Founder of Scribble & Daub, Caroline Kent joins us for the latest edition of From The Desk Of…
Based in East Sussex, Caroline Kent’s bucolic surrounds inspire and inform her many-coloured, inky creations, which are realised through a combination of traditional dip pens and brightly coloured inks, as well as letterpressing. The former curator, who founded her stationery and illustration studio in 2012, is now the go-to for everyone from Alex Eagle to Matilda Goad and Skye McAlpine when it comes to marking life’s special moments – from birth announcements to wedding invites.
From choosing the perfect card for any occasion to reflecting on the downright pleasantness of receiving a handwritten note, we caught up with with Kent to learn about her nine-to-five and how she made drawing a full-time career.
How do you start your days?
Not as slowly as I’d ideally like! I get up around 7AM, make myself and the children breakfast and cajole them into their clothes and off to school. Then some exercise and a walk around the garden, followed by a coffee, before cycling to the studio around 10AM.
What’s your go-to uniform?
A scruffy pair of French workman’s trousers or Seafarer jeans, T-shirt, shirt, or vintage cashmere, depending on the season. And always my favourite gold ring set with a carnelian that I made myself years ago. I was obsessed with ancient Roman jewellery and this was the closest I could get.
Describe your workspace/ workplace…
It’s very recently changed… Ahead of renovations happening later this summer, the studio has moved out of our cottage where I’ve worked happily for the past ten years and into a farm building a short cycle away across the village – still not an extensive commute, but it’s made a huge difference to my state of mind and that oft discussed ‘work-life balance’. It’s squarish, with French doors to the front that I plan to paint ‘Lawnmower Green’ later this month, and bluebell woods behind for lunchtime walks. My old studio looked out over our wildflower meadow, so in an attempt to compensate I’ve planted up lots of pots with nasturtiums, scabious, foxgloves, cosmos, and salad leaves. The eventual plan is to build a studio on the edge of said meadow, but given the complications of our building project so far, that might now be a few years yet…!
Identify something in your workspace that’s special to you (and why)…
My team. Without them I couldn’t do what I do and I feel very lucky to have them.
What are your work place essentials?
My Ohnishi fountain pen from Choosing Keeping, a silver ceramic jug given to me by my late father, and a Perrier water glass found in an Edinburgh junk yard, as well as a Astier de Villatte’s Mantes la Jolie candle, a scrapbook wall, and a pile of paper for lists and notes. And my dip pen and inks, goes without saying.
What is your go-to lunch order?
At the moment, a handful of leaves from the planter outside the studio which has gone completely wild, roasted vegetables of some description, and whatever happens to be in the fridge or cupboards when I dash out of the door in the morning. Still getting into the habit of working away from home…
What time of day are you at your most creative?
Late afternoon and evening seem to be when I feel most focused and energised. Typically I’ll fritter away half the day in very pleasant procrastination, then finally get into the flow around 3PM, only to have to stop a few hours later for dinner with the kids and a bedtime story with the baby.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Ten years on, it remains extraordinary and magical to me that I can support my family through drawing – if my seven-year old self could see me now she’d be amazed and delighted.
… and the most challenging?
Finding time to do everything I want to do, and ironically, that is particularly time spent drawing! Making time to create around the many other demands of a business can be tough.
What did you study at school/university?
Social Anthropology at Edinburgh University. Qualifies you for everything and nothing.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Warrington, and grew up in Cambridgeshire.
What was your first job?
My first and only ‘proper job’ was with a contemporary art gallery in Edinburgh where I worked for almost a decade before establishing Scribble & Daub. I started as an intern whilst at university, and left as Director of Sales & Exhibitions.
What sparked your interest in illustration?
I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been interested in it. One of my earliest memories is of making picture books at primary school, and from Quentin Blake to Shirley Hughes (and so many more), there was incredible inspiration in the books of my childhood.
Do you have a mentor or an inspirational figure who has guided or influenced you?
Richard & Florence Ingleby – my first and only employers – at Ingleby Gallery, taught me so much of what I now draw on in my own business. Working with them was like an old fashioned apprenticeship, and though I don’t think I fully realised it at the time, I absorbed by osmosis an invaluable foundation in pretty much everything about running a creative business, particularly how to enjoy yourself while doing it.
What were some of the hurdles you had to overcome in the early days of Scribble and Daub?
At first, I would draw and paint every single card by hand. With hindsight, it took me a ridiculous amount of time to devise my signature process of combining letterpress and hand-colouring, but as soon as I did, it transformed the business as it became scaleable. That, and the old classic – trying to run a business whilst caring for young children.
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
Value yourself properly. And say no when your instinct says no.
The best advice you’ve ever received…
Not advice bestowed on me by an actual person of my acquaintance, but Desiderata by Max Ehrmann says it all for me.
What are you working on right now?
Myriad projects. This week, it’s wedding invitations for a great couple in Rhode Island, and also for my lovely stockists Emily & Hugo of Straw London, an illustrated poem for a baby’s baptism, and invitations for a new product launch for Votary. In amongst it all I am trying to find time to create a new collection of Christmas decorations for Scribble & Daub. And we’re moving house on Monday!
What’s next for you?
Next I will be working on a collaboration with The Courtauld, adding more prints to my collection, and the usual sprinkling of weddings and events. At some point I’d love to work in other mediums, particularly ceramics and fabric design. I also love making labels for things, and always hope someone will invite me to design one – champagne, jam, perfume, I don’t really mind..!
Feature Image: Photography credit – Calypso Cragg.