Hello, I’m Helen Sharland and I’m one half of the director’s at Cutture stationery, the girly half.
• Describe your style…
Intricate, story telling, tactile and very much design led laser cut stationery and other things.
• What do you love about the medium you work in?
Paper is the most common material that we use, however laser cutting lends itself to all manner of materials. We like to push boundaries at Cutture and I love the fact that we work with a humble piece of card and turn it into something totally different, even three dimensional and when teamed with interesting print techniques and laser cutting it really comes into it’s own. I’m really into textiles, or I think the new term is surface design, the richness and transformation you can bring to a material is just beautiful.
• Where do you find your inspiration- who or what inspires you?
Answering for Cutture, inspiration comes from our clients, their story and when we create pieces for ourselves it comes from all around. We all keep our eyes open and take inspiration from people, places, era’s and of course the art and design world. The beauty of having a team is that we all create as a team, a lot of our inspiration comes from ourselves working as designers together, and everyone brings something to the table in an innovative way.
Answering for myself, I don’t like to delve too deep into other designer’s lives and my memory for names is terrible! I find it can mare your vision, so I observe a lot, my passion lies within spaces and derelict buildings always do it for me.. Architecture is part of us as designers and I love the notion of different materiality marrying to create a magical space and the history of old buildings intrigues me. I also love a workshop, nothing like actually doing it to help solve problems and create unexpected results!
• How do you translate your inspiration into a design?
Generally we have all been trained to develop an idea from concept, in reality this then is teamed with answering practical problems about how a design is executed. Your original idea usually forms into the final outcome by answering lots of production problems/challenges to do with constructing a complicated piece or printing dilemmas! Our biggest mantra is to create something that has a concept behind it, never make something just because it looks pretty, that’s the bonus!
• How do you structure your working day?
Now there’s a question for a working Mother! Well, for me my working day varies, Dominic, my husband and business partner has a different working day to me, but we work together to make it work for our business and family. I returned to work properly last year when my youngest started school, so I now juggle my days with our children’s schedule. I can separate work from home nicely as our studio is 40 mins drive away (not so good!) I have 2 full days a week in the studio, the other days are in the studio but shorter for me, but between us we are working from 7am – 8pm most days, with a few late nights thrown in! Early starts allow for a couple of hours quiet time before the phones start ringing which is always beneficial.
Mondays we schedule the week which involves a long meeting with staff, then I sit and schedule (like a school timetable) everything from design, print to production almost to the hour, for the week for every member of staff, I then also schedule my own days so I get the most out of my time in the studio and I can focus on being a Mum at home. I often have to go in for design consultations on Saturday mornings also but it’s important to separate home time and work time when you are a family involved in a business together, we are really strict about not letting it take over our Sundays.
• We all get creative block. How do you combat it?
Stop what you are doing and do something else! There is always another job to be done, usually an administrative one, do something so you are productive, or if you can get out, go for a walk, or drive, I often find the biggest thing we lack is head space, so allow yourself time to think. Come back to things after a good night sleep, tiredness has a lot to answer for...
• Share your favourite tool with us.
Well it has to be our laser cutters! Incredible machines, we have 2, and we are very proud of that. They still amaze us everyday, watching them is mesmerising, it has taken a long time to become masters of our craft with laser cutting card, so many settings have been tried and tested over the years, it isn’t a case of just pressing ‘go’ which I don’t think many people realize. I love showing people these machines especially the clients, they love seeing their work being created on site.
• Describe your dream creative space…
A renovated old factory/warehouse designed by ourselves. Huge studio working space, light of course, then an white workshop with lots of laser cutters and clean space for assembly, with shelves upon shelve of organised coloured card stock! And a room to archive our work, space is something we are seriously lacking at the moment!
• What lead to the moment that made you decide to sell your products professionally?
We have sort of ‘fallen’ into Cutture, for those who don’t know we have an Interior architecture and graphic design practice too and used to have an architectural model making company, hence why we have laser cutters. It was only after lots of experiments with our graphic design that led to us thinking we were onto something. So we have always had the back up of our other company if it all went wrong, and now….we are all full time on Cutture and the other company has had to become a smaller service! So I guess that has been our turning point, it has organically grown and we took the risk.
• What are the obstacles you've encountered on your journey so far?
Well, it hasn’t been easy starting business from the age of 22, (10 yrs ago I might add!) it’s taken until now to not have to ‘prove’ ourselves so much anymore and then juggling a young family with business is always hard work. Equally we always say having our children young and working together has made us work harder to grow and come up with new ideas as we’ve had to keep us all fed and watered! It’s up to us to pay the bills at the end of the day. Burglaries also don’t help small businesses, last month we were burgled for the about the 4th time in our business life and it really doesn’t help matters, so much more than stolen goods.
• The biggest high of your career so far is...
Walking around our shop after everyone has gone and realizing ‘we’ve done this’. Otherwise, it’s the feedback we get from Cutture, seeing this place hum during the week, employing 5 people, and being able to sustain a premises and our family is a big high.
• What's the biggest lesson you've learnt on your creative journey so far & what advice would you give to a newbie?
We always have ideas for new businesses/ventures (this is our 3rd company) and I can think of 3 files in our house which have ideas for ‘projects’ in the future! This is good on one hand, go for it, but as you get into business you soon learn not all of it is viable, so realising what is viable and what can ultimately sustain your needs is important and think BIG if that’s what you want. Listen to all advice you are given and step back, look hard at yourself and constructively criticise what you are doing regularly, sometimes the route you think might be right might not be at all.
• What's next for you?
We have to move premises soon and with that comes lots of decisions about the company, it would be wonderful to continue to manufacture our own work, for the retail products as well as bespoke, that means a proper manufacturing hub run by us…and a huge investment, we shall see. Ultimately it will be still creating bespoke work for weddings and events, that will remain the more luxurious arm to the company to allow us to develop our retail products. Soon Cutture will be in a lot more shops with our greetings cards and products and we hope to go international very soon, we have a lot of ambitions for this company and we are working on them right now, we are visiting New York next week so watch this space…
•Take us on a crawl of your favourite shops. Where do you like to shop and why?
Shopping?! I’ve forgotten what that is! No, I LOVE a boutique, having studied at Brighton I always love to look out for independent shops wherever we go as it’s so much more interesting, otherwise I do love a beautiful design store with products and of course stationery galore! On the other end of the scale, of course Liberty and Selfridges are also high up on the list, beautiful shops with lots of inspiring products and window displays. There are also many wonderful online places now too which is great, sites such as Bouf and CultureLabel are good for design led products.
|© Culture Label|
• What's on your bedside table?
Usually a number of books I start, and take a while to finish! I love theoretical books for design and business, so one of those, a fictional novel with a nice cover (I do judge a book by it’s cover!) an autobiography, a photo of Dominic and I on our wedding day, a letter from my youngest telling me she loves me.
• iPhone, blackberry or android? And why?
iPhone. I’m a designer, Macs all the way.
• Complete the sentence: "If I could invent anything in the world, it would be…"
Can’t answer that otherwise I would have done it.
• You're planning your last ever meal and celebrating with a dinner party. You have 6 seats around your table-who would you invite to join you and what would you serve up?
If it’s my last ever meal, I would want my husband, children and closest friends! Dominic would cook, he’s an amazing cook…I’d quite like Philippe Starck to join us too, he’s one (v small) reason why Dominic and I got together, but that’s another story.
• Give us a song! Which one song helps you whistle while you work?
Sadly I don’t listen to music whilst working much anymore as there is too much going on in one day, but if I do get a chance to plug the headphones in at the studio it has to be something without lyrics or I can’t concentrate! I love a bit of soul/funk very mood dependent but something like Bombay Bicycle Club…I save the Immaculate Collection for the car, don’t tell anyone…
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