A Look Behind the Scenes of Yuyu

by | Nov 12, 2013 | Industry Interviews

Take a Look Behind the Scenes of Yuyu

Say hello to …

Jules McKeown co-founder of Yuyu

Tell us a little about yourself and your company? 

I started my textile design journey at the renowned Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Scotland. Over fifteen years on, having worked in top design studios in New York and London I now live in the Leeds and divide my time between designing for Yuyu, part-time lecturing to the textile students at Leeds College of Art, and most recently being a new mum to my son Bertie.

Back in 2008, after freelancing for a number of national and international clients I decided it was time to do my own thing. I launched my very own design company called Yuyu, along with the help of my graphic designer husband Mark. With a love of colour and bold graphic prints (often influenced by the retro patterns I grew up with in the late seventies) the aim was to create collections of designs that were suitable for a wide range of customers and hopefully brighten everyone’s day!

Nearly six years on, I continue to design cards, which are sold to independent retailers throughout the UK, Europe, America and Canada. I also undertakes freelance commissions, license my designs for a variety of different products and I also get my hands dirty with a bit of lovely screen printing.

Describe your typical working day … 

I would like to say that I have a typical working day! However, it varies one day to the next, often depending on what is top priority that week! I like to be organised and plan ahead – big believer on setting goals even if they can be somewhat ambitious! I teach textile design two days a week at Leeds College of Art. I love teaching! I get to chat about design all day and help students develop their fledgling design skills and hopefully prepare them for the design industry. The rest of the week I juggle designing for Yuyu and looking after my son. I now work a lot in the evenings once my husband gets home. So it is very much a balancing act but I like having lots of things on the go. I seem to thrive on being constantly busy!

What is the best thing about your job? 

I like working for myself and having more artistic control of what I design. Also I have quite a varied week, which also appeals to me. But the best thing is when you see your products & designs in the shops. My husband and I did a design last year for Harrods of London, I was so chuffed to see the design on loads of products I ended spending a fortune on samples (now Christmas Presents!)

shopping bag for harrods

Do you use any specialist techniques to create your products? 

I’m a bit of a digital freak – working in both Photoshop and Illustrator. However, recently I have been get back into my screen-printing and mono-printing so I can bring in a more hand-crafted nature to my work.

What would you like to do next with the business? 

After six years, the business to starting to expand into new areas. I have always wanted to do my own collection of wallpapers and furnishing fabrics along with developing other interior product ideas. Also I would love to collaborate more with people both on the design and business side.

What tip would you give to someone starting a business? 

Goodness, where to start! Do your research. Spend time going to trade shows and generally gathering as much info particularly on the business side as possible along with what your competitors are up too. When my husband and myself started out with our wee design company, we knew very little of how to run a business! We did a short business course called ‘The Ladder Club’ run by Progressive Greetings that gave us such valuable information & insight on running a card publishing company. Business Link is also really good and has loads of free business courses. Find a mentor – someone you can share your thoughts and hopefully give you advice.

Your Products …

What is your personal favourite product in your collection?

My favourite product has got to be our personalised kids prints. We trialled these a couple of years ago at a local craft fair and they went down a storm. We have since added to this collection and developed a range of kids greetings cards & wrap.

personalised giraffe print

birthday cards

birthday card and matching gift wrap

What are the most popular products in your range?

Our Chirpy range of greetings cards & wrap. They seem to appeal to both adults and kids.

birthday cards

Are you working on any new products at the moment?

I have been busy doing lots of new things – just recently finished a range of licensed 10 wrap designs for another publishing company. Also I have been working on a range of stationery designs for an American company, and the products will be on sale in Target, which I am most excited about! I am also currently designing my first collection of quilting fabrics. This has been a new ways of working for me, but I have really enjoyed the challenge.

printed tea towels

patterned wallpaper

What do you want to do in the next year? 

Although I intend to continue with cards and stationery products – the plan is to launch my first collection of wallpapers, fabrics & interior at a major trade show in 2014.

Your Inspiration …

What inspired you to start your business? 

I actually remember the moment! My husband & myself were in a card shop in Edinburgh and we came across the beautifully illustrated wrapping papers of Hanna Werning for Beaumonde. The colour was bright and the imagery was not what you would originally associate with wrapping paper. So it was certainly seeing designers like this and the more graphic card publishers like 1973 that made us think about what we wanted to do.

What inspires your products? 

A variety of things – I love bold use of colour and pattern. Often look to mid century design for inspiration. I collect lots of mid-century bits n’ bobs. Nature and modern Scandinavian influences.

What other card & gift designers do you admire? 

I am such a fan of so many fab designers and card publishers! Huge fan of Becky Carr of Owaboo. Isak, Lagom, 1973 & most recently Jessica Hogarth who is one of my ex-students at Leeds College of Art and doing fantastically well.

What business brands inspire your business? 

Orla Kiely. Rachael Taylor for her drive and enthusiasm for surface pattern.

Thank you Jules.

Visit the Yuyu website.

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