Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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

I entered the Global Talent Search this year after much deliberation. I knew it would coincide with family holidays in Tuscany and England and wasn't sure 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. 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 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 sketch succulents while gorging on cakes and wine in a villa in Tuscany?
This is me, the cakes, the wine and the sketches. 

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 imagery. 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. When I got back I launched myself into making the final piece. I did the whole thing by hand then photographed it and put it into Photoshop. The lettering and final touches were done digitally. I did it in an afternoon and morning then sat on it two days, fiddled with the lettering and uploaded. Then I packed and went to England.
I tried not to think about it too much but failed! I couldn't wait to hear whether I'd made it through to the next round. I'm just so thrilled to have my art chosen to go forward.
The next brief is a beauty too!!!

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!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mermaids and Ships in Bottles - in memory of dear Alfio

I've been painting.  And collaging.  This is the final piece for Lilla Rogers' fourth week of Assignment Bootcamp.  The theme was nautical and the palette was pretty much this - predominantly acqua with hints of blue, neutrals and accents of tomatoey oranges - some of my favourite colors.
My Father-in-Law recently passed away and when my husband and I were clearing out his office we came across these - literally within days of starting this project. They're grappa bottles (one of them with a ship inside!) and a little wooden boat that my husband made with his Dad when he was a child.

Alfio was devoted to his holiday home on the Italian island of Ponza and every day in August he'd be out on his little boat in the crystal waters surrounding the island, diving for shellfish, then spending the evening on his terrace playing the mandolin and drinking grappa with his lifelong friends.   It was so fitting to draw and paint part of his grappa collection with a nautical theme in mind - the very quintessence of my children's beloved Nonno.  It was very easy getting into the spirit of the project simply by imagining the paintings hung on the wall of his house.
When I started painting the bottles,  Isadora had just finished school for the Summer and was lounging around between the TV, the iPad and my phone while I worked.  I was in despair and was delighted when she sat down to paint with me.  I didn't imagine she'd do this though!!!  My jaw dropped.  She's nine!!

In the meantime, I was doing this.

These canvases are really small - post card size would you believe?  In a couple of weeks we'll be going to Ponza to scatter Alfio's ashes in the Tyrrhenian Sea between Ponza and Palmarola (an island that is a completely unspoiled paradise near Ponza and a place very dear to Alfio's heart).  I'll take our paintings and put them in the alcove in the living room.  I think they'll look nice there and I'm sure Alfio would have liked them - especially Isadora's.
Here are some pictures of him on his boat and at the house with my children.  Aren't they lovely.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Surtex - Jumping off a cliff with a well-constructed parachute!

Happily manning my booth in my matching cardy

Booth 447 in all its glory

Co-ordinating pom poms

Portfolio book and Uppercase Magazine

Pretty stuff
Have a business card,  some stickers, a flick through a book - or just a jelly bean and a sniff of the roses!

Products and mock-ups

I can't believe it's over. What am I going to do with my life now?
I signed up for the show last September.  I almost choked when I found out how much it would cost (approx $6000 including everything) and immediately started panicking.  I also started working with an enthusiasm and motivation that I haven't felt in years!  During the last 8 months I've been completely consumed by the preparations and I think most of my friends and family became sick of hearing me refer to 'Surtex' (though every single one of them was 100% behind me and I never heard anything but encouragement from my lovely children and supportive husband and Mum and Dad).
So was it worth it?
Oh my God!  Just a bit!!  Jaw droppingly worth it in fact!!
To put things in perspective I want to list a few of my worst fears leading up to the show then describe the actual outcome - so you can see how extremely positive it was by comparison.

Something won't arrive in time (before I leave) or safely (at the airport).
My portfolio books, my banners (without banners you have a blank stand), my promo materials - the timing of everything was nail biting. Obviously you want as much new work as possible involved so everything has to be ordered last minute.  When I saw my tube of banners lying safely next to the luggage carousel at JFK I felt the first massive hurdle had been overcome and that if all else failed I'd have a furnished stand.

I'll get a bad spot.
I was one of the first to arrive on the initial set up day and the whole vast hall was nearly empty and I looked at my spot near the back where they hadn't finished putting up the cafe and thought, 'Oh no it's crappy, it's crappy.  I've paid all this money for a crappy booth!!!'. The next day I arrived to find that loads of other exhibitors had started to set up and the booths around me were beginning to look really beautiful.  I was in a lovely area.
Stuffing cushions with Melissa on the first day of setting up

Hanging tissue pom poms

Audra and me!

My booth will suck.
The problem with seeing so many beautiful booths was that I immediately started to worry that mine was 'wrong'.  It was too pink.  It was too simple.  I didn't have enough pretty mock-ups or eye-catching details.  Before the show I'd been shocked at how much effort it had required to organize my booth decor and had wondered if everyone else went to such great lengths.  Then I  saw that many of them had gone to even greater lengths than I had.  Sarah Ehlinger, Bari Ackerman, Kathy Weller, Kelly Ventura, Rosie Simons and Feng Liang were all very close by and each one of them had done something amazingly special.   I was very tired at that point and it took me a while to acknowledge that we'd all approached our booth design differently and each booth was striking in a unique and equally lovely way.  The pinkness ended up lending a pretty warmth to my spot (a bit like a shell, I thought) and I was quite pleased with the effect in the end.

My helpers (who I didn't know beforehand except by email) will be weird and spooky.
Ha ha ha!! I couldn't have been more wrong.  They were LOVELY!!!!  Melissa Iwai, a children's book illustrator from Brooklyn, and Flora Waycott, an English designer from New Zealand, were both warm and funny, extremely helpful and professional and brilliant company.  I felt like I'd made two new friends by the end of it.  Melissa even helped me by bringing me a small table and cushions from Ikea in Brooklyn.  I don't know how I would have done it without them.
Melissa, me and Flora!

No-one will come.
This was the big one.  What if, after this colossal effort, no-one came?  What if I'd thrown $6000 and 8 months of  hard work down the toilet.  Wrong again!  They came!  By midday of the first day I'd made back the cost of the show almost twice in sales.  There's a huge debate about selling versus licensing and whether you should even sell at all.  My view is that I'm running a business and that my business needs cash flow.  I created enough cash flow to pay for this show and next year's too and then some.  I also encountered plenty of licensing opportunities which will generate future income.   I think this is the best of both worlds. I am prolific and have a lot of work and am not heart-breakingly attached to (most of) my designs.  In fact, now I know what sold (and there was a definite pattern to what people liked) I'm in an ideal position to create more of the RIGHT stuff that clients want.
Me in action

Deep in concentration

My marketing efforts (new territory for me) will have been a waste of time.
They weren't.  I attribute a lot of the traffic at my booth to something I invested an awful lot of time into.  I set myself a series of deadlines when I booked the show.  One was that I'd create new work up until the last day of February then for the entire month of March I'd focus on marketing. That involved creating an online look book and a promotional package (see below) that I sent out to a very tailored and thoroughly researched list of just 50 art directors - some established clients and some new.  I have no doubt that this worked though while I was doing it (struggling with all sorts of unchartered territory like learning Indesign and sourcing printers)  I wondered repeatedly if it would be worth the time and money.  It was!

I won't have enough new work.
After the March marketing I had to tackle the banners and portfolio books - but the catch was that I had to have new work to put on/in them (this was the conclusion after asking my MATS community friends what they thought about what needed to go on banners - both marketing/ brand identity and new work). But I'd stopped designing in Feb to do the marketing.  So the next deadline was to create 5 new groups by the end of April in order to put some on the banners and show some in the portfolio books and have both books and banners designed and ordered by May 1st.  Phew!!  That was not funny and I might plan that differently next time.  But I did it.  And loads of that new stuff was sold or selected for presentations.
Yes - designing and ordering all this in a hurry was a bit of a strain!

I'll be too tired from jet-lag, early mornings, late nights and hard work.
Adrenalin takes care of all that!  I lived on it - and coffee.

I won't be comfortable and rested staying with friends.
Badly wrong again.  Thank you so much Audra and Brett and Jen and Rom.  You made me so welcome and it was just lovely staying with you!

My feet will hurt.
In this case I was right.  They did.  I wore 3 different pairs of shoes on different days in an attempt to alleviate the pain and ended up having three different sets of lacerations.  My feet were in tatters  (mainly from trudging too and from the show). Next year I'm wearing fluffy slippers with cushioned insoles.

So those were the biggest dreads and apart from the feet the actual outcome was fantastic.  A massive added bonus was the community of people at the show - both exhibitors, visitors and clients.
The number of MATS students there was incredible and it was just lovely to walk into a place and 'know' so many people.  My friend Audra, who is also a designer but works in fashion, came with me to help set up and kept asking 'How do you know her?  Is she another one from the internet?"  Ha ha! But I really felt they were my friends and it felt great to belong to that community and be cheered on by both the ones who attended and the ones who were at home but following on Facebook.  Well done to Jacqui Crocetta for being the reporter in the field.  It was lovely to meet Jacqui and everyone else.
It was also great meeting clients who I've been in contact for up to two years but have never met in person. I can see why trade shows still have a value in spite of the internet.  Meeting people face to face and engaging with them, even for a short time, lends a warmth and familiarity to a business relationship.
Another huge bonus was meeting Lilla Rogers.  I felt like I knew her, having been so involved with her online courses and Facebook communities for this last year.  On the last night Flora and I (and Flora's boyfriend Nick) went for dinner with Helen Dardik and Carolyn Gavin and my lasting impression of Lilla and her 'gang' (I was delighted to meet Jennifer and Susan too) was that they're all genuine, warm, funny (hilariously so in Helen's case) and very, very magnetic!
So - would I do it again!  Oh yes!! Would I recommend it to everyone?  Yes - because there's something exhilarating, motivating and rewarding about taking that leap  - but making that well-constructed parachute was no joke and there were no guarantees that it would open.  But it did.  Sometimes they do!

Friday, May 16, 2014

I'm here in NY - welcomed by a feature on Print and Pattern!!!

I arrived!! I'm in NY, awake ridiculously early, waiting for daylight so I can start preparing my case to take to the Javitz centre to set up. 
I got my wifi set up last night and what did I see? A post from my friend, saying my work was on Print and Pattern!! The post shows a preview of my new work ( see above) and my flyer and I was so thrilled to see it there and so grateful to Bowiestyle for supporting me. 
I absolutely cannot wait to meet everybody from MATS later today. It's going to be like a huge reunion - except we've never met before!!!! And the ones who won't be making it have been so kind and supportive - just unbelievably encouraging. I'm grateful everyday for my online artist friends. They're like a great force of energy, motivation and warm spiritedness and I can't imagine doing this without them. Xxxxxx
Here's the link to Print and Pattern!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Preview of my stand at Surtex!

If you're curious about how my stand will look at Surtex then have a look at this drawing by my daughter!!  She's included EVERY SINGLE minute detail.  I'm even wearing my new handbag!  For 6 months she's seen me plodding my way through an enormous list, assembling all the pieces.  She's woken up on many mornings to find a new bit  of something waiting on the dining room table and she's  been unfailingly impressed and curious about each step (she could not keep her hands off the business cards when they arrived!) Look at the little cake stand on the table on the right.  She thinks the clients would like a piece of cake when they visit.  And the display shelf.  She helped me plan my booth layout.  My little boy Leo has been very involved too, crying when I rolled the 'big pictures' back up (the banners), but Isadora has really been my right hand man.  I often ask her what she thinks of a design and her insights are so sophisticated.  How does a 9 year old understand that a drawing of a dog is too realistic, not stylized enough, that it doesn't fit with the other designs in the group?
She's making me a little folder to bring with me, full of little drawings and messages (this one too of course) and maybe if I look at it every day I won't miss her and Leo so much.  Maybe.

Friday, April 25, 2014

I'm on Two Blogs Today!!!!!

A few weeks ago Gabriella Buckingham, designer of Moobaacluck asked me if I'd like to be featured on her blog and I, of course, said yes.  Shortly after that Ali Benyon, surface pattern designer, asked if I'd like to be included in a feature on her blog where designer/illustrators contribute their 5 tips for working in this industry.  And I said yes, of course, to that too!!!  As it turned out, both blog features were posted on the same day - today.
Gabriella has posted some of my designs and the answers to a few questions she asked me, like what is a typical day for me and can I describe where I work.
Ali has published my top tips along with those of several fantastic designers - such as Jessica Hogarth, Jilly P., Mary Beth Freet of Pink Light Studio, Kristian A. Howell, Zoe Ingram, Jill McDonald, Veronica Galbraith, Flora Waycott, Julie McKeown, Valerie Foster, Rosie Simons and Julie Hamilton. Quite a list of names to be included in - and the tips are really well worth a read!
Thank you Gabriella and Ali sooo much for asking me.  I'm thrilled to be featured on your blogs! xxx