The art awards scheme for offenders, secure patients and detainees

We’re the UK’s best-known prison arts charity. We’ve been awarding, exhibiting and selling artworks by offenders, detainees and secure patients for over 55 years.

Our awards receive over 7,000 entries a year – inspiring offenders to take part in the arts, work towards positive achievements and transform their lives. Our national exhibition attracts 20,000 visitors – showing the public the talent and potential of offenders and people in secure settings.

We have no endowment or capital – our work depends entirely on donations.

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Handmade Greetings Cards

Award Season’s Greetings

As returning judges who have overseen the Handmade Greetings Cards category for five years running, Ellen Kirkhope and Melissa Taylor have been able to observe changing trends in artistry and style. From original mark-making to using recycled objects for collages, this category allows entrants to be as creative as possible within the confines of a greetings card. Ellen and Melissa’s background in design and creative consultancy gives them a fantastic vantage point, from which they consider the entries for both their artistic and commercial merits.

Has anything in particular stood out for you while judging?

MT: Yes, there’s lots more paint splashes, textual and marbled techniques that were really interesting

EK: And a lot of really great drawing – artistic drawing that’s really suitable for greetings cards. I think that’s been strong this year.

MT: Great characters as well, kids characters, really simple and graphic. Commercial, fun kids’ cards that would be really great for the market.

You’ve judged for over 5 years now, has anything changed in this category over that time? Is there anything that stands out each year as being different?

EK: When we started there were a lot of original paintings and drawings, and that kind of died away and it was a lot more around cutting things up, found pieces and creating a collage. Now it’s come back to the painting and drawing angle again.

MT: Yeah, there’s more mark-making, more hands-on work, and even just keeping things really simple. It could even be some really beautifully done paint splatters in lots of really nice colours, and it’s just really joyful. That’s perfect for a greetings card.

EK: I also think that it’s felt a bit more modern this year.

MT: A bit more streamlined and considered.

Do you have an idea of what is suitable for greetings cards and things that you feel work less well?

 MT:  From my point of view, I’m always looking through it thinking ‘Could I see this on sale’? It’s not all about whether it’s commercially viable. There are lots of different levels of the market, some are more artistic, more commercial, more mainstream and mass-market. I’m thinking a lot of the time about whether you could see it somewhere, and what is the message that’s meant to come across in the card.

EK: We often have to do a lot of feedback around incorporating text. It might be a lovely, beautiful picture, but you often need some kind of sentiment to go along with it. That’s often what we say to entrants, to consider the type as well as the picture.

If you had to give one piece of advice for people entering this category next year, what would it be?

MT: Just be as creative as possible and get your personality across in the card! Maybe have a sketchbook and fill it with ideas, hone it in the sketchbook first and then come to a final product. Think about what you’re designing for, who’s your target customer, why are they sending a card and what do you want that card to convey.

EK: I think that’s the best way to approach doing it. Prior to even starting, think, this card is going to be for children, you could even say female children if you like, what sentiment are you going to include. And that will give you more of a direction to follow. Rather than coming up with a design and then deciding on a sentiment retrospectively.

MT: The greetings cards market is generally moving towards more hand-drawn and illustrative pieces. There has to be the mark of the hand somehow. What can make a card really special is if you can see some element of the artist who’s done it.