Yateley Papers is especially busy now, block-printing gorgeous stationery, homeware and of course Christmas decorations – and you can get your hand in, too, via their Deal-based classes

In the run-up to the festive season, few things are lovelier than to take some time to craft your own Christmas offerings. Someone who’s helping people do just that – and indeed to create beautiful things throughout the year – is Deal-based Trudi Savin.She's the founder of Yateley Papers, a business inspired by traditional block printing, using exclusive repeat designs to produce a range of decorative desk stationery, lampshades, laminated trays, mugs and printed linen napkins.

Great British Life: The Studio (c) Guy SavinThe Studio (c) Guy Savin

A chance conversation with a fellow guest at a wedding a couple of decades ago led Trudi – a self-confessed ‘Blue Peter kid at heart, always happiest gluing and sticking, making with my hands and in general being creative’ - to hear of an intriguing job at a printing studio, based in Surrey. The studio was part of Tobias & The Angel, whose shop in Barnes is known for its block-printed designs and beautiful, unusual homeware. Having secured the role, what followed for Trudi was a 12-year ‘apprenticeship’ that involved everything from hand-printing bespoke lengths of fabric, and preparing and hand-covering products, to helping to run block-printing workshops, using blocks from a collection of around 3,000 that Tobias and The Angel had bought from a company based in Yateley. 'I mastered the art of block printing using these, sparking off what was to be a lasting passion, so when I set up my own business in 2015 Yateley Papers seemed an obvious choice for our company name,' says Trudi.

Combining her love of traditional block printing and her commitment to quality, Yateley Papers soon built a reputation for its high-quality decorative stationery, storage and homeware. ‘I felt there was a need for an alternative to the mass-market, throw-away products swamping the shops,' says Trudi. 'All Yateley Papers products are carefully handmade in England and support British industry. It's extremely important to us to stay British and it’s taken a long time to find the right artisans to make for us because we are sticklers for beautiful craftsmanship, fine detail and finish.'

Great British Life: Block printing has a soothing rhythm all of its own (c) Guy SavinBlock printing has a soothing rhythm all of its own (c) Guy Savin

It was all the more important for Trudi to work with the right people to work and to build upon her versatile style when her business grew rapidly during lockdown. ‘People were working from home, had money in their back pockets and wanted to spruce-up their home office, nook or study. Our sales of desk stationery started to go through the roof, as did the demand for our patterned lampshades.

’Our block-print designs are created using an earthy colour palette, and we’re mindful of the various ways in which people live. So many of us are in are open-plan settings, for instance – we might use a corner of a room as a home office. Our homes come in a variety of styles, too, but we like to think that our designs work anywhere and in any type of setting, from period character homes to modern ones. Inspiration for our block designs comes from everyday life: food, flora and fauna, vintage clothing, pebbles on the beach - anything and everything.’

Great British Life: Forming a Christmas tree decoration (c) Guy SavinForming a Christmas tree decoration (c) Guy Savin

As with so many artisan businesses, Trudi started hers from the kitchen table at her then home in Surrey, while offering block printing classes at a variety of locations, including The Old Rectory estate near Bletchingly and the renowned Peterham Nurseries. ‘The classes at these venues became too large for me to handle, though,’ she explains. ‘I had so much kit to set up and break down afterwards, and it wasn’t really economically viable. I realised that, going forward, things were going to have to change. I hadn’t thought I’d move, but never say never!’

Trudi, her film-editor (and accomplished photographer) husband, Guy, and daughter Daisy began researching towns away from suburbia but with good transport links to London. 'A coastal setting was always the dream for us. Padstow in Cornwall has long had a special place in our hearts as we've spent years visiting the town, after Guy’s mother relocated there from Surrey. It's not an easy commute to London, though,' laughs Trudi. ‘The Deal area kept popping up and, with its quirky vibrancy, busy high street and wonderful stretch of coastline, and we fell for the general vibe, hook, line and sinker, from our first visit!’ The family - including cat Pebbles ('who rules the roost'), is now based just down the road in Walmer, 'a short stroll from pretty much everything - the beach, the station and all that Deal has to offer.'

Great British Life: Simple presents, beautifully wrapped in hand-blocked paper, make even the smallest gift look enticing (c) Guy SavinSimple presents, beautifully wrapped in hand-blocked paper, make even the smallest gift look enticing (c) Guy Savin

At the same time as getting their own home sorted, a conversation led Trudi to find a new home for the business, too. ‘Someone told me that a former garage, close to Deal Castle and now run by English Heritage, was available. After some sympathetic renovation, predominantly to introduce daylight, we've been set up since October and are now spreading the ‘block-printing bug’ here in Deal, showing people just how satisfying and calming the art form can be.’

Classes have no more than eight participants, ensuring things stay very hands-on, with activities including block-printing a silk scarf or decorating a lampshade on offer. ‘We use authentic wooden blocks from our extensive collection and eco-friendly paints produced specifically for block printing,' says Trudi.

Great British Life: Who doesn't love a paper chain at this time of year? (c) Guy SavinWho doesn't love a paper chain at this time of year? (c) Guy Savin

At this time of year, of course, the emphasis is on festive classes: ‘Our ‘Create Christmas’ sessions take participants from printing gift wrap, cards, and gift tags to paper chains and bunting – we have Christmas carols playing in the background and mince pies on the go and the sessions are always good fun.'

So if you fancy putting your own stamp – quite literally – on Christmas this year, you know where to find Trudi and her wooden blocks...



3 Deal Places Trudi loves (especially at Christmas!)

The Rose

This lovely hotel, with its effortlessly chic interiors, is great for a drink, a meal or a boho overnight stay and is all a-glow at this time of year. They’ve been really supportive of us, too – our out-of-town course attendees get a complimentary two-course dinner when booked with a room on a mid-week workshop. therosedeal.com

Dunlin & Diver

They stock carefully curated, beautiful items from smaller designers and makers, with original homewares and accessories on offer, plus gifts and cards. dunlindiver.co.uk

Updown Farmhouse

An all-time favourite, whatever the weather! Updown - a short drive from Deal - serves the most delicious seasonal food, within a magical conservatory where you can dine (with heating!) beneath grape vines. It’s always a real treat. updownfarmhouse.com