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Meet the Artists

Nicola Leaspeare

25 Oct 2021

Meet the Artists: Hello from Nicola Lespeare

Tell us a bit about yourself….

I’ve always loved drawing - ever since I was able to hold a crayon! I didn’t pursue a career in the creative industry until now, so it’s really exciting to have an outlet to pour my artistic energy into and explore what kind of difference I can make.

Whilst living in London I was introduced to the world of personal growth and living life with purpose. This inspired me to re-discover my love for drawing and in 2016 I launched my brand. A year later I moved back to my home town of Nottingham to focus on my brand’s vision; To be a leading brand synonymous with imaginative cards that elevates the audience we serve. My aim is to help initiate more diversity in the UK greeting card industry.

How did you get into the creative/greeting card industry?

In 2016, I was unable to find a relatable birthday card of a Black girl flourishing with her afro for my sister's birthday. In every card retailer I had asked the sales advisors which aisle the Black greetings cards were and their response was always the same; ‘We don’t stock them.’ It was that moment that I chose to turn a problem into an opportunity to create change.Frustrated by a disappointing shopping experience, I went to the stationary store, purchased a case of art equipment and decided to illustrate a unique birthday card as a surprise. My sister loved it and was so excited to receive a memorable card that reflected her deep skin tone and beautiful afro hair.

Seeing her eyes light up with joy made me want to recreate the same uplifting experience for other people. I knew that the lack of relatable celebration cards depicting Black people was a widespread dilemma and I wanted to help solve this problem so I chose to take action and a leap of faith by starting my brand!

What have been your biggest challenges to get to where you are today?

‘You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines..’ This is one of my favourite quotes  by Shirley Chisholm.

It was challenging to keep pressing on when others tried to devalue my vision by telling me that 'my brand wouldn’t be a success,' and industry reps' responses were 'We're not interested.’ Had I chosen to listen to those naysayers, Nicola Lespeare Greeting Cards would not exist today.

Choosing to believe in yourself is one of the most important, valuable life choices we can make. Perseverance and transforming the relationship I had with myself enabled me to explore how I could show up to serve others, do good to inspire change and be bold with my brands’ presence. 

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

Joining is an incredibly exciting highlight for Nicola Lespeare Greeting Cards! 

Our cards are now more accessible, plus the option to choose from an array of card sizes and personalise a selection of our designs is a fabulous touch for our audience.

In 2016 I launched a wordpress website with just 4 cards, little knowledge of the greeting card industry and no clue about running a brand! Making small steps continuously over time enabled me to develop my craft, trust the process and enjoy the ride!

Do you have anyone or anything in mind when designing your cards?

I’m inspired by combining my artistic ideas with personal elements that I love, make me happy or hold sentimental value. My illustrations demonstrate the fabulous versatility of afro hair and are predominantly influenced by Black women styled in on-trend colourful looks that beautifully accentuate deep skin tones.

For decades mainstream media ideals projected a notion that afro hair is unprofessional and unattractive, a narrative designed to demean Black identity. Hair is an extension of our personality and how we choose to express ourselves so seeing social media awash with inspiring images of Black women rocking their afros has been pivotal in celebrating Black, natural hair.

I’m proud of my natural curls and I love that my Afro-hair is a significant reflection of who I am. I hope that my illustrations and cards encourage the same sense of pride in our audience!

What is the best card you’ve ever been given?

I keep a memory box, stored inside are cards that I received when I was a child, a teenager and an adult - that’s a lot of cards! It’s heartwarming to read through them every now and then for a trip down memory. They all hold sentimental value - especially the ones from relatives who have passed away.

Which is your favourite card you ever designed and why?

Oh that’s a tough question! I’ll choose the Isa card because it’s named after my grandma, plus I love how the mustard coloured backless dress is complemented by the frame of areca palm leaves. It was inspired by a Caribbean wedding photo I came across a few years ago.

We love that your cards celebrate diversity! Of all your cards, which is the most loved and relatable? 

The Farah Happy Birthday card is one of our most popular cards and has been for a number of years! It’s a vibrant card featuring the side profile of a stylish beauty with an afro puff, strutting her stuff and swinging boutique shopping bags. It appeals to a wide age group and continues to be a favourite with our brand supporters.

What do you love most about your job/brand?

The opportunity to do good to inspire change. My brand launched to make a difference and shape the prominence of Black greeting cards in the UK. I’m filled with gratitude to have creative freedom and be in a position to positively impact the community.

It’s incredibly touching to receive positive feedback from customers. Hearing that a card from our collection has added a magical touch to someone's special day is hugely rewarding and propels me to pursue my craft.

What is the one message you want to send for Black History Month?

We can all choose to act on our responsibility to turn problems into opportunities to create positive change and inspire others to do the same.

We’re still in the midst of a pivotal shift and turning point, one that is charting a new route that has ignited and prioritised inclusivity actions to instigate meaningful, lasting change. 

The conviction that you can change things begins with your own thinking and opting not to be limited by a current reality that may seem like a mountain to climb. Seize the possibilities of change and instead of waiting for something better, go and create it.

Focus on one thing where you can apply your efforts, engage in conversations for change and take action. Choose to play a role in being part of the solution that celebrates equality and inclusion.

Do you think the greeting cards industry could be more inclusive? Anything within this space that you would like to see more of, or feel isn’t done enough?

I’m thrilled for my brand to be part of ‘Meet The Artist’ for Black History Month. Moonpig are sending a clear message in it’s values and is demonstrating an invested responsibility in driving inclusivity - others will be inspired to follow your lead!

To correct the imbalance of representation and diversity, the industry needs to commit to finding solutions that bring about real change and decision making that is deliberate in creating opportunities that encourage diverse thinking and creativity.

Allyship is key, individuals in prominent positions have the ability to influence a more inclusive sector and choose to be part of a solution that reshapes the greeting card landscape.

Is inclusivity an issue you have ever faced in the industry you work in? If so, how did you deal with this, overcome the issue and get to where you are today?

Diverse teams bring different cultural perspectives that offer broader ideas and different experiences that spark innovativity.

I’ve been fortunate to hold roles in mostly diverse teams in my career. It’s vital to access equal opportunity to flourish and be able to show up as your authentic self; for example, choosing to wear your hair in an afro, the natural state in which it grows, should not be deemed as unprofessional or policed.

A previous role that I hugely enjoyed involved working closely with colleagues who were a range of different ages and had relocated from all over the globe. I recall a brilliant Potluck Day where everyone brought in a cultural dish - it was such a great team building event and one where everyone felt included. I devoured so much delicious food, it was a dining experience I won’t forget!

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Nicola Leaspeare

Card Designer