What I love about the In Conversation With…. articles is finding so many different people in the tea towel industry, with so many different ideas and, I am ashamed to say, that I don’t own a Tabitha Mary tea towel. I will have to remedy this!
How many readers have heard of Theo Paphitis’s Small Business Sunday, commonly known as #SBS? This is where small businesses are invited to ‘sell’ the idea of their business to Theo Paphitis, in less than 140 characters on Twitter, on a Sunday between 5 – 7.30pm. On the following Monday, at 8pm, he reads all the Tweets and chooses which six he will retweet. This is a huge marketing technique since Theo has more than half a million followers. You don’t get anywhere if you Tweet outside of the set times, or if you send multiple Tweets. Tabitha Mary won her retweet in October 2016. As she says “It was great exposure for me”. Her Business Tip is “Social media is a very powerful tool. Use it, embrace it – it’s not going anywhere”. As a result, Tabitha Mary won the WAB Business Awards 2016 for the Best Use of Social Media.
So, who, or what is Tabitha Mary? “My name is Tabitha, my business is Tabitha Mary. I’d describe it as ‘prints inspired by old railway posters’. I’ve been working full time on my business for three years now but before that it was a hobby for a couple of years. I studied mixed media textile design but had a career in graphic design after I graduated from university, working in a number of different roles, designing Christmas Crackers, homewares, licensed stationary and packaging.
Tabitha Mary started when my Mum and Dad asked me for a map of the Shipping Forecast for Christmas, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. So I decided to design my own. It was well received by friends and family which got me to thinking……. could I potentially sell this print? and so Tabitha Mary was born. At first it was just a hobby but the business has grown, and developed, and I’m very excited and proud to say that it is now my full-time job.
I’ve always been inspired by the travel posters of 1930s, and the strong propaganda posters from both World Wars. As Tabitha Mary has grown, it is this influence that has helped me capture landmarks, seascapes and landscapes, from near and far, to create my portfolio. My niche has been in keeping my subject matters either local or a memory of experience.
All my prints are designed by me, in my office, and printed by myself, on archival quality paper. All of my prints can be printed onto tea towels. I think there are over 100 designs on my website now; I tend to only turn my most popular designs into tea towels or location-specific designs that reflect the area I might be selling at. I sell mostly online but do attend big, and small, events where I sell directly to customers”.
I wanted to know what Tabitha Mary’s most popular tea towel was. “The Shipping Forecast is the first design I ever did and is still my most popular tea towel.” I am always interested to know how tea towel designers imagined their future career when they were a child because I don’t believe anyone sits down as a child and says that are going to be a tea towel designer! “Ha, ha. I always wanted to be a teacher. But as life went on I realised my strength was being creative and I didn’t think I was teacher-material. Maybe, one day, you never know”.
I know from Twitter than Tabitha has just had a baby boy so I wondered how that was affecting her work. She has openly put on her website that she has just had a child so may take a little longer to respond to emails; she seems pretty quick to me. “At the moment, my son is 9 weeks old; I’m not sure that I’ve managed to normalise life yet! But with the help of my husband we’re coping, just about!”.
And the future? “I’d love to see Tabitha Mary grow, as it has been doing, but with the introduction of my son, I am aware my time to spend working and designing will be affected; I am out-sourcing more now, to give me maximum amount of design-time possible and hiring help where I can”.
Thanks to Tabitha for giving me her time, which must be precious at this point. A great selection of tea towels; I bet no one would have thought of a tea towel of the UK’s first multi-plex cinema at Milton Keynes! And what I love about all three In Conversation With… articles is that they are all different. Tabitha Mary’s tea towels are very different from Stuart Gardiner and Love Menu Art.