For several years, in little independent shops, I have seen birthday cards, mugs and coasters produced by Perkins and Morley. I have loved the range of Venery (Collective) Noun items on sale but it wasn’t until my friend, Fee, gave me a tea towel for my birthday, in 2016, that I realised that they did tea towels. A tea towel with some Venery Nouns was like my idea of heaven. Once I set up the Virtual Tea Towel Museum, I knew that I wanted to include Perkins and Morley in the In Conversation With…section. I wanted to know all about the Venery Nouns Collection but I can’t overlook the fact that they have a wide range of designs, beautifully drawn with a creative use of colour. So here is their story:
”We are a two woman design team, producing quirky and unusual designs for cards, gifts and homewares. We have been designing for 30 years (bearing in mind that Jill lives in Devon and Jan in Cumbria. This must be a strong business partnership that can survive those distances). We both did a graphic design course at Middlesex Polytechnic which is where we met and more or less starting working together after that, in Sri Lanka. The business has been going for 30 years; we started out as wooden toy designers, working for a company in Sri Lanka, moving on to ‘hand to table ware’, producing many designs that sold in Macy’s, Bloomingdales and all around the world”. They started designing and publishing their own design-led greetings cards in 2010.
Living so far apart, how does the business work? “I (Jan) design some of the ranges, do all of the digital stuff; I like doing the design layouts for the cards and do most of the day to day running of the business, like emails, doing the VAT etc. Jill designs some of the ranges and is a very good sales woman, so is very good at Trade Shows.”
”We mainly sell to trade and have an online retail shop. We have just started selling our second Collective Noun tea towel to the United States of America!” I was interested in the first item that they produced: “If you are talking about the business, in its current incarnation, then it would be Jill’s ‘Country Walk’ range – if we are talking in the beginning of the business then it would be a wooden Christmas Tree decoration”.
I am itching to know about the Collective Nouns range which is a best seller and available on cards, tea towels, coasters, fridge magnets, mugs, key rings, chalk boards and stationary. “It was Jill’s idea and I came up with the art work and it went on from there… We have designed six tea towels in total and are currently selling three with a new Collective Noun tea towel out next week. I have to say that my favourite tea towel is the original Collective Noun tea towel and that is the most popular so far”.
”We are very committed to being eco-friendly, using recycled card, envelopes and fully biodegradable bags. All our products are made in Britain and are ethically produced. We love what the UK has to offer. Not only does it give us beautiful scenery and an immense variety of birds and animals; but talented crafts people we can call upon to make all our greetings cards and gifts. We are proud to say that we design and make everything in the UK; we print our cards in Essex, our tea towels in Redcar and a range of gifts including coasters, key rings, clocks and chalkboards are all handmade in Pershore”.
I am always interested to know what tea towel designers dreamed of being when they grew up: “I always wanted to be an artist”, says Jan.
Interestingly, the thing that Jan didn’t mention was their calendar, the 2018 Collective Noun calendar. Now this is something I would highly recommend; I know about these because I won one, in one of their competitions on Twitter last year, so I am the proud owner of the 2017 one. The best things about these calendars are (a) they are not made of shiny paper that it is so difficult to write on (b) they are not huge so do not take up wall space that you haven’t got (c) while small, there is a big enough space for each date to jot notes about your appointments and, of course, (d) you get 12 Venery (Collective) Noun pictures which you can keep and you are able to bore people in Pub Quizzes about your knowledge of Venery Nouns.
Thanks to Jan for answering all my questions and best of luck for the Christmas Season. Everyone needs a Calendar, a matching tea towel would go well with it.