive that they went with it immediately.
JB Why did you come up with the concept of ‘just a card’?
SH The campaign came about when I saw the quote “ If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had ‘just bought a card’ we’d still be open” by storekeepers who’d recently closed their gallery. This prompted a call to action! designer/makers and independent shops and galleries need a voice. People seldom realise the considerable costs involved in exhibiting at design shows or keeping a shop open. Stand fees, power, materials, wages etc, need to be met before even a penny of profit can be realized. Running a shop is often a labour of love. Without dedication and passion, and crucially sales, it would be another boarded up eyesore.
JB It seems to have taken off in a big way, how has this come about?
SH To be honest, nothing much happened for the first year and a half of the campaign and then I got support from The Design Trust. I put out a shout for people to get involved and last year it became massive. We now have a team of 11 of us working on this. Everyone gives their time for free.
At the end of last year we got financial support from funding circle. As they say on their web site: ‘Funding Circle was born from the belief that when small businesses succeed, everyone benefits. We have been able to help more than 42,000 British small businesses to get finance through Funding Circle since 2010. However, we know times are tough for independent businesses across the country, which is why we are delighted to announce that we’ll be supporting the Just A Card campaign.’
JB What is next for the Just A Card Campaign?
SH We have had 15 posters designed that are going to be put up in five different tube stations. We have photographs of different actors, entertainers and those in the public eye each wearing a ‘Just a Card’ pin. Included are Twiggy, two of the actors from Game of Thrones, Michael Palin and many others. They have all given their time for free.
JB Describe your typical working day?
SH I am either in my studio making art, working towards exhibitions or fulfilling commissions. I may be chatting to the team about developments for the ‘just a card campaign’.
JB One of the reasons I am interviewing successful women is that they have often had to take a career break, or had to slow down to deal with child care and or aged parents.
Have you ever had to deal with either of these of issues and did it impact on your creative life or business?
SH Having a child had a big impact on my work. Before I had him I worked from a studio away from home, once he was born it was more practical to work from home. My husband is also freelance so we were able to share the childcare. I didn’t have the option of stopping work, as I don’t have a private income, and I needed to make a living. I wouldn’t have wanted to stop work anyway.
JB Do you run creative workshops?
SH Not at the moment, although I have done so in the past. I have run social media classes with The Design Trust and I taught on a foundation course for a couple of years.
JB How long have you been working as a professional designer?
SH Ever since I left art school 30 years ago.
JB I understand that you are a trustee for the charity Anno’s Africa a UK based children’s arts charity running educational arts projects for children living in slum conditions in Kenya, how did that come about?
SH I have lived in Africa on and off during my life and my mother was half South African. I felt it would be good to be involved in a charity that was relevant to my work and the arts in general.
JB How do you find your clients or do they find you?
SH They find me, often through word of mouth or they may have bought my work previously.
JB What is the best part of your work and what is the worst part?
SH The best part of my work is having the creative freedom to do what I want. This is one of the reasons that I don’t license my work, as for me the most important aspect of it is the creativity and the stimulus to learn and not to be forever driven by what will sell. Obviously I need to sell my work in order to make a living, but that is not the most important part of my work.
The worst part of my work is having to write so much. I need to do this for the Just a Card web site, but it is very time consuming and I am a perfectionist so it has to be well thought out and correct.
JB Who or what inspires you?
SH I am inspired by the creative community that I have around me. I have always taken part in group shows and love working with other people. As artists and designers everything we do is about communication and collaboration.
JB What is next for your work?
SH I shall be holding an open studio event at Christmas so I have already started working towards that.
For further information about Just a Card see their website