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me&thee - Meet local illustrator Maria Brannen

Maria Brannen aka ‘me&thee’ is the creative entrepreneur behind this month’s front cover.

We’ve been following me&thee on Instagram and love her products adorned with our very own Derbyshire/South Yorkshire dialect; us Chesterfield lot are a mix of both!

Maria grew up in Chesterfield until she left on an adventure to Liverpool University to study languages. Her degree enabled her to travel, spending a year studying in Aix-en-Provence, where she grew to love the French life so much that she decided to stay, working as a seasonaire in the Alps, where she met her husband, Craig. After spending two seasons in the Alps, it was time to come back to the UK, and they settled in Edinburgh and began a career copy writing for corporate affairs departments at several different companies.

Just over 10 years ago Maria returned to Chesterfield as a wife and mother to two beautiful children and a crazy dog!

When did you set up me&thee?

"I created me&thee out of a love for our rich and often funny local dialect. In all honesty it was a creative outlet while I was on maternity leave with my youngest. That was six years ago! I didn’t do anything with my initial four designs until October last year when I created an Instagram account for me&thee and selling products on Etsy.

“The idea came from my time spent away from Chesterfield. New friends would always try to guess where my accent was from, and although they’d rarely guess correctly, they had a lot of fun trying to ‘do’ the accent."

How many different designs and dialects are on your products?

"I have 13 designs in total including ‘dead chuffed’ and ‘be reyt’. The initial four were ‘ey up duck’, ‘mardy bum’, ‘gaffer’, and ‘bobby dazzler’.

"My designs are a light-hearted take on the way we speak, explained in a dictionary definition style for those who perhaps aren't as familiar with the words and phrases. My main aim is to make people smile, and create cards and gifts that do just that. All my products have a different, local saying on. They provide a sense of belonging, of 'this is us, and who we are'. And hopefully spark nostalgia as we remember some of the funny sayings our parents and grandparents used."

What do you like about the North Derbyshire/ South Yorkshire dialect?

"There’s a down to earth friendliness about our accent and dialect. In my Instagram feed, I talk about what these phrases and sayings mean to me, and it’s mostly rooted in family experiences growing up.

Which local independents sell your products?

"It has only been a year in October since I started actively working on me&thee, and I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to work with some brilliant independents. In the past few months I’ve started to sell my products in city centre shops in Leeds and Nottingham. The two local shops that have supported me since the beginning are Shop Indie in Chesterfield and Abode in Dronfield. I prefer to sell exclusively in to one shop per area, so that my products are unique to them. It also allows me to build a relationship with them and keep on top of stock demand."

What do you love the most about Chesterfield?

"It has to be our proximity to the Peak District. It’s like a big adventure playground, perfect for family fun exploring new places. It’s such a beautiful part of the country and we (the family) love being outdoors."

So, what are your plans for the future of me&thee?

"My immediate focus is Christmas. I’m excited to be taking part in a retail pop-up at the Sheffield branch of John Lewis. It’s being run by a company called Curated Makers, who bring together local artists/makers and stock their products for sale within a high street store. This event runs from 2nd November all the way through till Christmas, so it’s a brilliant exposure opportunity for small independents like mine.

"Then in January I’ll be able to take a proper look at my business strategy and where I’d like to take me&thee in our second year."

To celebrate me&thee's first birthday (15th October), Maria is offering 15% off to all of our readers.

Visit her ETSY store online: MEandTHEEdesign

and use code: BIRTHDAY15

Instagram: @me_and_thee_uk

There must be someone you know who deserves one of Maria's fabulous products? Go on put a smile the face of the recipient!

Words: Simon Paterson

Illustration: Maria Brannen, me&thee


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