Meet the Makers: Lonetree Cards

Founded in 2011, Lonetree is the brainchild of two sisters, architect Emma Bensalem and food buyer Sara Hall from Yorkshire. As soon as I spotted their colourful, joyful, well-made cards, I knew I wanted to stock their work.

Very Foodie Bugle Shop!

To learn more about them is a series of “Meet the Makers” articles for the launch of our new shop, I asked both ladies to tell me all about their life and work. Here is what I learned.

Q: Sara and Emma, how did your original backgrounds in architecture and fine food buying brought you all the way to creating Lonetree cards?

A: Sara and I spent nearly a decade in our respective careers as a fine food buyer and architect and believe the “worlds” in which we worked and the demands of the job were the ideal apprenticeships for becoming publishers and for the launching of Lonetree. Working as a conservation architect involves working in context but requires a good degree of reinterpretation and re-presentation of the old, alongside the new, in terms of complimentary contrast  – we have certainly found that this is an outlook perfectly suited to Lonetree where we hope each of our cards are unique and intelligent in design. Equally the benefits of having a “buyer” within the business is that you constantly have a glimpse as to how your company will be viewed by your potential customers and understanding of the challenges that they have to meet. We realised that the joining of our skills would make the perfect combination for starting a company such as Lonetree and so we took the plunge!

Q: In the very beginning, when nobody knew who you were, how did you get your very first shop to stock you?

A: We had a very clear idea of by whom and where we wanted our cards to be stocked and so decided to launch Lonetree with a bang by exhibiting at a design fair in London called Top Drawer. It gave us instant access to some of the most influential buyers and it meant that some of our very first customers, and still our most loyal, include fantastic outlets such as Liberty, The Tate and The Design Museum.

Q: How do your design ideas come to you?

A: The simple answer is everyday life inspires us!  We look to our own lives and the world around us for the next great idea. Both rural girls, with a love for all that is nostalgic and curious, we hope that we reinterpret what we see into beautiful simple designs.

Q: Do you do all the printing yourselves or are the cards printed elsewhere?

A: One of our key objectives when starting Lonetree was that we kept our environmental footprint to a minimum and so we worked hard to source an English printer who is not only carbon neutral but ensure that 99.4% of their dry waste is diverted from landfill and recycle 90% of their press rooms solvents. These were standards that we could never have emulated through traditional printing at our studio and so the decision was easy.

Q: Your style is really simple and beautiful – like naïve art or folk art. What influences and artists have informed and inspired your work?

A: Thank you! Whilst we like to think that we are “rowing our own design boat” it would be untrue to say that others have not both informed and inspired us.  The list of all those that have inspired us would be too long but if forced to pick out a few we would credit the entire Bauhaus movement; artists such as Rachel Whiteread and Andy Goldsworthy, the children’s illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr Seuss fame) and all round living legends such as David Bowie and our Dad, as being creative independent thinkers.

Q: What does an average working day at Lonetree look like?

A: As sisters we are lucky enough to run Lonetree in the knowledge that we live literally next door to each other and so have engineered a highly tuned & creative system of shared childcare and work ethics. Our roles within the company are quite different, with one concentrating on the creative side and the other running the company on a day to day basis and we have one house set up with a studio office and the other house set up as the resident crèche. We meet each morning for a “breakfast” run through of the upcoming day before splitting the day into 50% childcare and 50% work for each of us. We have learnt that we have to be regimented for it all to run smoothly and you have to avoid slipping into sisterly chats but it does mean we can keep the studio running full time.

Q: Do you find yourselves going into stationery shops and gift shops to see what cards they sell and look at designs?

A: We will try to visit our customers’ shops whenever we can and nothing is so rewarding as seeing your cards on sale and if either of us visit somewhere we will always be on the look-out for potential new stockists. It is of course interesting to see what cards shops are selling as it does mean we can get a handle on the shop and the design style that they are attracted to but we purposefully don’t hang around long enough to look at other designs. We feel it is essential that we are inspired from outside the industry and we hope that this makes are cards something different.

Q: What are the future plans for Lonetree – will you branch out into other products?

A: We have lots of plans for Lonetree and along with further growth within the UK we are keen to enter the North American and Scandinavian market where we believe our cards would go down well and definitely have lots of ideas in the pipeline to see our designs on other products. Keep your eyes peeled!

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