More about Two Bad Mice

Two Bad Mice Publishers Ltd was started in 1986 by Julian Williams and his Japanese wife Mami. At the time Julian was making a living selling his etchings in Covent Garden Market.

It was a good time to start a card company because the market was expanding and the public had become bored of the ranges produced by the very large card companies that in those days monopolised the market. The modern gift shops that bloomed in the high streets loved Two Bad Mice cards for their originality, they were small, very high quality and had coloured envelopes with address labels. The artwork we used was always carefully chosen and quirky. During these first years we were exclusively a card company, and although very small we had influence far beyond our size.

In spite of our success we kept the company small and focused on our niche market, refusing to be drawn into supplying the big names like WH Smiths or Boots. In the 1990s we started publishing for Anita Jeram and we had another lucky period, this was a time when Anita’s illustrations for “Guess How Much I Love You” took the children’s book market by storm. Our cards reflected another side of her talent, and her very funny beautiful artwork, aimed at a more adult audience were loved by everyone.

But we could see the clouds were gathering: the high street gift shops were being squeezed out of the market by the super-malls and superstores who took customers away from the high street. The card business was overcrowded and the internet and higher postal charges were beginning to take their toll.

The big chains were also feeling the squeeze, their methods of staffing their chains were becoming mechanised and without a personal touch. They no longer would deal with small companies like Two Bad Mice directly, and insisted we work with their computer models through inefficient and expensive middle men they called “merchandisers”. We found we could not work with their remote control systems, and gave up supplying Ottakers, Waterstones and John Lewis (our biggest customer for 23 years).

In 2004-6 we started to develop our first ceramics. The first ranges were aimed at the very high end, and were too expensive for most of our outlets to stock. This high end range is now only stocked in Fortnum and Masons.

About two years ago we started a range of more modestly priced bone china mugs. The classy but light packaging, attention to detail and the thinness of the china have made our ceramics stand out from the work of other companies. Revolutionary approaches always take a while to catch on, but we are already seeing the signs of another boom period for Two Bad Mice. Our mug sales are now 30% of our business and growing rapidly.