Crispin Finn evolved from a need to make a year planner that was practical for themselves. They have slowly opened their range to include other practical paper based goods and unique limited edition items.
Crispin Finn prides themselves on their production methods whether screen printed in-house by Anna or Roger, or working with local ethically responsible manufacturing processes. Their designs are inspired by printed and manufactured ephemera, the beauty in everyday objects and vernacular design. All Crispin Finn goods are produced to a high standard in the UK.
So, where did it all begin?
Probably aged ten, getting very upset that I’d made a mistake on the first page of my paper diary - a sure sign that I would be a perfectionist and have a stationery obsession in later life ;-)
I cut my teeth working in design agencies and started Crispin Finn on the side as a hobby, which completely snowballed until it required 100% of our attention.
When did you know you wanted to work in the stationery business?
I’ve always loved stationery, but I never formally considered entering it. Instead, I (along with Roger) made new items that I used ourselves, which happened to be stationery. The pivotal point was our year planners and pads and expanding our greeting card range, which I absolutely love designing.
They are little ideas, little bits of art, that get given to people on special or significant days and might stay in someone’s life for a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime. There is something magical about that. They are a perfect example of the way we think about our work.
Did you feel there was a big break in your career, or was it a gradual road to success? Were there moments that made you feel you’d chosen the right path?
I’m a firm believer in consistency and the slow organic approach. It’s genuine and authentic. It’s been a wide-ranging road of working in design agencies, freelancing and screen printing editions and early versions of our stationery as Crispin Finn. The turning point to make Crispin Finn full-time was after studying under Milton Glaser in New York in 2010, which confirmed and catalysed many of my ambitions and ideas. Since then, we’ve luckily always been busy and occupied enough that over the years, I’ve never had the time to consider a different path which always feels like a good sign that you’re on the right one.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The quote “Take your pleasure seriously” by Charles and Ray Eames constantly rings true, as does “Art is work” by Milton Glaser. Over the years, I’ve been subjected to the attitude of “oh Anna’s funny hobby” and I think those two sentiments condense my feelings towards what I do for both a living and a joy - I am absolutely doing something I love everyday. My mum, who was denied a creative life, so from the offset, always said, “do whatever you want to do in life” - that was pretty amazing advice.
Have you ever taken a leap of faith and what did that feel like?
Many; making the leap from full time employment to an unknown world without a back up plan or financial security always feels like a big one. We also invested our first commercial job fees into print equipment with small plans for Crispin Finn.
What inspires your designs and ideas?
Many come from our own needs or a want of an item. Our studio also houses a huge library of reference books, but generally subjects that lie outside of design inspire our ideas. Ephemera and everyday design objects have always inspired us - things that have had thought and care put into them despite their momentary or transient use.
How do you get into a state of flow?
Tea, boxing, tea, dog walk, tea, tidy studio, tea, tea, tea - so much tea! I’m also that really annoying person who can listen to one song on repeat for a day - a week. I have just been bought some headphones by Roger which might be a massive hint…
Have you ever felt challenges from being a female in the stationery industry?
Working under a pseudonym has presented itself with some interesting moments. In meetings, I have often been mistaken for the PA whilst Roger has been the one to be welcomed and expected much to his surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the stationery industry is particularly male driven, with a large majority of stationery producers and customers being female. It might be a unique industry in that respect.
What's in the pipeline for you? Do you have any big exciting projects that you’d like to share?
The ideas list is always so long - we have a lot of new smaller, fun, niche items in the pipeline as well as ever expanding the greeting card designs and calendar range. We’re getting ready to launch a new series of pads and notelets, have an exhibition planned of our sign series and are also developing a series of self published book works alongside the incoming 2024 Year Planners and seasonal goods.
I’d love to know which one is your favourite design from the past and present combined. Do you have a preference, and if so, what makes you favour a design over another?
I think it would have to be the year planner. It not only is the reason we started Crispin Finn but I really love designing it each year. It’s a blank sheet each year, as we never tweak previous design files.
Each year since its inception we improve on the design and quality. The first couple of years the year planner was screen printed which led to a heavy dose of repetitive strain injury but we now have it lithographically printed for quality, accuracy and minimal waste. We have amazing customers that get in touch to tell us their favourite years either by design or what a special year it was to them and I also have my old tutor Nigel send me his completed year planner each year which is just brilliant.
Any other words to offer female entrepreneurs looking to push into the stationery world?
Don’t copy trends or look to others for inspiration. Make the things you want to see in the world and let them be a reflection of you.
On a final note, are there any female causes in our community that need more awareness?
We live in a far from perfect world on so many fronts. Still, I do think that so many independent stores, makers and voices that are at the heart of our community are empowering. I’ve been lucky to work with so many people who, regardless of gender or definition, are brilliant and inspiring.
I’ve also been fortunate to have had strong female figures around me in my life and career; and many of our stockists, customers, peers, our agent and clients are female and we are all the more rich for it.
I think more diversity on multiple levels would have a really positive impact on the creative industry. I come from a family with no creative history - my grand parents were labourers and farmers and my mum was a secretary and ran a restaurant and they all had creative ambitions of some kind but no way of accessing that world.
Two organisations that I think are doing great things are;
Art Sedex provides creative education, training, and employment for young people, helping them to access opportunities that they might not have access to, to develop a creative endeavour.
Make Bank is a charity that supplies art kits to school children who don’t have the means to access those tools, trying to reduce creative poverty to create wider diversity in the arts.
Keen to shop more of the Crispin Finn designs? You can shop the complete collection here
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Head to there website at - https://www.crispinfinn.com/