I have always loved great graphic design and have often thought it may be a career for me at some point in the future (I never want to stop learning!). I met Judit Gueth online while searching for a graphic designer back in 2007. I wanted someone that had a distinct style and I fell in love with some of Judit’s illustrations. I happened to be working in Toronto around that time and we were able to meet and connect over our love of design.
These are some of designs that Judit did for my former business, and I still love them!
This is one of Judit’s wallpaper designs….again, something I fell in love with!
Scarlett: In your bio you talk about coming to Canada. What is your background?
Judit: I was born in Hungary by Lake Balaton, the biggest freshwater lake in Europe. It’s a fun place where a lot of people make their money in the summer when the town turns into a busy beehive, and sort of hibernate for the winter. I came here after high school for one year as a nanny to practice my English, and I guess I just kept practicing and practicing.
Scarlett: How did you make a decision to get into graphic design?
Judit: I’ve always loved to draw, and I was always especially drawn to surface design and decorative design. When I got my landed immigrant status, I applied for the Ontario College of Art and Design and studied illustration. After graduating in 1999 with an Associate Diploma I pursued further studies and received a Bachelor of Design degree in 2004. Fresh out of school, I got my portfolio together, started to look for jobs and managed to land one at a children’s clothing company where I was responsible for creating computer graphics and putting repeating patterns and board presentations together. When I started I had no idea how repeats worked, and it turned out nobody else knew how to do them on the computer either, so I had to figure it out from scratch. Before long I was addicted to making them, because they kind of seemed like puzzles, and I like puzzles.:-) After about a year and a half I quit my job for a different one, which turned out to be a disaster, and I found myself on unemployment benefits. At the end it all turned out well, because it enabled me to apply and to participate in a government supported program called Self Employment Benefits Program at the Toronto Business Development Centre. It was a truly amazing one year. I learned a lot and made many friends.
Scarlett: On your About page on your website, you mention that fabric printing was very expensive but not that has changed. Explain the process that you started when you started your business and how it has changed today.
Judit: I got into the SEB Program with a business plan that was about printing fabric. When I started researching printing options, I realized that it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I thought, I’d just take it to the printer and get it done. I went to several places and bumped into a lot of different obstacles. Printing was either really expensive, they couln’t print my designs, because they were too complex, they didn’t print on the right fabric or I had to print large quantities, which of course I wasn’t able to afford. Since I really wanted to print my designs I bought a bunch of different kinds of white fabric to experiment with, and ironed them on freezer paper. This allowed me to put the sheets through my inkjet printer and print straight on the fabric. I made greeting cards out of the fabric I printed at home and sold them to stores and at the One of a Kind Show. It was a great way to practice working for myself and dealing with different stores and customers. Since my greeting card days, digital printing has evolved so much, that now I can print fabric any time and make decorative pillows or sell it by the yard.
Scarlett: You have a line of hand tufted rugs and also wallpaper. What made you go into such exciting media?
Judit: When I was making greeting cards I soon realized, that my production capabilities were very limited. It was like working in my own little sweat shop, so I started thinking bigger and bigger, trying to come up with other possibilities for my designs. I came up with rugs and wallpaper which was a huge step from greeting cards. I created a bunch of designs and made appointments with different interior designers to get their opinion on them. Researching manufacturers was very difficult and it still is! I managed to find someone who didn’t use child labour in India to make my rugs, and a wallpaper printer in Toronto to print my wallpaper. Since then, I changed wallpaper printers twice. Working with manufacturers is very tricky and I learned, that you always have to have a plan B. Since my first hand-tufted rugs, I introduced high quality hand-knotted rugs as well. All my rugs are made of pure New Zealand wool, because it’s high quality, soft and luxurious to the touch, and keeps the colours bright. Being environmentally friendly and socially responsible has always been important for my business. My original wallpapers were printed on PVC free nonwovens that don’t emit VOCs. My new wallpaper collection is printed with HP Latex technology, which was developed to reduce the environmental impact of printing by using water based inks instead of solvent based inks. The results look amazing too!
Scarlett: Your son was born in 2010. How did this change the way you do business?
Judit: I was just getting into my business when Benjamin was born. I applied to exhibit at the Interior Design Show while I was pregnant in 2010, hoping that my baby will arrive after the show. Naturally, he wasn’t going to wait for me to do my show and he was born on setup day. Ed, my husband went from the hospital to set everything up, and I had 5 friends helping in the booth for the duration of the show. I was so grateful to Ed and to my friends for helping me out on such a short notice. While Benjamin was very small I was able to jump on my computer at nap times, or in the evenings and work till 11-12 every day. Besides keeping my business I took on a few graphic design jobs to get extra money. That worked out ok for a couple of years, but since Ben was never the sleeping kind of baby I was getting really exhausted. Last year after I had the flu and pneumonia within 4 months I gave up all the graphic design jobs and put my business into maintenance mode. Sometime you just have to let things go and focus on yourself and your family. I was really glad I did it. It was such a relief! I felt less stressed and spent most evenings relaxing. I was still filling orders and anwering emails, but didn’t do any marketing or create new designs. This September Benjamin started a full time Montessori program, and I was able to get back into business. It’s like starting from scratch again, but my time away from it allowed me to gain new insights into how I do things.
Scarlett: What is your favourite project that you have worked on this far?
Judit: I have sold some of my products to interesting customers. One of the most exciting was the Buddha Bar in Dubai. The interior design firm working on the Spa used my Koi Chinoiserie wallpaper for the walls in the lobby. I tried to get photos from them for a while, but I ended up finding one on the Internet myself . I’ve had some other interesting customers, like the former CEO of Halston, a Hollywood producer, Paul and Joe creator Sophie Albou, and different designers and writers. Apparently, one of my rugs was in the High School Musical movie, but I haven’t seen it yet. I always enjoy creating custom rugs for different rooms. I work with interior designers, we choose colours together and I come up with a few drawings based on the client’s ideas. It’s very rewarding to see how my rug ties the room together. Last month I started working with a new wallpaper printer who can print on pearlized paper and metallics, as well as on matt paper. When I received my first test prints I was stunned by how gorgeous the papers looked. With this new printer I’ll be able to create custom wallpapers as well, which makes me feel like a kid in a candy store.
Scarlett: What has been your biggest hurdle in the business to date and what lesson did you learn from it?
Judit: The biggest one is money of course! The other big one is manufacturing. Manufacturing can be stressful, because if something is not right, you might end up paying the bill. You’re completely at the mercy of your suppliers. It has happened to me with both rug and wallpaper manufacturing. You definitely learn a lot and you always pay for your lesson. Shipping, and the whole importing process can also surprise you with extra expenses.
Scarlett: What is your long term goal for your business? Is this something that you always dreamed of doing?
Judit: My long term goal is to build my brand further and maybe some day have a brick store. I’d never thought I would have a design business, I sort of stumbled into it. When I studied illustration I thought I’d be illustrating books. Except for one interest course at OCAD, I never studied textile design, but ended up being a textile designer. Sometimes it’s funny how things work out. I think it’s important to learn and research constantly, and let your business evolve.
Scarlett: If you could give a word of advice to other women out there regarding woman starting a business and building a brand, what would it be?
Judit: Having someone to stand by you and encourage you is very very important. My husband Ed has been wonderful and supportive. He doesn’t work with me as a business partner, he works as a technical writer for Cisco, but he’s always ready to help. When you try to build a brand you need someone to pay the bills and to let you chase your dreams around. He has been helping me with manufacturing expenses and lots of advice. He’s one of the smartest people I know, and I’m grateful to have him by my side. We’re always joking about me spending a lot of money on manufacturing. When I said to him once “see Hon, you’re lucky I don’t ask for expensive jewellery” he said, “no Hon, you do better than that! Expensive jewellery would be cheaper” !
Wallpaper, Textile Design
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