PROfile is a series of interviews with artists and creative souls who have built businesses around their craft and passion. We'll dig deeper to try and find out everything you could want to know from seasoned pros who have experienced the full gamut of highs and lows that come from running a creative business.
This week we are profiling Rose Murphy, the gorgeous and talented lady behind Rose & Ruby Paper Co. Not only does she design the most sumptuous stationery, she's also a dab hand at branding and visual identity, and she just happens to be the brains behind the visual identity of Her Lovely Heart.
What was your first ‘proper’ job and how did you land it? Was it what you intended to do as a career?
My first ‘proper' job was head of design for a start up fashion company when I was 17. I saw the job advertised and thought the interview process would be good experience never thinking I would ever land the job. They loved my portfolio and a few days later I got the call to say I was hired! It was exactly what I intended to do as a career and was the most brilliant experience and a magnificent learning curve. I couldn’t have asked for a better first job!
Has design always been in your blood?
Definitely. My mum had a childrenswear label when I was very small, selling her beautiful handmade designs to Liberty and lots of the big childrenswear boutiques. My creativity was always encouraged and mum helped me learn to design, sew and make clothes from when I was really young. When I started school at 4 we made my PE shorts from fabric I’d chosen, with me sitting on her lap at the sewing machine, and by about 8 I had my own sewing machine. From there I was unstoppable, designing and making outfits, researching, drawing, designing and dreaming.
I’ve always loved drawing, painting, sewing and making things, but I also always loved the technical more ‘engineering' side of design. I'm fascinated by maths and numbers, and understanding why and how things work, so things like creating repeat prints and pattern cutting came really naturally to me as there are a lot of similar processes and ways of thinking involved. I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer from an early age and felt lucky to know what I wanted when all my friends at school didn’t have a clue. It’s much easier to get to where you want, and make it happen, when you know your end goal!
Why did you make the transition from fashion to stationery?
I think it was just the right time in my life for a change. I’d left my ‘proper' fashion day job and had set up my own business freelancing. I was doing really well, but even though I was landing great projects and prestigious clients from around the world, I just felt like it wasn’t exciting me any more, like my heart wasn’t in it and it was becoming a chore rather than something that lit me up. Fashion was no longer making me happy, not so much the process, but more the way the industry works and the people you’re dealing with. What WAS making me happy was weddings. I’d just gotten married myself, and following our own wedding (photographed by the fabulous Marianne Taylor herself!) being featured in various places online and in print, I found myself working on more and more little side projects with other brides. So, I just decided to follow my heart and focus on what was making my heart sing: working together with brides designing their wedding stationery and ‘branding' their weddings.
How did you know you were ready to have your own business?
I’d been working towards it for some time freelancing alongside my day job. I was working with more and more clients and it just felt like the right time to do my own thing. By the time I started Rose & Ruby it didn’t feel like such a scary jump, as I’d already made that transition leaving full time work to freelancing full time, and had already had a taste of a working life out there on my own.
How did you go about starting your own business?
At the beginning it involved a lot of very late nights and not a lot of sleep whilst I juggled full time work and getting everything off the ground. But aside from a lot of hard work, and getting on with it, the process has been quite organic really. I was lucky enough to work with really great wedding clients, as well as really amazing wedding professionals within the industry, who recommended me and very kindly sung my praises so it just grew from there. I’m a strong believer in saying yes to every opportunity that comes your way even if it seems really scary at the time. You can worry about it later, by which time you’ll probably be so busy you won’t actually have time to worry at all!
How did you secure your first clients?
My first Rose & Ruby clients were all people who had seen my wedding featured in blogs and magazines. Brides to be got in touch asking about the stationery, and the other little bits I’d designed for our wedding, and it went from there. My brides then recommended me and it grew purely by word of mouth.
What is your typical daily routine like?
I’m an avid list maker and organiser so I always plan my day ahead at the end of the previous working day, and try to schedule my day hour by hour to keep on top of my to do list. It doesn’t always run to schedule, but it gives me a good head start. I’m not a morning person, more of a night owl, so planning ahead means I can get straight into productive work as soon as I get to my desk first thing in the morning, rather than trying to work out what needs to be done while I’m still waiting for caffeine to kick in.
Things are a little different at the moment as I have a little puppy which means a few more interruptions than normal, but generally I try to focus on reactive work in the mornings; designing, making proofs, creating artwork and getting jobs to print. I try to schedule in set times for email so that I’m not distracted by my inbox all day.
The afternoons are more varied and can be anything from research and new design work, working on styled shots and collaborations and meetings with clients, to working on branding projects for other professionals and creative businesses, which I’ve been doing more and more of recently. My days are pretty varied depending on what’s booked in for the month, and I do try to get in at least a couple of lunchtime Pilates and Yoga sessions per week just to keep me from feeling too sluggish.
What traits do artists have that help with running a business?
I’d say mainly a real genuine and honest love for what they do which really drives forward not only the heart of your business, but also relationships with your clients. It makes a huge difference to the service you can offer your clients if you’re coming from an authentic place.
How do you decide which suppliers to use?
Trial and error and recommendations! It took a long while to get to a place where I had found the right people to work with (there are a LOT of bad printers out there!) but I now have a great network of printers and paper suppliers that are totally fantastic. They are all really passionate about what they do, and skilled within their specialisms.
What’s been the most beneficial business decision you’ve made?
Asking for help and outsourcing. There comes a time when, however much of a perfectionist you are, you need to take a step back and look at your strengths and weaknesses. If someone else could be doing a task, they probably should, giving you time to focus on your strengths – probably the real essence of what makes your business a success. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn (still working at it..) but it really is the only way to take your business to the next level. However much you’d love to, you can’t do everything yourself.
Artists and writers often describe the compulsion to work – do you experience an overwhelming desire to create something new?
Always. Compulsion is a great word to describe that feeling! I absolutely passionately love designing and creating beautiful things, the whole process. My mind is always on the go dreaming of new possibilities, picturing new ideas, planning the next creative vision.
Do you ever feel alone in your work?
I don’t really. There is such a big lovely wedding community of beautiful amazing people out there that it never feels like I’m alone. There’s always someone there. And I actually relish working alone, and quiet time, especially when I’m really busy. I find it much easer to stay focused and be productive when there are no interruptions and immediate distractions, so I try to keep the studio as quiet as possible on purpose!
How do you relax?
I really love to read. I love to visit museums, galleries, historical properties and cherish time relaxing with my husband and family taking long walks with the dogs, tea and cake get togethers, that kind of thing. My biggest guilty (but not sorry) secret for unwinding is trashy TV. I am completely addicted to Real Housewives (all of them) and anything Kardashian. So if you catch me revelling in a Real Housewives bonanza you know it’s been a long week!
Where do you find inspiration?
It’s a bit of a cliché but I find inspiration everywhere. Fabrics, wallpapers, illustration, fashion, architecture, museums, historical detailing, books, fonts and lettering! What I’m most into at the moment is plasterwork. It might be because we’re moving house at the moment, so have been looking at lots of different properties, but I just can’t get enough of cornicing and mouldings. All that translates beautifully into vector artwork, so you’ll see a lot of that coming through in our new wedding collection!
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
I would tell myself that sometimes it’s okay to not work so hard all of the time. Hard graft is good, but you don’t need to run yourself into the ground – you’ll still get there in the end. Having a little time off to have fun will only make your work better and more inspired. And don’t scrimp on time with friends and family. That time is well invested.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Creating and sharing beauty. If we’re aiming high, then I’d love to be remembered for designing and making things that are so magnificently beautiful that they stir your soul. But generally just for being a really nice genuine person with a good heart and an inspiring character.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
There have been so many! I have so many ‘YAY' moments at my desk when I get lovely feedback and a ‘you were the best part of planning our wedding' messages. I think most recently working with Charlotte Balbier on her wedding, and then rebranding her business, has been lovely – she’s such a lovely lady and the wedding was so fantastically opulent and glamorous! A real pleasure to be a part of.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Working with lovely clients and receiving amazing feedback. I’m so lucky to work with the most wonderful people and to be able to call creating lovely things my job.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your business and how did you overcome them?
Learning balance. It’s a constant battle getting the work/life balance right. I think it’s even harder when you genuinely love what you’re doing to the point that you would choose to do it anyway, even if it wasn’t your job. I’m not sure I’ll ever get that balance right, but as long as I’m still having fun and enjoying everything, I think I’m doing okay.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
That you don’t have to do the same thing forever, however hard you’ve worked for it. It’s okay to try something new.
If you could have dinner with any inspiring person (past or present), who would you choose?
At the moment, it would probably be one of the most wonderfully decadent Neo-classical Architects/Interior Designers like Robert Adam. I’d love to discuss scrolling cornicing, ribbons and bows, decadent plasterwork, drapery and gold leafing!
All images by Alex May Photography.
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