Known throughout the world as the birthplace of the industrial revolution, but jump more than 100 years on and Greater Manchester is not only a creative hub and a proud city of music, science, politics, arts and sport, but is also a veritable the greeting card publishing powerhouse.
Home to Belly Button Designs, Paper Salad, Wraptious, Stop the Clock Design, Stripey Cats Cards, Davora, Always Sparkle, Greenhouse and Bella Jacobs, among others, Manchester has evolved to become a centre of greeting card publishing excellence.
At a recent GCA-instigated Manchester Meet Up, organised by Council member Raj Arora, founder of Davora, fellow Manchester-based publishers were keen to share their enthusiasm for being based in the city and its environs.
“The whole region, not only the obvious Media City and The Northern Quarter, is full of creative businesses and organisations, all energising and inspiring each other, bringing and training talent. It is no wonder, for me, that it is such a fertile ground for greeting card publishers,” says Simon Wadsworth, co-founder of card and homewares company, Wraptious, that is based in Welkin Mill. He also cites Manchester’s market scene as being second to none which enables companies to try out their products prior to launching into retail.
“It was music that initially brought me to Manchester as I played in a band for 10 years. But the ease of getting out to green space, which is what inspires me has made it the ideal place to base Stripey Cats,” said Jonathan Crosby, founder of the Stripey Cats card company that he runs with his partner, Danielle McCarthy.
Raj Arora, owner of Davora, feels the positive spirit which emanates throughout Greater Manchester, “exemplified by its coming together in times of trouble such as after the Manchester Arena bombing two years ago, gives a real ‘can do’ attitude which knocks on into business.” And as he adds, “plus the cost of living is cheaper here, but with a great quality of life. The transport links are good both within the city and out of it. You can be in London in a few hours yet out into the country in 20 minutes.”
Dubbed ‘Cottonopolis’, Manchester was once the international centre of the world’s cotton industry, the legacy of which has resulted in innovation in design and printing in other areas. Many of these mills also had their own design studios so a raft of talent was employed. Karen Wilson, who co-owns card publisher Paper Salad with Claire Williams, likes to think that the talent was passed down through the generations. Paper Salad’s HQ in the Manchester suburb of Romiley, is housed in one of these old re-used cotton mills. Coincidently, Karen’s grandfather employed by the mill, worked in the very same room in which the card publisher’s office is now based.
“We came across an old photograph of my grandfather, Sydney, as he worked away in the dye house of the mill just before it closed in the early sixties. What is lovely is that his great-grandson, my son Jack, now works in the very same spot some 60 years later!” reveals Karen.
It is the combination of being a cultural hub, green space and proximity to manufacturing expertise, that makes Manchester an ideal base for Bella Jacobs, a contemporary card and gift company that is aimed at the Jewish market. “Some 70% of my customer base is in London, but having grown up in Manchester I love the opportunities the city offers. And being so close to so many skilled manufacturers, including the linen mills in nearby Lancashire adds to its appeal,” says Tamar Klaus, owner of the business.
Tracy Mills of Greenhouse makes the point that “the outstanding creative courses in art and surface pattern offered at Manchester University and Stockport Art College has resulted in a rich seam of talented designers” of which she as well as Paper Salad’s Karen Wilson and Claire Williams are another two.
For Belly Button’s Kimberley Williams she says that what really gives the city its character is “the people. They are friendly, with a good sense of humour and resilient. Just what you need in your working and social life!”
Alexa Stretton, founder of Always Sparkle is living proof of ‘greeting card genetics’ in Manchester. “I grew up living above the greeting card shop that my parents owned and ran for 21 years in Marple,” explains Alexa. “They ignited the love of cards in me and of the area. Quite simply, it is a great place to live and work and the fact that I am playing a part in continuing the greeting card legacy makes me feel really happy!”
Read more about the Mancunian creative card hub in PG August (click to pages 54-55).
Top: Manchester is recognised as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, but is now a strong creative hub for card publishers.