My Big Break: Erin Hung
Tell us a bit about yourself
I'm Erin Hung, and I'm the creative director of BerinMade.I first started the company in 2012 designing wedding invitations, shortly after getting married and catching the wedding bug! Blogs were really big back then, and Pinterest had just launched in the UK. I saw that there was an opportunity to work in design on my own terms, so I gave it a go.
Our company specialises in greeting cards and lifestyle stationery that is functional, feminine and very much design-led. I would say our style is spirited, creative and whimsical and tends to bring out the dreamer in our followers! We feature a lot of botanical prints, unusual and bold colour combinations and I always love a bit of pattern.
How did it all start?
Often people look into a business and see that “big break” moment where they were featured on the BBC, or get a book deal, because that's all they see. But if you look behind it, it's often lots of little moments made happen with grit, determination and ambition, of waking up every morning despite what happened yesterday and just keeping at it. In that sense, I believe in lots of little moments chipping away at that big goal. At least, that was what happened for me.
I set up our own Etsy shop without any formal design training in the beginning. I came from a degree in Fine Arts so I suppose it's not too far removed in the grand scheme of things. But I think my lack of formal training in the beginning was what set me apart- I had little rules to follow, in fact, I was breaking all of them so ironically my work looked different and fresh from other things on the market without the formal constraints. At the same time, it was my biggest insecurity, as you always think you'll be found out, so I think I was more shy about my work as I should have been in the beginning. I do look at some of my work from the very beginning and think “wow, what was I thinking?”
What was your ‘Big Break' moment?
Being selected by Charlotte Abrahams to exhibit at Top Drawer's Spotted section in 2014 was a huge moment, as you are highlighted as one of the up-and-coming talents in the country so it's a lot of pressure to live up to when the show starts. Funnily enough, all the other artists in the selection were sought out by Charlotte and I was the only one who had cold-emailed her one summer afternoon and she was gracious enough to entertain me! My work was introduced to a whole host of amazing industry friends and buyers, including Liberty, Selfridges and Oliver Bonas who are now some of my most prominent and amazing stockists.
Another breaking moment was when I signed my first book deal with Pavilion for my debut title Paper Parties (release in May 2017) last year. I had been working on my book proposal for a few months which landed a contract with my agent, who then worked with me to pitch this deal. Pavilion is my dream publisher so I was very happy indeed to have found a home for Paper Parties with them.
I also want to caveat that the notion of “big breaks” is somewhat romanticised as they are not really breaks in the sense of “rest” at all! They are almost always marked with a steep incline and learning curve following it. Either you've just signed on to a task which is beyond anything you've ever done before, or to meet supply and deadlines which will stretch you to your limits.
After we did our first ever Top Drawer, what looked outwardly like a fantastic show actually hit our business very hard as we struggled to keep our cash flow and stock levels consistent in the early days. It was a very difficult time to stay afloat, marked by countless evenings of slotting greeting cards into cellophane bags, but I'm glad we persisted and we built operations and systems that are far more resilient now. It's an amazing feeling to hit a goal but it's really true what they say: you've really got to want it.
What have you learned?
I've learned so many lessons along the way (and still learning every day). In our industry, consumer demand always wins and I'm learning to balance that in our collections. As artists, we always love to make our ideas come to life and our jobs are to be passionately partial to what we make. But what matters ultimately is that it meets the demand of our clients, is sustainable to produce and responsible to our society. To that end, we are now more than ever initiating conversations with our buyers and potential stockists to pick their brains, and interacting with our followers on social media to work out that feedback with open minds.
What are you planning next, do you have any new and exciting projects coming up soon?
Yes! My new book, Paper Parties is due to release in May, a few days after Pulse.
Do you have any tips you can share with a start-up brand?
When I started, I always heard people say “Be yourself”
I think it's a notion that comes naturally more to some than others. I really struggled with that and didn't know what that meant or how to get there. If you don't feel it 100%, just know that it's OK. Remember it's a journey and everyone is a work-in-progress, even those who are very confident in themselves are always evolving. Just be patient with yourself and enjoy the journey. I think that's the best way to “find” yourself, anyway.