Monday, September 15, 2014

Need a mid-year diary? Buy one at WHSmiths right now (I know the designer!)

We went to England for a couple of weeks in August and I thought while I was there I'd just pop into WHSmith's near my Mom's house and see if there were any of my designs in there.  And yes!!!  I found them.  Cute aren't they!  I like them sat next to each other on the shelf.  The colours look nice together!  So if you fancy one, you can probably find one there right now.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I'm featured on Ali Benyon's Blog today - 'How to Get Work as a Freelance Designer'!

Today I'm very excited to have been featured on Ali Benyon's brilliant blog.  She's featuring three artists over the course of this week in a post called How to Get Work as a Freelance Designer -  so please look out for Miriam Bos on Wednesday and Dawn Machell on Friday too.
Please click here to read my answers to her well thought out questions and see a few samples of my work (above are a couple that she used).
Thank you so much Ali for asking me to participate! xxx

Friday, September 12, 2014

Artists Around The World Blog Hop!!!

Before I went away, I was very pleased to be invited by my friend Melissa Iwai to participate in a blog hop called 'Artists Around The World'.  Unfortunately it's taken me more than a month to do my part as I was away for the first few weeks then came back to a back log of work to catch up with.
However, here I am finally doing it!  First I want to tell you about Melissa and show you her work.  You can see more on her website here -  and her blog here
Melissa is an illustrator and author of children's books. She very kindly gave me signed copies of two of her books at Surtex and my children, aged 3 and 9, adore them, especially the one she wrote herself - Soup Day.
The piece below is something Melissa developed from the cuckoo clock assignment in Lilla Rogers' Bootcamp.  Look at the stunning colour palette and the magical, dreamlike quality it lends to the piece.  There is so much to love about this - the rounded, perfectly proportioned characters, the depth created by the tree in the foreground, the soft, pink blurry clouds and the delicately patterned hill in the background.  And the crooked houses!  There are so many well-thought out, beautifully executed elements to this piece.  It's so original - I adore it.

This is Melissa's business card and I think was her submission piece for the cuckoo clock assignment.  Again, the palette is to die for (the orange hair and dusky pink sweater), the character beautifully appealing and the concept ingenious.

And look at the animals too.  It's obvious why her artwork is perfect for children's books.  I also think it would translate in a heart beat to so many other markets but from what I can gather she's so in demand, she's barely had time to consider them!!  I think it's on the cards though!

So the next bit is me answering some questions so here you go!!

1. What are you working on?
I started embroidering this Summer and decided to do one of the Bootcamp assignments (based on cups and drinks) in applique and embroidery.  I enjoyed it so much that I started a group of four pieces and as yet haven't finished them.  That will be my first priority this Autumn.

2. How does your work differ from others in your genre?
Oh - I don't know.  I think my work is quite sophisticated, even when the subject matter is young.  I tend to use quite grown up womenswear palettes as I was a fashion textile designer for years.  My taste is definitely very feminine but not delicate.  I like bold colour and imagery.  I'm also drawn to vintage references because of my history with textile design.  I love vintage fabric (the embroidery above is made with old bed sheets and tablecloths) and I love mid-century modern illustration - the crisp graphic styles that work so well with Illustrator.

3. Why do you create?
Because I can't not!  When my children were very little I made a point of being available for them a hundred percent for at least the first year and didn't work much at all.  I loved being with my babies but by the time I was able to find time to work again I was craving it.   If I was stuck on a desert island I'd start weaving bits of grass and leaves together, drawing in the sand and decorating pebbles before long  - and I'd be sat starving and freezing in my very nicely decorated shack!

4. How does your creative process work?
My creative process ranges from chaotic to militantly organized.  I don't keep routines well but am forced to by my children's school hours.  If I could choose I'd get up at midday and work through the night.  But I can't.  My husband takes my kids to school so as soon as I leave I start checking email, Facebook etc on my phone.  Then I get dressed and try to be in front of my computer by 10.00am.  I work right through until 4.00pm everyday, taking a break to eat lunch, read a book, or just lie around staring at the wall for an hour at some point.  I desperately need to incorporate exercise into this routine so next week I'm joining the gym.  Aaargh!  Let's hope it doesn't turn into a monthly charitable donation and that I actually go!!
I write myself a to do list every Monday and tick it off during the week but I don't have set tasks for each day.  I just do whatever's a priority or what takes my fancy.  I also try not to leave trailing ends anywhere. If I start something I like to finish it before I move on.  That's where I'm militant.  I'm also very organized with storing information and artwork.  It's all very regimented and thoroughly backed up.  I don't plan automatically but when I do, I make very comprehensive, no stone unturned, type plans.

So that was me!  The next bit is to tell you about two other artists and their work.  I've chosen my two good friends Bari J Ackerman and Wendy Brightbill.  They are both painters but approach their artwork very differently as you'll see.

First Bari!  The words that spring to mind most when I see her artwork are 'cornucopia' and 'abundance'.  Bari is a designer for Art Gallery Fabrics and her paintings translate beautifully to her collections.  She's somehow managed to create a magical blend of impressionistic floral imagery, digital imagery and contemporary fabric design that's uniquely hers.  Just look at the palette in the second painting!  Stunning.  Below is a picture of her striking booth at Surtex and once again you can see the abundance of colour and pattern in the peacock and the complementary patterns. You can see more of her beautiful work on her website here and her blog here.

Now Wendy!! Wendy's paintings (so far) are more abstract but she is starting to create more figurative pieces that are beautiful too.  She often combines delicate lacy or geometric motifs with great, joyous sweeps and swirls of color and texture.  Her palettes tend to be very sophisticated and the overall effect is  layered and explorative.  The two stunning pieces below are typical of the gentle, layered complexity of her work and I can imagine either of them as wall art in a very contemporary but feminine setting.

Wendy also designs digitally and you can see how her palettes and overall style are consistent even while the commercial subject matter is wildly different.  I really love this design. Those animals are just like real children. You can see more of Wendy's beautiful work on her website here and her blog here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I'm in the Surtex Newsletter!!!

While I was away I was asked to contribute my views on Surtex 2014 to the Aug newsletter.  I was delighted to respond to the questions and explain what a positive experience it was for me.  I'm thrilled to see my name and my work in the newsletter and more than happy to publicly sing my praises of the show!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Vote for me!!! Round Two of Lilla Roger's Global Talent Search!

So today the voting starts.  I am sooo excited to show you my entry for Round 2 of Lilla Roger's Global Talent Search and I would be delighted if you'd vote for me! Below are the details from the competition website.  Click the links to cast your vote!!!!

"Fifty artists were selected from around 1,000 entrants to go through to this round of the competition, and tasked with designing a personified animal character for a young child’s t-shirt. The artists were encouraged to be themselves with a vengeance and create a character with personality.  Check out the fabulousness they created in our online gallery which is open here now!"   

Now is the chance for you to cast your vote

Five finalists will be chosen by our esteemed panel of judges, and one finalist will be chosen by the public! YOUR VOTE COUNTS. The person with the most votes when the gallery closes at 9am PST / 12 noon EST / 5pm GMT on Friday, September 12th will go through to the Final as The People’s Choice."

This means everything to me and my Aztec Zebra knows it.  So here she is pleading on my behalf!

I loved doing this brief but again - the timing was a challenge. We had nine days to complete the artwork and during the first four of those I was still in England without a computer.  I spent that time thinking about a concept and doing some truly awful sketches (see the lion below).  I knew immediately that I wanted my character to be first and foremost a vehicle for pattern - and lots of it, as initially I was thinking about incorporating embroidery into the design.  I knew I wanted to do girlswear as I have more experience designing for females and have a very feminine aesthetic in most of my work.  I also knew I was aiming at 3-5 year olds as the brief referred to 'a young child'.
At first I thought of doing a little lion in a dress and had visions of this beautiful, richly patterned mane.  Then I had a conversation with my cousin and she reminded me that lions are, in fact, boys.  
Oh.  Start again.  So which animals can carry a pattern  and embroidery really well? I was keen to choose a jungle animal rather than a woodland one and was also keen to have it holding something that could be a design feature.  A balloon seemed the obvious choice to become a pocket and a heart shape lent itself well to the function of the pocket.  Since Christmas I've been dying to do a design featuring horses (I didn't have time before Surtex) so a zebra seemed to be the perfect choice to meet all my criteria!  The words "Wild at Heart" seemed fitting as a) they fit with the heart motif and b) the sentiment reminded me of my own children, looking endearingly sweet and innocent but being capable of behaving like wild animals!!!

So I drew this.  Ordinarily I don't sketch much but my computer was still locked away, having come back from holiday, so I had no choice!
I finally managed to put her into Illustrator and give her a bit of color.  Obviously the wrong ones! I printed her out onto fabric to test the idea of embroidering and it didn't work.   The colours were dingy and the idea of then photographing the embroidered zebra, bringing it back into Photoshop and trying to put it on a mocked-up T-shirt, without losing quality and vibrancy, made me change the plans entirely.

I decided to completely revise the colour palette to something more commercial (looking at children's clothing websites and Pinterest helped here!) and imply stitching on the design. I thought this way, at least, the image would stay fun and crisp and work well on a mock-up. 
This design was obviously crying out for co-ordinates.  My intention was to give it as much mileage as possible with the use of pattern so I chose to focus on additional swatches rather than more mocked up products.  I kind of wish I'd done a pair of wellies or a journal but was worried I'd diminish the co-ordinates by mocking them up.  
I used to work as a womenswear textiles designer so adding the neck lining and the trim was the fun bit that came easily at the end.  I really enjoyed doing this group of designs and that lion is going to find a home in there somewhere - not as a transvestite but as a pretty little boy out playing with his zebra friend.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I made the top fifty in Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search!!!!!!!!!

I entered the Global Talent Search this year after some deliberation. It's a fantastic contest and the prizes are wonderful. There were a thousand entries from all over the world this year so the competition is fierce. You can read more about it here.  
However, I knew it would coincide with family holidays in Tuscany and England and wasn't convinced that I wanted to take the time away from my children to participate. I worked so hard earlier this year for Surtex and practically ignored them. I felt I owed them a work free holiday in spite of my career aspirations. I signed up, then decided to make a final decision based on timing (our holidays weren't yet booked or scheduled) and more importantly - the brief!! I knew I wouldn't be able to resist a great one. I took a sketchbook and some bits and pieces with me incase. 
The email arrived while we were in Tuscany and before I'd finished reading it I was plotting how I'd fit it in and what I'd do. It was beautiful. Wall art based on terrariums. 
I found an hour or two to draw when my children went to the pool with my husband. I also found a big box of Sicilian cakes and bottle of wine. Come on! Who wouldn't make time to sketch succulents while gorging on cakes and wine in a villa in Tuscany?
This is me, the cakes, the wine and the sketches. 

Fortunately, I arrived very quickly at a basic concept. A palette of rich blues, hints of yellow and pink - and neutrals. I wanted the jar to be a negative space, a framework, rather than an object - so I could fill it with vibrant, highly contrasting imagery - a contained world.
I like the idea of appreciating the small things in life, finding pleasure in them (like cake) - and that sentiment seemed fitting with this tiny world so I looked for a quote that would work in that context. A lot of my research for the piece was done on an iPhone by a pool - terrarium shapes, quotes, succulents etc.
When I got back I immediately launched myself into making the final piece. I did the whole thing with acrylic paint and collaged paper then photographed it and put it into Photoshop. The lettering and final touches were done digitally. I did it in on the afternoon we arrived home and the following morning, sat on it two days, fiddled with the lettering a bit, then uploaded. Then I packed and went to England.
I tried not to think about it too much while we dashed around visiting my relatives but failed! I couldn't wait to hear whether I'd made it through to the next round. 
And I did!!!!!
We were advised to not share our artwork online before the submission deadline so when the results came out it was really exciting to see everyone else's artwork.  My Mom and I went through every single one, discussing them all in great detail.  There were so many staggeringly beautiful pieces, among both those that were selected for the top fifty and those that weren't.
You can see the top fifty here and the gallery of all the entries here. You'll enjoy looking at them I promise!
I'm just so thrilled that Lilla chose my art to go forward and I'm so glad I found a way to make it possible for me to enter the competition.
The next brief is a beauty too so wish me luck!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Embroidery for Bootcamp!

I started embroidering this Summer.  I used to embroider and embellish frequently as a fashion textile designer but the only stitching I've done in the last few years was while making Christmas ornaments with my children.
I've been collecting old  fabric for years (lots of old bed Italian bedsheets from my mother-in-law) and they were all stashed downstairs in a plastic box.  One day in June I had a sudden stroke of inspiration (brought on by the fact that I bought two embroidery hoops and a small pack of threads from an art shop in New York a month earlier) and decided to use the fabrics  to appliqué.
Then along came Lilla's July Bootcamp assignment!  Create a piece of artwork based on beverages in any way you like.  Make it personal to you - a gift to yourself or a friend!!!  I was sat there reading the assignment with an embroidery hoop in my hand and a coffee right in front of me.  I was drinking from one of my beautiful cups that my Mom bought me.  Most of them are shades of blue, green, mint and aqua - as are many things in my house - and so were my old Italian bed sheets.  I thought - I know what I'm going to do.
I didn't sketch or plan.  I just chopped out my shapes, stuck them on with glue stick and an iron and stitched away.  It just grew.  I parked myself in front of the telly and found myself truly relaxed and happy.
I love Lilla's assignments.  I love the variety, the ingenious subject matter, her ability to draw you away from the tried and tested and try the new, the exciting.   This brief enabled me to rediscover a way of creating art and develop a real enthusiasm and passion for it.  I can't stop!  I'm carrying that embroidery hoop wherever I go.  So far it's been to Ponza and Tuscany and tomorrow it's coming to England with us.
On the way home from Tuscany last week, just me and the kids, I saw a sign for Orvieto and asked the kids if they'd like to stop by on the way home.  It's an old walled Medieval town.  I've been there before years ago.  It's beautiful. They, of course, said no.  So I ignored them and drove there anyway.
The main street leads up a steep hill and they moaned incessantly as we trudged along in the midday sun.  In the end they forced me to turn back round and head back to the car.  By this time I was carrying my three year old.  As we plodded down the hill I noticed a shop window full of sewing equipment.  You don't see that often in Italy so we went to have a look!  It was an Aladdin's cave!!!  I asked for embroidery threads and the lovely old shop owner started to show me drawer after drawer of threads - every single color in existence.  Isadora suddenly became interested when she saw the colours and Leo was happily chatting to some accessories on a stand behind us.  I thought I'd pick maybe 15 colors at first and was fairly restrained throughout the blues but by the time we'd reached the orange drawer I was  deranged!!!  By the time we'd been through all 400 of those in stock, I'd picked 80.  Isadora was beaming at the decadence of it all - at me grabbing handfuls of colours and the little old man bringing out more and more!
Ha ha!  Look at these beautiful colors.  This is my new stash!

And this is the lovely shop owner and his wife.  I wanted a picture to remember the moment.  Orvieto's Willy Wonka of embroidery threads who turned our crappy day into a beautiful one!