[Behind the scenes] And Smile

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This month’s featured illustrator and designer is the lovely Viktorija of And Smile – if you haven’t come across her work before then you’re bound to have on here via my post on We Make London’s first Camden market or on my Facebook page , Twitter or Instagram! She’s the remarkable talent behind those cute and whimsical illustrative brooches, earrings and greeting cards…..and as you’ve probably guessed right – I’m a huge fan of her goodies (I think I have like 7 pieces already!) which you’ll find on my blazers and coats depending on my mood ;) My most recent purchase was Mr. Jacques who I bought to wear out to Paris in August ;) Anyway, a few weeks after my first order through her Etsy store, I had the delightful chance of meeting her at the Camden Markets. We had a good ol’ natter that afternoon in the miserably cold weather and soon became buddies on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! Anyway, here’s what she has to say:

1. Hello!! Tell us a little about yourself and what drew you into becoming a designer-maker? My name is Viktorija and I was born and bred in Latvia. I’ve always loved to draw and make things with my hands so when I had to choose a career path I decided to study Illustration and came to UK to do that. I fell in love with the country and after graduating from uni I moved to the fabulous city of London! I never thought of becoming a designer-maker, it just happened naturally, somehow.

2. How did you come about setting up And Smile? And what is the story behind the name? One of my friends was setting up a pop-up shop of up-cycled furniture and handmade home wares in Hampstead Heath and asked if he could sell some of my prints. I was incredibly happy and very inspired from that which led me to update my little Etsy shop (that had been empty for couple of years!). After the prints I added some postcards, and after that came brooches and found myself unable to stop making and listing things on there. I was thinking long and hard (words don’t come easy to me) about the name and finally came up with And Smile – it’s pretty much is what it says on the tin! I would love people to smile when they see, wear and use my little goodies!

3. What five words best describe you and your style of work? I think (or I would like to think) that these five words are: cute, quirky, fun, (a little) weird and happy.

4. I absolutely adore your work having bought a few goodies already (yep, I’m a die-hard fan!) What’s the main source of inspiration for your illustrations? Thank you! So glad to know you like the goodies! My main source of inspiration would be imaginary friends, little animals dressed up in tweed jackets, the amazing city of London where you can find everything and anything you want to know, see, hear, feel or taste! _IHC4163e-WEB _IHC4184e-WEB

5. How would you describe your design process and what part of it do you like the most? usually have a vague idea of want I want to create and then I live with it for a while. It slowly grows and develops in my head and then I try to put it into sketches and see where it takes me from there! Whether the item becomes a new brooch or a series of postcards (or something else) I decide along the way.

6. How long would one your products take from inception to completion? It’s a really hard question. Sometimes I’m really slow and it would take me couple of months to nurture the idea and find the right way to produce it and then other times I could create it in couple of days! Or I have an overload of ideas and I would do all in couple of hours from coming up with an idea to executing it! AndSmile_QuoteWEB

7. Is there any craft/art medium besides illustrations that you haven’t tried but want to? And why? I would love to know more about different printing methods (like wood print, letterpress and screen printing). I did some basic screen printing and lino cuts but I am fascinated by traditional methods and would love to try them at some point.

8. You seem to be doing extremely well with orders coming in 24/7 in what is a booming craft and design industry! Would you say it’s been difficult breaking into this competitive world? Haha, you are very kind to say so. I think my brooches and cards were lucky enough to find new owners and I’m extremely happy about it! It is competitive world but every single designer-maker is doing something unique and different and by offering more choice we (craft and design industry) are more likely to attract people with different tastes. I really hope it works that way and we can change the world (in a long perspective of course!). …..And I didn’t answer your question (oops). As to breaking in into this competitive world, I am not too sure whether I broke into it but I see it more of a journey of hard work, dedication and creativity.

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9. What would be your ‘top three tips’ for like-minded creative individuals who would like to one day set up a business themselves in this field? Three tips would be: Enjoy what you do, make sure you take time off and be nice to people!

10. What would you say is the best part of your business? And is this a full-time 9-5 business or something you run on the side? I enjoy all parts of it, creating, packing, selling. But of course I love when people get back to me saying that they love the product (I especially love the photos they send!). I enjoy working on personal commissions be it a portrait, print, brooch or designing wedding invitations. I am always on a look for exciting things to draw/make and try. It’s something I run on the side but pretty much 9-22! I’m very bad at taking time off or knowing when to stop working (I do procrastinate as well, don’t worry!). Recently I quit my part-time day job (with no back up plan) and from beginning of July it will be my full-time business, along with illustration. So I will be available for commissions and collaborations.

11. Of your current range of work, what piece would you pick out as your favourite? It’s hard to say as all my creations are equal to me but if I have to choose it would be Mr. Jacques and Frida brooches, I wear them the most! il_fullxfull.417781250_5u4t-WEB _IHC8435e-WEB il_fullxfull.394940033_oxh9-WEB

12. When you’re not in ‘designer-maker’ mode, what else do you enjoy doing? I love finding new or revisiting well known book stores, stationery stores, galleries and parks. I love eating and cooking, walking around London and discovering new places.

13. What are your favourite bedside book/s or blog/s at the moment? I am about to read Great Gatsby, I haven’t seen the film and looking forward to read the book and watch the film. :) I’m always following what’s happening on It’s Nice That – they are endless source of inspiration.

14. Name three things you just could not live without? I definitely would be able to live without those things but I would be a little sadder without them: Washi tapes, Instagram and avocado.

15. Are there any designer-makers out there that you find inspirational or are ones to keep an eye out for – if so, who? I love all the creations from these three super talented ladies!
Pauline from https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BenuShop
Jonna from https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/jonnasaarinen
Sabine from https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SGerthDesigns

16. What would we expect from And Smile in the future? And can we find you at any craft + design events this year? You can expect a lot more original drawings, prints and new brooches of course! I will be at Camden Lock market on 5th and 19th of July with We Make London. And more, I will post the dates and places on my Facebook page.

Thank you Viktorija for taking your time out to share your story with us and for the amazing photos provided by Maksim Kalanep! (FYI – I’m super envious of that great workspace of yours!!) It really is inspiring to hear more about yourself and the journey you’ve made to be where you are in this industry! I look forward to seeing more of your super fabulous work and of course catching up over some fun summer cocktails later in July! :D So there you have it folks – you must visit Viktorija’s Etsy shop or even pop along to the We Make London’s Camden markets held every 1st and 3rd Friday of the months, if you’re in London! Otherwise do follow her on facebook, twitter or instagram for more of her creative antics! xx
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Screen printed goodies!

Following on from my last blog, here’s a wee look at the things I made using the designs I drew and cut up on that day. I’ve yet to complete the tandem bike print you see on the tea towel by adding the balloon in red…..and which I’m thinking I’ll turn into cushions. So that will be my task for the next spare time I get! :) What do you think –  you like them? :) I’m dithering about whether to sell some of these seeing as they are one-offs…. either way, I will most definitely keep one of each for myself! :DSCREEN PRINTING_TEESHIRT web SCREEN PRINTING_TOTE BAGS web SCREEN PRINTING_TEA TOWEL web

[Workshop Shenanigans]: Screen Printing with Zeena Shah

Well, I finally got round to giving screen printing a go! I have wanted to do this for as long as I can remember really and had planned on checking the Print Club in Dalston out when Zeena announced her screen printing workshop sessions. Having done the lino-printing workshop with her before I decided, without any hesitation, to sign up!  Now there are a few ways of doing silk screen printing but in this session we did the paper cut-out stencil technique and not the photo-emulsion one. What this means is you draw out your designs onto paper, keeping in mind the positive and negative parts of your design which dictate what areas you will cut out. The ‘positives’ is the bit you want to print i.e. where the paint goes through onto the fabric and the negatives are the bits you block out/seal off (now I hope I don’t get this the wrong way round!!).  Cutting out stencils using paper is a labour of love but what is truly great about this method is that you can easily set it up and do it at home, skipping out all the photo-exposing-of-designs-on-to-the-screens part of the process and not relying on bigger equipment, dark rooms etc. It’s ideal for those new to screen-printing or for those who fancy doing some quick short runs of printing as the stencils only last about 3 print runs, at tops,which makes this process all the more bespoke! So here’s a look at what went on that day. In the time we had, were able to conjure up two designs; the first illustration of mine was that of a tandem bike with a balloon (you’ll see I used both the positives and negatives to create my prints!) and then the second I did as a homage to shoe lovers like me! :D I’m afraid the photos are captured through my iPhone so they aren’t the clearest but in my defense, it’s not the easiest to document while juggling stencils, paints and screens! Let me know what you think though!

BLOG_STRIP_SILK SCREEN PRINTING  webAs you can see in the photos below, each and everyone of us had such a great time busying ourselves over our designs and prints! So much so I don’t think anyone of us cared to leave Zeena’s studio to grab a quick bite for lunch! Now there’s dedication for you! :D Seriously though, I think when you’re in your element and having so much fun creating pretty things I dont think you care much about your tummy or anything else for that matter! As part of the workshop, we were provided with a tote bag and a tea-towel to print on. If you wanted any more you could just buy them off Zeena or you could bring extra fabric or t-shirts yourself. I managed to squeeze in 3-t-shirts, two tote bags and one tea towel……and trust me, I would’ve happily sat there and printed away the entire day! It really was sooo much fun and the immediacy of the printing process especially on fabric is so SO rewarding!

BLOG_STRIP_SILK SCREEN PRINTING 2 webI got the chance to meet some lovely and super creative ladies too that day;  from graphic designers to crafters to a vintage furniture restorer! I couldn’t believe that some of them travelled quite the distance just for this event…unlike me who was literally just round the corner! Just goes to show you how popular these classes are!! Anyway, I’ve added a few images of the works of my fellow screen-printing peers just so you can see for yourself how fabulous there were! I’m hoping this will tempt you into signing up to screen-printing classes – whether it’s Zeena’s or some place near you. Zeena has added more workshops that run til September so go check her website out for more details!

BLOG_STRIP_SILK SCREEN PRINTING 3 webThanks again Zeena for this awesome workshop – you’re were totally inspirational and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. I left your awesome studio totally buzzing from all the creativity and excitement! As a huge fan of all things ‘printing’ related (from lino printing, to letterpress) I think I may have found my new-found art medium!! ;) I just LOVE how you can transfer all your illustrations and typology onto fabric! I’m hoping to look up some pre-made screens to invest in so I can start churning away more designs from home! It may be a while before I do that but I’ll keep you all posted nonetheless. :D I will follow this post with another to showcase the final products I made…..still dithering on whether to give them away as gifts, sell them or just KEEP them all to myself! :D Hope you enjoyed this xx

[Behind the scenes] Tobyboo

DSC_0837 WEBMeet Tina Crawford, the wonderful, quirky, fun and talented designer-maker  behind the fabulous homeware and accessories that is Tobyboo – named after her little boy Toby. You probably have seen (or even bought) many of her finest pieces at places like House of Frasers, Museum of London, Not On The High Street, Etsy and many more. What I love about Tina’s work, a signature element to her design that distinguishes from the others, is her lovely free hand embroidered illustrations! I first bumped into her at the Made in Clerkenwell event back in November last year (see my blogpost here) where both her and her work made a great big lasting impression on me! And what’s even more admirable is how she’s made herself known in this competitive industry after facing a few obstacles of her own. Anyway, if you haven’t as yet come across any of her work…..well then here’s a glimpse into her work and what goes on behind the scenes of her creations!

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – Have you always wanted to be an illustrator/designer-maker? Oddly, when I was 15 I wanted to either be an artist of some sort or work in television… the first job I had was making the makes on children’s BBC art program SMart!
  2. How did you come about setting up Tobyboo? After years of working in television I became suddenly ill and was sent home never to be able to do ‘that’ sort of job again. Housebound and sometimes bed bound to stop myself from going bonkers I started making handbags which went really well. Our son Toby was born in 2007 after years of struggling and well, a sudden surge of baby gifts lead to the start of Tobyboo – named after our little Boo. IMG_1899 WEB 2
  3. What five words best describe you and your style of work? Ooh can I use other persons descriptions? Fluid, unique, nostalgic yet contemporary (yes I know that’s cheating a bit) and well, British
  4. What’s the main source of inspiration for your creations? So far I’ve not looked very far, pretty much looking into my childhood has given me both Oranges and Lemons (a collection based on the verse) and Wish You Were Here which bore out of a childhood holiday that – lets just say – wasn’t sun, beach huts and bunting!
  5. How would you describe your design process and what part of it do you like the most? My process for me is very organic and to most others an unpredictable risk – well I suppose it is. I don’t draw before I sew, my illustrations are all free embroideries – my sketchbook? scraps of fabric on the floor I literally draw with the needle. To be honest I don’t see the point in drawing before, why bother to sew it – its the sewing that creates fluid lines and mistakes that add charm. Some designers draw and sew over the top – what’s the point! DSC_0807 WEB DSC_0827 WEBtobyboo quote.2
  6. Is there any craft/art medium you haven’t tried but want to? And why? Er…. I can’t think. During art foundation (before my degree) you get to try pretty much everything. My degree was jewellery.
  7. There’s been a huge boom in craft and design in the last few years – would you say it’s been difficult breaking into this competitive world? My need is because I have to – I have illnesses which mean that I can’t go into full time ‘normal’ work so its frustrating competing. I would love to have this as a luxurious hobby because making money from it is so so hard but it’s one of the only ways I can earn a living.
  8. What do you like most about your business? And is this a full-time 9-5 business? Full time doesn’t describe it! Theres no switching off I work though the night sometimes till 3am which with a sewing machine is slightly noisy. I love creating a design and seeing what it turns into, and when it does get onto a shop shelf its a great feeling!
  9. When you’re not in ‘designer-maker’ mode, what else do you enjoy doing? My husband and five year old do get some time with me! We tend to make the most of London – museums get a lot of visits from us. tobyboo oranges & lemons cushion 2 WEB
  10. Have you any tips for like-minded creative individuals who would like to one day set up a business themselves in this field? Try to apply what you like and get employed by someone! It’s a jungle out there! I sort of think that but really – go for it, if it’s what you want to do you’ll regret not at least trying it. Get business advice; I did the Doug Richards School for Creative Start ups, joined Craft Central and make the most of the 1-2-1 mentor sessions and see an advisor at The East London Small Business Centre – I’d be lost without them.
  11. Are there any designer-makers out there that you find inspirational or are ones to keep an eye out for – if so, who? Eloise from Hidenseek I found on Etsy, she’s an incredible illustrator and was the first to tell me to go for it. I love Yas-Ming ceramics and have been lucky enough to be along side them at recent trade events. 
  12. Of your current work, what piece would you say is your favourite? I really love the Gull ‘n’ Chips china pieces and the platter is probably my favourite – I think the stitching comes out so well on china. But I’m most proud of the work that I created for the Museum of London’s exhibition; Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men – it’s a fantastic exhibition which is on till April and well worth the visit. tobyboo quote
  13. What would we expect from Tobyboo in the future? Hopefully a lot more, my designs have been taken on by other companies so there’s a large melamine collection – my fingers are crossed for more of this and collaborations.
  14. Finally, where can we find more of your wonderful creations? And can we find you at any craft + design events this year? My pieces have been taken by Somerset House, the Museum of London and House of Fraser there are new stockists in Ireland and Switzerland from this year too! The one thing about expanding and going into retail is that there’s less time for markets so 2013 seems to be the first year not doing any.

A massive ‘thank you’ to Tina for taking the time out from what is clearly a very busy schedule! Please do have look through her online shop or keep up to date on where you’d find her next by following her on Facebook or Twitter! Also, note this in your diaries: Tobyboo will be hosting a pop up shop at Craft Central, Clerkenwell Green for one week only starting  April 8th!!!xx

 

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