A little (unexpected) progress. Finally.

I know …. the trees were supposed to be on sabbatical. But today, in a rare moment of spontaneity (while waiting for the kettle to boil), I re-worked one of my car crashes from last week. And rather unexpectedly … I actually liked it. Two unplanned hours on the computer later ….. ta da!







Also, these….. my opinion on which is changeable; I like the movement and texture, but I think they need more depth. And a change in colour palette wouldn’t hurt either….


Finally…… here is a Dalek. (That is absolutely how this design started out. Not as a Christmas tree. Absolutely not.)





Back to Basics

You know that when you wake on an October Sunday morning and your brain is unhealthily pre-occupied by Christmas trees on Christmas cards, that it’s probably time to step away from the pine needles. At least for a few days ….. particularly if after two weeks and multiple design attempts, nothing beautiful has availed itself.

Today I told that creative block to do one.  Today I brushed away the cobwebs. Today I got back to basics and connected with my inner pre-schooler:

  • A2 pad
  • Black acrylic paint,
  • Any printing prop I could lay my hands on
  • Coffee on tap
  • The Archers omnibus

Today was fun.





Still Stuck on Trees

Continuing from my last post ….

  • Decided I didn’t like Monday’s tree designs.
  • Couldn’t work out why.
  • Tried something completely different, resulting in this ….





  • Liked these designs this afternoon.
  • Returned to them this evening and wasn’t so sure.
  • Knew I liked the colours so decided to re-hash one of Monday’s design with them …. just as an experiment.
  • Came up with this …


  • Pretty sure said experiment – the one that took all of 10 minutes to edit – is actually the strongest of the lot.
  • Feeling confused.
  • Very confused
  • Confusion currently accompanied by the Husband, who’s entered into a snore-off with himself.
  • Sat in the dark and can’t read what I’m typing … stooping and squinting to decipher the letters.
  • My mind is wandering to domestic affairs;  I haven’t washed the soggy swimming gear ready for a sproglet’s lesson tomorrow.
  • It’s 01.06. It is tomorrow.
  • I’m feeling hungry. Maybe the three chocolate biscuits I ate for tea are starting to wear off.
  • Perhaps I should go and eat breakfast.
  • I can’t …. I forgot to buy milk.
  • And bread.
  • The husband has just woken up. Am I going to be long?? He does not sound pleased.
  • He does not sound pleased at all.
  • Think I might need to find a meditation app….
  • …. and a ‘how to tell if your designs work’ app.
  • Over and out
  • Oh crap. The swimming kit …..



Troublesome trees

It’s 11.59pm, and all I have to say is …

A) I love quality drawing time … time where I get lost in line, shape and mark-making (not forgetting the all important music and coffee). After an immersive 90 minutes doing the aforementioned I’m always on a high … I feel relaxed, energised, and excited about everything I could do with those drawings … all the possibilities that lie before me.

B) When a design comes together … when that lightbulb moment suddenly materialises …. it’s pretty thrilling.

C) Getting from A to B … if it even happens …. is a bloody great headache.

I love the design process (step C included). But I’m not a natural. How is it possible to have so many ideas in my head brought about by one single drawing, only to find myself staring at that same drawing on a computer three hours later, and still drawing a blank?

Today has been one of those days. I’ve managed to come up with all of two co-ordinating design concepts for Christmas cards, but as is the case more often than not, I’ll have to re-visit them in a few days to work out i) if they work and ii) whether I even like them (!)



Manufacturing Migraine

With my first three sample tea towel designs being processed (and possibly an apron too …. I may have got carried away in an excitable moment), I’ve moved on to my next mini project: greetings cards. I thought this would be another sensible manufacturing starting point: not too costly to produce; a minimum order of just 25; people always need greetings cards so I should sell some; failing the latter, always need greetings cards so they won’t go to waste.

Last year I began the first module of an utterly fabulous online course called The Art And Business of Surface Pattern Design (ABSPD) run by the hugely talented designer Rachael Taylor, and equally successful entrepreneur Beth Kempton. In it they stress constantly the importance of injecting you (the designer) into your designs; your unique style, your personality, your passion. In the same way, they make a salient point about running your own design business: the way you choose to run your business should be reflective of you, your values and your beliefs. I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. To me it’s common sense, not least because it just makes good business sense. The rather worrying question this spurred me to ask myself, however, was: Do I actually have any values? (Yes really … that question entered my head).

Thankfully, I only panicked for around 20 seconds, in which time I realised that my moral compass was not quite as off kilter as I feared it might have been …. that actually, there are things that matter to me when considering which printing company to use:

  • I would like my products to be British-made. But more than that, I would like to contribute to my local economy.
  • I want the company to really value its employees, and to treat them in a manner that reflects this.
  • I want, at the very least, for the company to have the option of printing on to recycled paper.
  • I want the company to be eco-savy and socially responsible: is it pro-active in trying to reduce waste? Does it constantly strive to make small improvements, which when put together will have a bigger and positive, long term effect on the environment and community?

Brilliant, I thought. This is a great starting point for sourcing potential printers. So off I went, on yet another Google expedition…. into which I entered completely unprepared. Who knew it would be so tricky to satisfy all my romantic notions …. at a price I can afford to pay in the first year (let alone month) of my business. Serves me right for trying to be so bloody self-righteous. Turns out I’m going to have to knock myself down a few pegs, and really think this through. Do I go for:

  • the printers 6 miles down the road, which though does an ‘Eco’ range for business cards, does not offer greetings cards printed on recycled material? (Also, when I called, the bright young thing on the other end of the phone had no idea whether envelopes were included in the price or not.)
  • the very professional looking Austrian company (with an outfit in the UK) which gives the option of printing on 100% recycled material and low carbon printing, with pre-printing checks on your design files included as standard …. at a reasonable price?
  • the UK based ‘Eco’ company, which does what is says on the tin …. but doesn’t show your artwork mocked up on a product online once it’s been uploaded (major risk – how do I know the design sits properly on the card?)
  • the American/British company which has come recommended, and (very excitingly), allows up to 25 different designs in one print run – all other printers I’ve researched to date allow only one design per run –  but which prints on paper containing only 10% recycled material (which, to me is really very poor)?

My head is now a fog of sums and moral questions, fighting the part of my brain screaming “for the love of God woman, does it really matter? Just do it!!” Meanwhile, my computer lies devoid of any new designs to put on the one (or possibly 25??) greetings card(s) I set out to design today.

A nice simple card?


Completely clueless.


Here is something I experimented with at the beginning of the year. I quite like it, but I’m not convinced it really fits with my evolving style. Still … onwards and upwards.






Design by fluke

How long should it take to design a tea towel? More specifically, how long should it take to design a tea towel when you’ve already drawn the motif you’re going to use, and it’s simply a question of playing around with colour and format? Answer: 4 hours 53 minutes. In other words, too long. 3 hours 58 minutes too long by my reckoning. I knew I struggled with colour, but to struggle with format too?? All I can say is, it’s a good job I’m in it for the long haul.

The greatest insult to injury, is that the teal number (i.e. the one I’m most pleased with … and probably the most original of the three), happened by accident. One wrong click of the mouse and I end up with a watering can tower. And I think I kind of like it. I stare at it for a bit longer. I think I really do actually like it. (This is rare.) It has a bit of a retro vibe going on, which pleases me. What does not please me, however, is that this is not something that evolved organically from a brilliant idea in my oh so brilliant designer’s mind. This happened because my stubby fingers hit the wrong buttons. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be too bothered. However, most of my favourite designs to date have come into being as a result of the very same thing. This rather worries me;

  • Can I rely on enough finger errors to produce sufficient designs to run a business?
  • Is it possible to build and sustain a successful design business on errors alone?
  • Are the designs really mine, or is it all down to Illustrator??
  • Am I just a fraud???

I sense I might be overthinking. Again. On the other hand, I have three coordinating tea towel designs ready for a sample print. I’ll take it.









Jute bags and T-towels

Progress on ‘Making Stuff’ has begun. Today I have:

  • decided what I shall manufacture
  • found a company to manufacture the product
  • come up with some basic design concepts to develop for said product.

Admittedly these advancements are modest, but it is progress nonetheless. And every journey must begin somewhere.

It all began with a web search for a suitable printer. I happened across a rather promising looking company which has been awarded all manner of accolades for an ethical supply chain and people management among others. As promised, they replied to my enquiry within the two hours stated on their website. But the response was generic to say the least, which didn’t give me much confidence in their ability to manage their clients as individuals with individual requirements. Also, the minimum order for a stylish, Waitrose-worthy jute bag with terribly practical long handles, was 5000 units. And while I’m all for aiming high, I’m not sure how my husband would feel about 4988 of them languishing in our garage after 2 sales at the school Christmas Fair, and the obligatory distribution of 10 to family members as presents.

Instead, I have set my sights on something marginally more realistic from another company: The T-Towel. Strange as it might sound, I love receiving a tasteful, beautifully designed t-towel as a gift, and I don’t think I’m alone in my thinking; it’s a practical item which will see a lot of use. And while it might not glamorise the drying of dishes, or bring joy to the soaking up of a not inconsiderable milk spillage, it might bring a small smile … because it’s bright and cheery, because it features something that makes you laugh, or simply because it reminds you of the person who chose it for you. From my perspective as a true clueless designer, it’s a simple format to work with, and the manufacturer even supplies a template!! From my ‘just-started-out-in-business’ point of view, the minimum order generally tends to be 100 units. So I’m hopeful I won’t have too much of a problem shifting them as reasonably priced gifts.

Having had some encouraging feedback about the watering cans from my last post (albeit from lovely friends who sort of have to be nice), I’m going to use them as the basis of my humble t-towel design. Here are some simple drawings I put together this morning, which will form the basis of my final design. Not sure yet which I shall use, and no doubt I shall struggle with the colours as usual, but at least I have made a start. More to follow!



Entering the unknown

I’m a couple of weeks into my new venture, and I think I’ve churned out a few designs I’m happy with (I think); at the risk of exposing myself as an egocentric with a hugely inflated sense of self-importance  …. my designs feel like … well …. like ‘me.’ I’d quite happily continue drawing, scribbling, printing, for the duration of all available work hours. It’s my idea of bliss. But if I’m going to try to make an actual business out of this thing, I’m going to need to bite the bullet put my designs on some products. I need to get me some stuff made.

Getting products manufactured shouldn’t be a major headache, or a headache at all; with the world of printing at my fingertips thanks to the world wide web, it should be a breeze. There are so many websites to peruse, so many companies advertising their services, so many products I could print on to. But where, in the name of sanity, do I start? I didn’t go to art college and I’ve never worked in industry, so I don’t have the advantage of 3+ years of useful contacts. Added to the fact that I’ve spent the last 10 years as a parental hermit making decisions about whether to knock up pasta or spuds for tea, I really do feel completely and utterly out of my depth. I am truly clueless:

  • What should I manufacture?
  • Which company should I get to do it?
  • What should I look for in a company to know it’s right for me?
  • What materials should I use?
  • How many units should I order?
  • How far back in a supply chain can I go to establish the ethicalness and sustainability of a product?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How do I know I’m not being ripped off?
  • Will people actually buy anything????

On top of these are a whole host of sub-category questions invading my brain space from all angles and in no logical order.  As with many a life issue, however, I think I might be guilty of overthinking things. To quote one of my husband’s former colleagues, I just need to Get It ****ing Done. Faint heart did not win flourishing business. I must accept that mistakes are inevitable, that failures will happen, but that each time this occurs I shall come away a little wiser, and that ultimately my business will benefit as a result. I must embrace my inner risk taker (having located it first), and step into the breach.

Here’s a little card I made for a wonderful and talented gardener/artist friend of mine. She said she liked it. And I don’t think she was lying.


Ups and downs

I did have some text (in my head) ready for this post. But it’s past midnight, the husband is asleep (in the same room – so it’s dark and I can’t make out the letters on the keyboard), and I won’t be functioning at a great enough capacity tomorrow if I don’t go to bed. Here’s a couple of experiments with line, texture and colour I’ve been working on. As always, it was fun, but one took 10 minutes, and the other three hours (yes, really). I can’t help but feel that my time management would be greatly improved if I could accurately predict how long it might take me to design something….. especially when my time is so limited.  It’s a rather frustrating  place to be. Still …. never a dull moment!

And I’m loving the ride.


Elephants and balloons

After much playing around with cut-outs, size and colour (the latter of which – it turns out – I really struggle with), here is a re-work of this week’s elephant number. The first,  could be wrapping paper … or fabric perhaps? The latter I rather envisage as a card, or maybe a piece of wall art.

Truth be told, I’m a little lot elephanted out for now. But I had so much fun doing it, and I think I might even like what I’ve come up with. Whether or not I feel the same after a  break from the Mac and a night’s sleep  … well that remains to be seen.