Next in the new series chatting to artists and craftspeople about the process of bringing their ideas to life and starting a business, I spoke with illustrator and graphic designer Catherine Bamber about Bamber Prints, the gorgeous range of mostly animal-themed art prints and greetings cards.
After starting out on Etsy, Catherine recently launched bamberdesigns.com (after doing the same web design course I recently completed) as a new home for her Bamber Prints shop and her branding/web design services. So how did this new venture come about?
1. How did Bamber Prints start?
It originally started in 2016 when I opened an Etsy shop with a couple of prints. It only stayed open for a few months as I ended up moving to America for work, but I thought about it a lot and kept drawing designs.
When I moved home earlier this year and found myself in the middle of a pandemic with lots of time on my hands, I decided to open it back up! The name simply comes for my last name, Bamber, and the first things I sold were prints – it was also one of the only names available on Instagram, haha! I was never sure of it and honestly thought I’d change it, but it’s grown on me!
2. How do you create your designs, and how much has this changed over time?
Pretty much all my designs for Bamber Prints are created on my iPad using the Procreate app. I used to do a lot more by hand with fine liners, and still enjoy working by hand, but have to say the iPad changed my life (so dramatic!). It saved me so much time, as I found I lost a lot of detail when scanning drawings of dots and it allows me to correct mistakes quickly.
Most of my drawings are built up with lots of dots, I’m not really sure why or when I started drawing in this style, but I feel the most comfortable with it. I still love to experiment with paint and different media in my spare time though.
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3. What has your experience of selling on Etsy been like, and what pushed you to start your own website?
I really like Etsy, especially when you’re just starting out, as it’s a platform people trust and lots of people shop there. It can be hard to get your products seen amongst the rest though, and obviously, they take a commission on your sales. But I do believe you can get a lot from it if you put in the time to perfect your listings.
I always knew I wanted my own website though, and saw it as the next step for my business. When I started Steph My Life’s web design course it seemed like the obvious first website to make! It allows me to reach more customers, show more information about me and my brand and just feels a bit more personal. It’s so exciting seeing sales coming in too!
4. How important is sustainability to you, and has it been a challenge finding a way to have the right profit margin and be sustainable?
I’ve found over the last year that my personal habits have changed and I’m trying to make more eco-friendly choices, including where I shop and who I buy from. Because of this, it was really important to me that my own business reflected this.
Before opening my shop in May, I spent time researching suppliers, different paper options and packaging options. So far I haven’t found a huge cost difference, but I am lucky that I sell paper products so it is definitely easier for me than other brands! Currently, I print all my designs on 100% recycled card, which is made from post-consumer waste. My packaging is completely plastic-free and everything is either compostable or recyclable.
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5. Where do you get your ideas for your designs and do you have any personal favourites?
I have always loved to draw animals and get a lot of inspiration from nature documentaries or my travels (back when we were allowed to travel!). I have an endless list of animals I want to draw and usually think of sayings for my cards after I’ve drawn the animals…A lot of my cards are about cake, which I think says a lot about me!
I think my favourite design is my whale species print as it was the first thing I designed specifically for Bamber Prints. Well, I actually drew it for an old job but liked it so much and could really see it as a print, so I never showed them – I probably shouldn’t be saying that.
My favourite card is ‘Jurassic Party’ as I love dinosaurs and was so happy when I came up with that phrase as it worked so well with the little dinosaurs in party hats! I’m proud of that one.
6. What do you wish you knew when you started out?
When I first started, I wish I’d thought about my overall brand image more, as I pretty much threw all my drawings I’d ever done onto Etsy and there was no clear style. I think I’d read somewhere that you do better on Etsy with more listings but even if that’s true, I think quality is better than quantity (which sounds obvious now).
When I reopened my shop, I took time to really think about how I wanted the shop to look as a whole and think it helps now that my listings all have the same style to them – you can tell they’re Bamber Prints.
I’d also recommend taking time to research keywords for listings, taking great photographs of your products and finding the right suppliers before opening your shop. These things can get overlooked as you get excited to put your products out there but they’re so important, will save you time in the future and ultimately bring you more sales.
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7. What’s your proudest moment so far?
Ah, this is a hard one to answer! I’m not good at celebrating my own wins, but I’m trying to more. To be honest, there’s not one moment but lots of little ones. I was so proud to reach 100 sales on Etsy, it may seem small to some, but it seemed so out of reach for a while and now I’m almost on 200! I was also so proud to launch my website – it took so much time and hard work, that it was really nice to see it finished and to receive nice feedback on it. I’m especially proud when an order comes through and I know it’s working!!
To find out more about Bamber Prints and Bamber Designs, visit bamberdesigns.com and follow Bamber Prints on Instagram and Facebook.