Clare Godden, founder of Ruby Blue Paper Co, has always had a love for printed matter. In her previous career as a magazine art editor, Clare worked on lifestyle titles such as Garden Answers, Kitchen Garden, and Outdoor Fitness. But after 12 years in publishing, she found she was getting restless, but her interest was piqued by the other side of the industry – the physical process of print.
Cautiously, Clare began to explore this new path while continuing to work full-time. “I booked on a day course in London to learn how to use a small printing machine called an Adana 8×5 and to refresh myself with setting metal and wood type, which I hadn’t done since I was at university.” Clare left the session with a huge smile, inky fingers and a box of individual prints with her business name and never looked back. Within weeks she had purchased her first printing machine at a vintage fair in Newark, and after a little bit of TLC, it was up and running and so was her letterpress business.
Diving right in, Clare signed up for a stall at The National Wedding Show in London in 2013. But upon arrival, she panicked when she saw the other exhibitors setting up swanky-looking stands. “There was me with just an old machine, a table and some wedding invitations pegged to some twine, I actually cried!” remembers Clare. But her designs clearly shone, as the show turned out to be a huge success. “Everyone loved how different I was!”
Clare was still juggling her full-time job with her flourishing business, but the long commute to the office was taking its toll, especially as Clare and her husband were trying to start a family. When it became clear the couple needed to attempt IVF to conceive, Clare decided it was time for life to slow down. “My husband had been establishing his wedding photography business, which was going well, so it seemed like the perfect time for us to move into the countryside, leave my job, start my dream business without too much pressure, and focus on a happier, slower life.”
From this point, Clare’s business began to evolve. Her wedding stationery continued but she began adding greeting cards, personalised correspondence cards and prints to the range. She cites a favourite magazine as an inspirational starting point for her designs and the ethos behind her brand. “I think I discovered who I was when I picked up the first issue of The Simple Things magazine,” Clare explains, “I thought ‘wow, this is everything I love in life, this is me,’ and that’s always inspired my work. I like the simple every day and appreciating the little things, especially in nature and my surroundings.”
With this in mind, Clare designs her card ranges based around a theme, birth flowers or the concept of hygge, for example. Her process starts with hand drawn designs in pencil, which she then creates using pen, before importing into Illustrator and finalising the designs using her Apple pen. The completed artworks are sent to a polymer platemaker who create the plates, which Clare then fits to her presses to print her stationery. This slow process reflects Clare’s love of slow living, and requires patience, but it’s what makes her cards so special and unique. Clare describes her pride as she produces her work: “The end result is so beautiful, feeling the impression on the texture of the paper, being able to run your finger along it. Knowing that every print is individual and different to the next.”
But, for Clare the process isn’t just about the designs, the choice of paper stock and its eco-credentials are equally as important to her. “I’ve been sourcing recycled paper stock and currently use one that is made from coffee cups previously destined for landfill, and I’m currently testing papers made from fruit and flower by-products, which I’m very excited about,” she enthuses. Clare notes the popularity of her recycled coffee cup cards, so it’s clear the combination of her minimal designs and the sustainable aspect of her paper goods appeals to many; welcome encouragement to strive for even more planet-friendly processes.
Since launching Ruby Blue Paper Co in 2012, Clare has become a mum to two children. While immensely grateful that her business has allowed her the opportunity to look after her little ones full-time, she admits it’s been challenging to juggle it with her professional life. “I’ve had them napping in the corner, playing with toys on the floor and sorting through my foils while I get my print jobs done,” she recalls, “at times it hasn’t been easy, especially when I have deadlines, but I make it work somehow.” Reminding herself that they aren’t little for long, has helped Clare to relieve the pressure on herself, and embracing the principles of slow living has proved invaluable for juggling work and family life.
As Clare’s business celebrates ten years, what are her hopes and dreams for the future of Ruby Blue Paper Co? “I’d love to get my letterpress cards in more independent shops!” exclaims Clare. “I’ve had a few orders from the US through Faire, including one from a stationery shop called Blacker & Kooby just off 5th Avenue in New York, which I’m very excited about.”
Clare was also buoyed by a successful letterpress printing workshop she ran with independent shop Oh Curio during the pandemic. “Despite not feeling very confident talking in front of people. I overcame my nerves when I realised how fun it was to teach my love of printing and see how happy the attendees were when they produced their first ever print. I remembered that feeling.” Clare is now on the hunt for the right venue in her local area in Nottinghamshire with the hope of holding more workshops to share her passion for letterpress with others.
It’s not only adults that Clare wants to encourage to give printing a go. She has recently developed rubber stamp kits, which she believes are a great introduction into printing for children. “Rubber stamps are letterpress printing in its simplest form, showing how you can handprint an image onto paper,” describes Clare, “it’s something I would have liked as a child and even as an adult.”
With so many new and exciting elements to Clare’s business, it’s clear it will continue to thrive as she moves into the next decade of her business journey. That girl, tentatively setting up at her first wedding fair, will surely be proud of how far she has come! An inspiration to anyone cautiously stepping out on their own small business voyage.
Pictured is a selection of Clare’s beautiful range. Below are the details and links to the individual objects featured.
Birthday flower cards – £3.75
Festive Hugs Christmas card – £3.75
Birth flower print – £10
Love You More heart card – £3.75
Leaf printing card kit – £15
To view Clare’s full range visit www.rubybluepaperco.com
Follow Ruby Blue Paper Co on Instagram to see more of Clare’s work and behind the scenes in her garden studio. @rubybluepaperco