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Inspiration strikes in odd places - the real road the new card range is named after

Fairy fun - Rachel’s current favourite card

Designer driven to new inspiration

Artists find inspiration comes from the most surprising places, here Tracey Bearton chats with designer Rachel Church about how her award-winning company Rachel Ellen Designs and where her ideas spring from.


raffi c news causes most drivers to gnash their teeth and think of ways to torture the Roads Minister but designer Rachel Church has a completely different reaction. Celebrating 15 years running

Rachel Ellen Designs with husband Justin, she still thinks of greetings cards and art all the time. And her latest Wibbly Wobbly Lane range came from that traffi c bulletin while she was driving home from the studio. “It’s actually a real lane – in Hitchin, Herts! I was driving back in January and when the traffi c news came of there were some traffi c problems in Wibbly Wobbly Lane and I thought ‘I like that name for cards’.

“Then we used the googly eyes on this new

children’s age range so I thought it was all wibbly wobbly – it’s embossed and has spot varnish so it’s shiny and the eyes are hand-stuck, with bespoke envelopes.”

And she now has even more fun working because the studio at their premises in Sherwood, Nottingham, has expanded to include new designer Anna Wise – and the pair are soon to move into a shiny new space in the building the company has just bought, along with Ian Riley and Alex Marshall who do all the repro and ready-for-print work – and the family Yorkshire terriers Louis and Harry. “We have just the two designers,” Rachel added, “we do buy in a bit of artwork but Anna is the fi rst person who is working for us as an in-house designer. We’ve been going 15 years and I’ve been designing on my own until now. Anna’s been here since February. “She’s defi nitely brought a new dimension, I can bounce ideas off someone now, I wanted to take someone on who has a complimentary style to my own and I think Anna has that. She has strengths that I haven’t got, especially in different adult designs, so we can hopefully broaden our card offering to our customers without diluting the brand.” And Anna has already made her mark with her

fi rst range for the company, Peaches And Dreams, a square-format birthday and occasion range which has embossing and silver fl itter, which was launched at PG Live 2012 on May 29 and 30 along with Wibbly Wobbly Lane and the full Christmas range of advent calendars, advent cards, letter to Santa, relations and jigsaw cards, packs and singles and money wallets.

Anna said: “Rachel doesn’t really give me a strict brief but for Peaches and Dreams we talked


about embroidery as inspiration so that became a starting point. I sewed the designs fi rst as a fl at outline and scanned them in on the Mac then they were embossed to make them look like they are real fabric.”

While Rachel Ellen Designs is most widely known for its children’s and cute ranges of greeting cards, it is certainly not the whole story. “Cards are our bread and butter, but people want more,” said Rachel.

The company has been diversifying buying in artwork to produce fl oral cards aimed at adult audiences and now produces stationery, partyware and apparel like children’s bags and aprons along with a growing range of tin products. They have also designed four consecutive bespoke ranges of back to school stationery for one of their top retail customers, John Lewis. This year’s range includes pens, tins of notecards, stationery wallets and sticky notes.

The company started after Rachel retired from professional ballet, where she met husband Justin on the set of Phantom Of The Opera. She started painting and illustrating and began going to craft fairs to see what was selling during the late 90s recession. “That’s where I learned what people really liked,” Rachel said. She started painting on to acetate and her fi rst range of cards was born. The novel stained glass-effect greeting cards sold quickly and became the foundation of the business. “I was painting 18 hours a day from a tiny fl at in London. The cards were laid out all over the place to dry,” recalled Rachel. “I didn’t know anything about sizes or envelopes so most of the cards were non standard sizes.”

Having always bought blank cards herself, it

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