As a lover of a good notepad Charlotte Harding finds an Eastbourne business who ticks all the right boxes.
When Darrell Gibbs showcased his final work at the Royal College of London in 1999 he never expected to get an order from a large retailer.
“My husband Darrell was studying a masters in illustration and for his final show he had made these notebooks out of recycled paper,” explains Julia.
“I suppose the best way to describe him is as a hoarder but he used paper he had collected over the years.
“Habitat loved what he did and ordered about 25,000 notebooks, at the time Darrell was hand making them himself.
“We said yes and then figured out how we were going to do it after.”
It was here that Julia’s background as a stationery and gift ware buyer for places like Liberty and House of Fraser came into its own.
“I knew suppliers in India who we got in touch with and they put us in touch with someone who could help,” she reveals.
“We still use the same manufacturers now as we did then.”
The pair’s business Sukie was launched in January 2000.
Along with finding a supplier the pair also realised they had to start a company.
“Once we got the order we were like ‘oh wow we need to create a company to do this’,” smiles Julia.
“We went through lots of names but most of them were already taken so in the end we decided to call the business Sukie after the cat I had as a child.”
Through Sukie the pair sell a range of stationery and textiles featuring nostalgic designs inspired by nature, folk art and printed ephemera.
Darrell creates the designs himself and for the larger print runs the concept is sent to India where it is hand made. The smaller batches or personalised pieces are made by Darrell in the pair’s studio in Eastbourne.
“We are now starting to collaborate more with other brands,” explains Julia.
“We do the designs and they manufacture and distribute them for us, it is great as we still get to do the bits we love but have someone else doing the admin side of it.
“It also means we get to a wider demographic.”
At the moment Sukie is working with Chronicle Books to produce more of its popular travel journals.
“The travel journals are something we have done since we started 16 or 17 years ago,” reveals Julia.
“And from that point they have been really popular with people.
“The fronts vary depending on the fashions at the time so we have had a camper van which we couldn’t restock quick enough and then more recently a world map which has been popular, these can also be personalised.”
The personalised element came about through online marketplace Not On The High Street, where Sukie has a shopfront.
“They got in touch interested about personalisation so we looked into and it became more and more popular with people,” she says.
The husband and wife team met while studying illustration at Brighton, they then moved to London before finally ending up in Eastbourne.
“We wanted a studio but nothing caught our eye for what we were willing to spend in London so we went to Brighton and met up with some friends who were still down there and worked with them for a number of years,” explains Julia.
“When we had children we decided we wanted a more outdoorsy life so moved to Eastbourne. Here we are right near the South Downs so we have the countryside right on our doorstep which is ideal.”
Even though the business has been trading for more than 15 years the pair still love what they do.
“We are always looking at new ways of working and new products we can use,” she says.
“The business has grown really organically and when we started we didn’t know if we would get past the original orders but it has been great.”
We may live in a technology driven world of online notebooks and emails instead of pen and paper but sometimes you can’t beat a good bit of stationery.
Visit www.sukie.co.uk or follow on Instagram @sukie_studio for more info.
This first appeared in etc Magazine’s April edition out now.