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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Cripps

Why I'm not sad to see the back of Friends of Joules... four years of trading, the Friends of Joules Marketplace has closed. Finished. Dropped off the web. And, remarkably, I’m fine about it.

Flashback four months and I was sat, head in hands, on the cold, ancient brick step of our kitchen. Tears ran down my face as I admitted to Best Beloved that I cannot, it turns out, do it all. Three children, two dogs, one marriage alongside the lone stewardship of two businesses was taking its toll. Not to mention the midlife emotional and physical reality I now found myself in. Yes, I could see a doctor, employ help, serve the odd ready meal but the truth was there - something had to give. Knowing that the Rat has to reach her own big-life decisions, Best Beloved offered an ear, wine and support, waiting for the cogs to turn. Seeking the positive, as ever, I looked up, dried my face and uttered the words, “something will happen, if I let it’.

Within a couple of days an email landed in my inbox. “So, this is an email that I didn’t want to write or send as a blanket, but…”. The announcement that the Friends of Joules marketplace platform would close. I was stunned. Not in panic, fear or despair, but that there was the answer I had asked for.

Friends of Joules has been the most incredible chapter in my journey. A process that started over four and half years ago. I was 18 months into the Ratty Golightly printmaking business, with a successful design collaboration with Jim Lawrence already under my belt, when the email from Joules came. The dearest of friends had thrown one of my cards into the ring when Joules staff were asked to submit potential artisan products for consideration for their new sales channel. The long list was whittled down to a small group of even smaller brands, plus a few big ones. I was invited to become a launch brand for an exciting new venture that would see Ratty Golightly products displayed on one of the country’s most popular retail websites. Was I interested and would l like to join the team to launch Friends of Joules at Burghley, that autumn? Hmmm, yes!

The Burghley buzz was palpable. The most beautiful of sales stands was set right next to the main Joules camp and there, created in beautiful blue and pink hues, was an illustrated version of me selling my wares. The stand was visited by hoards of shoppers wanting to discover more about Friends of Joules, chatting about our products. A merry band of Joules-loving social influencers came and posed with Ratty Golightly products, sharing my micro brand with their insta-followers. It was most definitely a pinch-me moment - not least when the Brand Director came up to me to show me that my first sale on the site was for six Ratty Golightly mugs!

Working with the Friends of Joules team has been incredible on many levels. After several years out of a professional workplace, juggling feeds, naps and dog walks, the chance to work to an organised drum beat of production and order fulfilment allowed me to rediscover happy rhythms I had completely forgotten. Tightening up the process of product design, production, photography and web-sales has had immeasurable benefits - this is what I do and I’m good at it! I got to work with an amazing photographer, David Lam, on a shoot that inspired me to take a photography course and create my own work. My commercial passion, honed as a marketing director in a past life, was reignited, prompting a series of refresher courses in social media and copywriting.

This journey has been so much more than that of an artisan printmaker. Working with professionals. Taking my own products to a wide market and fulfilling thousands of orders from the Orkney’s to the Channel Islands. Opening doors with a raft of independent retailers. Rediscovering talents and learning new skills.

Along the way, other brands have noticed my work and asked for my help. Asked me! I’ve accepted the challenge and reached a fork in the road. One path Ratty Golightly printmaking and the other Ratty Golightly creative brand consulting. I love both. I can do both. Ish. That emotional breakdown four months ago was prompted, among other things, by the fear of not being able to deliver a new range for Friends of Joules, for Christmas, alongside my other creative projects.

Then came the answer. The printmaking treadmill slowed. I’ve decided not to choose one path over the other but to climb the stile directly ahead and take the hike. There will be prints, created at my own pace. The Ratty Golightly online store will continue to be open, selling classic Ratty prints and homewares together with new projects, the blog and more. There will be client work, which currently sees me venturing on an exciting educational brand project as part of an international team. This is the way of the Rat.

Thank you Friends of Joules for changing my life. Reminding me of what I have to offer the world and guiding me for the past four years. Special thanks to Victoria, the most patient and kind of peeps who gently reminded me of the importance of deadlines and shared priceless commercial insight. This chapter has been an absolute blast and one that I shall be forever grateful for.


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