Ribblesdale Cheese is a small independent artisan cheesemaker in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, specialising in goats cheese. Iona Hill, whose uncle started the business with his own flock of goats in 1978 is now based in Hawes, Wensleydale, although the goats and sheep milk she uses still come over from Lancashire.
In an age where words like “artisan” and “handmade” are used freely, every stage of the production process is actually done by hand, by a three person team. 90% of what is produced is hard and soft goats cheese and a superb fresh goats curd but they also produce a small amount of sheep’s cheese and Wensleydale cow’s cheese.
Iona contacted me about producing images to go on card packs for pre-cut wedges of six hard cheeses and her goats curd.
Designer Keith Finnegan, a Manchester native working out of Phoenix, Arizona (!) had already worked up options for windowed packs and with Iona had decided to go for a design where the image of the cheese would “cut the corner” off the window, through which the real cheese would be visible. The window cut was to be the same for each pack to simplify production. Getting six different cheese wedges cut and positioned so the top edge was dead straight and exactly the same angle on every image would not be easy…
I suggested putting the cheese on a rectangular slate, which was much easier to position exactly the same in every shot. And as the images would actually be printed quite small, taking up only part of the pack, they needed to be strong and simple graphic compositions that helped the products be differentiated – so a simple easily recognisable accompaniment with each cheese. Keith also wanted a slightly rustic dark wood background to fade into the black background of the pack. We agreed to shoot on a piece of antique pine I already had over which Keith could lay a darker brown over.
On a wintry November morning, Iona turned up with a huge pile of whole cheeses and goats cheese logs, as she also wanted a single image showing her entire range. And between us we had a wide selection of cheese accompaniment and premium biscuits and crackers.
We shot a “positional”, overlaying the shot onto the chosen artwork and sent it to Keith. Unfortunately Phoenix wakes up 8 hours after Yorkshire (and probably with no prospect of snow) so we weren’t really going to get a response before styling, lighting and shooting the real shots. So we cracked on, sustained only by tea, coffee and numerous tastings of delicious cheese that Iona insisted on. At some point during the morning there was a moment of revelation when Catherine and I tasted Iona’s Ribblesdale Goats Curd, with honey for the first (but not the last) time.
We got the individual shots and then spent the last part of the day arranging and shooting the group shot of the entire range.
After a small amount of retouching, layered images were sent to Keith who liked the images. I looked forward to seeing the final artwork and packs.
But sometimes things change…
It turns out there was a lot of discussion between Keith and Iona and the producer of the card packs which resulted in window-less packs with the images flipped and used larger than they would have been with a window.
The Goats Curd needed a different pack design being a soft loose curd.