After studying illustration at university and drawing live caricatures under the London Eye, Michael Kyeyune began drawing couples and guests live at weddings. From this, Standout Stationery was born - a bespoke wedding stationery service providing everything from caricature place cards to seating plans and wedding favours.
Passionate about creating personalised wedding stationery that is way more than just a disposable item, we asked him 11 questions about his business, his inspirations and what a day in his life looks like...
1. How Did You Get Started in the Wedding Industry?
I studied illustration at university and when I finished, there wasn't a ready-made job to walk into so I did a lot of small jobs/commissions here and there while building my portfolio. One of the jobs was to draw live caricatures under the London Eye for over a year. Before this, I had never really drawn live for a paying customer. It was very difficult drawing with time pressure at first but it got better as I became more and more confident drawing live.
One fateful day in 2014, I was sitting there scrolling away on Facebook when I saw a post by an artist I follow asking if someone was available to draw live at an event. I sent the artist some photos of a few live drawings I had done at the London Eye and she was happy enough so I got my first booking. It turning out to be a masquerade ball and it went terribly because I was so nervous and drawing elaborate masks wasn't something I had prepared for. But doing this event opened my eyes to a whole new industry that I was previously unaware of.
To cut a very long story short, I started drawing live at weddings and then one day I was asked to draw guests from photos before the day so the couple could give the caricatures to guests as wedding favours. That commission was the seed for what now is Standout Stationery.
2. What Does Your Typical Working Day Involve?
I like to wake up very early because my best work happens before I eat. So, from 5.30am to 9am I will do as much drawing as possible. I will then eat something as a little reward for being productive. Then, I will start admin from around 9.30am to 11am. I will eat something and procrastinate for a little bit before getting back to drawing from 12 until around six - sometimes later.
3. What Is It That You Love About Working in Weddings?
The faces people make when they see the artwork. There's one email I love as much, maybe even more, than a new enquiry. That's the email the couple sends me after the wedding with photos or videos of the guests holding their place card caricature with a big smile on their face. As soon as I see the notification I drop whatever it is I'm doing to read the email.
The excitement the couples I work with have when they see the first completed drawing is like an energy boost.
4. What Do You Find Most Challenging in Your Work?
Productivity guilt is a big challenge. No matter how many hours I work, how early I wake up or how late I go to sleep, there is always that feeling that I could have done more which sometimes just creates unnecessary stress.
In peak summer months this can become a real issue because there's more work to do so there are more unfinished things to stress about. But I am making an effort to plan my days better and I'm finding that writing down a checklist of things to complete not only makes me feel better, but makes me even more productive.
5. What Did the Coronavirus Pandemic Teach You about Your Business?
It highlighted the importance of being proactive. Almost all my bookings were postponed and I suddenly had what seemed like all the time in the world to figure out what to do. Luckily, I was still able to get a few gift commissions from previous and new customers. I even managed to get booked to draw people at some virtual events.
I spent the rest of my time rebuilding the website and polishing up on a few things behind the scenes to ensure that the business was ready to reopen when restrictions were lifted. This ranged from writing up a comprehensive 'terms of service' to requesting reviews from previous clients.
6. What's Your Advice for Someone Who Wants to Work in Your Field in the Wedding Industry?
Keep your eyes open for opportunities to do things differently or better. When I first started drawing at weddings, I really had no idea what I was doing or where I was heading. Along the way I was lucky to come across people that inspired me to create a new service which transformed my business. Standout Stationery started off with caricature wedding favours as the only service and then I thought, what if I drew the guests on the seating plan as well, could that work?
Present who you are and what you do. My website didn't have an 'about us' page or photos of me working until 2020. I thought all that mattered was the work and decided to keep that as the sole focus of all content on the online platforms Standout Stationery is featured on.
I've only recently learnt that some people invest in the person as much as they do in the service they provide. You have to remember that weddings are intimate events that not everyone is invited to and this applies to suppliers as well.
7. Which Wedding Professionals Inspire You?
I love the work of Lucy McLoughlin, also known as the 'Live Event Artist'. She makes beautiful watercolour and gouache paintings live at weddings and other events. I'm constantly scrolling through her page to see the latest update because each drawing looks like a real masterpiece. It's not just the way she does the drawing but the care she takes in the way the pieces are presented to the guests and couples.
I have also been lucky to have my stationery photographed by some very talented photographers like Camilla J. Hards. Her photos are almost poetic and she captures that sense of closeness and celebration. Hamish Irvine is another photographer with a lovely signature style - the colours in his photos are always warm and vibrant. His Instagram page looks like a slow burning warm fire.
8. Which Current Wedding Trend Do You Want to See More of?
More and more people are embracing light-hearted entertainment and games at their weddings. I also love the fact that wedding cakes are taking different forms. I've seen blocks of cheese, stacks of doughnuts and other tasty treats.
9. What’s Your Favourite Wedding from a Film or TV Programme?
Coming To America (the first one).
10. What’s the One Wedding Tradition You Would Ditch and Why?
The first dance because I don't really understand who it's for but it seems to be a major part of weddings.
11. What’s Your Next Ambition for Your Business?
My goals for 2022 are to plan my days more, and budget better. In the longer term, I would love to do more collaborations with other artists and designers.
Learn more about Michael and his team's work and check out his amazing designs on Instagram @standoutstationery.
For even more stationery inspiration, scroll our directory of wedding stationery suppliers.