I met Léa last month when we both traded at Crafty Fox Market in Peckham (though we’d already been introduced over Twitter by the lovely Rod of Rodology). I loved her wooden jewellery collection, and use of bright colours and lovely illustration.
Below, we chat about starting up, approaching stockists and the magic of seeded paper!
When and how did Oolala Design start?
After finishing my MA I went into freelance work because I can’t really settle on doing one thing. For two years I worked for different companies and designers as a product designer, researcher, maker or web designer. It got to a point where I had no more work lined up, so I cried a little and then decided that I would be my own boss doing my own shenanigans.
Oolala Design started about a year ago without any plan or experience of how to run a business. I just had ideas for products, so I made them, and then I made a website for them, and then the fun began!
What materials do you work with, and why, and how do you source them?
My first products, and so far my best, are the seeded greeting cards. They’re cards made from recycled paper with seeds embedded in them. Once received, you can plant your card and grow flowers. It’s a bit magical and different from a normal greeting card.
I used to make seeded paper as a kid with my mum, and the results were, let’s say… interesting. It is quite time consuming to make and 20 years on it still doesn’t look the way it should, so now I’m sourcing it from different suppliers.
As a designer I try to use sustainable and recyclable materials as much as possible, such as the seed paper. When I’m working on a product I value materials as much as the narrative aspect of my designs.
In my head it sounds like: “Oh this is really cool idea! How could I make this cool idea an even stronger product?” Then I look at materials, process, prices, product scenario, etc. I try to be ethical in my choices and when possible I source my material locally or within the UK. I do have a thing for working with wood though!
You’re stocked in some lovely shops across the UK, how did you go about approaching them?
I always do my homework on what kind of shop would fit my work; I look at their style, price bracket, if a designer I know is stocked there. I look at which shops I like, or search for new ones on social media. Sometimes I find some while randomly passing by. And then I do a bit of stalking on their social media – it’s always good to know who you’re talking to.
When they are local I go there with a few samples to show, a price list, and the best impression of myself. After that I always follow up with an email. When it is further away I send an email with some nice photos, price list and a link to my website, and then if they don’t get back to that first email I send another a couple of weeks later.
Different shops have different reasons why or why not they’ll stock my products, and sometimes I don’t get any reply. When that happens it’s really frustrating but there are so many shops – it’s about finding the right one and keeping them posted on new products, new branding, anything relevant really.
Recently I received a lovely email out of the blue from a shop in Warwick, Ceri Jam, saying they would love to stock my products. Yay!
Your collection spans jewellery, homeware and stationery – have you anything on the wish list you’d like to add or learn to make?
My wish list for Oolala Design is probably as tall as me! Loads of exciting things are going through my mind, but in real life it’s a bit more complex. I’m currently writing a business plan to be more organised and to have goals to look forward to. This is still a work in progress; it’s so boring to do but in the long run it is probably the most useful thing for me in order to grow, expand and eventually work full time for myself. A new website is on the way too!
Creatively speaking I’m now designing the Christmas products! Aside from Christmas in May, I’m developing some objects and small pieces of furniture. It takes more time and costs more to design and make but it’s my favourite! I want to experiment and explore more processes to really push the homeware part of Oolala.
In a not so far future I would also love to collaborate with some designer-makers but I’m not at that point yet!
What advice would you give someone wanting to turn a creative hobby into a business?
I would say one of the key things is having a bit of a plan to start with – being creative is nice but being creative and organised is better. It helps to break down the coming weeks/month into strategic and realistic steps.
Other than that, be nice, always have some business cards with you, trust your gut, and get working. There are no rules. It’s all about finding what works for you. It’s challenging but equally fun!
Blog – Design Milk
Blog – Design Boom
Thank you Léa! You can see Oolala Design products in all their glory this Sunday at Craftacular in London, or stalk Léa across the internet and buy online via the following links:
Facebook – OoLaLa Design
Twitter – @OoLalaDesign
Instagram – @oolaladesign
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