Cutting to the paper chase – an interview with Emma Bryan of Hattie Boo Designs

It would be hard to find an artist with a greater passion for their work than Emma Bryan of Hattie Boo Designs. Words tumble out of her, jostling for space as she describes the inspiration and creation of her beautiful handmade stationery, with its quirky illustrations.

“I’ve always loved stationery, even as a child,” she laughs. “Whenever we went on holiday to France,  I’d stock up with as much as I could. At school, I’d spend hours copying newspaper fonts to make up my own designs.”

In 2001, Emma left her work teaching English and Drama to look after her young family. As they grew older, she revived her interest in typography and did a night course in dip pen calligraphy, learning about the balance of letters and shapes and the importance of white space.

“Eventually, I decided to set up a greetings card company,” she explains. “I soon realised that I wasn’t going to be able to compete, though – as I didn’t do my own printing at that stage, I had to order fairly large print runs and I couldn’t keep my stock fresh and immediate enough.

“Gradually, I moved into more specialist stationery such as invitation cards and wedding items – and Hattie Boo Designs was born. It’s named after my youngest daughter, Harriet, and the silly games of peek-a-boo we used to play – I wanted a name that was memorable, meant something to me personally and didn’t limit me to one product.”

Now, Emma’s company produces a vast range of stationery including children’s party invitations and thank you cards, postcards, and wedding stationery.

“All the wedding stationery is unique,” explains Emma. “I like to really get to know the couple – where they met, how the proposal happened, what their hobbies are. I’ll ask them to come into the studio and look at mood boards and bring in magazine articles and snippets of bridesmaids’ dresses. I’ll find out what really makes them tick, and create something that’s personal and intimate, using their chosen mixture of artwork, ribbons, crystals, foiling, whatever they want.

“I love getting to know my clients, and many of them come back to me for other occasions in the future, such as christenings. I never get fed up talking about ribbons!”

All Emma’s hand-drawn illustrations start life as a doodle in a notebook. She then turns them into watercolours or pen and ink drawings, which are scanned in and digitally manipulated as necessary. Line drawings can be filled in with different colours, resized and rebalanced for different effects.

“My children’s range started off with some thank you cards I did for my girls’ teacher, complete with little drawings of the girls themselves,” says Emma. “Those went down so well that I began to introduce pictures of other children in the uniforms of local schools.

“My inspiration can come from anywhere – words, slogans, fashion colours on the catwalk, magazine photos and fonts. The ‘fairies’ range grew out of the little pictures I did to amuse my own children. I’m also working a range of illustrations for a set of children’s books, which is very exciting!

“Nothing’s ever wasted. Elements of a design might turn up singly, or as part of something else, and I keep everything in case it comes in useful. One of my best sellers at the moment is a purple butterfly card, which was inspired by a wedding invitation.

“In spite of the age of social media that we live in, I think people still love my stationery because it’s handmade, unique and not mass produced. I recently had a lovely comment that my pictures were an inspiration to budding artists – they’re quirky, and capture a feeling. At the moment, I’m working on summer designs such as ice creams, deckchairs, strawberries and cricket. As I can now print in-house, I can produce anything from one card to hundreds, and that helps me keep the designs really fresh.

“I’m so lucky to be able to do what I love,” finishes Emma. And, judging by her enthusiasm, it’s clear she also loves what she does.

For more information about Emma’s work or to buy her stationery, please visit Prices start from £3 for a card, and £6 for a pack of correspondence cards. Prices include P&P.

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