Paper Salad - Christmas card makers from Romiley

Karen Wilson and Claire Williams

Karen Wilson and Claire Williams - Credit: Archant

Paper Salad in Romiley have designs on success, writes Mairead Mahon. Put them on your Christmas card list

Festive gift boxes

Festive gift boxes - Credit: Archant

Friends and family of Karen Wilson and Claire Williams know better than to expect a Christmas card from them because, in their own words, they are the, ‘worst card senders in the world.’ We’re all guilty of missing a name or two off the list but maybe Karen and Claire have less of an excuse. That’s because they own Romiley based, Paper Salad: a greeting card company they established in 2005.

‘It’s terrible isn’t it? maybe it’s because we have to start thinking about Christmas cards in the spring and Easter cards at Christmas. Luckily we have very understanding friends and family,’ laughs Claire.

Their greeting cards are now sold worldwide, are stocked in top stores, countless independent shops and have won awards.

‘it all began when I went back to Stockport College as a mature student to study textile and surface design,’ explains Karen. ‘I met Claire and when we graduated, we decided, with three other ladies, to rent some working space. At the time, we were all independently designing textiles and wallpapers but it was hard. We had very little money: in fact, the space we managed to rent didn’t even have a window, so it wasn’t really surprising when the other ladies decided to leave.’

A selection of festive greeting cards

A selection of festive greeting cards - Credit: Archant

But Claire and Karen had faith in their designs so, with a big gulp, they began to show them at trade fairs. It was a proud moment when their designs were admired, eventually leading to some being printed on cards. However, they were disappointed when they saw the finished result and it was then that the lightbulb moment occurred!

‘We were sure we could make the cards look so much better. So we decided to do just that and Paper Salad was born,’ explains Karen.

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It’s got to be asked: why Paper Salad? ‘We used the very scientific method of writing out individual random words on pieces of paper and then picking them, two at a time, out of a bag. As soon as ‘paper’ and ‘salad’ came out, we couldn’t help smiling, as that just seemed to sum up our brightly coloured cards and yes, we both really like salads, so it was perfect,’ said Karen.

They moved to their delightful studio - affectionately nicknamed The Neon Factory- and set to work. But they still had to get their work seen and, without much money to transport samples, they had to come up with innovative ways to do it.

Paper Salad The happy pair with the award they won at The Henries this year for there best gift wrap

Paper Salad The happy pair with the award they won at The Henries this year for there best gift wrappings collection. - Credit: not Archant

‘One Christmas we took heaps of our cards to a London trade show. There were far too many for us to carry, so we decided to customise an old cupboard. We attached castor wheels to it and wheeled it through the snowy streets of London: all was going brilliantly until, literally, a wheel dropped off,’ laughs Claire.

It was all worth it though, as everyone loved their cards and they still do. These days their annual turnover is heading towards the million-pound mark and their cards are stocked by Paperchase, Harrods, Selfridges, Waterstones and Fortnum and Mason.

Their happy, sparkly cards are instantly recognisable. The lovely artwork is produced by Karen and Claire, using paints, pencils and found paper before creatively piecing together the designs on the computer. What’s even better is, that they’re all made with quality board from recycled or renewable sources and printed by specialist printers based in the UK. Today, the ladies concentrate on designing and have a small team, including apprentices, to help.

So, what’s popular in the UK this Christmas? ‘Woodland animals seem to be on trend but, if you want to have a go at designing your own cards, stick to a strong, simple shape and maybe add a little ribbon to finish it off,’ says Claire.

Claire and Karen’s designs have been so successful that they have licensed some of them to be made into stationery, wrapping paper and even children’s clothing. No wonder that, in 2015, they won a prize at the industry’s Henries Awards for the Best Children’s Range.

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