Monday, 18 June 2012

Karen Roberts - K.Robots


Name – Karen Roberts
Job Title – Business Development Manager
Company – National Football Museum
Hometown – Suffolk and now Manchester (can I have two?!)


Although I was born in Manchester I grew up in the southern sticks – in a tiny village called Layham in the depths of Suffolk. My mum didn’t like Manchester and believed it was perpetually sunny in Suffolk so we moved. I came back to Manchester in 2005 when I was 25 years old, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m now 32 and I live in Salford with my (lovely) boyfriend. 

I work at the National Football Museum as Business Development Manager. I’ve only had the job since February – before that I worked for the Northwest’s audience development agency, All About Audiences, managing client relationships, delivering consultancy and doing a bit of marketing. In a nutshell, my job is to help bring money into the museum. Although we receive public funding we need to generate additional income to ensure the museum can deliver its community and learning projects, develop the collections and exhibitions, and essentially just survive and grow.  We do this through a range of commercial activities, which include the museum shop, the cafĂ© and restaurant, and by hiring the museum out for events and functions. But in addition to this, it is my role to source sponsors and corporate partners for the museum, encourage donations from individuals and apply for funds from Trusts and Foundations. In the current economic climate, this is no mean feat! 


I’m massively into anything that is handmade. One of my favourite things that I own is my tweed estate handbag by A Few Fine Things. (It’s actually one of two handbags that I own from there…oh, and I have a wallet too!) They use British materials and traditional methods to create the most stunning and stylish bags – the owners and makers, Francesca and Stuart, are both extremely talented. My handbag was a bespoke commission and I was able to choose the fabric, leather and lining myself - so it’s totally unique. I absolutely love it. They are based on Oak Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. I would definitely recommend paying them a visit! (Take your credit card.)

What are you working on right now?

Well I’ve just started a mini side-line designing and selling greeting cards. I’ve always been into arty-crafty things – I did Art & Design A-level and more recently did a B-Tech in Jewellery. Last year I made a robot-themed Christmas card for my robot-mad boyfriend. It featured lots of tiny robot characters each with its own Christmassy identity. I then got thinking about all the other robot characters I could create. So I started doodling robots using friends, family, hobbies and everyday objects as inspiration. 

I knew that hand-drawing each card didn’t make any business sense (I’m a business development manager after all) but I got a bit stuck when it came to turning my illustrations into actual printable designs. But with a bit of help from some friends, a lot of tea and a great deal of perseverance, I taught myself how to use Illustrator. Eventually I had a family of robot characters worthy of printing. I sourced a printer and submitted my designs and when the proofs came back I was dead chuffed with the result. 

Using some of my contacts from the museum world I’ve managed to get the cards stocked in a few local museum and gallery shops, including Salford, Oldham and Bury. I’ve also set up online shops on Etsy and Folksy and am in the process of building a website

I had my first commission recently - a social-media-bee-bot for a good friend of mine called B… you can see the end result on her blog.

My next move is to approach local independent retailers to get the cards stocked in gift shops, book shops, and…well, anywhere willing to sell quirky fun robot cards! I’m working on some new designs to add to the collection, and I also want to expand to other products, such as mugs, bags, tea-towels and wrapping paper. I’m also planning to host stalls at various craft fairs, festivals and events this year. 

The k.robots empire is growing!

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