Meet the Maker… Rebecca Gilray, Do You Punctuate?
What made you take the plunge & start selling your work?
I have always loved print and it seemed a natural progression after finishing my MA in Design that I would continue to be involved in a print medium. At the time my son was starting school and I wanted to create a job that fitted around his needs, as well as my family’s.
I also reached a point where I was producing work and people were starting to tell me that I needed to sell it, so at the time all of these situations arose and merged together, so it made logical sense to start printing full time.
Give us an idea of your collection.
I am a letterpress print studio, so my work already has a particular look to it that is synonymous with that style of printing. As a lot of my blocks are vintage and of particular eras, I feel it has a quality and charm that isn’t present in a lot of design work nowadays.
So I try to keep things simple and clean but that are visually striking without being exuberant or shouty! I produce a lot bespoke work for people who want very small print runs or something totally unique. So I encompass lots of product areas; cards for all occasion, stationery, including writing papers, book plates, gift tags, wrapping paper and invitations for birthdays and weddings. If you need it, I can usually print it!
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
This is going to sound incredibly corny but my biggest inspiration is my childhood and my love of things that once where. I rely heavily on the memories of old annuals like Bunty or old books with intricate book plates, gilded book covers, Victorian gothic style and the elegant shapes of fonts like Clarendon.
I admire a lot of designers and in particular Beatrice Warde, the first woman printer who wrote some fantastic essays on how typography should be seen but not noticed. Very inspirational for the time it was written.
In what ways do you promote your work and which seems to be the most successful?
I use a wide variety of social media like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, instagram, flickr, Youtube, Google+ and my website and blog. I’ve connected some of them together, so I create a web that captures a wider audience but also means I can balance life and promoting online!
As my main platform for selling is online, it is essential to keep up an online presence and at times it can be really hard to keep on top of it! I believe though, that it’s essential to engage your audience on conversational level and not just to constantly try to get them to buy something. They need to recognise you as a person, trust your product and brand. I invite people to give me feedback and critique my whole experience of buying and selling, it’s very hard to open up as obviously you only want to hear the positives!
I also hand out a lot of my own printed postcards, I see it that by printing my own promotional material gives the customer an idea of the quality of print they’ll get. These have been very popular because when people pick up a postcard, they rub their fingers over the paper, which is high quality, they ask about that and often comment that it’s not normal stock, then they touch the deboosed or printed area and usually they’re surprised to find how tactile a medium it is. It’s a great experience to share with someone and brings back how tactile and tacit a medium letterpress is.
What’s the best part of your making day?
I love walking to my press in the morning, patting her down and saying morning. She’s called Ethel and she’s a fine old lady from 1889. I love it when the press is in full flow and I’m just printing with the radio in the background. I sort of lose myself in the moment and often or not, tend to come up with lots of ideas. I find a lovely calmness that ebbs and flows. My other favourite moment is when you pop an ink can, that burst of smell and you know you’re going to make lovely things!
What one top tip for making and selling would you give to other makers?
Be true to yourself and follow your gut instinct, if something isn’t working then stop, reassess and come at from another angle. The great thing about working for yourself is that you really do have the power to do anything. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of repetition but you know in your heart of hearts whether something is right or not. It’s believing in yourself that you really can achieve your ideas through your work and make it successful.
You can see Rebecca’s full collection in her Folksy shop Do You Punctuate?