Spotlight on… Craftstash Product Development Team

pretty quick apple blossom fuzzy lemon creative dies

It won’t have escaped your attention that here on Craftstash, we carry some incredible – and exclusive – products to really add the wow to your papercrafting projects! Our Apple Blossom, Pretty Quick, Creative Dies and Fuzzy Lemon ranges have proven incredibly popular, and also regularly feature as covermounts on our papercraft titles: Die-cutting Essentials, Papercraft EssentialsSimply Cards & Papercraft and Creative Stamping.

This wouldn’t be possible was it not for our outstanding Product Development team. This tightknit cohort of researchers, testers and designers work tirelessly around the clock, ensuring you’ll always have the latest outstanding and incredibly versatile crafting products at your fingertips!

We have an exclusive interview with our two in-house designers, Kay Whittaker and Vicky Welsby, to find out a little more about the design process!

Let’s meet our dynamic duo, Kay and Vicky!kay whittaker vicky welsby

Can you sum up your job in a couple of sentences?

Kay: We design mostly covermounts for the magazines, but also Craftstash own brand stuff: Pretty Quick, Apple Blossom, Creative Dies.
Vicky: It’s really a team effort, with the Product Development team and Editors. We put our ideas together and discuss themes; what goes with what image.

Do you have different design styles to each other?

Vicky: I think you can tell the difference [between styles]; Kay’s style is more established. But we do get influenced by each other and tend to use the same colours, which becomes difficult!
Kay: Vicky’s only been here a year, so is still trying to find her style. You need many hats for many styles, and personal styles don’t come into it. It’s got to be a style to suit a product, theme and audience. That’s the tricky part.

How long have you worked at Practical Publishing?

Kay: It will be 10 years in July. I started as an Art Editor and worked previously as a designer. Years ago I made clothes and had a shop. I’ve always been a creative. I gradually moved over to cover design and took on the Product Development role when someone else left.
Vicky: I joined 5 years ago as an Art Editor also, and during an appraisal I mentioned that I liked what Kay does! As Craftstash was growing, it was the right question at the right time. Kay was over the moon, as she finally had a partner in crime!

snowbabies apple blossom

Vicky’s most successful range: the Apple Blossom Snowbabies Collection

Working so intensely on designs, you must get a creative block sometimes. How do you deal with it?

Vicky: I take a look on Pinterest to get inspired, but sometimes go off on a tangent: something will spark an interest.
Kay: We bounce ideas off each other. It’s really good having someone else creative to give feedback. “Do you think it’s alright? What do you think of this?” So we may think of things the other person hasn’t thought of. It’s a really good collaboration.

How far ahead of product launch do you work on your designs?

Kay: About 6 months. We’ve started the Christmas covermounts already – it’s usually a February / March start for Christmas designs, as first editions come out in August.
Vicky: Usually with Craftstash products, it’s a quicker turnaround, about a month after the design has been approved. Stamps can be quicker, sometimes within a couple of weeks! The quantities can affect how long it takes to make a product.

How are the brands different? Do you each concentrate on different ones?

Kay: We work across all brands. They are all different styles. The Creative Dies range are the basics: stash-building essentials. Fuzzy Lemon are cute and contemporary styles, which I really like. Apple Blossom is intricate sophistication and quite detailed.
Vicky: We work equally across all brands. With Pretty Quick – it is what it says on the tin, quick and pretty. One cut on the card and it’s finished!

stained glass pretty quick

Kay’s favourite designs: the Pretty Quick Stained Glass Collection

How do you decide what to design?

Kay: Our team have weekly meetings, where we’ll discuss suggestions and ideas to keep in mind. Much later, we may then be briefed on these ideas. Sometimes we have ‘away days’ – off-site brainstorming sessions. It’s like we get seeds of ideas planted, which months later may be briefed.
Vicky: I love to hand-draw stamps. It often depends what style they need to be, but I do like to draw first before adapting on the computer.
Kay: I prefer to use Adobe Illustrator and my graphics tablet. I’d like an iPad Pro! Sometimes we flick through image banks for inspiration, to develop ideas. I’d love to sit and hand-draw more but there’s rarely time.

How are designs chosen – which will make it on to Craftstash or covermounts?

Kay: Our panel decides on the products, which can sometimes be quite harsh!
Vicky: It’s sometimes a bit difficult to hear your design work isn’t well received across the panel, but it’s all part of the job and only pushes us to produce better designs. We sometimes do overrule the panel though. There are some designs we have a good feeling will do well, so we go with our gut too.
Kay: We have online surveys, and magazine subscribers feed back. So it’s basically our readers who tell us what they want and then this information is analysed. Recently we’ve had some 90% approvals, which is brilliant.

safari friends papercraft essentials

Vicky’s favourite collection: Safari Friends, available as a free gift with Papercraft Essentials #145

What are your biggest design successes?

Vicky: My favourite is a covermount on Papercraft Essentials #145, it’s called Safari Friends. It’s an embossing folder and stamp set. The Snowbabies dies on the Apple Blossom label is my most successful set.
Kay: My favourite design is the Stained Glass Collection on the Pretty Quick brand. I like to do niche things like that. We have another four new designs, too! I really enjoyed working on them. They came from an idea I’d had for a while, rather than the traditional route of working from a brief.
Vicky: We really enjoy working on our own brand designs. We need a lot of time to research and develop ideas and that’s not always possible!

How do you feel when you see one of your dies or stamps being used to make a card?

Vicky: I watch Christina Griffith’s and Crafti Potential’s videos, who create cards for the Craftstash Inspiration section. I get a real buzz watching them make cards with things I’ve designed, I think it’s brilliant.
Kay: They always think of something you don’t.
Vicky: Christine (Crafti Potential) Smith’s style is just so quick and straightforward and I like that, straight to the point.

die-cutting essentials pretty quick stained glass

Kay’s favourite designs: the Pretty Quick Stained Glass Collection, with cards created by our Inspiration design team

 Can you predict the success of your designs?

Vicky: It can be bizarre really, something we think is really nice doesn’t always work. Then unexpectedly, a design has gone mega and you can’t explain it. We just design what we like and hope it is successful. Sometimes we throw in a few curveballs with ideas, because you never know!
Kay: Having the panel helps because we’ve had some good scores lately and we’ve been on track. We’ll be given ideas that the panel have put forward, but the design is mainly ours to interpret from the brief and make it work. It can be tricky, trying to please a very wide audience, as it’s very subjective and everyone likes different things.

What designs will be winging their way to us soon?

Vicky: We’re looking at diversifying one of our most popular designs, to enable a mix-and-match element. Perhaps introducing co-ordinating stamps and dies. There’s a real buzz about it and we’re really excited. Watch this space!

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