Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Taking a little break

You may have noticed I've been a bit quiet on here this week, that's because I'm taking a little break away from it all. My boyfriend's parents have a beautiful Georgian cottage in a remote little village in the North York Moors which we have borrowed for the week. We are spending our time relaxing by the wood burner, catching up on movies and checking out the local Christmas Markets (Castle Howard's was cancelled due to bad weather much to my disappointment). After a bitterly cold walk around Whitby today though I don't feel too guilty for hiding away in doors....

See you all next week x

Monday, 19 November 2012

An Evening with Holly Becker

Well I'm a little late in the day with this post but better late than never hey? I'm sure you have all heard by now that Holly Becker launched her new book 'Decorate Workshop' a couple of weeks ago.  The launch was hosted by Anthropologie on Regents Street (London) and I my friend Trinske (from Nordic Rose) and I were lucky enough to attend. Holly invited her BYW students to join her for a tea party (or rather a fizz and cake party) before the event. It was a great opportunity to finally meet Holly and other bloggers who I've grown to know so well 'virtually' over the last year. You can't beat meeting someone in person and they are all so friendly. I have to admit meeting Holly I felt a little bit star struck...well she is a star isn't she?!

It was such a fun and inspiring evening. Who'd have thought a bunch of bloggers could make so much noise! After the initial chit chats and plenty of cake (and boy were those cake slices big!) we sat down to an evening being entertained by Holly and her special guests Will Taylor from Bright Bazaar who interviewed Holly about her book and also American stylist James Leyland Day who spoke about his tips on styling your home. We learnt how Holly took a very personal approach to the book and used her friendly and down-to-earth teaching skills which she does so very well to get her readers to get to know themselves and style from the heart. 

Holly ended the night by signing copies of her wonderful book for us all. It really is lovely. The french fold jacket opens up into a fantastic poster of all Holly's favourite things which, as you can see below is now in pride of place above my desk.

I will do a full review on the book a bit later, I can't wait until I have half an hour to sit down and read it properly. In the meantime you can view an exclusive extract of the book here.

I also wanted to say it was a real honour to meet theses lovely ladies, Tiffany from The Curiosity Project, Anna from Betty and Frank, Charlotte from Anknel and Burblets, Yvonne from The Yvestown Blog, Kirsty from Me Plus Molly, Louise from 30's Magazine, Sinead from Crafty Fox Market, Gabs from Ink Paint Paper and Caroline from Trend Daily. There were lot so of others too but I'd be here all day if I listed them all. I hope to meet everyone again very soon. I am amazed how friendly and welcoming the blogging network is and really glad to be a part of it. 

All in all a fabulous evening. Thank you Holly for inviting me and also all your inspiration and for teaching me just about everything I needed to know to get to where I am now with my blog! I will cherish your book and hopefully one day soon I will have a new home which will need some Holly TLC. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Bookmarked Blog : The Fresh Exchange

One of my favourite blogs lately is The Fresh Exchange written by Megan of Hitch Design Studio. If asked which bloggers I aspire to be like, Megan would most definitely be one of them. Not only does she seem like a really loveable girl I'd like to meet (and a big dog lover too!) but she is an extremely talented graphic designer with a unique and elegant style which is portrayed throughout her blog. 

She says in her bio how she 'believes in simplicity' and it's this simplicity I love about her blog. It is a prime example of how very simple use of graphics can really inject personality onto your posts. Her photography is so dreamy and she brings each image to life with a little piece of handwritten typography . The power of a few little words! How beautiful is her hand lettering?

The blog shares her inspirations as a designer, stylist and blogger, she advises and gives tips to other bloggers while sharing her own thoughts and ideas. Her latest posts have been following her travels and documenting her recent trip to Europe. How fun are these images? (You can see an image from each day of her trip here.)

All her posts are completely original and unique to her, she features in most of them herself and even using her own handwriting in a lot of them. Her whimsical style collages are so cute and I love her weekend suggestions simply overlaid on a great photograph. 

If that wasn't enough to engage you, she also makes the cutest little videos of snippets of her life with her family and friends. She certainly seems to have the perfect life!

What really amazes me is how Megan finds time to create such a beautiful blog and do all the things she does. She also runs Hitch Design Studio, check out some of her fab design work,  and she is the co-founder of the wonderful Blog Brunch an online collaboration by bloggers for bloggers which holds a monthly chat and question time on Twitter. 

So, hurry over and check out The Fresh Exchange, I'm sure you will love it as much as me and it will give you heaps of inspiration. 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Mischief Meets : Snowdon Design & Craft

I was recently working on a new branding job for a client when she sent me an image she loved and asked me if I could add it to our mood board. The print was of cute little sausage dog on a tote bag saying 'Bow Wow'. I could see why she loved it so much. When I did some research into the background behind the image I discovered it was they work of Alexandra Snowdon. I'd seen a lot of her pieces before but I hadn't realised she lived so close to me or what an interesting background she has, also that she loves so many of the same things I do. 

Alex designs, illustrates and produces her own eco-friendly cards, bags and prints. She is inspired by folk art and has travelled all over the world to find her inspiration. I hope you enjoy learning about her and her work in this interview. 

Who are you? What is the essence of your business? What do you do?
I'm Alex Snowdon and I run Snowdon Design & Craft from a tiny room in my home in Cheshire. I design and sell my own hand screen printed cards, bags and prints online and in retail outlets around the UK and beyond! I also do freelance illustration and hand lettering work. 

• What is your background? Have you always been creative? How & why did you start doing what you do?
I have always loved to draw and make things. My grandpa was a big inspiration to me when I was growing up, he was a commercial artist and did a lot of hand lettering commissions, I spent hours sitting in his shed watching him work, it was fascinating. 

It seemed a natural progression for me to go to art college after school and I've spent most of my career working as a graphic designer. I've always loved illustration and hand lettering though, so 6 years ago I decided to go back to uni and do a part time degree specialising in illustration. It changed my life, I realised that was where my strengths lay and that I was a much better illustrator than a graphic designer!

I started designing and hand printing my own things in my spare time and selling them on Etsy, and in the next couple of years things just went from strength to strength. Earlier this year I decided that I couldn't carry on being a full time graphic designer and running my own business at the same time, so I left my job to run Snowdon Design & Craft full time and to be honest, I've never been happier!

• Where do you work? Describe your studio
I've converted the tiny box room in our house into my studio. It's amazing how much equipment I've managed to squeeze in there. My husband Charlie is a graphic designer and works upstairs in the loft. It's great to have someone to bounce ideas off and who will give you a honest opinion on things, although I have to say that sometimes his opinions are a little TOO honest!

• What is a typical day for you?
Because Charlie and I both work from home it's usually a very relaxed start to the day. Before I became self employed it was a mad rush to get out the door in the morning and catch the train to the office. I now spend the time I would have spent commuting checking my emails, and seeing what's new on Pinterest and my favourite blogs, I always start the day feeling inspired!

My main priority in the morning is printing and packing up orders. I usually get more in as the day goes on but at least it means I'm on top of things if I get most of it done first thing.

I try to get to the gym at lunchtime a few times a week, even though it's often hard to tear myself away from work I always feel so much better afterwards and it gives me a bit of valuable 'head space.' It's surprising how solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems can suddenly pop into your head while you're slogging away on the treadmill!

I usually work till about 6pm then break for tea. I'll often be back on the laptop in the evenings though doing research, ordering supplies and catching up on my favourite blogs.

• What do you find most satisfying about the work you do? What are your biggest challenges as a creative?
I think the most satisfying thing is knowing that I'm doing the thing that I'm best at, and the more I do it, the better I seem to get at it! It's wonderful to be doing this every day, it doesn't feel like 'work' most of the time (apart from when I have to do the paperwork...).

There are also plenty of challenges too of course…I have lots of ideas about what to do next and how to develop the business, but I have real trouble deciding which of those ideas to prioritise. Since I started doing this full time I'm a bit like a kid in a sweetshop, it's amazing to have the freedom to do my own work and develop my own ideas but sometimes I have so many I don't know where to start!

I'm also really not very good at marketing myself, which I think is a common problem among creatives. I just don't like to push myself and my work onto other people! I've done the 'Top Drawer' trade show in London a couple of times and the first time was a real trauma! I found it completely toe curling to be talking about my work and telling people why they should buy my products, so when I was preparing for the next show I read 'Life's a Pitch' by Stephen Bayley and Roger Mavity. It gave me a bit of extra confidence, and that seemed to make all the difference.

• How do you get out of a creative rut?
The one thing that never fails to get me out of a creative rut is going somewhere new. I absolutely love to travel and always come back from a trip feeling creative! 

When we were in our mid thirties Charlie and I took a year out to travel the world. I know people say you 'find yourself' while travelling, well I really did. Before we left the UK I was completely jaded with my job as a graphic designer and was seriously thinking of leaving the creative industry all together. While we were away though, we were exposed to so many incredible sights and experiences that it totally rekindled my creative 'flame.' It wasn't long after we returned that I decided to pursue illustration and signed up for my part time degree, the rest is history!

It's not always possible to physically leave the country of course when you're in need of some inspiration! So when I need a source closer to home I head into Manchester where I visit my favourite creative bookstore Magma and flick through their books and magazines, wander round the art gallery and then mull things over while people watching from the window of a coffee shop, that usually does the trick. I think basically just taking yourself out of your everyday surroundings is great for stimulating new ideas.

• Which 3 things couldn't you live without?
It may sound silly but one of the things I couldn't live without is my propelling pencil! Whenever I think I might have lost it I come out in a cold sweat. It was given to me on the first day of my very first job as a graphic designer over 20 years ago. Apple Macs hadn't become the mainstream design tool at that time so everything was still done by hand, it seems almost prehistoric now. Anyway, I love that pencil, it went with me to all my subsequent design jobs even though I used it less as time went by. I use it every day now of course because I'm drawing again, I feel so comfortable with it that it's almost become like a sixth finger!

I also seriously couldn't live without the internet, working from home I feel like it's my portal into the outside world. It still amazes me that so much information and inspiration is readily available right at my finger tips.

The third is my husband Charlie, people always ask if we get under each others feet living and working together under the same roof, but seriously we have a great time, he's my best friend and unfailingly upbeat and optimistic whenever things go wrong, which they inevitably do from time to time.

• What is next on the agenda?
That's a good question, I have so many things on the agenda at the moment that I can't wait to get started on, it's hard to know where to begin! 

I definitely want to further develop the hand lettering side of things, I've always loved typography and of course illustration, the two disciplines seem to go so well together. I'm also thinking of using a couple of my existing designs to create some pattern repeats to apply on items like cards, bags and wrapping paper.

One of my main goals for 2013 however, is to find an illustration agency to represent me. I really enjoy designing and printing my own products but I also love it when a freelance job comes in. Sometimes it's nice to be able to just concentrate on the design side of things and not have to worry about the cost and logistics of production.

• Where do you find your inspiration? Do you have any favourite books, magazines etc?
I love 'Uppercase' Magazine, it's printed on beautiful, thick paper and is full of lovely ideas. It's quite expensive though, so it's an occasional treat to buy it. Luckily the local Paperchase now stock it so I pop in there and have a good flick through it when the sales assistants are looking the other way!

I absolutely love Pinterest and browsing through my favourite design blogs too. I think it's possible to find plenty of inspiration from creative disciplines that are different to your own. I sometimes find looking at beautiful ceramics or textile designs can trigger new ideas.

When I was teaching myself to print from home a friend recommended Lotta Jansdotters' book 'Lotta Prints' and Lena Corwins' 'Printing by Hand.' I loved those books so much I never wanted them to end!

• Which designers/artists do you admire?
I love Mary Kate McDevitts' work, her hand lettering is so beautiful and whimsical. I was lucky enough to pop into her screen printing shop in Portland, Oregon this summer, unfortunately she wasn't around at the time but her lovely boyfriend Fred showed us round their workshop, very inspiring!

I've been a big fan of Jonny Hannah since I discovered his work while doing my dissertation at uni. I love the freedom and quirkiness of his prints, he always uses great colour combinations too.

More recently I discovered the work of Dana Tanamachi, her chalkboard lettering designs are simply amazing.

• Blogs are taking over the world, which are your favourites?
Well I'm definitely a fan of Creative Mischief now I have come across your blog Anna! I'm also a regular visitor to Paper Crave, Creature Comforts and Design*Sponge.

• What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own creative business?
Well first of all I would say choose an area/discipline that you absolutely love, something that you would still do even if you weren't being paid for it. I think in general people tend to be the most successful at the things they enjoy doing most.

If you already have a full time job then I would say do it gradually. You can use some of the income from your job to buy supplies while you test the market. Once you are doing your business full time you'll have to rely on cash flow to buy new stock, which can be tricky at the start. 

If you can afford it, take a stand at a trade show. They are expensive but they are also a great way to get invaluable feedback. You can admit to the more friendly buyers that you are new to the business and ask for their opinion on the size and variety of your range and your prices etc. Doing a trade show also forces you to seriously consider your work as a business, you'll need to think about your trade prices, retail prices, shipping costs, terms and conditions all quite dry stuff but essential if you're going to make it work. 

Before you invest money in booking a stand though, I'd say it's best if you can attend the show as a visitor first to see if it's right for you and your products. The main ones in the UK seem to be Top Drawer in London, Spring Fair in Birmingham and the British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate.

That you Alex for giving us such an inspiring and detailed interview. You share some really great advice, especially for people who might want to start trading their designs (like me!) 

You can buy her designs here and read more about her on her website here.

I am so in awe of Alex's work that I have asked her to do some hand lettering for my blog header, very exciting, so watch this space!

All images courtesy of Snowdon Design & Craft.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Oh! So Pretty... Paper Rose Bouquet by The Story House

Just had to share this with you, hope she doesn't mind, but while I was being nosey and looking at the websites of fellow 'Paper Girls' (students of The Paper Girls workshops) I came across this absolutely beautiful music paper rose bouquet designed by illustrator Lucy McDonald of The Story House

If you'd like to see more of her amazing work have a look on her website here where you can order them as bouquets, buttonholes, brooches and fascinators and corsages. I can't stop looking at it. Oh! Its so pretty.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The most inspiring week...

Gosh, I've had a really busy week this week, so busy I've not had time to write any of the posts I'd had planned. The week has been jam packed with very exciting and inspiring things though, at least I am attempting to reach my 2013 goals... 

Firstly, last weekend I went to yet another sewing class at Sew Over It where I learned to do freehand machine embroidery, on Tuesday I was very lucky to attend the launch party for Holly Becker's new book 'Decorate Workshop' at Anthropologie on Regents Street with special guests Will from Bright.Bazaar blog and stylist James Leyland Day , then yesterday I headed up to Manchester to attend The Paper Girls stationery business workshop with Abby Warner and Lucy Ledger where I learnt  whole wealth of very useful information regarding setting up and running my new stationery business. I've also just taken on 3 new logo jobs for 3 lovely clients which I am very excited about. 

So....I have a lot to talk about. I look forward to sharing everything on the blog next week and I also have a super interview with the lovely Alex from Snowdon Design to post. Hope you all have a great weekend, seems like winter is really here now so I will be snuggling up by the fire and doing some much needed chillaxing (after I've been to Country Living Christmas Fair at the London Design Centre!) xxx

Monday, 5 November 2012

Mischief Meets : Lucy Loves This

This week I am bringing you an insight into the working life of book jacket designer and spectacular typographer Lucy Stephens of  Lucy Loves This. I first came across Lucy's work on Not On The High Street and was wow'd by her iconic 'Best of London' letters. When I discovered she was a fellow South West London girl I knew I had to interview her. 

Lucy is obsessed with typography, not surprising after working in book publishing for a few years. Her designs are inspired by things she loves; London, food travel etc. The London Letters series includes neighbourhoods within the capital and their well known landmarks. 

• What is the essence of your business? What do you do?
 I design book covers, and my own range of prints, tea towels and cards.

• How did you start doing what you do?  Have you always been creative? What made you decide to start up on your own?
I’ve always wanted to do something creative, every since I was really little. So I studied graphic design at university, although I almost did a straight illustration course - but I’m actually glad as I learnt a lot of practical skills and I think it made me more employable initially. I worked for a design agency for a while, and then moved into publishing, where I spent 4 years working for Random House, designing book covers. It’s just gone two years since I left to go freelance, I felt it was time for a new challenge, and some diversity, I also wanted to be my own boss! I have now built up quite a stable client base, and work for most of the main British publishing houses as well as quite a few independents. About a year into being freelance I thought it would be good to start designing things for myself again, as apposed to for a client with a brief - which is where LucyLovesThis comes in.

•   Where do you work? Describe your studio space.
I have a nice sunny studio in an old factory building in Brixton, it’s a bit rough around the edges but I love it.

• Do you have a team or do you work alone?
I have a couple of people who do odd bits and pieces for me, as well as Tessa who is with me a couple of days a week and takes care of all my orders. I couldn’t live without her now!

• What is a typical day for you?
I go through my emails first thing, and then head to the studio for about 8.30-9am. It’s only five minutes from my flat so not much of a commute! It then very much depends on what jobs I have on. But it will involve a bit of researching ideas for new book covers, new cover designs, artworking, working on new prints, talking to suppliers etc... I try to be good and leave at a respectable hour, but its quite ofter 7pm  before I get away.

•  What do you find most satisfying about the work you do? What are your biggest challenges as a creative?
I think the most satisfying thing has to be that I’ve done it all by myself, I’ve not really had any help, apart from emotional support from my husband and friends! But it can be quite lonely, as at the end of the day its my company, and all responsibility falls to me - nobody else is going to deal with any difficulties.

•  Which materials couldn’t you live without?
Does my imac count? Also my drawing pens.

•   What is your design process?
I’m not sure I really have one! I actually find my best ideas come along when I’m not trying to work, like in the bath - or when I’m about the fall asleep!

• Anything exciting in the pipeline?
I'm continuing to work on my London Letters series, working my way around London! I've just completed five new designs and have several others on the way. I've also just designed a set of tea towels for Christmas 2012. 

•  Are there any designers/artists you particularly admire? 
God tonnes! As a book cover designer though, the person I look up to the most is Jonathan Gray, everything that guy touches turns to gold - I’ve never seen one of his jackets that I haven’t loved.
• Which are your favourite blogs/websites?
...I could go on and on...

• What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own creative business?
You really can’t under value networking - I know it can be a pain, but it is invaluable what
you can learn from other people, and you never know what opportunities might come your
way. Also always trust your instincts, and don’t be swayed by the way other people are doing
things, just because you do something differently doesn’t mean its wrong.

Thanks Lucy for taking part. We look forward to the tea towels and what comes next. Tell Lucy which letters you'd like to see here. You can purchase her designs here and here.

All images are courtesy of LucyLovesThis. 

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