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A Visit to: Katie Cardew Illustrations

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

From sketching friends and families houses to a vast retail collection, local lady Katie Cardew has taken the illustration world by storm with her unique designs, bold colour combinations and her undeniable talent.

Back in 2013, Katie Cardew Illustrations began with a stall at a Christmas fair in Stamford. Just five years later, Katie has over 15 home, decor and giftware collections, she hosts illustrations workshops, designs bespoke and commercial commisions for many local and national businesses, as well as being runners-up for 'Best Stand' at Burghley Horse Trials 2018.

The collections include everything from fine art prints to mugs, placemats to notebook and everything in between. Each range can be purchased online and at many fairs, but they are also stocked locally at Fords of Oakham and Gates Garden Centre to mention a few.

Earlier this year, Katie unveiled her latest map creation, The Rutland Map and the county went crazy! The announcement was broadcast on Rutland Radio asking members of the public to submit suggestions of what Katie should include on that map and what a fantastic response it had!

I met with Katie at her studio in Kings Cliffe to talk about all-things Cardew and find out more about the women (and family) behind the business.

Take a read...

Thanks for inviting me to Katie Cardew HQ to see where all the illustration magic happens! If the blog readers have yet to hear about what you do, please tell us all about the Katie Cardew brand?

Katie: A pleasure to have you! Katie Cardew Illustrations produces fine art prints, homewares and gifts. I am the illustrator, and every single product has been illustrated and designed by myself. I started the business five years ago doing bespoke commissioned illustrations of peoples houses, families and weddings. I then started selling a small print and card range which we then ramped up a gear 18 months ago and brought out the full homeware and gift range. We sell lovely, bright and bold products from fine art prints and cards to tea towels, cosmetic bags, oven gloves and many more treats! There is something for everyone and to suit all price ranges. We are very proud that all our products are UK made, many within a 20-mile radius. Our products are all sold via our website, or we have lots of lovely UK stockists too.


In just a few years, the brand has grown and grown and seen a lot of recent success and recognition. Please tell us more?

Katie: Yes, the last two years has been a pretty fantastic (and knackering) rollercoaster - excuse the cliche! It’s gone from me working from home with help a few days a week to a lovely studio and workshop set up, and lots of members of the team. In 2017 we won the Digital Star’ award at the Small Awards in London and then later that year, we were invited to Downing Street as one of the top 100 Small Biz 100 businesses! Earlier this year, we won the Mercury Small Business of the year award - it’s been so fabulous to get this recognition and makes the late nights worth it! We would not be where we are today without these awards, the local press and magazines and of course, our incredibly loyal and lovely customers - we live in such a wonderfully supportive place.


This year, with the help of Rutland Radio and other local publications, you began the design process of The Rutland Map. How did this come about and how did you decide on what to feature on the map?

Katie: Yes, so back in June I launched the Rutland Map! It was a super lovely project to work on and one I’ve had in the back of my mind for ages. I grew up in Rutland so know it pretty well but decided that the best way to hear about the quirks and features of the county was to ask its inhabitants - so off to Rutland Radio I went! Rob Persani was great - he invited me on his show, and we asked people to submit what they wanted to see on the map. From the Rutland Dinosaur to Bugtopia, Seaton Viaduct to the woolly mammoth fossil, there were some interesting suggestions! I tried to include everything and did pretty well  - I think most peoples suggestions made it on! I even managed to get the chap who has his ice cream van parked at Rutland water featured! He was very pleased about this when he came to the unveiling back in the summer.


However, the Rutland collection doesn’t just include a map! Tell us more about the Rutland, Stamford and other local collections?

Katie: No! So, as well as the fine art Rutland map print, we also have a greeting card, tea towel, notebook in the range and, coming soon, a mug too! For those who live in Stamford, we sell a beautiful Stamford range, from prints and cards to wallpaper, notebooks and tea towels. The local ranges are still some of our best sellers - people are so proud of our local area. 

Each of your collections is fun, unique, bold and vibrant. They are the perfect gifts! What is the inspiration behind some of your collections and do you have a favourite?

Katie: I have to admit that my favourite changes every time I do a new design! At the moment I love our new Under the Sea range which includes a print and a notebook and hopefully soon a tea towel and cosmetic bag too! I love the diversity of colours and textures of underwater animals - they suit my style! Another firm favourite is the Flamingo range - it’s just so fun and bright! I have the flamingo prints in my bedroom and use the cosmetic bag as my wash bag. The tea towel is pretty lovely too!


One of the things I admire about your brand is that as well as creating quality homewares and fine art prints, you also share your talent with commissions and teach your art in your workshop classes. Please tell us more about this side of the business?

Katie: Yes, so every few months or so I hold illustration workshops here at our studio. We had a Christmas, and everyone seems to love them! I am always amazed at the results - even people who swear blind they don’t have a creative bone in their body always a produce fabulous illustration! I have never taught before but enjoyed a challenge, and it’s good to do something completely different. As for the commissions, yes I still take lots of bespoke commission work! It’s how I started the business, and five years on I always make time each week to do them. From weddings and families all the way up to large commercial projects for big companies, to date I think I have completed around 1200. I have some really lovely commercial projects booked in for next year and one I am particularly excited about involving the Tower of London! More next year on this! With the product side of the business growing, I still like the fact that I have to sit down each week and draw - I think it could get a bit business heavy if I didn’t always have the commissions booked in.


Thanks again for inviting me to see your studio and a 'behind the scenes' look into KC Illustrations! What can we expect to see for the future of Katie Cardew Illustrations and what are your goals for the brand?

Katie: Always a total pleasure Charlie! Well, we have lots of plans for 2019… First a rest over Christmas and then back into it with a stand at Spring Fair in February -  a humungous trade fair, selling our bits and bobs to shops and department stores! I want to expand the map range - I’ve got a Stamford Map version 2 on the cards (version one is now four years old!) and also a Norfolk map in the pipeline. We would also like to expand the product range - maybe candles, matchboxes, scarfs... The world is our oyster; we need to decide what we want to produce! It’s very exciting to be able to be so flexible!


Finally, What does it mean to you to have a business local to Stamford and Rutland?

Katie: I grew up here, left for London and then returned! I love it around here - the countryside is beautiful, the pubs are great, Stamford is good for a Saturday night out, and there is always an exciting budding to look at. The people are fab too - as I mentioned before, our local customer base is extremely loyal, and we are so grateful for them for that. 


It was so lovely to meet with Katie and talk about her brand and the local area. She is an utterly charming and inspiring woman with so many ideas; it's quite infectious! I cannot wait for the Stamford Map 2.0 and I am rather excited about the possibility of the Norfolk map which if you're a regular reader you'll know is my second favourite county.


Katie and her family have grown a unique brand that stands aside from the rest with the style, colours and variety. I do love that Katie is open to sharing her talent and tips in her workshops to those who admire her work it shows how she appreciates every single customer who purchases her designs and when you meet her in person, her enthusiasm is apparent.

Like Katie said in our interview, her collection has something for everyone and they would make the perfect gift this Christmas. You can buy from a local illustrator and support the local independent high streets to by purchasing from a local stockist like Fords of Oakham or Gates Nursery for example.

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