The Inside Scoop on Greetings Card Publisher DecorqueCards
After a long (unplanned) absence from the blog due to pesky illness, I’m delighted to be returning this week with a closer look at a special greetings card brand, DecorqueCards.
Launched in 2015 by textile designer Lesley Stevens DecroqueCards offer a wide selection of greetings cards with vibrant themes. Each greeting card design is captured in Lesley’s unique and eye-catching signature style; making them easily recognisable amongst a retailer’s selection.
In today’s post, as well as a looking at some of the cards we’ll also be getting an insider peek at the day to day runnings of DecorqueCards and how the business got started.
So without further ado, let’s get on with the interview…
What inspired you to start DecorqueCards and when did you begin?
Designing greetings cards has always been an area I have wanted to develop, even going back to when I was a Textile Designer for fashion. After launching my main brand, Decorque in September 2012 it was quickly evident that my greeting cards range was a bestseller; both online and at craft events where I was selling directly to the public. DecorqueCards was launched online at the end of May 2015.
What can you tell us about your business?
This business is run from my home in Oxfordshire and is multi-channel being both on and offline. The products are all British-designed and made. In addition to our successful online shops, we also sell our Decorque home accessories range alongside DecorqueCards at fairs and shows around the country. The business is really a joint family affair! Although other members all have full-time jobs, they help with the essential aspects of running and managing the company.
What is your role in the business?
I am the founder and Managing Director and my role incorporates design, administration, fulfilment and shipping. Additionally, I have become an active blogger to help promote the business.
What are your favourite things about your job?
I greatly enjoy creating new designs and actually going out and meeting customers; it gives me a great thrill to have people choose and buy something that I have created. Being an independent business enables me to showcase my own products.
Are there other people in your business?
Yes, as a family-founded brand we have a range of unique talents that contribute towards the success of the business. I am the only person working full-time at DecorqueCards; all other family members freely give their time and services to support me in this venture.
My daughter Harriet is a qualified graphic designer and works in fashion retail as creative head for a leading high street ladies’ brand. Her input into the design and consistent look and feel of our online and offline presence is vital.
Her husband Aaron runs his own successful company – Evergreen Agency Ltd – that manages and promotes our online presence.
My husband Chris is an eCommerce logistics specialist and therefore helps with strategy and the corporate side of the business. He also enjoys supporting me at fairs and shows around the country.
Your handmade cards have become the best selling part of your collection. Can you tell us why they are so special?
Every aspect of a card, from the imagination, creativity, construction and final embellishments is performed by myself. Very few items are bought in, and those that are include glass gems, bows and the like. Customer comments at our last show in York really sum up why they think our products are special: “Wonderful to see something different”, “I never expected to find such beautiful cards”, “Wow, now this is colour!” and “These cards are just too beautiful to send”. In fact, many customers decide to buy the cards to frame.
You create both handmade and digitally-printed greetings cards. What inspires you about this area of design?
Yes, the product range incorporates both digitally printed and handmade greetings cards. The digitally printed cards are the main basis of the online business as these are produced and sold in volume as required. The handmade cards are a brilliant option in extending the range, creating cards for numerous, specific occasions with a personal touch. An example is that one design can easily be adapted by just changing the personalisation to suit the customer’s exact request.
My inspiration for this area of design stems from the fact that, unlike for fashion design, I am not restricted by either season or colour. The door is open for me to create anything I wish.
The collection will continually be extended as the greetings card industry grows larger every year with an ever-increasing demand for subjects and occasions to cover.
Your products feature incredibly authentic and meticulous artwork. What can you tell us about the process of creating these designs?
The best way of explaining how the designs are created is to use an example of one of my original printed cards; the Lazy Leopard Single Card. As with many of the cards in the collection, they are developed from ideas initially created for products on Decorque.com. The centrepiece of this card is the beautiful lazy leopard, whose image has been drawn by hand, then Illustrator, and then cut in Photoshop from a rose and leopard skin print design I created for a cork placemat. The natural colour and texture of cork are used extensively in my card designs; here it is used in this design on the arching tree trunk and in the grasses below. Authenticity is reflected by the use of the soft buttery roses and the fresh green leaves which all exist in my own garden and which are taken from my personal photographic collection. All these main elements are selected, cut and brought together to form this design in Photoshop.
Your collection shows great attention to detail and quality. What can you tell us about the craftsmanship involved in designing and producing the range?
I use photography to capture detail in flora and fauna; I also use my extensive collection of fashion textile designs to bring in a pattern where needed. If I cannot find an image then I draw and paint one myself!
Unlike most designers, I do not concentrate on one single medium. I use hand-drawn, Photoshop and Illustrator where they work best and most effectively.
The handcrafted cards also bring in the hands-on craft element of hand-cutting, sticking, embellishing and personalisation to produce a unique product.
Every individual part of a design is perfected before being assembled into a composition. Using the visual qualities of hand-painted and the technical capabilities of shade, opacity and colour bring out the intricate detail of the design.
What sets you apart from other greetings card companies?
I believe that my designs are uniquely different in that the design range is extremely extensive and eclectic. Although you may recognise my hand, I am not limited to any set theme or media. This is demonstrated by a single design containing elements of hand-drawn and painted, coupled with the use of Illustrator and Photoshop images.
I believe that people should shop from DecorqueCards if they are seeking a unique, design-led product that can also be personalised in many instances.
If customers like nature, the natural world and colour and pattern, then my mix of the tropical with the quintessentially-British will appeal to them.
As I witnessed at a recent London Card Show a majority of greetings cards disappointingly are now printed in China, I use British printers for all my products and shall continue to do so, putting quality above profit.
Which of the DecorqueCards collection are the current bestsellers?
In the Handmade collection, my online best seller by far is ‘The Fantasy Flamingo – Bride & Groom Card’, which is very popular at this time of year. I think it has a great appeal, not only is it on trend, with flamingos, but the soft pinks and greens with touches of gold and glass gems also reflect the occasion it is meant to celebrate.
To have a personalised card with your names on makes it into something special, a memento to keep as a reminder of a wonderful Wedding Day. Inside, the decorative heart congratulates them on their wedding Day. So, this card says it all for the buyer they just need to sign their names.
Hot on its trail is ‘The Celebration Bottles Card’ – ranging from 18th – 90th Birthdays. This always sells best on a stand or stall direct to the public. Customers are aware of a special Birthday coming up and are willing to buy numbered cards in advance if they see one they like. This card, with its wine bottles cooling in a stone urn, a glass and bottle of Champagne, saying Congratulations with the special numbered Birthday, is definitely a winning design as it is so unique.
There is no doubt that we are a country of bird lovers. ‘The Kingfisher’ which was the first design in The Natural Wildlife collection, is my best seller on and offline. Its popularity may be because we know of the Kingfisher but rarely see one; this beautiful hand-painted bird I have christened ‘Kenny’ and he has become part of the family. The ombre tones of turquoise with reeds and lilies make an idyllic habitat, and I think this tranquil water scene, is a glimpse of nature that people love and want to share with others.
Another popular bird in design is the hummingbird and is one I feature extensively in my collection of cards and Home Accessories.
The ‘Floral Flight’ Card has been a best-seller for a long time now. The delicate flowering clematis and hovering birds in soft tones of blue-violet-purple on white is a perfect blank card. Many customers do not want messages or verses; they wish to buy cards that won’t stay in the draw and can be used for all occasions. This card has been used for Birthdays, Anniversaries, Get Well, Thank You and even Sympathy cards, and I think that is its wide-ranging appeal.
What are your personal favourite products in your current collection? Why do they stand out for you?
My personal favourite in the Decorque Collection is the Tropical Wonders of Nature Range. I know that cards are sent primarily for an occasion conveying a message, good wishes, well done etc.. but I would like people to acknowledge the design as well as the message. Take a look into the card, see the detail of the painting, the drawing, the collection of images brought together to form this imaginative picture, it can tell a story, for the price of a few pounds you could even frame it as a piece of art!
With this group of designs, I also wish to promote colour; we live in a colourful world and the Tropical world is there to dazzle us. What amazing animals live in these habitats, I hand-paint all them all and learn something about them along the way.
The Desert World was one of my favourite designs to collate, animals that we may not associate with cards, but in an imaginative world of sand and cactus come to life. So yes, I am proud of this collection and hope customers like it too.
DecorqueCards & the Independent Shopping Scene
We love independents and think more people should be supporting them. Why do you think people should shop with independent businesses like yours?
As an independent business, I have complete control over my design and products. This includes knowing precisely the source of the materials and being able to support other local businesses and enterprises such as craft fairs, charities and good causes.
If customers wish to support local industries and prefer British-made products then they can be more confident that the products they buy are authentically produced. We ought to celebrate British design talent.
Customers are also more likely to receive a friendly, personal service from a small family-run business.
What is your favourite independent business and why?
There is no one independent business that I could single out, but I am the type of person that avoids the general high street preferring to give my custom to small, independent businesses. This could range from the specialist cheese shop to the smaller gift, antique and fashion outlets in a market town like Burford, as they offer more unique products and excellent customer service.
The Future for DecorqueCards
What can card senders expect from DecorqueCards in the coming months?
I am still in the process of putting my new cards on to the website. A majority of my printed cards are blank, but I have started a new group which I intend to grow in the future which convey a printed message on the front of the card. ‘Here’s Wishing You… Flamingo Card’ and the ‘Just To Say… Cactus Card’. They have perfect open-ended messages for the sender to adapt to the occasion. I also have three new cards to join the Kingfisher in the Natural Wildlife collection, ‘Dabbling Ducks’, ‘Swans Lake’ and ‘The Patient Heron’. All show indigenous British wildlife scenes.
My designs are mainly for female to send and receive, I do have the start of a collection for the males in our lives which has the ‘Antique Office theme’, which is a group I am hoping to expand as I feel, apart from usual joke-cards, the male population is not that well served on the design front.
Now you’ve read the interview it’s time to find out more. Visit the DecorqueCards website.