It’s Indie Friday! Big Names Back ‘Just a Card, Book & Gift’ Campaign With Lady Wimbledon encouraging everyone to ‘Shop Independent’ this Christmas, our new Celebrity Editor, Angela Sara West, chats with Just A Card campaigner Sarah Hamilton about her mission to back independent businesses, artists and designers, and her initiative with all-star support to keep our high streets alive’n’buzzing!
With no fewer than fifteen famous faces, from Richard E. Grant and ‘Game of Thrones’ star Natalie Dormer, to Michael Palin and Twiggy, on board her campaign, founder Sarah Hamilton has household names aplenty advocating her Just A Card crusade.
Natalie and Michael comment below, but the colour, drawing and architecture-obsessed South London-based artist, designer and author is also well known. Sarah’s contemporary, colourful and bold style of her joyful modern-day work inspired by nature, colour and mid-century design is stocked by countless independent retailers and galleries in the UK and overseas, and frequently features in books and the press. Who’d have thought her school art teacher didn’t believe in her artistic ability?!! “My teacher told me I was far too boisterous and experimental to ever be able to make a living as an artist,” she reveals. “To this day, I’ve secretly enjoyed proving that being boisterous and experimental is actually a positive!”
House of Cards
Having begun her career as an artist, hand printing greetings cards for Paperchase, The Conran Shop and Designers Guild, cards kickstarted Sarah’s career. “I see them as breadcrumbs leading to my work, and I adore making them. Their continued popularity is wonderful, and I’m often told people collect them and even frame them.”
These days, Sarah presides over a busy London studio making a range of artwork and homewares. She’s also been a guest speaker at Crafty Fox Market events, The Design Trust and Mollie Makes awards. A celebration of the community of card makers and the nation’s love for greetings cards, Sarah’s bestselling book, ‘House of Cards’ (published by Pavilion), champions the creative processes of ten leading designers, who reveal their inspirations and share ideas, tips and tricks to help you achieve a polished and professional finish.
The book also features ‘Victoria’, ‘The Borgias’ and ‘The White Queen’ actor David Oakes who, as a charity Christmas card designer for The British Lung Foundation, wrote a whole fascinating chapter on the importance of cards.
Just A Card campaign
As a passionate champion of independent businesses, artists and designers, Sarah established the Just A Card campaign www.justacard.org with the initial support of The Design Trust in 2014, to encourage people to buy from designers, artists, independent shops and galleries, and other small businesses, after seeing yet another small gallery sadly close.
“Indeed… The quote read ‘If everyone who complimented my beautiful gallery had bought ‘just a card’, we’d still be open,’ she explains. “I’ve been an artist and designer for many years, and have sold through many independent galleries and shops. Times are tight for shopkeepers and, when I read that, I thought, ‘That’s it’! What a simple, but strong, way to get an important message across. Many people say they love independent shops yet, as the shopkeepers often say, they never shop in them. Compliments make the world a sunnier place, but they don’t pay the bills.” So, knowing it was time for action, Sarah had her lightbulb moment, and her brainchild, Just A Card, was born. “I feel extremely privileged to be making a living as an artist, and am grateful to each and
every customer, shop and gallery who’ve supported me.” Run by Sarah and a group of passionate artists, makers and small business owners, the small Just A Card team, which is made up primarily of volunteers, has worked relentlessly on their much-needed mission for over six years. By reinforcing the message that ALL purchases, however small – even ‘just a card’ – are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses, she says their campaign is a call-to-action for EVERYONE to spread the love and to treasure and value independent shops, shouting from the rooftops about them and playing a huge part in keeping independent design businesses afloat.
“These businesses are so vital, you need to use them or you really will lose them. Our campaign is fun and it’s inclusive, which is why people love it. It’s waking people up to the reality that their seemingly-small gesture has a big impact. Just a card, just a book, just a pin, just a gift – that’s all it takes!” From sharing stories, favourite shops and stockists, to daily social media tutorials for small businesses, it’s designed to give you advice, top tips and a prize draw, share work and shout loud’n’proud about shopping small!
Do a Happy Dance – It’s Indie Week! In 2018, the campaign culminated in a ‘Happy Dance Friday’, with videos expressing the joy that an independent business owner feels when people buy from them. There was a fun Instagram Challenge, too, which continues again this year during JUST A CARD – Indie Week (22-26th November), the colourful independent alternative to Black Friday.
Now in its fifth year, JUST A CARD – indie Week is about bringing the might of the Just A Card community together to shout from the rooftops about the importance of valuing and buying from artists, makers and independent shops and small businesses during the crucial Christmas period.
Sarah says the not-for-profit campaign continues to go from strength-to-strength, with the message certainly striking a chord – thousands of artists, designers, makers, museums, gallery owners and curators are exhibiting campaign posters and window stickers, using the logo and taking part in events. “That over 17,000 independent shops, from Twickenham to Tasmania, now proudly display our distinctive SUPPORT INDEPENDENTS stickers in their windows, plus thousands of artists and makers worldwide have joined our movement, is testament to the passion and commitment of so many to this vibrant creative community.”
JUST A CARD – Indie Week last year was a massive success, exceeding all expectations and featuring on BBC TV News and BBC radio. “Over 55,000 artists, designers, crafters and independent shops took part,” she says. “Shops made JUST A CARD window displays and thousands took part in our 5-day Instagram challenge! We were amazed and delighted that so many people wanted to prove how valuable our message is. It really was the party we had hoped for, and more!” And the campaign goes big at Christmas, too. “A couple of years ago, we had a Christmas card by Benedict Cumberbatch to help spread the word and make money for charity.” The campaign is also strongly supported by The GCA, Mollie Makes, The Art File, Made by Cooper, Funding Circle, Top Drawer and Cardgains. “Their support is just incredible, and we have achieved so much with their help,” says Sarah.
Famous faces backing Just A Card & Book In 2019, Sarah started a new chapter in her campaigning story, with household names lending their support to the campaign ‘Just A Book’, to support Britain’s independent bookshops www.justacard.org/just-a-book
Since 1995, the number of indie bookshops across the UK has dropped from 1,900 to just 880 in 2018. “When the owner of a much-loved local bookshop explained to me why he’d been forced to close down, it upset me so much that I felt compelled to do more than simply mutter how sorry I was,” Sarah discloses. “He’d told me (without bitterness) of all the times people came to him for advice, said how gorgeous his shop was and how much children adored the reading and play corner. He recalled people who never bought from his shop asking for raffle prizes for their kids’ school, commenting that his shop was a ‘wonderful community asset’. He told of people rummaging through his stock, making lists of holiday reading inspiration or Christmas gift ideas, then leaving empty-handed, having told him, unashamedly, of the clicks they intended to make at home. These same people were so sad to see the shop close. ‘What a loss’ they said.” The ‘Just A Card’ grassroots campaign partnered with leading small business loan platform, Funding Circle, for support for Indie Week, in Sarah’s attempt to make even more of a difference, they joined forces again, with some very famous faces on board the campaign to get Britain supporting independent card retailers and bookshops. Celeb support
Richard E. Grant, Dominic Cooper, Natalie Dormer, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Hayley Mills, David Oakes, Michael Palin, Greta Scacchi, Nathalie Emmanuel, Felicity Jones, Hanif Kureishi, Alex Lanipekun, James Norton, Bruce Robinson and Twiggy have all been photographed reading their favourite books to show their support for independent bookshops. The top stars of ﬁlm, TV, literature and the arts are wearing their ‘Just A Card’ badges with pride in the pics, calling on consumers to support our high streets. “We’re thrilled that leading stars have added their voices to the Just A Card campaign to show that they, too, value the richness and creativity of independents,” says Sarah. “Just A Card’s simple, yet powerful, message of ‘just a card, just a book, just a gift etc.’ reminds people just how vital and valuable all sales are, however small.” Thanks to an all-star cast and Funding Circle, which has made a generous donation to UK-based children’s arts educational charity Anno’s Africa (annosafrica.org) in the name of those photographed in lieu of a fee, the Just A Card message is heard by the wider public, hopefully helping the independent shops and businesses which bring so much to our high streets, towns and cultural lives. Fifteen enormous billboards boasting the stars’ photographs were on display at six busy London underground stations, aiming to make people think about how they can make a difference to the artists, makers, independent shops and small businesses that we love and encouraging everyone to join in and support the campaign! For it to be truly effective, Sarah says they need to preach beyond the converted and get their message across to the wider public. “By extending our campaign to include independent bookshops, we’ve widened our message about how all sales – no matter how small – add up to create vibrant towns,” she explains. “These famous faces have joined our campaign because they believe in the importance of supporting independents. This beautiful series of intimate portraits of top stars reading their favourite books, resplendent in our iconic pins, doesn’t just remind us how precious books are to our lives, but also champions the wonderful independent shops that sell them.” Messages from the stars… The captivating, moving series of photographs, beautifully shot by acclaimed portrait photographer Charlie Gray at The Royal Geographical Society and The Horniman Museum, invites the onlooker to consider ‘what’s YOUR just a book?’ “The spirit of curiosity, learning and challenging our imaginations should be, by its very nature, independent! That individuals curate, with hard work and love, bookstores that counter corporate curation is paramount in this day and age,” says ‘Game of Thrones’ star, Natalie Dormer. “I remember ‘Child Me’ being taken to my local independent Bookshop in Fordingbridge and placing an order for each progressive volume of Douglas Adam’s ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ series. I was in heaven devouring his books…” reveals small-screen star of ITV’s series ‘Victoria’, David Oakes. “A relationship with the bookseller grew as each week I would turn up to order the next book; she always seemed so excited to see me. I guess my point is that independent bookshops create a relationship between people, as well as with the books that they read. It’s all about sharing stories… those written down, sure, but also those of our actual lives.” “I support independent bookshops in the same way that I support independent thinking of any kind,” says Michael Palin. “I rejoice in what makes bookshops different. I like the quirkiness and personal touch you find in independent shops… they touch local history and local interests, and the best of them reflect the energy and enthusiasm of book-loving owners. Long may they last and long may they thrive!” Get your sticker & pins! With the Just a Card campaign changing the way people shop, building on this momentum, ‘Just A Book’ celebrates books and local bookshops, and is a further reminder to consumers that their purchasing choices have a huge impact on the wider community, and are crucial for the future health and prosperity of the UK’s ever-changing retail landscape and high streets. “If you’re an independent retailer, get your window sticker and campaign pins at www.justacard.org. We hear from retail businesses that they are changing the way people shop,” says Sarah. She stresses that all purchases add up and are critical to small business success. “We’re challenging shoppers to think about where they spend their money, and show how much they value the independent bookshops that make our high streets so special,” Sarah explains. “Let’s work together to remind people that it’s never just a card, just a book, just a gift… it’s the difference between flourishing towns and boarded-up shops!” From bookshops to bakeries, independent businesses bring us something special and are important to the economy and our local communities. “Their friendly service, expert advice and unique treasures keep our towns and high streets vibrant. It takes passion and determination to run a small business. They create opportunities and inspire us, building communities for everyone. Their success is our success. We want everyone in the UK to get behind this campaign. So, let’s support small. Make your purchase count, whether it’s just a card, just a book, or just a gift.”
If you run a shop and already have a sticker, why not encourage neighbouring shops to get theirs? “The same goes if you supply shops, or even just love them,” says Sarah. “Let’s work together to get a LOT more stickers up in shops!”
Visit Calladoodles this Christmas!
Unique concept store Calladoodles on Carshalton’s historic High Street has been loyally supporting Sarah’s Just A Card campaign for years. Displaying her sticker with pride in her eye-catching shop window, founder and executive manager Clare White says their ‘feel-good’ products and new post-pandemic ‘arts hub’ plan have been enhancing customer experience, lifting the community’s spirits and maximising the store’s potential. “We’re keen to help people feel happier by surrounding them with things they love and embracing all the little luxuries and special moments that make life great!”
The specialists in cutting-edge cards, gifts, fashion and design have a focus on sustainability and corporate responsibility, alongside supporting local charities, with many of the company’s carefully-selected products eco-friendly and ethically sourced.
As pioneering businesswomen flying the flag for female entrepreneurship, Clare and her mother co-founded the company and are supported by an all-girl team. The trendsetting business that brought
handmade to the high street has rocketed from its humble beginnings as an indoor market to a leading-edge store, empowering local and national independent designers, artists and publishers by providing them with a launchpad for their work.
The award-winning card and gift shop boasts not only bang-on-trend gifts and high-end home design, but a few new post-lockdown twists! Bringing a breath of fresh air and life back to the hard-hit high street, Carshalton’s coveted concept store is leading the way for independent Surrey stores reopening their doors, and continues to set standards in the small business sector with its innovative ideas.
Calladoodles’ customers include high-profile soprano and co-founder of Carshalton Opera Maggie Cooper, and Clare & Co. pride themselves on their exemplary customer service. The much-loved community hub supports neighbouring shops and other businesses by encouraging Calladoodles’ customers to ‘shop local’ for their other needs, too. After all, if ever there was a time to ‘shop local’, it’s now!
Continuing its mission to promote its all-important ‘shop the high street’ message, vibrant community-led Calladoodles is a truly inspirational success story… If anyone can illustrate that out of adversity comes creativity, Calladoodles can! Keeping calm and carrying on, the courageous company rose to the pandemic challenges in its own creative Calladoodles way, with the team’s truly ground-breaking British spirit successfully navigating the current coronavirus crisis, seeing them relaunch as a pioneering, purpose-designed concept store and setting standards in the small-business sector.
Juggling young kids with Calladoodles’ commitments, Clare continued to go to great lengths to support her makers, designers and artists, including renowned local artists John Stillman and Abel Kesteven, and other local small businesses along the way, while unlocking experimental opportunities and coming up with clever new concepts and smart solutions. Her purpose-designed concept store and arts hub is paving the way for other Surrey independents to follow in her forward-thinking footsteps.
The beautiful boutique is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of festive decorations, jewellery, accessories and gifts galore for your home, your family and friends, and even offers its own gorgeous gift wrap, designed by local illustrator Louise at Attica Design. Whatever the occasion, Calladoodles has it covered. “We also stock cards and artwork by Just A Card blogger and surface pattern designer Kate Marsden, who comes to put the Just A Card poster in our window,” says Clare.
With craft officially cool again, it’s back on the creative map more than ever, having become a firm favourite lockdown hobby. What’s more, Calladoodles’ website will soon be jam-packed with inspiring inspo for Christmas and beyond, with fab new photos of the cream of the Christmas crop of their festive wares creatively captured on camera by Carshalton-based photographer Jon Boast.
The soon-to-be-relaunched online presence will platform the latest trends (and create a few new ones!) with fresh ideas to complement their contemporary state-of-the-art store and elevate the community ethos they have so proudly established.
So, hotfoot it to Carshalton’s High Street to find out more about what’s in store this Christmas. “To all our lovely customers, old and new, we literally can’t wait to see you!” says Clare.
Sarah the influencer
As for Sarah, how does it feel to be such a huge influencer? “If this gives me a platform to encourage people to support artists, designers, makers and independent shops, then it feels wonderful,” says Sarah. “I’d like nothing more than to spread the word far and wide about the incredible talent, passion and commitment people put in to their artwork. Creativity is precious and should be held in high regard.” “Join the celebration,” she concludes. “If you’re a maker, retailer, run events, put on exhibitions, represent your town, are a blogger, or simply somebody who appreciates and values creativity and
originality, then come on it. Everyone’s welcome at JUST A CARD – the more the merrier!” Readers can get involved and download the logo, images and other materials from: www.justacard.org
JUST A CARD – Indie Week runs from 22nd-26th November. Find all the details at www.justacard.org/indie-week
Join in on social media by liking and sharing the ‘Just A Card’ and ‘Just A Book’ posts to help spread the campaign message, using the hashtag #justacard Instagram: @justacard
Posters are available from www.fundingcircle.com/blog/2019/06/natalie-dormer-michael-palin-twiggy-join-campaign-to-support-independent-bookshops/
‘House of Cards’ on Instagram: @hoc.cardbook
Sarah Hamilton Prints: www.sarahhamiltonprints.com
© Angela Sara West 2021 Insta: @angela_sara_west