Most people can only dream of turning their hobby into a lucrative business but, that is precisely what Cherith Harrison has done and her sights are now set on expanding gobal sales of her animal inspired art. She is already selling in the USA, Canada and Australia with Japan on her immediate radar. Tote bags, notebooks, cards, mugs, aprons and tea towels – Cherith has created an inspiring range of gifts using intricate illustrations of popular wildlife. Her passion for wildlife traces back to when, as a seven year-old, she rescued a baby wild rabbit.
“Now, when I create each animal print design, I want to encapsulate their unique personality - from the majestic and enigmatic stag to the adorable and friendly bunny. And, in capturing the beauty and tranquility of British wildlife, I like to think my products give people a little piece of the countryside to take home with them”
“As far back as I can remember, I wanted to draw. I have always loved creating and making things. It seems to me the most instinctive of all human pursuits and here am I doing it for a living.”
Born and raised in Peebles in the Scottish Borders, Cherith’s professional journey started at Edinburgh College of Art where in 2005 she graduated with an Honours Degree in Graphic Design. She then secured a job at top design agency, Threebrand, whose floating office sits anchored to the banks of Leith’s shore.
“I loved the job and the company were great at supporting my developing ambitions.”
It was during time spent outside work at Edinburgh Printmakers when Cherith was able to hone her screen printing skills and start turning her designs into tote bags, cushions, bunting and tea towels.
“I remember working long into the night to create a whole stock of products that I would sell to friends and family and at local craft markets.”
Then for Cherith, in 2010 the bold step of taking a stall at Edinburgh’s West End Craft and Design Fair, which runs for the duration of the Festival was taken.
“I used my entire annual holiday quota but it was worth it. In fact, it was fantastic. Sales were great and so was the feedback. That’s what really gave me the belief that I could make this a growing concern. Knowing that I wanted to be able to wholesale, I spent the next 18 months researching manufacturers, working on my pricing, developing my core collections, getting samples made and saving up to buy in my first batch of stock. I also had a wedding to organise during that time as well! I launched my products at the Scotland Spring Fair in January 2012 – a trade show that occurs annually in Glasgow at the SECC. "
“Throughout all this time my employers were great – allowing me to freelance for them two days a week while I was able to build my brand and product ranges, I freelanced for them until July 2015 to focus solely on the the business. I got into the retail market initially through working with stockists on a sale or return basis, this eventually stopped in 2012 when I began wholesaling. I was sceptical at first of the Scottish Design Exchange because I assumed it followed the traditional sale or return retail model. It was only when I met SDX founder, Lynzi Leroy and had it explained to me that I found out that here was a wholly new ethos. For a nominal rent, you get a display stand and staff to sell and organise the products and best of all, you get all the sales revenue paid into your bank account. For an artist that is heaven sent – especially when you want to test the market.”
“Arts are a growing phenomenon in Scotland and I would love to see a re-focussing of expressive arts in the curriculum - developing creativity and skills, similar to the current STEM focus. It would be geat to see the profile of expressive art bing raised in our schools in order for Scotland to continue to produce successful, creative and artistic individuals”
What strikes you about Cherith is that here is an artist who combines her talent with a powerful business acumen.
“I like the selling part and have a clear view of where I want the brand to go. I want to grow the number of outlets we supply across the UK and secure larger, key accounts."
With this comes expansion. But, Cherith is determined to create a tight-knit work family who share a passion for ambitious success. She will also welcome imaginative collaborations and is seeking a studio office in Edinburgh with a small shop front. Cherith Harrison has worked hard to get the brand where it is.
“I really did work all the hours available at one stage. I got married in 2011 just before I launched my business and my husband has been with me all the way on this journey. I now (try to) stop work at 8pm each day so that we can enjoy a better work life balance."
Aside from growing her brand by expanding her range of products and selling them across the globe, Cherith harbours one personal ambition.
“I want to write a children’s picture book.”
Who would dare bet against that happening in the next few years?