We’ve been speaking with Maria, a hand illustrator and owner of URGHH Card Co.
“My name is Maria and I’m half Irish and half Scottish. I’m a greetings card designer based in Leicester. My illustrations embody my love for music, art and film with a dose of wit and artistic flair. I create cards to make people laugh and to nurture that all-important human connection.”
Maria has always had a passion for drawing, making hand drawn cards for her friends and family. Having studied art and design, Maria learned everything from graphic design to textiles, but illustration is ultimately her biggest creative outlet.
Maria is founder and illustrator at URGHH; a pop culture focused greeting cards producer. Everything is designed, printed and shipped from her studio in Leicester.
“Leicester is a very diverse and creative city, and it has positively influenced me since the moment I arrived. I’ve been welcomed in by so many people from different walks of life and I’ll forever have my own little Leicester family whether I stay or move on.”
Leicester has been a fantastic place for Maria to launch URGHH. She moved from Ireland to study footwear design at DMU, so life in Leicester has revolved around design from the get-go.
“URGHH is literally what it sounds like. I was a very indecisive 20 something so I started just making anything and everything! Being furloughed during lockdown gave me the focus I needed to expand my range of greeting cards. Before I knew it, my little bedroom was jam packed with cards and hundreds of envelopes.”
URGHH began as a personal project for Maria, starting with embroidery art. Then came her Etsy shop, where she sold a bit of everything, including an IDLES card that was originally made for a friend.
“It immediately started selling like crazy so I designed more cards and it just took off.”
Maria tends to go for a mix of pencil and paint brushes in Procreate with vibrant colours and clean lines. She loves intricate detail and so usually spends lots of time on portraits.
“If you’re a fan of film, music or books, there will definitely be a card for you!”
“Our ‘Merry and Dwight’ card (inspired by The Office) is a bestseller every Christmas without fail! WandaVision, Taylor Swift and Grogu are consistent bestsellers all year round, so it’s a good mix.”
Maria gets most of her inspiration from strong, well known film and TV characters, but she also has a lot of niche designs from cult movies.
“I’m starting to make cards based on my favourite books now too, but as always I have so many ideas and not enough time, so it’s on my to-do list for next year.”
Maria’s biggest achievement, she says, would have to be seeing her cards in actual shops, not only in the UK but in Europe and the USA as well. Another highlight is that URGHH’s customers have contributed to the planting of over 1,000 trees in 2022, just by buying cards!
“Sustainability has been really important to me from the beginning, so every card is printed locally on FSC certified stock and includes a recycled envelope and a compostable sleeve.”
Maria has found the greeting card industry to be incredibly friendly and supportive. This year, she attended the GCA’s annual greeting card conference in Nottingham, meeting other professionals who’ve been in the business for years.
“There’s a big sense of community because we all want the same thing; to keep the art of sending cards alive.“
“The first market I took part in was Realms of Rummage in 2017, and since then I’ve met and become part of a wonderful community of artists and makers. There’s a great buzz at places like LCB Depot, Makers Yard and Leicester Print Workshop. Everyone’s really supportive of each other and up for collaborations, exhibitions and networking events.”
“A few of my favourite local businesses include Karma Corner, Faulty Stone and Harriman & Co.“
In terms of the future, Maria’s goals are to branch out and make beautiful paper products such as niche party supplies and quirky bunting. She’d also love to start holding workshops for people who want to learn how to illustrate and make their own products.
“It would be amazing to empower people to start their own businesses. The more URGHH grows, the more I want to give back.”
“The best part of owning a local, independent business, for me, is the freedom. I love being my own boss and making the decisions, it can definitely be daunting sometimes and you really have to put in the work but it’s rewarding. I really appreciate when people come to me for a card before heading to the big chains, it’s a gesture that sticks with me every time.”