Mr Dragon’s Busy Day Out

Hannah , who is a much valued, long term member of our admin team, came over yesterday with her 18 month old child, to meet her new colleague, Becky, with whom she will be job sharing.

When they left, we found Mr Dragon had decided to stay with us rather than return home.  So to prevent a very huge upset about where Mr Dragon had disappeared to, Jamie, our soft-hearted Systems Manager, spent his lunch break photographing Mr Dragon helping out in the factory.  Hannah’s little son was delighted to see the photos Jamie emailed through and that Mr Dragon was having a good time at work.

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Mr Dragon started the day by designing himself a tea towel featuring – you’ve guessed it – dragons!

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This was followed by a session on an oven glove binding machine – not easy when you’ve got wings instead of hands…….

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A brief spell of adding swing tickets to peg bags came as a welcome change of activity

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We decided the fork lift was not a good idea as he doesn’t have long enough legs or hold a current licence

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At break time it was nice to have a chat to our resident Bee

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Finally, it had been a long and tiring day so time for a well deserved snooze…..

And just to reassure you all; Mr Dragon will be reunited with his little friend tonight when Hannah gets back from work.

We also think every company should start a ‘Bring a Child’s Toy to Work Day’ and publish the photos on their blog – what do you all think?

Best wishes as always

Kathy Only (No Brookes) Signature

Kathy Brookes, Sales Director

PS I published this blog in my own time too!

 

Sewing & Snowing…

So another Spring Fair has come and gone.  Paul (our Sales manager), Melissa (who looks after our repeat order business) and myself had planned to visit on Thursday to say ‘Hello’ to our many customers who were exhibiting there.  But very frustratingly my car broke down…!!!  So, sadly we had to abandon our plans.  But we hope you all had a very successful time and we will try again to meet up at some of the other shows.

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This photo shows just under a third of our new Sewing Prep Room with Tracey busy cutting piping for cushions.

Back here at the factory we’ve just expanded our sewing unit again!  Because we go out of our way to allow you (our most valued customers) to have your products created in as individual and bespoke manner as you want; this means a lot of prep work before the items can even be sewn.  So we’ve created a new and very spacious sewing prep room over the main print production area.

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Manny sewing printed bag handles in our new Sewing Prep Room

Our sewing machine operators love it because they now have the room to spread out and work in this more efficient and productive space.  It’s also allowed us to fit in even more specialist machinery into our existing sewing unit; all of which helps us offer you better prices, lead times and options.

You may also not be aware that we have the bulk of our fabrics specially woven and finished to our exact specifications.  This allows us to have complete control over the quality and colour-yield so we can offer you exceptional continuity from order to order.  It also enables us to ensure the provenance of where our fabrics are manufactured.

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What a lovely day to unload a whole truck-load of rolls of cotton!

However it can sometimes test the dedication of the team when the deliveries arrive – see our well insulated, thermal wearing, fork lift driver Rob braving the elements this last week!  A cup of coffee, and a warm up next to a heater, definitely being the order of the day afterwards!

 

Until the next blog we wish you all the best – and wrap up warmly until Spring is sprung!

Kathy Only (No Brookes) Signature

Kathy Brookes – Sales Director

Our Pre-production Team – Part 1

This promised blog on our Design Co-ordinator Kim Evison and her assistant China Brooks has been a while coming as we’ve been so incredibly busy I haven’t had a chance to write it until now.

Kim graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a BA (Hons) in Printed Textiles so we were delighted when she applied for the position of Sales Manager with our company in 2009.  We were equally delighted when Kim moved in to her new job as Design Co-ordinator several years ago. Her previous textiles experience, combined with her existing rapport with our customers, was perfect for this newly created role which she has made all her own.

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Kim, busy as always, checking and sending out lots of pre-production samples for approval

 

Once your order is placed for a new design our Sales team pass over all the details to Kim and China to process.  China enters all your initial details on to our accounts and production systems so we can track your order.  Kim then checks we have all the information we need so your order can proceed speedily through our sampling and proofing processes.

This includes checking we have all your design specifications, pantone colours (if required), bespoke sewing and packaging requirements plus any other relevant details.  This may include a few emails and phone calls from Kim but we like to make sure we have understood everything perfectly before we proceed.

Next Kim draws up a brief for our Design Team who subsequently produce your visuals and samples.  Once the design is completed we email a visual.  China also sends out a paper proof in the post.  Subsequently Kim sends out all the fabric samples, emails you to let you know they are on their way then continues to follow up until your order passes on to final production.

China (a keen horse rider when not at work) joined us 18 months ago on an apprenticeship scheme along with her colleague Melissa, who also works in Sales.  As employers we have always believed in helping keen young people up on to the jobs ladder.  So we were very pleased when China and Melissa sailed through their training and have both gone on to be very valuable additions to our administration team.

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China is always very cheerful, friendly and willing to assist with our customers’ enquiries 

 

One final thing that can’t be ignored about China is her unusual name.  We are amused the number of times we hear someone say on the phone ‘I’ll put you through to China’ to which the puzzled reply comes ‘But I thought all your items are made in the UK?’  And also when China is asked her name, we hear her say ‘Yes China, as in the country’.

How China got her name is too long a story for this blog so you will have to keep on guessing……

The next blog will feature our Head Designer Becky.

Finally, as this is the first blog of 2017, we wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year and we look forward to working with you this coming year.

Kind regards and best wishes

Kathy Only (No Brookes) Signature

Kathy Brookes, Sales Director

A Christmas Star

As our last blog for 2016 I’d like to pay tribute to an unsung hero of charity.  Since the company started back in 1975, Bryan Barker has been my family’s next-door neighbour.  His farm backs on to the grounds of my parent’s Old Rectory where we built our first workshop.  Now, only a couple of years off his 90th birthday, Bryan is still helping local charities and hospices by organising and delivering supplies of our school tea towels and giftware over-prints, plus slight rejects, for sale in their shops.  (We have a very strict quality control procedure where items are removed from the final deliveries if any small blemishes are spotted.  It is only the school products where we allow these donations to charity – not with any other customers where we have a strict non-disposal policy).

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Bryan and myself sorting out some tea towels and bags for his charitable sales.

Over the years Bryan has worked tirelessly, raising many thousands of pounds.  He has always kept us informed of the amounts the various charities have raised.  It is fantastic to think that, from something that would normally be discarded, Bryan has been able to make a real difference to so many people.

So this year we would like to nominate Bryan Barker as the Star on our Christmas Tree!

Last week we also had an exciting visit from the National Trust’s film maker Kevin Babey and his father Ken, who assists him on his shoots.  When not working for the National Trust, Kevin is a free-lance film maker and works mainly for the BBC (his latest assignment was making a wildlife film project in Borneo).

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Kevin filming in our busy Sewing Unit

We have been working in closer and closer collaboration with the National Trust over the last five years or so producing their tea towels and kitchen textiles.  The Trust wanted to make a video to celebrate British manufacturing at their Spring Conference and chose to feature our company.  They wanted to show the uniqueness of Countryside Art in that we design, print and manufacture the whole product within the one factory.  The Trust also wanted to promote the great quality of UK-made products and how our two organisations have formed such a close working partnership together.

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Susie, packing up cushions for the National Trust and trying to pretend there isn’t a film crew looking over her shoulder!

We really enjoy working with all our customers to form such mutually beneficial bonds and are very pleased the National Trust appreciates all our efforts on their behalf.

So it only leaves me to say a huge thanks to ALL our customers, large and small for keeping us so busy throughout 2016 – we are already looking forward to 2017 and have some very exciting new projects planned – keep watching this space!

We hope you have a lovely, happy and relaxing Christmas and New Year.

Best wishes as always

Kathy Only (No Brookes) Signature

Kathy Brookes, Sales Director 

Our Sewing Unit

This week we are continuing to show you the faces behind the products and are featuring the managers of our sewing unit, Jenny Laud and Sue Pickering.

Jenny, our overall Production Manager, is also in charge of a 30 plus strong team of sewing machinists, who in turn are responsible for making a huge range of products from tea towels, bags, aprons and kitchen textiles through to other items such as cushions and make-up bags. (All our products can be seen on our website at www.countrysideart.co.uk).

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Jenny sits at the heart of our large sewing unit where she controls all aspects of production

There is a huge amount of organisation required as much of what we produce is very bespoke.  This includes requirements such as labelling, different coloured bindings, pipings and ties, varied colours and lengths for bag handles etc, etc.  In addition Jenny keeps a keen eye on the despatch dates to make sure we also deliver on time.

When not at work keeping all her machinists working to plan, Jenny and her husband enjoy running (they have both competed on numerous occasions in the London marathon) rambling and fell walking. As a lifelong vegetarian, Jenny is also very keenly interested in nutrition.  She has even encouraged our Sales Manager Paul (committed carnivore and bon viveur) to start drinking vegetable-based smoothies for breakfast!

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One of our highly experienced sewing machinists, Karen, working on a Liberty apron

 

As well as covering all the above, Jenny’s second in command, Sue, is also in charge of new product development. Sue is incredibly skilled at making new products from scratch.  More and more customers are coming to us asking for bespoke products.  So Sue will break the item down in to its component parts, manufacture a blank prototype for the customer to approve and then produce costings for our sales team for quoting purposes.  This bespoke service is proving very popular and is widening the scope of products we can offer to our customers enormously.

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Sue busy at work on a cosmetic bag which involved creating a bespoke sized product

Sue is also incredibly active and her hobbies outside of work include cycling, walking and camping in the great outdoors.

For our next blog featuring our staff and processes we will be looking at the role of our Design Co-ordinator Kim and her colleague China.

Kind regards and best wishes

Kathy Only (No Brookes) Signature

Kathy Brookes – Sales Director

The Countryside Art Team

It’s always nice to know more about the people who produce your lovely products so we’d like to introduce you, week by week, to the Countryside Art team.

You may have looked at our recent blog videos showing the installation of our fantastic new Aeoon digital printing machine.

These videos were produced by our talented Sales Manager, Paul Murrell. Paul has been with us since January.  In addition to being a really tuned in and helpful Sales Manager, Paul is also a fantastic musician, playing world class clarinet and saxophone.  (His previous life was as Musical Director for the British Army).

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Paul hard at work at an unusually tidy desk!

Paul also has a lot of other talents, including being an experienced photographer and film maker.  Using Paul’s talents to the full, we are going to follow up with lots more videos showing different aspects of the company.  (There may even be some nice music thrown in too!).

We’d like to also introduce you to our two digital printers, Callum McPhail and Connor North. As a company we have always had no age restrictions when it comes to our employment policy.  Our oldest employee (one of our seamstresses) recently retired at the age of 75!  We also believe in employing young people as we find a good cross section of ages and experience leads to a balanced company. To this end Callum and Connor represent the enthusiasm and excitement that youth brings when embracing new technology.

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Callum and Connor in front of their new Aeoon digital printing machine

Callum, in addition to being a great master of the digital printing machine, enjoys playing professional poker. He also originally trained as a sound engineer so enjoys sound-mastering for local music events at weekends.  (A very clever and talented young man!).

Connor, his assistant, is one of our youngest employees. Connor shows the most amazing enthusiasm for learning everything related to printing and is incredibly quick at mastering new tasks.  Always ready with a winning smile, Connor is a real asset to our company.  When not at work Connor enjoys socialising with friends and playing sports.

We’ll follow up with further blogs introducing you to more of the Countryside Art team in the near future.

Kind regards and best wishes

Kathy Only (No Brookes) Signature

Kathy Brookes, Sales Director

 

New Digital Printing Machine Installed

It’s official – Countryside Art now has the latest and most up-to-date Aeoon digital printing machine in the UK!  We led the way three years ago by being the first UK company to invest in Aeoon’s innovative new digital textile printing technology.  We now lead the way yet again by having recently upgraded our digital printing machine to the most technically advanced machine Aeoon has yet made.

You can see the exciting installation by clicking on these YouTube links to two excellent videos made by our talented Sales Manager Paul Murrell (more about Paul and our digital machine operators Callum and Connor to follow soon).

Our New Printer Delivery

The Installation

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Callum – our senior digital printer enjoying working with our lovely new machine

We already held the advantage over our competitors in the superior colours we were able to produce from our original digital machine.  This was due to the fact our designers are two of the most experienced colour separators in the UK. But now, with this excellent new machine, we are offering by far-and-away the best colour reproduction and quality available.

Find out why many of the top organisations in the country from the National Trust, Liberty and the British Museum (to name but a few) trust us with their digitally printed textile giftware ranges.  Request samples and a brochure via sales@countrysideart.co.uk or give us a call to discuss our digital printing services on 01790 754 806.

Kind regards and best wishes as always

Kathy Only (No Brookes) Signature

Kathy Brookes – Sales Director

10% Discount on Cotton bags

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Following the happy demise of the planet-polluting plastic carrier bag there has been a big increase in the sales of low cost sustainable cotton bags.
So to help our customers fill that demand we are offering the following incentives on our low cost canvas and calico cotton bags:-

A BIG 10% discount on the cost of the printed bag plus FREE set-up.
The offer is valid from the 1st July 2016 to the 31st October 2016 and is open to both new and repeat customers for new designs.  Just mention this offer when ordering.

The bags featured from left to right are:-

  • Flat bag on 10oz heavy-weight bleached canvas – digital print
  • Gusseted bag on 10oz heavy-weight bleached canvas – digital print
  • Gusseted unbleached calico bag – single colour print
  • Flat unbleached calico bag – 3 spot colour print
  • All feature medium length handles

We offer both full colour digital printing (minimum order 25 bags) and screen printing in up to 6 spot colours on these bags (minimum order 50 bags in single colour and 100 bags in 2+ spot colours).

Please contact us for free samples so you can see for yourself the excellent quality of our low cost cotton bags plus a brochure with prices and ordering details.

Best wishes

Kathy Only (No Brookes) Signature

Kathy Brookes,  Sales Director

Bring Me Sunshine…

We have just installed solar panels on the roof of our factory. It is great to be helping to reduce our carbon footprint as the protecting the environment is very important to us as a company.

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Solar panels being installed on the roof of our factory.  All we need now are a few more sunny days!

To further that aim we have always specialised in printing with water-based inks as they have a very low impact on the environment. We also recycle where-ever possible and, by making virtually everything in the one factory, we again cut down on the environmental damage caused by shipping goods unnecessarily from one place to another.

If you want to read our full Ethical & Environmental Policy it is on our website Home Page or click here.

Another interesting issue cropped up this week. They say ‘Imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery’ but sometimes this can be taken a step too far.

We have always specialised in very difficult edge-to-edge printing on products such as aprons, tea towels, oven gloves, bags etc. We are able to do this due to our great printing expertise gained over many years and the fact we have a large experienced in-house sewing unit capable of making anything, however intricate.

Whilst perusing a recently updated website of one of our main competitors we were very surprised to see a photograph featured of a very technically difficult edge-to-edge printed apron and set of tea towels we had been producing for one of our very long established customers for some time now.

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Some other examples of our all-over printing on aprons.

Thinking we must have done something to upset our customer, causing them to change suppliers, I called to apologise. However, to my amazement, I found they had only ever had these aprons and tea towels printed by ourselves and had never given permission for this image from their own website to be used on our competitor’s site.  Our customer is now contacting our competitor to insist they remove the image from their website.  Audacious or what!

The moral of this story is that there are some that ‘can do’ and others that only pretend. As a customer we suggest you make sure you choose the company who actually ‘can do’ your printing.

Again and again we hear from our customers ‘We came to you because we know you are the only company that could print this very difficult job to the standard we require’.

We would like to remind everyone that not only can we print the difficult stuff better than anyone else but we also print the easy stuff better too.

If you would like to see our on-line brochures showing our full range of products click on the link here.

Kind regards and best wishes

Kathy Only (No Brookes) Signature

Kathy Brookes, Sales Director

Countryside Art Goes 10 Colour!

Here’s our latest addition to our already fantastic print capabilities – a brand-spanking new 10 spot MHM Screen Print Carousel.

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Our new 10 Colour MHM Screen Print Carousel

Amazingly, within a day of having the machine safely installed, we’d won our first 10 colour tea towel job to be printed on the new machine.  It is a prestigious job for a well-known film company and is being sampled as I write this blog.

We are constantly looking for new innovations in all aspects of our print and production processes.  We update to the latest technology at all opportunities.  As far as our competitors are concerned it seems – where we lead – they follow.  We have always prided ourselves in being forward-looking and trying to provide the best possible quality products and service at all times.

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Close up of our new 10 Colour Screen Print Carousel in action

We’ve further exciting plans underway for more new equipment later this year and will update the blog when these items are installed.

In the meantime we’ll carry on with our stated aim of being the best in our field.

Best wishes as always

Kathy

Kathy Brookes, Sales Director