Etsy illustrator sensation to open first high street shop in Alfreton

Illustrator Katie Abey will open her first shop in Alfreton this weekend, showcasing the huge range of products which carry her designs.
Illustrator Katie Abey will open her first shop in Alfreton this weekend, showcasing the huge range of products which carry her designs.

A young illustrator whose work is sold around the world is opening her first shop in the Amber Valley this weekend.

Katie Abey, 24, has enjoyed huge success since graduating from a graphic design course at Nottingham Trent University four years ago.

Her store on the online marketplace Etsy is now the fourth biggest in the UK, her playful designs have been licensed by retail giants Paperchase and WHSmith, and her children’s books are on shelves as far away as India, the USA and Australia.

Katie, from Langley Mill, and a former Aldercar High School student, said: “It all started as a New Year’s resolution in 2014, when I decided I was going to do one illustration every day. I still do.

“When you’re producing that many drawings, there are lots of things you can do with them and you can get instant feedback online to if people like them and what products they work on.”

Etsy remains the company’s biggest source of income, with a range including cards, badges, posters, mugs, clothing, homeware and stationery - all sold under the tagline: ‘Happiness, motivation and sarcasm in gift form’.

Katie said: “After graduation, I started off doing freelance work, designing logos for bands and other small jobs like that.

“I got some business advice and a small grant from the Hive at Nottingham Trent to produce the first run of beanie hats, and from there it has just kept getting bigger and bigger.”

She added: “It can be a bit overwhelming sometimes how quickly it has grown, and how many new things I’ve had to learn, but our team make it good fun.

“The variety involved in running the business is what makes it enjoyable, but the best part is still being able to sit and draw for work.”

Katie and her husband Jeff now have two assistants in the business, and hope to employ more if the new shop at 37 Cressy Road, Alfreton, proves a hit. She said: “We did a pop-up store in Alfreton before Christmas, and it seemed to be really popular. We’re going to start by opening on Fridays and Saturdays, 11am to 6pm, and see how we get on.

“It will be good to have a physical place where people can come and see everything we make. We get a lot of local Etsy orders too, so people will be able to come and collect them if they want.”

A visit to the shop promises to be an experience in itself.

Katie said: “I’ve always been intrigued by the shop unit. It’s an old sweet shop and it just has something about it.

“We’ve had a lot of fun decorating the shop, but mostly I’ve left it with Jeff. He restores classic Minis, and always ends up finding new uses for old parts.”

The shop will open with a public launch event on Saturday, February 24, 11am to 6pm, which Katie says will have the atmosphere like a children’s party.

She added: “There will be a lot of freebies and cake, and we’ve got people coming from all over the country to visit.”

There will be more excitement in May with the arrival of Katie’s latest children’s book, her first for the major publishing house Bloomsbury.

She said: “It’s called We Wear Pants, and each page has animals putting on different clothes, and it’s meant to help kids learn how to get dressed in the morning.

“I’ve self-published a couple of concept books before, and illustrated other people’s, but this was a lot more involved and I’ll be doing work in schools as part of the launch. There’s already sequel on the way too.”

The business will also venture into new territory, with the growth of a new partnership with an illustrator based in Bangalore, India.

Katie said: “We came across each other’s work online, and I went to visit India to find out how things work there and how we can help promote and sell each other’s work.

“There isn’t much of a market there for this sort of quirky illustration at the moment, so hopefully there are exciting things to come.We have lots of ideas of how we could expand the business, but we don’t tend to believe in planning too much - things just organically seem to happen.”

To see more of Katie’s work, visit