30 January 2012

Leaff's Shop - It's Open!

We are extremely excited to announce that our shop is officially open!

There are a few special products that we have launched with, and one perhaps familiar one, that will be making an appearance in the Autumn.


As Free As A Bird - Letterpressed blank card / notecards.
Baby Boy - Litho printed new baby card / announcement cards.
Baby Girl - Litho printed new baby card / announcement cards.
Magic Little Christmas - Letterpressed Christmas cards (coming Autumn 2012).

The Shop

The launch of our little shop has been a long time coming. Right from when we first ever began preparing to even launch Leaff alone, we dreamt of this moment. It was always destined to be a place that we could explore ideas and let ourselves go a bit - creatively - in our 'play' time.

Now it is finally here - and we should tell you that the aim of the shop is to offer a range of exquisitely designed and produced stationery, ranging from cards, prints and as we develop, who knows what else! We have great plans for this shop, but we want you to be involved too, so we are really trying to encourage people to tell us what they think. If there is a specific occasion that you would like to see us cover in the shop, or perhaps a particular product that you would like to see us create, then do let us know!

We really want to encourage fans to leave us feedback on our Twitter and Facebook pages - or to chat about the products in general, whether they have bought them or not. The aim of this is to not only benefit ourselves with the feedback, but other customers too.

The Products

We really didn't think about it at the time, but on reflection, we can see that these products are very suggestive of what has been on our minds over the last month or so.

As Free As A Bird is the next bird card in the set that was begun with Magic Little Christmas, which some of you were lucky enough to win a set of last Christmas. These Christmas cards will be reprinted for sale in the Autumn, in time for sending out those warm festive wishes to special friends and loved ones.

A natural progression in the bird set, the Blue tit speaks of Spring. Without realising it, we were designing this card as we planned our own spring in our garden, and even as we began to hang out our new nest boxes, in the hope of attracting a family of tits. Likewise, we created our gorgeous sets of Baby Boy and Baby Girl cards while we excitedly awaited the arrival of our first niece - without actually thinking about it. Again, our subconscious affecting things.

As for what else is to come, well, our imagination is our limit - and as the shop is something that we do in our 'play' time, we will need you to bear with us while we stock up with new products.

Meanwhile though, happy browsing - we hope that you enjoy!

27 January 2012

Save the High Street

This is totally not what I was planning to write about this week. In fact, I began a completely different post some time ago, which was meant for this week, and which has been cast aside due to the sudden surge of importance that I felt for this subject.

I was sad to see yet another local independent shop disappear from our High Street this week, and it
just makes me want to stand there with a megaphone urging people - the community - to help our own.
So here I am, writing about this at the last minute - minus the megaphone, but hoping that this sparks more discussion and gets people thinking.

The Community - A Place to Gather

It has been widely publicised lately - the seemingly dying High Street, following major changes in the
way that we shop. I was really interested by one lady's comment on the news the other day, who suggested that we would 'lose touch with our community' if the High Street was lost. What a thought,
and one that I have mulled over a lot since….she is absolutely right.

Where do we go as a community, to mingle with each other and share a common interest in the place that we live? Christmas time sees the switch on of the High Street lights and the festive Christmas market, while summer time sees the traditional Worcester Festival engulf the city centre, and there
really is a buzz about town. All of these things centre around our High Street, and really often involve
the participation of local business situated there. And it is not just in Worcester - most towns and
cities enjoy similar events.

I have only lived in Worcester for the last 5 years, and what struck me the most about the city when
I first came here, was it's sense of community - it is something that still strikes me now. The festivals,
the family events - there is always something going on in Worcester. I had never experienced this
before - at this level - and it really enabled me to slip into life here much more easily. 5 years on, and here I am, with Leaff, and I really enjoy a walk around town every now and then to visit fellow local businesses. I enjoy knowing them, supporting them, and watching them grow. I feel part of it - both
as a fellow business, and as a citizen of Worcester. I think that local businesses encourage community,
and so I ask myself, what will be left of this if these businesses go?

Ledbury is a shining example of a small town that, so far, has resisted the chains taking over. On my recent visits, with this subject in mind, I only found 2 chain shops in the whole town, and believe me, they didn't look half as confident. The beautiful boutiques sit proudly along the road side, and tucked down the alleyways. It is famous for it's number of independent shops and cafes, and when you talk to shop owners, they really are all batting on the same side. They stick together - recommend each other; they are a team; a community. I think that Ledbury is a mark of how things should be done, and just
how much we have to lose.

Lost Identity - What Makes it Unique

I find it soul destroying to see our local, independent businesses fall to the side of the big, boisterous chains. I say big and boisterous because we all know that generally speaking, money brings power, which is often used in a very negative way. Now I'm not saying that I think the chain shops should go, because I really do love places like Cath Kidston and White Stuff, but If all we have left at the end of
the day is chain shops, then what is there for our towns and cities that is unique? They would all be filled with exactly the same shops, so why would people bother to visit different places? What would happen
to tourism?

Of course you have the history of places like Worcester - the beautiful architecture, the museums and galleries - but is that enough? Aren't the skills of local people important too? I think they are, and I think that they breath life into a place, and shape it.

Don't you want to be greeted by local people when your feet start to ache and you decide it's about
time to grab a coffee? To perhaps purchase something unique, that you might not get anywhere else?
To experience the intimate atmosphere that independent cafes and shops bring - to buy into the local
area. Instead, you would be forced to sit in some (sometimes) grimy, chaotic chain cafe, or be subjected to no alternative but the typical chain shops that you have in your own town or city.

It is easy to forget that local businesses aren't just businesses for themselves. A lot of local cafes and food places source local food and drink for their menus, helping to sustain an array of other local businesses. In the same way, boutiques house art and crafts by a variety of local artists and creatives
- from jewellery and prints to soft furnishings and homeware - so they also support a number of local businesses. In this way, everyone is important, as it forms one big chain, and this is exactly the kind
of chain that gives a place an identity. It is local food, local drink, local craftsmanship.

In this way, there is no sense of identity in a town or city, when all you are experiencing is cold, corporate shops and cafes that you could experience anywhere in the country - and in some cases,
in the world. So in this way, I strongly feel that it would take the life out of a place.

Shopping Experience - Independent v Chain

Independent businesses in general care more - they work harder (perhaps because they have to,
but none the less) so you will always see them being extra careful about presentation and customer satisfaction. The owners themselves are most often the people who serve you, and of course they
are passionate about their business.

You would've noticed my lively language above, where I referred to 'some (sometimes) grimy, 
chaotic chain cafe', and this is down to the fact that I have had a number of bad experiences here
(this is perhaps another story altogether). I got dragged into a chain cafe by a friend about a year
ago - it had been a while since I had set foot in a non-independent - and I was absolutely disgusted. Every surface was caked with stale milk and chocolate powder from the busy day's trade, and when
I sat down with my slapdash coffee, it was merely warm. I was furious that I had given them any
money at all and swore that I would need to be a lot firmer with such friends. It is worth another post altogether, to discuss how some big corporate brands rest on their laurels when they have become
so big and popular. We don't seem to notice the care and effort slip away with our money - but I did,
that day more than ever before. My eyes were open, and yours should be too.

Local Growth - Where the Money Goes

Worcester has always been great for it's buy local motto. This isn't just because of the above reasons,
or that - as essentially one big family - we as a community should support it's own people, but of course, because it keeps the money within the city.

Why on earth would you choose to give your money to a chain, owned by some rich guy who has probably never even visited Worcester, over a local business person - a fellow community member
- who cares about their and your city? What good is that doing the places that we live in?
This is the question that we all need to be mindful of. Everything affects everything.

A New Dawn - Shopping Centres

So talking about the alternative to the High Street now - Shopping Centres, or Malls if you will.
Gigantic hubs of chain shops, dotted around the country. Once inside, you could be anywhere, right?
And where does that leave local communities to mix?

I don't know about you, but when I have been to a Shopping Centre, it has just felt like such a soul-less place. There is no identity at all. They all look the same, they all feel the same, and there is a distinct feeling that the people that surround you could be from anywhere at all. There is no community, no local trade, no local pride.

Of course on the flip side, I can see why people like Shopping Centres. A lot of shops in one place, under one roof, but really, aren't you bored? The same old, same old. I live for something different
- new things, new experiences - I don't necessarily like knowing what I am going to find before I walk
into a shop. Do you know what I mean?

Bottom line, I think that we, as communities, should be worried about the repercussions of the changing high street, and I also think that people should stop being so lazy. It is easy to fall into shops where you rely on the popularity of the brand to help you make your purchasing decisions, but I challenge you to think outside that box, and I urge you to support your community - to keep it alive.

23 January 2012

Leaff Shop, The Countdown

As those of you who follow us on Twitter or Facebook will already know, we have been busily working to prepare for the launch of our shop, and on top of the ever growing pile of work, we were unable to find the time to blog last week, so I apologise.

Today however, we are excited to unveil that the countdown is now on for the launch of our shop....

In seven days time, our shop will be live - just catching the tail of January! We promised January, and we will make January, even though it is by the skin of our teeth. Each day over the next 6, we will continue to unveil the above image (which gives you a small taster of each of the products that we are launching with), over on our Twitter page.

We hope that you are all looking forward to the launch, and of course any bit of support that our readers give us is greatly appreciated. So, please head on over to our Twitter and Facebook pages to join in the countdown with us, and to follow our progression.

Don't forget, you can also register for a nudge when our shop goes live, here.

13 January 2012

The Value of Printed Art

I have been thinking a lot lately about the value of design - and art of all kinds - sparked by a gift to a friend last Christmas. In a bid to steer them towards one of our favourite groups, who we thought they would love, we purchased an MP3 album. The reason for buying this digitally, rather than the CD itself, was that they seemed to listen to their music on their iPod, rather than their stereos, so it just made sense. Months later, and they still hadn't listened to a single track from the album - hadn't even put it
on their iPod - and it got me thinking… was it down to the fact that it was an MP3 album, rather than
a physical album?

Similarly, just before Christmas, we got our hands on a beautiful bookcase for our lounge, which we had planned to store not just our many books on, but our DVD's too. As I sifted through our pile of DVD's, I found a blank case, containing a few discs which had lost their covers somehow. And I felt detached from them, like they had lost their worth.

The reoccurring thing here, which I am trying to get at, is the importance of artwork. Without the CD,
with it's cover, putting some kind of message across to my friend - or even a picture of the group
- the music had no identity. Without the DVD covers, with their rich visuals that summed up the films
for what they were, the DVD had no identity, no presence.

Don't get me wrong - I can see the beauty in downloading MP3 albums - they can be played straight away through iTunes, or our MP3 player, and they are a little cheaper than a CD. But we never feel satisfied, so we always seem to buy the CD anyway, regardless. We want to see the artwork, feel the finish, explore the notes, and know the lyrics. Music is an art form all by itself, sure, but the CD takes you to a completely new level with it. A deeper level. You get a sense of the artist within the artwork
- a feel for the music through their eyes. Their notes uncover interesting details about the formation of
the album, and you get to wander around inside their songs, familiarise yourself with every lyric - know
it, understand it, and ultimately understand the music a whole lot more. It is something to treasure.

Photographs of The Alchemy Index, CD album, by Thrice. Probably the most inspirational album I have ever bought; a masterpiece of lyrics from a very much undiscovered group of musicians.

With DVD's, it is a treasure thing in the same way, but here I think it is far more material. There are obviously no producer notes to find, but there is the value of that artwork. How pointless it feels and looks to have a blank case sat on that shelf, regardless of what is inside - I will probably never feel the least bit inclined to watch them, I mean gosh, I forgot we even had them. This is why I can't understand piracy. I mean, yes, you get to watch the film, but the whole viewing experience is never reached, and
I am not even talking about the awful quality of the reproduction (that's another story). You have no artwork to prepare you for the film, to get you interested or excited, or to put you in the right frame of mind for what the film is about. It is like they say about cooking - you enjoy your food far more if you
are around it while it is cooking - to smell the aromas, see it's succulence - which makes you salivate,
thus preparing your body for a meal. There are no visuals related to the film, to help you to get to the place where your mind is prepared for the experience.

It is not just CD's and DVD's that this applies to either. I have opened up a big can of worms here, because my love of music, and my love of film, is equally matched - or more so - with my love of
books. There is nothing I love more than a well-loved book. Well-used, worn-in…aged. Like the age lines on an persons face, I love them, because they tell a story of their own (how ironic that the state of a book can suggest a story entirely separately to that which it contains!). So, in any case, as you can imagine, I felt some despair when Kindle popped up.

We love technology - really, we do, but we value print. It is a medium that we love to work with each
and every day, after all. I get Kindle - I do - it is fantastic for journeys, when the weight of books may
be an issue, and it is just easier to have them electronically stored. But, I absolutely do not feel drawn
in any way, shape, or form to read off a Kindle - I think I would just take less books. You see, as a designer perhaps, but at any rate, I am a self confessed judger of books by their covers. I admit it
fully. I could spend hours in book shops (I have spent hours in bookshops), wandering along the
cases, plucking any book that catches my eye - that inspires me - to find out more. The whole enchanting experience of this, is entirely my preparation for the read. I want the artwork to capture me,
to control me, to take me to the place it wants me to be, to whet my appetite for the show down that waits for me inside. I want to wear the book out with my eagerness, my experience, my pleasure.
I want it to show. I want to keep it on my book shelf and let it tease me into reading it again and again.

Photographs of The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. The book that captures me every time that I see it on my shelf; the most enchanting of all my books.

Linking back to music now…tickets. Tickets to gigs/shows in particular. We have paid good money for the event, and we feel that we need something to show for it. We need something to prove and reward our interest in it - our love of it. Yet we are suddenly getting sent an electronic 'ticket', which essentially, is white space, with intrusive, thoughtless, lazy black text shoved on it. Where is my prized ticket with it's enthusiasm, pride, and substantial stock? It's carefully chosen shade, and encouraging fonts? Where is the preparation to build my anticipation? Where is my keepsake that I can hold onto and reflect on?
It is all lost, and I feel so deflated and unappreciative of my sad excuse for a ticket, that I may even forget that I am attending.

So you see, this is the way that I look at the art of print - this is how much I value it, in music, books, film and shows. In entertainment. It involves us all in some way - we all have these things around us.
So, even if you don't really catch my drift with how strongly I feel about these things, then at least spare my ideas a little thought, when you next buy MP3s, pick up a DVD or book, or purchase tickets to
a show.

As ever, your thoughts are encouraged - we love them - so get involved in the conversation! Leave your comment freely, below!

11 January 2012

Cottontails Baby Book, Autumn/Winter 2011

Well this is an extremely over-due post, since this project was actually completed back in September 2011, but if you will remember, our camera helpfully packed-in at the same time.

This has to have been our most fun project to date - I thoroughly enjoyed working with the lovely Charlotte at Cottontails Baby, to produce her first ever book.

Incase you don't already know, Cottontails is a much loved traditional toy shop, offering a beautiful range from some of the finest French and Scandinavian toy makers. The owner, Charlotte, is an
absolute gem, and is never without her adorable bunny assistant, Humphrey.

The aim of the book was to showcase the best products that Cottontails had in stock for the seasons
of Autumn / Winter 2011. The book also strived to be a keepsake, that readers would want to treasure...

The book comprises of 9 sections, each with their own little theme. Scattered among these, are the fabulous 'fun sections', where Charlotte & I had allowed the children in us to surface completely.
From a bunny biscuit recipe, and mouse estate agents, to a scavenger hunt for magical beasties
- they are places for the imagination.

The idea of the fun sections was to give the book some other purpose. To involve the children
- to encourage interaction between parent and child, and the book. 

Charlotte, being a fantastic illustrator, was able to supply all of the little drawings for me to use within
the design, resulting in a quirky and charming mix of photography and drawing; where the products interact with the illustrations, to give it movement and activity, inviting the reader into the magical
world of Cottontails.

As with any printed item, the stock and technique had to be right. We went for an uncoated, off-white stock (with very green credentials), and litho printed the whole book using vegetable inks. It couldn't
be more friendly!

Creating this book was like full on play time for me. I got totally lost in the details - which the book is packed full of - and had so much fun making a massive mess in the studio. Tearing up paper, stitching bits, painting and drawing, and generally having a good old experiment. I got totally lost in Cottontails
- absorbed even - and when I came out the other side, I wanted to turn around and go back in for more!

The response that Charlotte has had to this book has been wonderful, and she is looking forward to producing more in the future. As you can imagine, I cannot wait to pour just as much of myself into
the next!

Lastly, I must mention that Cottontails currently has a massive sale on, so head over quickly and bag yourself some treasure. Sale or not though, Cottontails is an amazing, completely unique shop to get
a really special gift...or 10!

03 January 2012

Happy 2012! Reflecting & Re-energising...

A very happy New Year to you all - we hope that you each had a truly wonderful Christmas, and are feeling re-energised, and ready for the exciting new year ahead. As you can see, Leaff has now reopened.

Some of you may be wondering how I could start this post with such positivity. It is very easy to slip
into the blues at this time of year, I think. With the winter dragging out, and festive play time over -
not to mention the 'terrible financial climate' that everyone likes to talk so much about - the year ahead can feel quite daunting. People feed off this negativity, and I am sure that it just makes things worse than they actually are, so I make no room for this kind of thinking, and you should banish it too.

It is a time to feel excited and motivated by the possibilities of the year ahead; feel strong and determined in where you want to go and what you want to achieve. When you really need a pick me up, you can simply plan your next holiday as a goal to reach. Goals are vital after all, no matter how big or small they are.

Like this cheeky little squirrel - and many of you I am sure - we had our fair share of indulgences over
the festive period. We enjoyed lots of new foods and drinks, got plenty of rest, read lots of great books,
and Leaff-wise, reflected on the last year and the things that we achieved. I like to do this kind of thing on New Years Eve, so that when the clock strikes 12, we can toast to the accomplishments we have made, and look forward to the new ones to come.

Our greedy garden squirrel, who, in James-Bond-style, managed to strategically remove the birds' rather large fat-ball from the feeding house, and maneuver it all the way over to the other side of the decking, where he single handedly destroyed it - as the evidence suggests.

This year brings lots of new things to the table - for Leaff, and personally.

We are excitedly planning and getting ready for the launch our shop this very month. Until then, as you can quite imagine I am sure, I am going to be working very hard to hit this target.

For those of you who have not yet signed up to receive a little nudge when the shop goes live, head on over and sign up now - www.leaffdesign.co.uk/shop

As it is the first week back, my list is extra long this week, so I am not expecting to get another post up until next week now. So, in the meantime, I wish you all a productive week ahead.

If anyone has any tips or advice that they would like to share, for keeping motivated, please share them in comments to this post - let's all help each other to reach our goals.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...