It’s been a super busy couple of months in the studio since returning from Costa Rica in April. I have of course made a little map of our trip… cos any excuse for a map illustration.
We’ve had two trade shows, PG Live and more recently Harrogate, Home and Gift, we’ve launched our Jungle Tumble range which has been really well received and debuted our new Kaleidoscope Christmas collection, we’ve done our first litho print run of 32000 cards in German, and two more runs since then, we’ve been to visit multiple warehouses and have confirmed our contract with our biggest customer so far, John Lewis! I even got a generous little mention from the fab JL buyers in PG Magazine, where they referred to me as a ‘rising superstar’… which is a first… probably a last!
In amongst the madness I’ve also moved out of my parents house (about time), moved studios, and got a kitten called HUMPHREY!! Well ok my parents have got a kitten but I was still living at home at the time and he is SO COOL. If you’ve ever watched How to Train your Dragon (if you haven’t you should) Humph is the cat version of Toothless! And there will be an additional two kittens in my life next Sunday so eyes peeled for that!!
There are a few very exciting collaborations and projects in the pipeline that I think are secret, but we’re beavering away behind the scenes to make them happen! My new TRADE WEBSITE in due to launch in the next couple of weeks so I’ll be shouting about that nearer the time. I hope it will make wholesale ordering much easier for my lovely customers, with lots of pretty pictures and additional info about best sellers and such.
Next up we’ve got TOP DRAWER in London in September where we’ll be launching a new and totally different range that I’m working on at the moment. Hope everyone is having tonnes of fun and making the most of all the sunshine!
I’ve been home for just over a week and I’ve been meaning to pop a blog post up about our amazing trip travelling through Costa Rica. I’ve never been to Central America before and in my head, before I went, it was just a rainbow animal paradise with jaguars round every corner and multi-coloured birds in every tree. Actually there is only one jaguar in every 400hecters of land these days and the birds are slightly better camouflaged than I’d hoped, but we got super good at spotting the wildlife and the macaws and toucans were as rainbow as they come! What I’d not really spared much thought for though was the human culture. We can learn a lot from Costa Rica in terms of its sense of community, it’s dedication to conservation and its commitment to eco-tourism. The people are so warm and so proud of their roots. It’s really special.
We flew into San Jose and had a single night in a Rainbow Lodge in Alajuela and then took a local flight up to the Gulf of Papagayo for three days on the beach where we saw our first family of howler monkeys and as many furious-faced Ctenosaur lizards as Mike could chase around taking 904 terrible photos of that we won’t ever look at again.
We then took another tiny 12-seater plane down to the Osa Peninsula near Corcovado National Park. This was the animal paradise I’d imagined – it is absolutely buzzing with life. Osa is home to 3% of the entire world’s biodiversity whilst only covering 000.1% of the world’s surface area!! Before we’d arrived at the lodge we had seen toucans, scarlet macaws and spider monkeys – three of my favourites! We went on to see all 4 types of monkos, an armadillo, a snake, a tarantula, cazillions of birds, basalisks, agoutis, coatis, tree frogs, screech owls, bats and a great big crocodile.
We stayed at this secluded eco lodge called El Remanso. Run by a lovely couple, with a maximum of 30 guests, it was their passion project. Our little room was suspended 30m above the forest floor, in amongst the trees at monkey level. I have never ever seen a starry night like it. Or a thunder storm. A 20 minute hike took us down to miles of deserted beach like something out of Jurassic Park. It’s probably one of the last places on the planet that looks the same as it did a million years ago.
We spent our last week traveling between Arenal Volcano where we saw our first sloth, Pacuare Lodge in the Limon Province on the Caribbean side, where I spent my birthday and we survived out first earthquake and a white water-rafting trip and lastly back to San Jose where we had the best coffee of the trip in a little hipster coffee shop where Mike blended in well.
Since arriving home I’ve been frantically adding to my Jungle Tumble range that I’ll be launching at PG in June. It’s full of monkeys and toucans and sloths and anteaters and macaws. It’s my most favourite collection yet.
So I thought I’d make a little blog post about my process, as the most common questions I get asked are where do I get my inspiration from and how long does it take me to make a design? Inspiration for me comes mostly from the people around me and I impose their personalities onto animal counterparts or use their favourite animals as a starting point.
These little guys didn’t take too long but for my card designs, from start to finish it’s probably hours… although the actual ‘colouring in’ is only a small part of that. I find the ideas-part quite chaotic… All sorts of images, animals and (card) occasions are flying round my brainbox so I make tonnes of ideas-lists, Pintrest boards and have pages of thumbnail sketches… but then when it comes to channelling this jumble of ideas into individual designs and actually putting something on paper, every single last one heads off to Spain for a little holiday and I feel like there isn’t a single thing in the world to draw. When this happens I take myself off to a coffee shop with a bunch of scrap paper. I don’t have to be at all precious about these doodles and it’s a relief to start pairing up an image with an occasion or a phrase and have a few hard-copy first drafts.
As you can see below, some of these drawings can look remarkably, spectacularly awful – especially the characterisation… and quantity of limbs!! But it’s the refining phase that comes next and it isn’t unusual for me to have a half finished body and a floating head on separate pieces of paper that I trace over to make the final composition!
I did this piece initially for my monkey-obsessed boyfriend. Fortunately I learnt that orangutangs don’t have tails before I painted them on!! The painting part is really special to me – it’s like meeting a new friend! One minute they don’t exist and 15 minutes later they’re alive. I’m in a bit of trance for this part – I work quickly, energetically and quite messily. I rarely intend to use the ‘original’ for anything as I always scan them in and edit using Photoshop, but this one I was doing as an original and as you can see in the first of the 3 images, I fluffed it up in 5 seconds flat with a big ink blob centre stage!! Fortunately, I managed to camouflage it when it dried! Although the splattery effect is genuine in my card designs, I must admit to a bit of shuffling around of blobs so that they are conveniently spaced!
If I’m incorporating additional elements to a design I will do everything separately – the typography, the animals and the background elements. Again for this one I had to do everything in it’s correct place first time so I kept stopping and coming back to it if I got anxious. The image below is the final original that I framed and gave to Mike, but I also scanned it in and will use it, with a slightly different sentiment, as part of a new range I’m working on at the moment. I much prefer the final card design which is edited and composed in a four hundred-layer Photoshop file. I think the colouring in on this one took me about an hour and a half in total, but the whole process from start to finish, including the amended card design probably took me about 2-3 days.
So there ya have it! A long and waffling tale of how I create my little world of friends.