I first met Merlyn at a Christmas Craft Fair in York back in 2018. It was a kinda quiet day and we got chatting after the cutest little penguin print on her stall caught my eye. I followed her on Instagram and ever since have been mesmerised by her work. The intricacy is shown first hand with behind the scenes videos, coupled with cute cat pics and hilarious talking stories. What's not to love? Let's get behind the paint and learn more about Merlyn and her small business, The Littlest Falcon...
1. So, first of all your actual name has to be one of the coolest ever. Merlyn Griffiths. It's like something out of Harry Potter! Is there a story behind your name? Thank you! I do love my name, definitely character building when I was younger, but I wouldn't be me without it! I'm technically named after the bird of prey, and spent years saying 'Merlyn, like the bird' when asked what my name was. These days I do tend to just say '... like the wizard', as so many people used to say 'Eh, what? There's a bird?!' I really like my surname too, and thought that if my other half and I ever get married I'd probably like to double barrel it... however that would make me 'Merlyn Griffiths-Corr' but I think that might be way too wizardy, even for me! 2. Sticking with names... The Littlest Falcon is the name of your business. Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose that and what it means to you? I came up with my name one evening a few years ago when I was walking back home from work. I wanted a name that had something to do with me, but also something to do with animals - seeing as that was the kind of work I was producing (and still am!) Fortunately, I'm named after an animal, so that was quite easy! I maybe should have just gone with my name, but people say it wrong so often I thought it might be better not to! The merlin bird is the smallest bird of prey in the UK, hence 'The Littlest Falcon!"
3. How did you get started in printmaking, and what convinced you to turn your hobby into a business?
I grew up in a very arty family, my parents both went to art school, Mum was an art teacher, and I spent all my time at the kitchen table making things. I tried everything, we used to paint, draw, build things out of clay and salt dough. We even had a small enamelling kiln and I used to make little brooches. I did art all through school, and specialised in painting during my Art Foundation diploma when I was 18. I decided to go down a different path for uni though and studied History of Art, which led into my current 'alter ego' career as a Stained Glass Conservator in York. It's a brilliant job, I am very lucky, and I still do it four days a week. I started to really miss being creative though, and about two and a half years ago my Mum bought me a linocut kit. The rest, as they say, is history...! I turned it into a business quite quickly, I think I sold a couple of copies of my second ever print and it almost spiralled from there! I had tentatively set up an Instagram account, but hadn't the nerve to post anything so it sat there dormant for a while. Then my friend gave me the boot up the bum I needed and tagged my account in a post of a print I'd made her. So I definitely have her to thank for giving me the confidence to put my work 'out there!' 4. I know you were lined up to do the British Craft Trade Fair this year, which was unfortunately cancelled. Was this your first trade show? How did you prepare? What were you most nervous about? BCTF was indeed my first trade fair. I signed up for it a year in advance, and about Christmas time I decided to make three ranges of lino print specifically for wholesale. I worked my socks off over my two week holiday from work and by the end of it had my prints sussed and ready for action. I was really nervous, and was trying to soak up as much information as I could about what to do at a trade fair and what would or wouldn't happen when I was there. It was such a shame that it was cancelled (although was 100% the right thing to do!), but it's almost been a blessing in disguise. I definitely feel more prepared for next year now, and am grateful to have more time to really fine tune everything for 2021 and to have a go at building my wholesale clients in the interim. 5. Do you have any advice or tips for other small business owners thinking of taking the leap and doing a trade show? I think my advice would just be to go for it. If your product is something that is feasible to market wholesale then why not have a go? It was a bit of a leap of faith for me, and technically I am still in the category of 'not having done a trade show yet', but I just have a feeling it is one of things that you have to try once. BCTF has been a great one to start with, the team are really friendly and I have felt very nurtured. They're just a phone call or email away and I think that has made it seem less daunting than it could be. Fingers crossed all goes well next year, and I can make it an annual adventure into wholesale!
6. I know it's like picking a child... but what's your own personal favourite print? Do you know, I think I printed my favourite ever Littlest Falcon print this week! I painted a big watercolour leopard for my house a few months ago, and decided I would see what it looked like as a little linocut. I have done two variations, one in yellow/orange tones, and one in greys and black. There is something about it that I just adore! I feel really proud of it, and I am hoping other people like it too, or else I'll end up papering my walls with it ;) Before yesterday, I would have said that my big jaguar print was my favourite. I have a thing for big cats at the moment, they have a great silhouette. I made the jaguars for BCTF (I started drawing them on Boxing Day, and still have a wall of test prints in various colours in my studio now!), and they make me happy. They're much larger than my new little print, and are pricier as they take a lot of work to produce. I have yellow, pink and blue ones, and I can't decide which is my fave, it changes every week!
7. What do you love the most about running your own small business? I really love the freedom of running my business. It's quite a solitary existence as I lock myself away in my studio all hours, but actually I really like that. It gives me lots of thinking time and I am at my happiest when I'm in there printing or painting and listening to an audiobook. I've loved learning about all aspects of running a business (even keeping accounts and submitting tax returns!) 8. On the flip side... what do you find hardest, or struggle with the most? I think the hardest thing is trying to fit everything in. As I'm not in my studio full time, I get really tired as I will get in from work and spend half the night working on my business! Same with weekends, it can be difficult to tear myself away from it to do other things because I enjoy it so much. I feel very fortunate that those are my negatives though, they're not that bad really are they!? 9. And finally... what's your "small business pearl of wisdom?" A little nugget of advice to anyone thinking of starting, or are currently running their own small business?
Like with my advice earlier, I think my pearl of wisdom is just to go for it. If you're anything like me, you'll put off doing something like this for years, and when you eventually do it you'll think 'WHY didn't I do this earlier'?! It brings me so much joy, and that first hurdle is definitely the hardest thing. If it doesn't work out then that's fine, you've had a go! If you never try then you'll always regret not attempting it.
Connect with Merlyn at The Littlest Falcon