The Great Inktober Auction

I’m seizing this International Women’s Day to give my London Marathon fundraising for Refuge a boost. I loved running the marathon so much last year that I rashly signed up to Team Refuge again, the freezing February training runs a hazy memory when I filled out my application back in May (this past week I’ve clambered through two snow drifts in an attempt to keep my legs on track, that’s worth a couple of quid, surely?).

Anyway, my main news is that I’ve listed lots of the #inktober paintings I made last year on Ebay, with 100% of the profits going to Refuge. Refuge is committed to a world where domestic violence and violence against women and girls is not tolerated and where women and children can live in safety. Please take a look, spread the word on social media and bid, bid, BID for your favourite. The auction will run until Sunday evening. Good luck!

IMG_2734.JPG

The same way that the #inktober challenge spurred me on to push my work in a new direction, training for last year's marathon gave my brain the boost it needed at a really difficult time. 12 months ago I found it so painful to say that I had experienced an abusive relationship. Fundraising for Refuge has really helped me talk about it more openly. It shouldn’t be this hard — 1 in 4 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse — but I still occasionally have days when I give in and blame myself for failing. My strategy for those days (which are happily much, much fewer and farther between than they were 12 months ago) is to replay things that my incredible, no-nonsense therapist told me until I can hear my own voice again (that and do some yoga). Thanks to the support of extraordinary friends and family (and the aforementioned incredible therapist) I have rediscovered who I am and I know why I want to stay alive. This probably all sounds a bit self-indulgent, but I just wanted to try to explain what abuse does — it will take away everything you thought you knew for certain and turn everything you thought was good about being you into something unbearable. And it can happen to anyone.

This is why women and children need Refuge. I am shamelessly asking you to sponsor me again, or to bid on a painting, or just to share this on Twitter / Instagram / Facebook / anywhere, to help other women who aren't as lucky as I am.

There are many forms of violence and abuse. Refuge offers specialist support to women and children who may be experiencing a variety of forms of gender-based violence including: domestic violence; rape and sexual abuse; forced marriage; so-called ‘honour’-based violence; human trafficking and modern slavery; prostitution; and female genital mutilation (FGM).

You can find my sponsorship page here and the ebay auction here.

Thank you so much for anything you can give. London Marathon - here I come! x

2017-04-23 18.34.23.jpg

Top Drawer

When I applied for a space at Spotted, Top Drawer's new talent section, I really hadn't thought it through. I recklessly decided to take part in the UK's biggest home and gift trade show on the spur of the moment, and was quite surprised when I was offered a place.

Thankfully, it's amazing what you can achieve in a couple of weeks! This summer has been a bit of a tough one, and while I kept trying to pull myself together and get stuff done, mostly I didn't do anything useful at all. Fortunately, after a restorative break in beautiful Paris, I suddenly launched into action at the end of August and managed to get most of the planning and preparation done in about a fortnight. I've always loved a deadline.

So, this is how my not-so-grand not-a-plan came together:

1. Quick! Design more cards. In an ideal world, I would have launched a brand new range of super stylish homeware and stationery to make buyers weep tears of joy. Instead I decided that all my wares would be new to Top Drawer, so I concentrated on filling a few gaps instead. I had a few new patterns ready that slotted into my existing wrapping paper collections and designed a some more cards, beginning with this gorilla (happily marrying my love of both great apes and Carole King's Tapestry album). Things were off to a good start.

2. Pick a colour. Any colour. I ignored millions of emails from the exhibition build company asking me what colour I'd like my stand painted (and would I like special flooring/shelves/plug sockets for the price of the energy bill of a small country/beautiful women to come and help me sell), then suddenly decided at the last minute that I probably should paint it, because most of my patterns have a white background and I wanted them to stand out. After seeking the advice of a friend, I plumped for panels of mustard yellow (panels because I would now have to paint it myself and didn't think I'd have time to do the whole thing).

2016-09-09 16.03.28.jpg

3. Whip up a catalogue. Thankfully, I'd already had lots of help from my friend Tina who designed my first wholesale catalogue earlier this year, so I used that as a template. It still took a lot longer than I thought to update, but, after staying up all night, I managed to get it to the printer with less than a week to go! I also had postcards printed and even concocted a press release which made everything sound a lot better planned than it was! (Although in retrospect I really didn't need the press releases, a few postcards in the press room would have been fine.)

4. Mock up my stand. I commandeered a section of the hall at home and all sorts of pieces of furniture until I had an idea of what I could fit in the space. After thoroughly combing Pinterest for ideas I stuck everything to the wall with masking tape and enlisted my family to help me with all the drilling and painting, doing as much in advance as possible to make it easy to install on the day. Mocking everything up at home was so worthwhile - I did stick to my plan, and it looked OK! The most difficult part was accepting that it wasn't possible to display every single product I have. Less is more, apparently.

Overall, I was quite pleased with how it turned out (although the mustard is difficult to photograph!). Set up day went surprisingly smoothly. My two pieces of advice would be to take someone to help you (I had my brilliant mum and sister) and a trolley to ferry everything up from the car (Olympia is ENORMOUS).

 (My sister, @FelicitySlater, Instagrams like a pro; here I am, rolling mustard in my hi-vis.)

(My sister, @FelicitySlater, Instagrams like a pro; here I am, rolling mustard in my hi-vis.)

I wouldn't exactly recommend such a slap-dash approach, but I'm really glad I managed to get everything together somehow. There's so much I couldn't have learned any other way than by just being at Top Drawer. I even had one LOVELY customer on the first day who gave me lots of advice while I took her order. Here are a few tips that spring to mind:

1. Always invoice pro forma. Not just for the first order like I'd written in my catalogue T&Cs, because unless it's someone massive like John Lewis, you should always make sure you've been paid before you deliver.

2. Use a simple carbon copy order book to take orders, don't faff around with an iPad (which is what I was doing).

3. Sell everything in packs; 6 cards, 12 sheets of wrap etc. I knew this was what bigger companies would do, but as a first time exhibitor, I thought it would encourage buyers to take a chance on me if I was more flexible. I'm still not sure on this one, I've definitely had a couple of shops place orders for just 3 of one design, but I suppose there's also something to be said for acting like you're already a well established brand and perhaps inspiring more confidence that way?


The best thing about the whole experience was making friends with my Spotted neighbours. It was so good to meet other designers at a similar stage in their career and it wouldn't have been half as much fun without them. In fact, probably no fun at all.

Here are MAIRI HELENA, me, Zanna from PAPIO PRESS, KATIE KEITH, Anastassia of FOREVER FUNNY and Victoria from BOBBIE PRINT. Catherine from MOTTAINAI TEXTILES, Rachel from LITTLE WOLF and Ana from ABALON STAR were all busy with customers and missed out on the photo!


Before I went to Top Drawer, I read this Design Trust article which is full of useful advice! Patricia (everyone's favourite design business guru) says, "note that especially trade buyers will want to see you a couple of seasons or years before they actually will order from you, so don’t be too optimistic in that area", so I had very low expectations about receiving any orders at all! Happily, I have had a few as a result of exhibiting, all from lovely, independent shops. I did spot buyers from John Lewis and Harrods, but they didn't spend much time in the Spotted section! The show was actually a bit quieter than I expected; it was quite comforting when one of the big companies downstairs in the main gift area told me it had been the same for them. The downside of being in Spotted was that a lot of people didn't seem to make it upstairs to where we were; Olympia is so vast, it would be very easy to miss the whole section. On the other hand I hadn't done any networking beforehand; if I'd worked harder in advance to make contacts and build relationships with buyers, it probably have helped.

So, after three very long days and a renewed passion for caffeinated drinks, I packed up and trundled back to Staffordshire in the car. Special mention must go to wonderful Katie Keith, designer and Spotted-neighbour extraordinaire, who helped me wheel the entire contents of my stand a mile through Hammersmith on my little rusty trolley, all so I didn't have pack up, walk to fetch my car, queue to get back in etc... There's no way I could have managed it without her - thank you, Katie!

Ruling the Roost - the Nation's Favourite Bird

Calling (warbling, tweeting and chirping) all Brits: the vote is open to choose our national bird! You can pick your favourite here, from a shortlist of 10. It's been narrowed down to either robin, blue-tit, blackbird, kingfisher, wren, hen harrier, red kite, mute swan, barn owl or puffin. I expect it will turn out to be a robin but I've heard a few people campaigning very persuasively for the blackbird (for it's song and because it's so easy to find) and, of course, I have a huge soft spot for puffins! In fact out of the shortlist there are only 2 I haven't illustrated. If by some chance the hen harrier or red kite is chosen, I'll definitely be adding it to my portfolio!

British Birds.jpg

You can find all of the above items in my shop, Etsy or Not on the High Street.

Cows and Flowers

Growing up on a dairy farm and now working from a studio overlooking the yard, you might imagine drawing cows would be my forte. Unfortunately, my early attempts at capturing our dairying queens on paper usually failed spectacularly and it sort of put me off. Aged 10 I drew a ghoulish calf's head in oil pastels and gave it to my mum for her birthday, I think it was downhill from there! In my first year at uni we had a Christmas drawing project and I chose the farm as my theme. In theory, I'd be able to snuggle up on a straw bale with a mug of mulled wine and fill a sketchbook with my favourite Friesians, but actually it was bitterly cold and I stuck it out only long enough to fill a couple of pages (badly). Lately, I've been trying to remedy this and if you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen the fruits of my labour. Until recently I was ignorant of the benefits of posting half-collaged Herefords, but now I've decided that #wip is the way forward. Instagram, I love you! So, in the spirit of sharing my working process, from my first pencil drawings to the finished pattern, here's the merry herd:

Cow drawings © Kate Slater

Cow heads coloured Cows © Kate Slater Cows pattern © Kate Slater

OK, so I've only done their heads, but I'm happy with how they've turned out for now. I left the Highland out in the end because it wasn't quite right - disproving my theory that the hairier the animal, the easier it is to collage! Most importantly, my dad successfully identified all six different breeds, which has got to be a good thing.

These cows are now destined for mugs and tea towels, and I've just had some new wrapping paper printed too!

New wrapping paper

PS. Here's a cow from a year ago with a body. Just so you know I'm not always that lazy. Strange to see how my style is developing too, even in such a short time.

Cow and Calf © Kate Slater