So many people hail Leeds as one of the largest creative hubs in the country – and we love discovering all the makers and shakers in our city. The rise of handmade is due in part to the post-industrial era we’re going through. As large companies have gradually outsourced manufacturing abroad where labour and operations are cheaper, we’re left looking to spend our money on items with a more personal touch – to the tune of over £3 billion every year in the UK.

This month we’re excited to reveal an exclusive look at a brand new Leeds craft business launching for the very first time. Ink & Bear is the result of an extraordinary pact between friends and a talent discovered over a decade ago – and it launches online this Sunday 29 October! Following a soft launch on Instagram earlier this year our HQ is already adorned with one of the first prints from the collection, and we’re hooked.

We spoke to Sophie, the maker behind the brand, who tells us how her hobby became a passion, the importance of accessible design and how Ink & Bear has become a true family affair…

Who are you and how did you get here?

I’m a screen printer based in Leeds and am selling brightly coloured screen prints and other bits and bobs too. I’m from Hull originally but I now call Leeds my home and have been living here for over a decade.
I’ve been screen printing for myself for 12 years and wanted to share the prints I’ve been making! I started screen printing at university and carried on through night classes at Leeds College of Art.
I work in a full time job and was really keen to set Ink & Bear up as a way of getting my work out and about and meeting people doing amazing creative things. I decided I wanted to set up earlier this year and was supported by my friends and family – me and four friends made a pact that we’d all run a stall selling our work in the next 12 months!
A big inspiration for me has been seeing friends in similar jobs setting up creative businesses – my biggest inspiration has been Sarah from Geo Heaven who talked about setting up a business, and just did it! I’m really inspired by natural things and the sky and stars are a big inspiration for me – a lot of my prints feature the sky at night. I’m excited to take the next step in setting up Ink & Bear; the first big step is setting up online, closely followed by holding a stall at the Northern Print Fair, held by Northern Craft on Saturday 18 November.

What can customers expect from Ink & Bear?

Brightly coloured screen prints that have all been designed and hand printed in Leeds. There are a lot of digitally printed pieces of artwork now and I wanted to create something handmade.
I sell prints, but also sell pencil cases, cosmetic bags and tote bags – I like being able to offer a range of products. I love being able able to print in metallic inks and neon too! It’s not easy to get a good quality print in neon from a normal printer and metallic prints can often be expensive. I love being able to offer these as part of the range.
A lot of my prints have a gradient effect which is made by mixing inks on the screen – this means that no two are exactly the same. I print all of the pieces myself from my home studio (which is in my spare bedroom) and will soon be printing at Leeds Print Workshop too.

What do you think makes Leeds so awesome?

I love being based in Leeds. I moved here over a decade ago to come to university from Hull and never left.
There’s a lot of interesting creative stuff going on in the city and I’m really excited about the Leeds Art Gallery re-opening. The Leeds Print Workshop is a great addition to the city and is in the best location too. There’s a really supportive network of printmakers in Leeds. I’ve got everything crossed for the Leeds 2023 bid as that would be an incredible opportunity for Leeds.

What’s your favourite product available from your business?

My favourite is the bear in black on the blue background – this print inspired my name and logo.
I also really like the pencil cases and cosmetics bags – they are the same on the outside but each one has different fabric inside. My Mum is an incredible craftswoman and we have collaborated to make these – I print the fabric and my Mum creates them into pouches. I love being able to involve my family in what I’m doing so these are the perfect combination!
One of my aims is to make work that’s affordable so my smaller prints start from £5 for A5 and £10 for A4 – the bigger ones at A2+ are £30. You can grab a pencil case for £10 and greetings cards are £3.

Finally, describe your business in 3 words…

This is always the toughest question on the site! I’d say bright, hand-printed and precise.