A Partner to Creative Entrepreneurs

by Carolyn Edlund

This provider helps artists develop gift products and enter lucrative new markets.

 

Staff and display at a spring trade show

Wraptious founder Simon Wadsworth and artist Sophie Corrigan at a trade fair

 

Wraptious is a UK-based platform that supports artists by transforming their work into products for both wholesale and retail markets. They offer in-house product lines as well as expertise and services to help artists scale their small businesses. I spoke with founder and CEO Simon Wadsworth about this concept and how artists can benefit.

 

gift product coasters with artist designs

Manufactured coasters with artist Sophie Corrigan’s designs

 

AS:  Why do artists choose to work with Wraptious?

SW:  Mostly, I believe it is because we care. We’re all artists ourselves at Wraptious, and we appreciate many of the challenges that artists face. I spent my first two years of Wraptious selling in hundreds of market stalls around my city of Manchester. Failing often, I realised quickly just how hard it is for artists to get their work out there. There’s so much more talent than opportunity. Even if we can do a little to help, it makes it worthwhile. Sadly there are many in this industry who wish to take advantage of artists. I see it often, and it infuriates me. We care about supporting artists and going that extra mile to make a difference. That may be freely helping with art working, supporting an in-house artist with a copyright case, or sharing their inspiring stories to our followers.

Artists also choose to work with us because we care about making a positive impact in all that we do. Two years ago, we partnered with a wonderful organisation, Trees for the Future, pledging to plant trees for every order we receive. So far we have planted 81,000 trees. We are on target to plant over 100,000 trees by the end of 2021. Planting trees provides families with more than just food – it provides income, empowerment, education and even saves lives. By working together, we can build meaningful relationships with each other, our customers and the wider environment that we all have a responsibility to protect.

 

Manufactured cushion with artwork by Katherine Williams

Cushion featuring a Katherine Williams design

 

AS: What types of products do you sell, and in what markets?

SW:  Our bestselling product is our super soft vegan-suede cushion, handmade by a family-run business in Yorkshire. We’ve worked closely with our manufacturing partners, continuously fine-tuning them to make them the best they can be. This culminated in our recently winning Gift of the Year at the UK Giftware awards. Other that cushions, we mainly sell gifts and homewares. This includes items such as coasters, mugs, canvases and clocks, although our first love was greeting cards and art prints.

For us, key to all our products is producing and packaging them sustainably. All Wraptious paper and timber products are made from FSC-certified or recycled materials. This includes greeting cards, coasters, wooden canvases, and even the boxes and envelopes that are used for packaging. We’re also committed to reducing single use plastics, which are so damaging to the environment. All our cards are packed in biodegradable cello. Our bubble wrap is made from cardboard, while our retail cushions are shipped in a fully recyclable, carbon-neutral material made from sugarcane.

We are blessed to sell wholesale to many wonderful businesses in the UK and internationally. Most of our accounts are independent gift shops, galleries and garden centres that are equally passionate about sharing our artists’ stories and artwork. We are still finding our voice with our retail website, and also sell on Etsy, which has given us an amazing international  platform.

 

Tea towel with duck design by Katherine Williams

Tea towel with UK artist Katherine Williams’ duck design

 

AS: How do you select artists for your in-house collections?

SW:  Unlike many gift businesses who design internally, we actually invite our customers and community to choose our in-house artists for us via competitions we run twice a year in May and October. Artists are invited to enter up to five designs per competition. These are shared across social media, and are available for the duration as cushions, prints and canvases. It’s free to enter, artists keep copyright always, and they earn commission from all sales too!

Our last competition saw over 7,000 entries across photography, felt, watercolours, acrylics and many other mediums. There is such a wonderful celebration of diversity and talent, and we are always incredibly humbled at artists putting their faith in us to do their beautiful artwork justice. The six artists with the most points (generated from likes and sales) are automatically shortlisted. A further six are chosen by us, as we recognise not everyone has a strong social media following. The 12 finalists are then voted on by industry buyers, trade journalists, current artists, and our Mums!

We’ve received messages of support from artists young and old about how we’ve given them a spotlight. They have the confidence to get their work out there, and irrespective of whether they win, this is always inspirational. It’s allowed us to work with some incredible artists, such as Katherine Williams, Sue Gardner and Kat Baxter. We have been lucky to have them develop beautiful in-house collections to share with our community.

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Gift items Sue Gardner small artworks

Small art prints by artist Sue Gardner are perfect for the gift market

 

AS:  Since your ability to represent artists is limited, how do you assist other artists who want to leverage their work for products?

SW:  As a small business, we wish we had the capacity to support more in-house artists than we do. Our competitions are a bittersweet time for us, as we have to say goodbye to so many. For this reason, we recently launched our Bespoke service, which supports artists in developing their own product ranges.

Artists’ financial and business health is something we care passionately about, and we want to support them through leveraging their art onto giftware. Since we have developed partnerships with many British manufacturers, it allows us to offer a single point of contact for artists who want to introduce a range of products to their portfolio. These are products of quality that artists can be proud of, all made in the UK using sustainable resources.

We can print a minimum of just one pack per product or artwork. This gives artists complete flexibility in trying things out to see what works, without having to commit to huge order volumes. Our Bespoke service is the perfect stepping stone, especially for artists who are just starting out and feeling their way. We’re happy to offer free artwork setup, and send out free samples too.

Ultimately, our vision is to create an inclusive platform and community that shines the spotlight on all artists, supports artists in leveraging their work, and adds value to their lives and the wider planet for which we all share.

 

 

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