Playing your cards right: an interview with Tracy Kemp of Vintage Playing Cards

From her studio in leafy Suffolk, Tracy Kemp designs and makes quirky, unusual homewares inspired by old playing cards and other vintage lettering. The range now includes bottle openers, dog lead holders, clocks, mugs, tea towels and bunting as well as the signature framed words.  Sara Walker caught up with Tracy to find out more about this unusual business idea.

CHB: What was your background before you set up the company?

TK: I spent 10 years in marketing working for big corporations such as AOL and Virgin.

Tracy Kemp shows off some of her work.

CHB: Vintage Playing Cards has been going 10 years, which is impressive in this day and age. What is it about your products that appeals, do you think?

TK: Our products are nostalgic as we are recycling old games that people remember from their childhood. We are also reusing things which would otherwise be thrown away, as games cannot be played unless they are complete. The other thing that appeals is personalisation, we can personalise most of our products which enables people to come up with a saying which is really important to them.

CHB: Where on earth do you source all your original materials from? Are you an eBay addict? Do auction houses across the country have you on speed dial?

TK: Ha ha! We did spend a lot of time scouring charity shops and auction houses but now we have made some really good contacts with card collectors and house clearance specialists and they come directly to us. It’s always fun to go to an auction anyway though!

CHB: You’ve got some illustrious stockists including Selfridges and Liberty. How did that come about? How did you feel when you got the contract?

TK: There really is no better feeling when you are running your own business to sign up with a really high profile and much admired stockist. We met both Selfridges and Liberty at trade fairs and when we signed the supplier contract it felt like such a major achievement. Getting in places like this really accelerates your brand as it gives you such great exposure!

CHB: Do you have a best selling product and if so, what is it? Do you personally have a favourite product?

TK: One of our best selling products is the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious word art and I never get tired of making it! It’s such a fabulous word from such an iconic film. I can’t wait for Mary Poppins Returns to be released!

CHB: How do you continue to come up with new ideas?

TK: You’ll often find me at exhibitions and vintage markets looking for inspiration, as are the rest of the team. I’m also an Instagram addict and love looking at what people are doing with their homes.

CHB: What’s next for the future of Vintage Playing Cards?

TK: We will continue to focus on product development. Obviously online is really important to us but we still want to focus on the high street and supporting independent retailers. We want to be part of the high street and help to ensure that our town centres are still destinations for the discerning shopper to browse.

CHB: Describe a typical day at ‘Vintage Playing Cards HQ’.

TK: Part of the joy is that there is no typical day. I could be planning a marketing campaign, designing a stand layout, meeting suppliers or mucking in and packing orders. No day is ever the same. Vintage Playing Cards has become an integral part of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

To find out more about Vintage Playing Cards or to buy online, visit Prices for framed word art start at £14.95.

All photos (c) Vintage Playing Cards 2018.

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