Words by Rosie Cattrell
Taking time to recognise joy in the simple everyday and find balance in the basics that many of us have left behind.
In the chaos that comes with work, family and day-to-day life, there are always things to be remembered, tasks to be completed, time to be managed, appointments to be made. For many of us, we find order in organisation, and the modern world has been accompanied by advances in technology that mean we can carry a constant companion to remind us of our schedule with notifications and alarms, a place to keep the week’s shopping list and the mental note of the friend’s birthday that you forgot last year. However, as the pace of life picks up and the world seems to turn a little faster every day, it’s the small moments of quiet indulgence that can put it all back into perspective.
There is something about the physical act of pressing pen to paper that brings with it a feeling of calm nostalgia as I carefully fill my fresh 2022 calendar with birthdays, appointments and celebrations for the year ahead. As someone who has always been drawn to a beautiful calendar to hang on a wall and admire, and prefers a paper shopping list scrawled with the items missing from my kitchen cupboards to carry around the supermarket with me, Once Upon a Tuesday offers a welcome refreshment to the noise of the 21st century.
Dutch, and born and raised on the small island of Sint Maarten in the Caribbean, Michele Ferron found a whole new world on the coast of Cornwall just as she welcomed her first daughter into the world over 11 years ago: “I remember the first time I came to Cornwall; it was summer, and I couldn’t believe how cold it was. Coming from a Caribbean island, I didn’t understand what the fuss was about, why so many British people were saying how amazing Cornwall was. Fast forward to now, and I absolutely love it here. I love the nature, the beauty, the people. It really feels like home. I love the ocean. It’s so different to the ocean I grew up with, but after walking alongside it for 20 minutes or so, all of a sudden my brain shifts into a different mode from busy, hectic life; it’s all gone and you get that feeling of freedom that seems to disappear when we’re not paying attention. I think people who move to Cornwall move here for a lifestyle choice, and that really shines through with the way people go about their lives here.”
Welcoming a new pace and a more mindful way of life that is often found on Cornish shores, Michele’s search for beauty and function planted the seed of an idea for her next business venture, as she so kindly explains: “I’ve started quite a few businesses over the years, mainly in the field of marketing, and they’ve always come with lots of planning and thinking about how we were going to do it. Once Upon a Tuesday came without any sort of plan. In Holland, they have these things called birthday calendars, which you keep year after year. Traditionally, they are hung up in the bathroom, so in every house in Holland there is a birthday calendar hanging in the loo, and you just keep adding birthdays to it as you make new acquaintances and welcome new family members. Anyway, I was looking for one when I was in Holland and I just couldn’t find one that I liked, and this was mid-pandemic lockdown. At the time I was just getting my head around Adobe, so I thought, I’ll design one and just print a couple. So that’s what I did.”
After spotting a gap in the market and deciding to fill it with the sort of design and functionality she’d been looking for, Michele realised that she hadn’t been the only one looking for fresh, practical designs that not only made for beautiful additions to a home interior, but were also genuinely useful on a day-to-day basis. “I designed and printed ten birthday calendars, and then I popped them online and I sold seven the next day, which was a bit of a surprise. I thought, okay, I’ll do some more, and it really took off from there! I think it was a time where everything was happening online. We were all spending all day at home behind a screen, and platforms like Etsy really blew up during that lockdown, I was sort of just there at the right time for the ride.
“I never saw myself as a creative. I always thought of myself as more of a serious ‘business person’. My father had grown this incredible business and I always thought I would follow in his footsteps, so I did a degree in Commercial Economics. My creative side was always something that helped with that, but I never gave myself permission to be a creative, I never thought that was something that I had access to or thought was the right path for me. However, the other day my mum pulled out a whole bunch of calendars that I made as a child, which is just really funny. Every year I would make people calendars and cut out pictures and make drawings and things like that. I’ve always had that creativity and I feel like now it’s all come together, the love for creativity and business. It’s incredibly exciting.”
From wall organisers and birthday calendars to brighten up your home, to 2022 calendars and even 12-month co-parenting family planners for kids with two homes who like to know what the plan is, Once Upon a Tuesday has thought of it all. As a mother of three to Jules, Flora, and now seven-month-old Otis, Michele actually began her most recent venture while pregnant, and is an expert on the most useful tools for her family’s time management. “I really love the idea of practical stationery, things that you actually use and that are helpful to productivity,” she goes on to explain. “I design everything in a way that I would use it myself by going through the process of actually using the product. Colours are really important to me and designs often come to me in the moment. I like to start with a palette and combine unexpected colours to get an aesthetic that I enjoy. In my designs there’s a lot of tropical inspiration, a lot of nature. I like to think of it as fresh and modern with a slightly bohemian feel. I know most artists have a style that they apply to all the items that they design, but I love the depth and variety that comes with specialising in calendars and planners, and I like to think that everyone can find something they like in my collection, across ages, cities and genders.”
One of the most charming and unusual aspects of Michele’s wonderful business is the very name itself, and I couldn’t help but ask after its origin, on which she happily elaborates: “Actually, we were talking about storytelling at home, both my girls love reading and writing stories. We were wondering why stories start with ‘once upon a time’, and Flora said, ‘Well, why don’t they start with once upon a Tuesday?’ She’s got this incredible creative mind, and it’s because of her that the name came about. After all, calendars are all about dates, so why not a Tuesday?” With family at the heart of this enchanting business, it’s no wonder that Michele’s products seem to fit so well into the lives of her customers who have sought out her designs from around the UK, and even internationally.
While no one seems to have escaped the immense challenges that the pandemic imposed around the globe, for Michele it came with a silver lining that gave her the most vital component of all for her new-found venture. Time. “As hard a time as this has been, it’s also a time that gave me permission to finally be creative and to focus on this business. We’re quite social people and usually have quite a lot going on, but we found ourselves home every day to pack orders and take them to the post office, and that kind of consistent and reliable approach really helped us. No commute, no social life, just the children and the business. I lost most of my clients in the job I was doing back then, so I had nothing but time to focus on this. My partner Angus has recently joined the team officially, but he really has been instrumental to the business so far.”
Printing on recycled paper, using recycled packaging, sourcing supplies from small, local businesses, and with the printers just down the road, Michele is mindful about her practises as part of a strong Cornish community, and our strange little patch of paradise seems to have impressed its mark on company operations: “Cornwall has been a huge inspiration for me over the years. I love that there are so many small brands that are actually very successful in Cornwall, and that they do it differently. It’s not just about the money. We don’t need to own lots of things, there’s only so much that I need in my life. I want to create products that can be of some good to the people who use them at the same time as supporting the community around me.
“Once Upon a Tuesday started on a quest to take a step back, rely less on technology, take control of our day to day, honour our friendships and celebrate more! We need to find ways to escape the everyday rat race that we all get caught up in, and find moments we can treasure with the people around us. The first step? Make a date, uncover a birthday, and write it down in a beautiful calendar that you simply won’t be able to overlook.”