2016 has started with a bang for Smallprint - January has flown past and we have so much stuff to tell everyone about. Not only are we increasing our collections to offer books for up to 8s (but still pass the 'will the adults love it too' test), we're also booking spring & summer events, launching new illustrators and have new books arriving every week (some even before Amazon - whoop!). Today we want to dedicated some times to the most inspired collection of children's wallet cards from So Awesome, and boy do they deserve some column inches.
If you haven't heard about this Michigan born brand you wouldn't be alone because these pocket-sized marvels only hit the UK (exclusively on Smallprint Online) in November. Now, thanks to our mutual respect and belief in one another we are proud to be their only UK stockist and true to our own roots, we have grown very fond of this family-run business from across the pond.
These amazing collections of wallet cards are designed to provide a tactile, functional and educational product for little people. They are also beautifully illustrated and have saved many parents on long car journey and tames many 2ft tall destructive restaurant goers. Why? Read on...because founder Marie-Claire Camp kindly answered our pleas for a little Q&A session so find out more below.
Where did the idea for wallet cards come from? What is the inspiration?
I was inspired by our twin boys, and their interest in cards from my wallet. They were about 8 months old when I first imagined a durable and kid-safe card set that offered educational value.
What is the process involved from conception through to realisation?
The first deck I imagined was the Alphabet one
. The first step was to find the right materials, then printers who could properly print and die-cutters who could work effectively with the material.
I hired illustrator Marc Martin to create artwork that Owen and Silas would like, and it turned out that other children liked it too. I ran a campaign on Kickstarter and it exceeded funding. I initiated art creation, printing and die-cutting. Then came collation and order fulfilment. The first time I held the Alphabet deck in my hand, I was like, "Whoa! I actually did it!"
Who are they made for?
Fast forward three years later, we have eight cards sets now. The cards are third party-tested and approved for all ages for safety and durability, and are appropriate from birth until about age 6. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners they all have a wonderful time with them. So they’re made for kids!
How do you choose your illustrators?
My favorite part of my previous job as a graphic designer was working with illustrators. I loved finding new artists through both artist’s reps and independent artists too. There are so many fine illustrators out there, it’s absolutely wonderful to look at everything! Of course, I look at skill-level, and color and areas of mastery, but when it comes down to it, I go with what I like.
What feedback to you get?
I get so many ideas from customers! Things like, "please make 50 states", “you have to make a baby sign language deck” or "can you do one for babies with black and white shapes?" Moms and dads email and send messages on Instagram all the time about how “the wallet set saved us on our plane trip", "my child knows his alphabet now!”.
It feels awesome to know that other children out there are loving them as much as Owen and Silas are.
My favorite thing is when I meet someone for the first time and they say, “These are so awesome!” and then they look at the name of my company and go, “Oh my gosh! That’s the name of your company!” and then laugh and hug me, or punch me in the shoulder.
Tell us a bit about your family
My husband, Victor and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, we actually met in high school, then went to art school together. We’re total nerds for each other. Our twins were born in March of 2010, they’re nearly six years old now. They’re smart, funny and inspire me to no end with their ideas. They’re in Kindergarten at our local public Montessori school.
My parents moved to be closer to us a few years ago. Marty, my dad, is a cabinetmaker and skilled chili-maker. He makes the retail displays for SO Awesome. Lisa, my mom, is a former Montessori-educator and artist. She does consulting for SO Awesome.
Tell us a bit about where you live
We live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We’re on the west side of the city of the west side of the state. Lots of lakes and outdoor activities for all seasons. But you have to really really like the seasons to live here though. In Summer it’s humid and hot. Winter is often bitter cold with very little sun. The thing that keeps us happy here is family, nature and the creative energy in the area, lots of little businesses with big hearts.
What does a typical day involve?
Well, there’s lots of noise, action and mess. Starting way too early. Every day. And it’s lovely. I do the cooking with pathetic attempts at keeping the house tidy. I do most childcare. Owen and Silas attend the AM class at their school and are done at noon.
My assistant Alexandra does order fulfilment here in our home studio, and Rhiannon does sales work independently. If I go on vacation, or take a nap, there’s a solid group of awesome people to help with life and work. I work when they’re at school and then work more when they’re sleeping at night. I love making things for them, making things for this business. Building. It’s exciting for me, it feeds my creative side.
So, I always tell people if you get an email from me at 2:00 am please don’t be alarmed. Likewise, if I don’t pick up the phone during traditional work hours, it’s because I’m building lego catapults with my boys.
What's next for you guys?
So in about 20 minutes, I have to go pick up the boys from school, fencing lessons are at 4:30. But you probably mean, like, for SO Awesome, right?
We just came out with three new sets this last year, so we’re focusing on getting the word out on those currently. We have many new decks planned for the future, some fun new surprises too.
Huge thanks to Marie-Claire for taking time to chat to us. We are proud to be stocking 6 of the 8 decks of cards in the So Awesome collection. Shop now
for Emotions, Alphabet, Numbers, Colour & Shape, House and Public Transport. Prices range from £6.99 - £14.99.