In Conversation with British Fine-Art Materials Manufacturer – A J Ludlow Colours
Andrew Ludlow, Founder and Director, with responsibility for Operations discusses the creation, present aims and future challenges for A J Ludlow Colours.
Can you tell us a bit more about your company?
A J Ludlow Ltd is a manufacturer of fine-art materials of unprecedented quality and brilliance. I formed the company because I saw the need to introduce a superior artists’ watercolour that was once again made in Britain.
We have adopted the name A J Ludlow Colours because it is what we do, we make and sell artists’ colours, not paints, but the finest quality artists’ colours.
The ethos of the Company is to follow in the footsteps of traditional Artists’ Colourmen; each batch of watercolour lovely manufactured by a skilled artisan and finished by hand to the highest standards. It is to this end that we strive to shape our brand, offering a hand-crafted top of the range product, steeped in the traditional, but also fresh and new.
Who is your audience?
Our vision is to develop a community of partners, who appreciate the same values as us; exceptional quality, openness and mutually benefiting relationships. Therefore, our audience are artists, professional or beginners, who share our love of creating art, those artists that are selling our watercolours to develop their own brand and fine-art material retailers, who want to grow their business by offering their customers high-quality art materials, manufactured by us in the UK.
How long have you been trading and what is the history of the company?
The company was registered in England and Wales in March 2018 but started trading in February 2019 with the launch of our Professional Watercolours to the trade during the Spring Fair at the NEC, Birmingham.
Although we were not trading in 2018, it was a very busy time for us. Throughout the year we developed our range of 48 single pigmented watercolours and a range of watercolour mediums to compliment them. We also built our corporate website and online shop to sell from whilst we built up a network of independent retail outlets. After the launch in February 2019, we embarked on presenting our products to the trade but soon became aware we had to establish ourselves as a popular, well-known brand with consumers before we could break into a very conservative retail arena. We do have a few independent retailers who sell our products and we are keen to have more, but it was a textbook “chicken and egg” scenario, where we needed to develop a strategy to get ourselves establish, which was why we were targeting independent art material retailers to increase our profile with consumers.
When we debuted at the annual art festival at the Patchings Art Centre near Calverton, Nottingham, we were able to present our products and offer them direct to the amateur and professional artist. From that point, we changed our commercial strategy and began to build a network of artists and actively promoted and sell our products directly to them through our online shop and at art fairs.
Where do you find your inspiration for your products?
Since school I have loved painting and became quite accomplished as an artist, exhibiting regularly and selling work. I also know the chemistry and technology behind the product, being a Chartered Chemist and member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and having worked for many of the world’s leading art material manufacturers in a technical capacity for over 30 years. However, I believe that inspiration at its best comes from the whole of a creative organisation that collectively enjoys what it is doing.
We therefore actively encourage our staff to use and enjoy being creative with our products. For example, Meiru, my fellow director who handles the commercial side of the business, has taken to painting with watercolour like a “duck to water”. She only started painting in March 2019 and now she is producing some very good watercolour paintings. This has given her a deeper understanding and greater insight into our products, which helps us as a company to understand what the needs of our artists are and how to develop new ideas into the products they love.
Do you use social media to promote your business? How has this landscape changed over the years within the art materials industry?
Yes, we do use social media. It has been one of the main channels for getting our story across and is one of the best ways of keeping in contact with our artists, more so during last year (2020) because of the pandemic. It allows us to find out how artists are using our watercolours and seeing some of the amazing paintings that are being produced. To see a piece of work that has been created with our watercolours and learning the artist loves using it is quite uplifting and reminds us why we formed the company in the first place.
As to how has the landscape changed, for us it hasn’t, but our experience and methods have changed over the last two years as we have started to use it and measured what works and what doesn’t.
What news do you have to share with us so we can celebrate your achievements in 2021?
We are passionate about getting the message out there, that our Professional Watercolour Gift Sets are a great British made gift that needs shouting about.
What are you looking to achieve in 2021?
From the first day we decided to produce our high-quality watercolour range, we have learnt something new every day and we expect 2021 to be no different in this respect. By keeping our minds open, listening to our stakeholders’ opinions, we will grow our business organically throughout 2021 and establish our Brand.
We are looking to work with Artists and independent shops to grow their brands under the project name of “Uniquely yours”. This concept is a six colour mixing set of Professional Watercolours by A J Ludlow, with the specialisation option of the colours being selected by Artist or Retailer, presented in a classic metal tin with co-branded sleeve design, which is only available from them.
By building on our engagement with the watercolour community in 2019 and 2020 we are aiming to gain a 10% share of the UK’s premium watercolour market in the next 2 years (2021-22). We see the way to do this is by creating and promoting the enjoyment of art through our channels of communication and by offering quality British made watercolours and accessories through our on-line shop.
In 2021, we not only want to promote and sell British made watercolour paper and palette knives made in Sheffield but also offer other high-quality British made products that compliment our watercolours. Our aim is to develop our on-line shop into a specialist outlet for high-quality fine and global art products.
For more information about A J Ludlow Colours please visit : https://www.ajludlow.co.uk/