I love greeting cards. I love sending them. I love receiving them. I love hoarding them. I may or may not have a whole box full of them.

I love it when a card just speaks to you, and you know you have to send it to that one specific person, and I like to think the people on the other end enjoy them too. Nothing says I saw this and thought of you in the way that a great greetings card can. There are loads of incredible designers creating greetings cards, so I thought I would share a list of some, by no means all, of my favourites to help you fulfil all your stationery desires.

Rifle Paper Co.

THE BIG GUNS

Rifle Paper

Founded and owned by husband and wife team, Anna and Nathan Bond, Rifle Paper might just make some of the most stunning cards you can buy. They have a mix of beautifully illustrated and quite simple designs. Personally, I usually end up gravitating towards their more illustrated styles, especially when there’s a bit of gold foil involved. Even though they’re based in Florida, their postage to the UK isn’t too steep but does give you an excuse to add an extra couple of cards to your basket.

Gemma Correll

I think I have, at some point, bought every card Gemma Correll has made, in some cases I’ve bought them more than once. All of her cards feature her easily recognisable illustration style, and they’re the perfect mix of funny, true and a little bit uplifting.

Kikki.K

Kikki.K are known for their simple Swedish designs and their mindful journals, but they also make some beautiful greeting cards, for all occasions. Their cards embrace many of the same minimal design principles as their other stationery, so if you’re a fan of anything else they’ve made I’d highly recommend their cards. They have a store in Covent Garden, but their greeting card selection is way better online.

Ohh Deer

Ohh Deer stock a lot of the designers I’m mentioning in this list, as well as so so so many more. If you’re looking for a card that’s a bit quirky, and also to accidentally pick up more stationery than you will every use, Ohh Deer is the one for you.

Emily McDowell

 

THE WORDY ONES

Emily McDowell

Emily McDowell makes cards for the relationships people really have and for the times when there isn’t really anything you can say. If you scroll through her website I guarantee you’ll find a card that speaks to you in the that’s so us, or even that’s so me, kind of way. She’s even written a book about the times when there’s no good card for what you’re looking to say.

Dorkfeatures

In a similar vein, Lauren Goodland, AKA Dorkfeatures, makes cards that are relatable and funny and so so lovely. They’re so great for friends, which I think is kind of hard to come by. Plus, her relationship cards are just great, if someone could sign up to protect me from giant spiders (mainly just the ones with big bodies) I’d be very appreciative. I will also say that if you like her cards, I would highly recommend following her on social media to watch them come together and just have some chuckles.

Adam JK

I’m a huge fan of Adam JK in all situations, but he recently released a set of postcards that are just brilliant. They’re perfect for when the high street just doesn’t have a card that says just what you want it to, or for when you want something a little shorter and less formal than a card (and by that I mean a postcard).

Katie Leamon

 

THE SIMPLE ONES

Katie Leamon

Katie Leamon makes some lovely handwritten cards, as well as some very special foiled numbers (I have a thing for foil on cards okay?!). I particularly love the unique cut edges of her cards that are inspired by vintage postage stamps, such a wonderful idea and a really special touch to a simple, does the job beautifully card.

My Dear Fellow

I’ve included My Dear Fellow in the “simple” category even though their cards are bright, colourful, and illustrated because their style is quite graphic. These are the perfect cards for when you want something beautiful but not to specific, ie. the ideal store-cupboard cards.

Jordan Carter

 

THE FUNNY ONES

Katie Abey

Katie Abey’s cards are happy, bright and just a wee bit sarcastic. I love all of her animal based designs, but her happy birthday llama has got to be one of my favourites – if any of your friends loved ‘Llamas with hats’ as much as I did you really need to check this furry fella out.

Jordan Carter

‘You’re a huge sack of dicks but I like you’* sums up Jordan Carter’s style. They’re a little bit rude and a little bit mean, and perfect for that friend/loved one you’re so close to that you just rag on each other lovingly. *I’m not being unkind it’s one of my favourite cards of his.

Amy Heitman

 

THE DAMN THAT’S PRETTY ONES

Present & Correct

When they’re not curating the most perfect Instagram feed, Present & Correct’s day job is making gorgeous stationery.

Wrap

You would expect nothing less than beautifully designed from Wrap Magazine’s card selection, and they do not disappoint. They sell cards from a range of designers but their selection is so well curated that there isn’t a card on their site that I don’t like.

Amy Heitman

Amy Heitman’s cards are hand illustrated objects of love, they are stunning. If you like Rifle Paper’s style I would highly recommend having a look at her stuff and drooling a little bit.

Jon Klassen

I love everything Jon Klassen does. His picture books are absolutely tremendous if you haven’t read We Found a Hat you really truly need to. His cards are just as lovely and heart-warming as his books are, they’re beautifully illustrated and really small pieces of art that you can put your own feelings in and share.

 Annie Dornan Smith

Annie’s cards are bee-autiful (check out her website to get that pun), she has quite a small range but I love all of her cards and stationery. Plus, her packaging is gorgeous so if you order online it’s like you get a gift as well as the person you’re sending the card to later.

How long should we look at art? It’s a question I come back to every now and again.  I recently read a great article on artsy about it and it got me thinking again. When was the last time I made an effort to look at art for longer, not to hurry through a museum passing an extra cursory glance to the artists I recognise or I find appealing before shuffling through to the gift shop.

There have been several studies which have tried to analyse how long we spend looking at works in galleries, all of which have come up with slightly different answers. One study concluded that we look at paintings and photographs for an average of 17 seconds, another decided on 10 seconds, which broke down to 2 seconds looking at the piece, 8 reading the wall text, and then a final cursory glance. Those figures aren’t low because of the quality of the art, apparently, people spend just 15 seconds looking at the Mona Lisa. The most optimistic survey comes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the visitors look at each work for 32.5 seconds.

Surely part of the reason for the speed of our viewings is that we’ve been trained not to spend too long looking at anything. When it comes to moving images, TV cameras cut on average every seven seconds, to hold out attention and tell us where to look. We don’t even have the patience for video clips anymore. We’ve become pros at scrolling through news feeds, flicking through channels and Snapchatting. All of which have combined to create an ability, that is both a blessing and a curse, as whilst we can take in visual stimuli at record speeds, we also often struggle to slow down.

But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We need to retrain ourselves to spend time looking, and I mean really looking.

That’s what I’ve been trying to do recently. I’m lucky to work near some of London’s best art galleries, so when I can I take a trip out on a lunch time and just sit with one painting for as long as I can. There are 2 main things I’ve learnt from that experience. The first is that just sitting and looking and feeling is magical, it’s somewhere between meditating and being engrossed in a book. The second is that it’s really hard to sit and look at an image if you have no idea of things to look for. It’s boring just to stare blankly at a picture, and you don’t get much out of it.

So, I thought I would share some of the things I’ve been doing when I’m looking at paintings in the hopes that it might help you see things a little differently:

  • Work out what’s going on before reading the information
  • If it’s a portrait, or includes people, I try and work out what they’re thinking
  • Then I like to follow their eyes and see what they’re looking at
  • I squint my eyes a little and try and see the shapes that make up the composition – I like to see the lines that hold a piece together
  • I divide the image up into thirds, or quarters, and look at each section on its own
  • I work out their relationships and their relationships to the surroundings
  • I try and work out why any objects have been placed with them and what they mean
  • I try and find the smallest detail
  • I look at the quality of the brush strokes
  • I find everywhere the same colour appears
  • Then I try and work out the colour spectrum
  • I look from the edges of the picture into the middle or vice versa
  • I like to read the information card after I’ve looked at it for a while and see what that adds to my understanding of the piece
  • I trace where the light is coming from in the image
  • I like to imagine how the image came together by looking for any bits that have been erased or looking for layers and textures
  • I look for dogs (that should be at the top of the list, but I wanted to seem serious)

 

If you’re interested in learning more about experiencing art a little more slowly, or you’d like a bit of company on your next trip around a museum, it’s Slow Art Day on the 8th April. Slow Art Day is a global event where people all over the world visit local museums and galleries to look at art slowly. Participants look at five works of art for 10 minutes each and then meet together over lunch to talk about their experience. That’s it. Simple by design, the goal is to focus on the art and the art of seeing.

Meditation is the new black. In particular, using meditation to help unlock your creativity is getting a lot of hype at the minute. David Lynch has been a huge proponent of Transcendental Meditation ™, even starting a foundation to give more people access to what is a costly style of meditation. But he’s not alone, famous creative meditators include: the Beach Boys, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Steve Vai, Tom Petty, John Denver, Sheryl Crow, Katy Perry, the co-founders of Def Jam Recordings, Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Clint Eastwood, and lest us not forget Oprah.

Meditation is also something I’ve heard a lot about on some of my favourite creative podcasts, for example Tiffany Han’s Raise Your Hand Say Yes with Lacy Young. Everyone seems to be talking about the power of meditation and it’s no surprise because supposedly it can help:

“You become more you – you get more ideas and more energy to fulfil them […] It’s fuel for the artist, you grow faster between films or paintings. It speeds things up. You start making the subconscious conscious; meditators have an edge over artists that don’t meditate.”*

As someone who’s always trying to be more creative, and also, in the least Eat Pray Love way possible, find myself, that sounded pretty attractive. So, I’ve been trying out a few different kinds of meditation (unfortunately not TM) over the last few months (so I’m by no means an expert) and these have been my experiences and take-aways.

HEADSPACE

Headspace is (I think) the biggest mediation app available right now, “We all need to get a little head space” – it’s a catchphrase that has become ingrained into the psyches of more than 6 million people worldwide. The app, led by Andy, leads you through easy to follow guided meditations and mindfulness training. The meditation sessions on Headspace are divided up into levels, and you can try the first level of ten sessions for free, which I would highly recommend you do if you’re interested in trying meditation but aren’t sure where to start. I definitely enjoyed working my way through different levels of headspace, and it gave me a lot of food for thought. The little explanation videos at the beginning of the sessions were really helpful in giving me some perspective on meditation and also just generally being more mindful. If you’re someone who gets a lot out of gamification, you’ll love headspace. The app is really good at reminding you to take ten and encouraging sustained mediation, and was a great starter for me personally. But it’s not something I’ve stuck with for that reason. After really trying to get on with Headspace, I decided that it’s not something I want to use every day. I’m not a big fan of everyday tasks turned into games (for some reason it irks me) and the guided meditations began to feel a bit redundant after I’d tried Zazen. However, I’ve kept the app on my phone so I can dip in and out of their specific meditations like commuting and sport. 

ZAZEN

Zazen is what you probably imagine when someone says mediation to you. It’s sitting quietly, quiet often cross-legged, breathing and thinking. This self-guided meditation focuses on your breathing and getting in touch with your body in many of the same ways as the Headspace guided meditations but without anything else in the way. I normally follow something a little like this method, and I like to have some rain sounds (there are loads on spotify) in the background, in part because my house is never really all that quiet. I know that some people might find this a little boring, or hard to get into, but this is the kind of meditation that I have gotten the most out of. Not only has it helped me feel calm and at peace in the way that a warm bath does, I’ve also had a number of almost magical experiences while doing it. When I’m practising zazen, I feel both hyper aware of my body and somehow external to it, I don’t quite know how to describe it. Has practising this kind of meditation helped my creativity? I’m not sure. It hasn’t in any obvious way but I think being able to enjoy those warm moments of calm has helped me feel more content in myself, which I think can’t have done anything but to affect my creativity.

MEDITATIVE PAINTING

I’m including this even though I’m not sure how much it counts as a “meditation” because it’s been something I’ve gotten a lot out in many of the same ways as Zazen. Every day I take some time just to paint. I don’t go in with a plan or an image I just move the colours and forms around wherever they lead me. It’s been a great way for me to visualise whatever I’m feeling as well as starting to gain confidence in painting. This is the meditation that has helped my creativity the most because of that confidence. When making feels as easy as breathing, and can bring you a greater sense of calm, you just end up with so much more trust in yourself and also a better sense of your own internal source of creativity. I realise that sounded quite strange and new-agey but I didn’t have a better way to put it.

Those have been my experiences with meditation and creativity so far. Do I think it’s worth trying if you’re looking to be more creative? Definitely, there’s absolutely nothing to lose and quite a lot to gain, not just a boost in creativity. Do I think it’s worth the hype? I’m not sure just yet, there’s a lot more to meditation than the bits I’ve tried and I’m keen to investigate it further, either through classes or through just more research.

What are your thoughts on meditation? Have you tried it? What has worked for you or what hasn’t? Should I be trying classes?

*I really enjoyed this article from Emily Gosling on It’s Nice That.

 

Everything around us has a design story, a history of how it came into being. So, I wanted to start a little series documenting those stories, starting with the things I use everyday. And what could be a better personal everyday design classic to start it off than Dr Martens?

Dr Martens have found their place in every generation since the 1940s. They began their life as a medical remedy and a housewife’s favourite before becoming a subculture staple, all while being known for their comfort and durability. I’ve worn my trusty pair of 1461s almost every single day for the last 3 years and still love them dearly. 

The idea for Dr Martens, similarly to that of Converse, came from their creator taking a slip and fall. Dr Klaus Märtens, a 25-year-old German doctor in World War 2, sprained his ankle while on the ski slopes of the Alps. Unhappy with the idea of being inactive for months, because his injury was made worse by his poor-fitting army issue boots, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He gathered materials from a cobbler. Then used an old tyre for the sole, creating the now famous air pockets which gave his feet a cushioned bed on which to walk.

As soon as he realised he might have made something special, Märtens decided to try and sell his creation. However, there wasn’t much interest at first. In fact, it wasn’t until Märtens teamed up with a friend with more production knowledge, Dr Herbert Funck, that he had any success. With Funck’s help, Märtens upgraded the rubber soles of his boots using rubber from airfields. Thanks to this upgrade and some clever marketing, their boots soon became a housewife’s staple because the boots’ comfort and practicality meant that long days on their feet were a bit more bearable.

Once they had this first loyal fan base Märtens’ boots quickly grew in popularity. By the late 1950s, he was ready to expand internationally. This is where Märtens’ boots became the Dr Martens we know and love now. Märtens teamed up with the R. Griggs Group, a family run operation in Wollaston, Northamptonshire, who had been making boots for over half a century. As soon as they got the rights to Märtens’ innovative bouncing soles they trademarked the soles, added a bulbous but simple upper, a distinctive yellow welt stitch, a two-tone grooved sole edge and a unique sole pattern as well as Anglicising the boots’ name to Dr Martens to make them easier to sell in the UK. Those first boots were branded as ‘Airwair’ and came complete with a black and yellow heel loop, which tied in with the yellow stitching, and featured the brand name and the slogan “With Bouncing Soles” the typography of which was based on Bill Grigg’s handwriting. With these changes in place, the first pair of cherry red Dr Martens boots rolled off the production line on the 1st April 1960. That date is where that first style’s name, 1460, comes from.

At first, these boots were mainly popular with those who spent a lot of time on their feet, namely postmen and police officers. That was until 1967 when they were first worn by Pete Townshed, guitarist for The Who. Townshed who was “was sick of dressing up as a Christmas tree in flowing robes that got in the way of my guitar playing” decided to move onto “utility wear” in the form of Dr Martens which brought his attire back in line with his working-class roots. This connection between rock music and Dr Martens brought about a change in how they were perceived, they were no longer a workwear staple but a style statement, that has been linked with music ever since from skinheads to pop divas.

After the skinhead craze died down, Dr Martens remained a symbol for subculture and self-expression for the countless splinter groups of glam rockers, punks and goths. The 1990s were the boots most successful period thanks to an era defined by Britpop and Grunge, two opposing cultures both of which loved the heritage, style and comfort of Dr Martens.

Even though their story began with women, Dr Martens had always been made and style for men. That was until 1994 when upon realising that over 50% of their customers were women, the boots and shoes were released in different designs, fits and colours to appeal to a wider audience. But, the boots staged what was labelled the ‘Turnaround of the Year’ by collaborating with high fashion designers like Vivienne Westwood to reinvigorate the brand’s, and specifically the 1460 boot’s, aura of British cool.

Today, Dr Martens are continuing to go from strength to strength appealing to a wider audience than ever, while retaining that original style and sense of brand identity with the same classic yellow thread, the same base boot design, and the same signature pull tab.

I just created my first ever mood board for a personal project. That’s right. I’d never created an inspiration or mood board for one of my own projects. I’d always thought they were a bit pointless. But I think I’m a convert. Inspired by that revelation and my excitement about having some inspiration back in my personal projects, I wanted to write a post all about finding inspiration, which I think goes hand in hand with my other piece on creative thinking.

8 things to do before 8 am

MOOD/INSPIRATION BOARDS

As I just said, I’ve just put together my first inspiration board for a personal project and I’m kind of in love with it. I’ve not shared a picture of it here, so I can keep what I’m working on as something that’s just mine for a while. Creating an inspiration board can be a great way of drawing together a lot of ideas so you can synthesise them and find links, it has also served as a great way to remind me of the concept I was striving for to keep me on course. My board includes some reference images, colour palettes, a couple of quotes, images of objects and scenes I really love, and some fragments of work I love. I’ve only used fragments of artists’ work because I don’t want to be taking too much from them, rather I’ve taken sections for the inspiration of quality of line, or textures and materials, or I’ve drawn over them to highlight composition. That distinction was really important to me in terms of finding inspiration, I didn’t want to steal ideas and I also didn’t want to be overwhelmed by work that I liked because I know that my own won’t be the same, because it’s mine, and that’s not a bad thing.

GET OUTSIDE

When I say get outside I don’t just mean going for a walk, although that can be a great way to come find inspiration. I love just walking and looking and listening and absorbing. Make sure you look up when you’re walking around, you’ll see so much more. When I say get outside, I mean get out and try new things or go new places. If you can, travel somewhere new and let a new culture or location inspire you. If you can’t, just visit somewhere new in your city, or look at it from a new vantage point. You could also try out a new class or go to a museum about something you’ve never thought about before (if you’re in London I love the Wellcome Collection for that kind of inspiration). Get out, experience something new, and let the world around inspire you.

LOOK AT MORE THAN ONE SOURCE

This kind of goes hand in hand with what I just said but don’t just look to one source for inspiration, and in particular don’t just look to one artist. That’s how you end up in a dangerous place. If you’re working in design why not look to architecture, or classical artworks, or nature, or fashion? Looking outside of your field for inspiration will help you come up with new ideas and help you find your own style. I love using my Pinterest to gather up lots of images that have caught my eye and varying where I get my inspiration from.

ENGAGE YOUR OTHER SENSES

If I’m looking for a bit of a quick fix for inspiration I put some music on. There’s just something about engaging with a different sense that makes my brain work differently, whether I’m inspired by a feeling or a lyric I normally come away more productive and engaged with whatever I’m doing. I also love using smells to evoke memories or to inspire me. Try engaging with your senses (yes this is an excuse for a snack) to see which bits of your brain they will switch on and inspire.

TRY A NEW STYLE OR TECHNIQUE

Back in January, I started a painting everyday journal, to encourage me to just play with paint again. Pretty much everything I’ve created in there has been an abstract watercolour, and I’ve found a style I like that’s really different from anything else I make. It’s so easy to become comfortable in doing things a certain way or with a certain medium, but challenging yourself to try something new or present your ideas in a different way can be really inspiring. Using watercolours more hasn’t just been fun it’s made me want to incorporate them into my work more and it’s inspired me to try some more abstract pieces of work. Finding that style on my own through experimentation has also given me the confidence to try more new things, which I think has been just as inspiring as the work itself.

FIND GOOD PEOPLE

Surround yourself with people who inspire you. That doesn’t mean you need to be in an artist’s collective, but it does mean you need to find good people. I constantly find myself being inspired by my friends, by the things they say, by their bravery or intelligence or just their drive to be good people. I think that’s really important. Find people who can inspire you to approach the world in a different way or just to be better, and make sure those people are people who support you in your creativity. If you’re struggling to find people in the real world, reaching out and starting conversations on social media, especially twitter, can be a great way to get involved in a new community and speak to new creative people.

DON’T WAIT, JUST MAKE SOMETHING

I’ve started carrying around a little idea notepad with me in my planner so that I can jot down anything that comes to me and have all of those ideas stored in one place. Having a catalogue of ideas, however small or frankly rubbish, is really useful to come back to, either to remember what you wanted to do or for some inspiration from your past self. Once you have an idea, don’t wait to work on it. You don’t need to have the perfect idea to have a go at something. Sometimes just starting and working gets you thinking as you go, and sometimes you need to work through 5 bad ideas before you find your real inspiration and a good idea.

GIVE YOURSELF TIME

Quite often having a deadline can be a good thing, and sometimes we work best under pressure. But coming up with an idea when all you’re thinking of is coming up with an idea can be the hardest thing in the world. You are not going to be inspired all of the time. It’s just a fact. If you are, please share your secrets with me. Give yourself some space and time to think, and perhaps try out some of these creative thinking exercises, and let inspiration come to you as you go without overthinking it (this comes from the world’s biggest overthinker).