With more than a quarter of Brits welcoming a new pet into their home during the pandemic*, products featuring our four-legged friends have never been more in demand.
Artist and designer Robert Hull, from the company Robert James Hull, says this growth in the pet market is catapulting his stationery and greeting card business to new heights.
â€œIt was very much an accident,â€ Robert says about the start of his business.
â€œIâ€™ve enjoyed painting since I was a child, and it was something I kept up through my time at university and alongside my first â€˜realâ€™ job. And it was only when I started being asked for paintings first by friends, and then all of a sudden by people from all over the world, that I thought there were legs in this as a career, and I am so glad I decided to chase that.â€
â€œMy first foray into painting animals was drawing them on the kitchen table with a felt-tip pen when I was a child. Thankfully for my family I transitioned to paper eventually! I rediscovered this passion around 10 years ago when I decided to paint something for my mum for Mother’s Day, which was a hare that is still part of my print collection today. From there I gained confidence and decided to make animals my speciality.
â€œSo much of our connection with animals, and particularly with our pets, comes through the eyes. We can’t speak to them (much) through a language, so expressions are everything
â€œSo much of our connection with animals, and particularly with our pets, comes through the eyes. We can’t speak to them (much) through a language, so expressions are everything. As a result, and hopefully you can tell when you look at my work, this is where I spend most of my efforts in ensuring I get it just right.â€™â€™
After gaining a reputation for the ability to really â€˜captureâ€™ the characters of our animal friends with a fun and modern watercolour style, Robert began to think about how he could reach a wider audience, and particularly a growing one. According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, 59% of new pet owners during the pandemic are between the ages of 16 and 34. And following on from that 40% of young pet owners admitted they would spend as much on their pets as they would on their friends at special times of the year such as Christmas. So, as pet ownership explodes, so has the demand for modern and truly unique products that capture this national obsession. â€œItâ€™s a perfect storm, really,â€ says Robert. â€œWe are owning more pets, spending more on pet-themed products, and seeking out special products that really capture how much they mean to usâ€.
Robert will soon be making his way to the Yorkshire Event Centre in Harrogate where he will participate in his first ever trade exhibition, the British Craft Trade Fair (BCTF), from April 10-12. â€œWeâ€™re building up a great base of amazing retailers for our products, from beautifully curated independent gift shops, to a growing number of specialist dog boutiques catering to people who want to buy quality products that will keep their customers coming back for moreâ€.
â€œI am most excited to show retailers our ever-popular pom-pom adorned â€˜Celebration Collectionâ€™ birthday cards,â€ Robert adds. â€œThey are our best-sellers, and to-boot a product that is â€˜evergreenâ€™ throughout the whole yearâ€. â€œThose were actually my sisterâ€™s Kateâ€™s idea, who suggested why not add a lovely coloured pom-pom to my sweet dog and cat face illustrations, and the collection was born – so yes, I owe her one!â€
Lookout for Robertâ€™s greeting cards and stationery on stand 127 at this yearâ€™s BCTF.
* (source: YouGov)