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!
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!
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.
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!
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
for more of her creative antics! xx