Kate Sproston Design

Behind the scenes at Kate Sproston Design, making beautifully embroidered textiles for the home.


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Kate Sproston Design & Perched Bird Collaboration

If you have been following on social media for a while, you will know that I have been working on a collaboration project with Kara from Perched Bird. With the launch of our first product I thought it would be an ideal time to tell you a bit more about how our collaboration came to be. It has taken a few months (especially with lockdown) but we are very excited to share our Embroidered Bee Ornaments with you all. These delicate baubles are personalised with a handwritten name and finished with a little bee charm embroidered onto natural linen, and we couldn’t be more pleased with what we have created together.

Personalised Large & Small Embroidered Bee Baubles by Kate Sproston Design & Perched Bird

Our first collaboration – Large & Small Personalised Embroidered Bee Baubles

I first discovered Kara’s work when leafing through the notonthehighstreet.com catalogue on the run up to Christmas last year. I was completely enchanted by her delicate glass cloches; the miniature scenes captured within the glass domes were beautiful and unique. From that moment I became a total fan girl of her work!

When I signed up for the Etsy Made Local Christmas Fair in Leamington Spa, I couldn’t believe my luck when I found out Kara would also have a stall. We spoke a little during the fair, and when I brought one of her gorgeous cloches, we discovered that we lived only a few miles from each other. What were the chances?!

Kate Sproston Design & Perched Bird collaboration brainstorming session.

Brainstorming ideas and deciding on designs to develop before Covid-19 hit!

Once the chaos of Christmas had passed, I was very pleasantly surprised to receive a message from Kara, asking if I would be interested in a collaboration. I had no idea what we would create but I said yes straight away. We arranged to meet for a coffee and chat about ideas, deciding on three designs we would like to develop. Unfortunately, we only managed to meet twice before Covid-19 hit!

Embroidered Bees by Kate Sproston Design for the Perched Bird collaboration

Our socially distanced working method. Packing up embroidered bees to be posted through Kara’s door.

The situation has not been ideal but looking back I am so proud of the two of us for continuing to work through it, and develop our designs. There have been lots of Whats App messages, photos of mock ups, and samples posted through each other’s doors. I’m sure decisions could have been made faster at times if we had just been in a room together, but these few hurdles have made us all the more determined.

Kate Sproston Design & Perched Bird promotional material

Collaboration promotional material created by Kara all ready for launch

Despite the distance, discovering each other’s skills and strengths has been very interesting. For example, I always find creating promotional material very hard work and spend lots of time worrying over layout. With Kara’s background in wedding stationary, design and layout was a breeze.

Design development of Kate Sproston Design & Perched Bird collaboration

Original bee illustration taken from Perched Bird stationary, and first sample of illustration converted to embroidery

Merging our two styles has also been an interesting experience, which has made me realise just how strong the look of our individual brands is.  From a design point of view, collaborating on a product is a great exercise on pushing each other’s boundaries. But I speak for us both when I say we are thrilled with the outcome.

Embroidered bees by Kate Sproston Design & Perched Bird

Finished bee design ready to be made into embroidered charms

You can find our Embroidered Bee Baubles at notonthehighstreet.com, Perched Bird Etsy Store, or on my website, so please pop over to take a closer look. I hope you have enjoyed learning a little more about our process, and for those that have got this far, here is a sneaky peak of what to expect from us in the near future.

Astronaut & Moon cloche by Kate Sproston Design & Perched Bird

A sneaky peak of our next product!

Kate x


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March Meet the Maker – A Little Extra

Throughout the month of march, I have been taking part in the March Meet the Maker Instagram challenge, created by Joanne Hawker. It is a great opportunity to learn a little more about other designers and their businesses, from how they started, to what their biggest learning curve has been. It has been fantastic to share stories, problems and successes, so when Amy from Vintage Child asked if I would like to write a blog post as an added extra to the challenge, I couldn’t resist. Below are five extra questions that we hope will encapsulate both Kate Sproston Design and Vintage Child, providing an overview that the daily prompts may have missed.

Kate from Kate Sproston Design, with her most popular rabbit egg cosy

Kate with her most popular rabbit egg cosy

Can you introduce yourself in 500 characters or less?

Hello, my name is Kate and I am the founder and designer behind Kate Sproston Design. All the embroidery is created by me from my original sketches, and then digitised using a specialist computer program to convert the images to stitch. I love to read, sew (obviously), visit new places, and be outside with my border collie George. I have always been creative and knew I would have a creative job from a young age. I feel incredibly lucky that the plan has come to fruition, and I get to spend my days doing something that I love.

Sketches of border collies from Kate Sproston Design

Rough sketches for our border collie design

How did you start your brand?

When I graduated from Birmingham City University in 2009, my final project was selected by the Embroiderers Guild to be shown as part of their annual Graduate Showcase. I took part in three exhibitions in London, Harrogate and Dublin, whilst at the same time starting work as a pattern cutter in a high-end lingerie company. These two experiences got me thinking of how I could make my passion into a commercial business, and after quite a while (years in fact) I finally created some more commercial designs and applied to sell through notonthehighstreet.com. After working full time, and making and selling in the evenings and weekends, I was finally able to quit my day job and start working on Kate Sproston Design full time.

Embroidered rabbit Easter egg hunting bag by Kate Sproston Design

Our personalised Easter egg hunting bag

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Well now I have a dog I would have to say George, but before he came along it would be the thought of creating something meaningful that others would treasure and enjoy. I try and design products that I would like to gift to my friends and family, and they are a constant source of inspiration, especially my goddaughters, nephew and five nieces! It is a special feeling when a customer tells me who they have brought the item for. I love to hear from couples who are using a set of our Christmas stockings to announce their new addition to the family, or when one of our reusable crackers has been brought to gift something special like an engagement ring. It’s nice to know I have contributed to a memory that will last a lifetime.

Embroidered schnauzer glasses cases by Kate Sproston Design

Adding the finishing touch to our embroidered schnauzer glasses cases

What advice would you give to your past self when you were first starting out?

Everyone was in the same boat as you when they first started out. Don’t worry about being worried, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice even if you feel like you are making a fool of yourself. You will not be fantastic at every aspect of running a business. Small business owners have to be designers, product developers, accountants, technical support, marketers, photographers and social media savvy. Accept that you can’t be everything, but the fact that you are willing to try and ask for help when needed is absolutely fantastic!

Embroidered rabbit collection by Kate Sproston Design

Napkins, Easter egg hunting bag, snap purse and egg cosies make up our embroidered rabbit collection

Whats Next?

Apart from building on my existing design range, I would like to move into a larger studio space and find a few more outworkers. As a long term goal, I would love to be able to grow Kate Sproston Design to create employment opportunities for others. It is very important to me to keep production within the UK, and wherever possible fabric and materials are purchased from UK companies.

Check out Amy’s answers here, and learn a little more about Vintage Child leather goods. (I have not only purchased her beautiful designs for family gifts, but I am the proud owner of one of her leather backpacks!)

To learn more about Joanne Hawker’s March Meet the Maker challenge follow this link. Anyone can join in, whether you are a business owner or have a creative side hustle, it’s a great way to share experiences.

I hope you enjoyed a little extra insight into Kate Sproston Design. I will definitely be looking forward to next year’s challenge!

Kate x

 


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March Meet the Maker 2019 in Review

As some of you may know, throughout March I have been taking part in March Meet the Maker; a month long challenge made up of daily prompts created by designer Joanne Hawker. Even though I have taken part in previous years, I have especially enjoyed 2019’s challenge and thought I would do a little summery with some of the highlights.

Kate Sproston Design March Meet the Maker Prompt Sheet

My March Meet the Maker prompt sheet complete with scribbles, dog ears and pin holes! I didn’t stick to every note in the end but I did finish the challenge.

It is quite a commitment to keep up with the daily prompts and I take my hat off the all the businesses that managed it. I must admit that there were a few days that I fell behind (normally at the weekend) but each day it was great to see the variety of posts from across the board. It was a brilliant opportunity to share a little of what goes into running Kate Sproston Design, how it all started and a great way of looking back over what has been achieved so far.

University degree show project by Kate Sproston Design

Left: One of the first embroideries I ever completed, a cross stitch mouse kit. My mum then made it into a coaster and it is in my parents house to this day. Centre and Right: An original drawing and the embroidered corset I made for my university final major project.

My favourite prompt had to be ‘Less Glam Side’ especially as it is really easy to forget that the super curated Instagram world is not reality. It is nice to know that I am not the only one that can be found working amongst boxes and paperwork, with a carpet covered in thread! Parts of running a business can be mentally and physically exhausting, that is why it is so important to enjoy the wins.

Kate Sproston Design setting up for Country Living Christmas Fair, London.

Setting up for Country Living Christmas Fair, London. I bit of the less glam side of running a small business. Note the KitKats, coffee and baby wipes on the floor!

Another great outcome of the challenge is how it highlights what goes into designing, creating and finally bringing a product to market. The hours and indeed years it has taken a designer to hone their skills to make a beautiful product look effortlessly made. It helps us appreciate each others talents and it also gives us the opportunity to share some tips and advice with other designers, and maybe help each other avoid some serious pitfalls like impostor syndrome.

Kate Sproston Design French bulldog embroidery from original sketches to digital file.

French bulldog design from original sketches to digital embroidery file.

The customer feedback prompt really made me stop and think over all the lovely comments I have received over the years. It is easy to remember when something has gone wrong, and we always remember the negative comments over the good. This prompt meant I spent some time looking over our website and Etsy reviews to remind myself that there are some truly appreciative customers out there that really get what we do! Thank you to everyone who has sent us a little email with their comments, or shared a lovely story behind a purchase.

Sleeping Otter Mum & Pup Cushion by Kate Sproston Design

One of the reviews for our Sleeping Otter Mum & Pup cushion. “Whilst I know the cushion is a little on the pricey side it is completely worth it. I bought this item for my sister to celebrate the birth of her first baby, and her reaction was absolutely priceless. Beautiful design, lovely quality.”

On a personal note the challenge has made me realise that I can only go at my own pace and that’s okay. There are lots of fantastic businesses out their that seem to be growing at a brilliant rate which is an amazing achievement, but I should celebrate how far Kate Sproston Design has come and know that if I set my mind to it I will grow too in my own time. I am very lucky to be able to do what I do and share it with some very kind customers, and fellow designers along the way.

Kate Sproston Design swing tag.

One of the posts that was all about the business name. It got a lot of lovely comments which got a little lump in my throat!

If you would like to take a look at some of the other businesses that took part in the challenge, simply search #marchmeetthemaker on Instagram. I have added links to a few of my favourite accounts below.

@joannehawker – is an illustrator and the creator of March Meet the Maker. Her feed has a beautiful pastel pallet and is full of her illustrations, paper goods and pins.

@madebylottieday – Lottie produces screen printed textiles from her original drawings. Each product is printed in her studio in Norfolk and has a rustic country feel.

@papiopress – Zanna and Harry are the duo that make up Papio Press. They have the most fantastic products and their IG account is full of their intricate illustrations.

@mendyourhead – Vinegar and Brown Paper is the business behind this IG account, and was founded by Andy Poplar. He creates etched glass products with a vintage feel and inspiring messages.

I hope you enjoyed my little round up/summery and would love to hear any comments you might have below.

Have a lovely weekend,

Kate x


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Spring Fair 2019

Well what an amazing trade show to start the year. It is only our second Spring Fair but with each year it gets a little easier and less daunting. We are able to take things in our stride a bit more, and enjoy meeting lots of new stockists and compare notes with fellow designers and business owners. Therefore I thought it might be fun to do a little round up of this years show, and things that we spotted.

Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers by Kate Sproston Design were Highly Commended in GOTY Award 2019

Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers with our Highly Commended Trophy.

Our big news is that the Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers won Highly Commended in the Festive & Occasional Gift category in the Gift of the Year Award 2019. We were thrilled to attend the award ceremony and receive a trophy which now has pride of place in the studio.

Gift of the Year 2019 Winners and Runners Up Group Photo

All the winners and runners up having their photo taken on stage at the award ceremony. Spot a smiley Kate at the back!

I also got to have my picture taken on stage with all the winners and runners up. You can just spot me at the back looking pretty pleased with myself!

Kate Sproston Design stand set up before, during and after completion at Spring Fair trade show 2019.

The before, during and after shots of the stand build.

Set up took place over two days, with the stand wallpapering done on Friday evening in the gloom, and the shelving and display finished on Saturday morning. The hall is always freezing during set up with all the doors open for unloading. We work in our coats as fast as possible to keep warm. The change in atmosphere is always amazing, from a dark and echoing hall during set up, to a bright and bustling fair once the doors open to visitors on Sunday morning.

We had fabulous stand neighbors as always. Some we knew from last year and others we got to know over the duration of the show. (You really do get to know each other very well especially when you are stood next to each other for five days straight and there is a lull in foot traffic!)

Ceramics by Tragear Pottery

The beautiful ceramics by our stand neighbors Tregear Pottery.

We met Neil from Tregear Pottery for the first time and fell in love with his work. The creation process for each piece is fascinating, although I won’t give away any trade secrets! In particular the seal designs really caught my eye as the shapes were so simple, yet conveyed so much character in their form.

Botanical trend spotted at Spring Fair 2019

One of the fantastic stands that caught our eye, complete with ceramic animal heads.

As always there are a real mix of companies at the show, from large multi national businesses, to independants like us. Some of the largest strands had huge room set ups with the botanic trend still as popular as ever. I couldn’t help but spot the fantastic animal heads on this company’s stand, the name of which I have unfortunately forgotten!

Needless to say we have returned from the show exhausted but buzzing with ideas. We have lots of leads to follow up, and new designs to start as well as a few orders to fulfill! I hope you enjoyed a little bit of the behind the scenes of our time at Spring Fair, and if you have any questions please feel free to ask.

Kate x