In 2010/11 I was pretty active on a site called Formspring where people could ask you questions. I always enjoy talking about myself and my business and giving advice. I got some great questions that really made me think about how I do things. Formspring completely changed in 2012 so I deleted my account, but I saved the best questions below for posterity.
If you have a question for me, you can still Ask Me Anything.
I love your DENY Designs products. I'm trying to figure out if licensing is right for me. I want to ask the rudest question: "Do you make good money with them?" but my inner good girl will just ask this: Would you recommend them to partner in licensing?
Thanks! I haven't been working with DENY very long but I'm happy with the results so far. They're great at what they do and have promotions/partnerships with some big brands. They're also very professional and seem to really care about the artists. So yes, I would recommend them. However, whether I do well with them isn't really the question, unless your style is very similar to mine. Some artists on there clearly do way better than others - it depends on your style and marketability (and lots of other things). Licensing is a lot about working to trends and providing what people (the licensees and their customers) are looking for. And also about them being able to market to your audience, so it helps if you already have one! (30 Nov 2012)
How long have you been drawing kawaii for??
About 15/20 years! Now I feel old. Partly inspired by Pokemon/Nintendo and partly by reading zines/comics that were inspired by manga. Bits of my art school projects were quite kawaii but I didn't start making up my own characters and things until about 4 years ago. (4 Sep 2012)
Do you make your own books or do you buy the plain notepad then stamp and paint your design over the top? Did you order from a book company? How did you get the rights to re-sell a product you didn't make if that is the case?
I buy the notepads and stamp/draw/print on them. My favourites are from Muji, but I've also used ones from Paperchase and other stationery stores. As far as I'm aware, you don't need permission to resell plain stationery you've added artwork to. Muji sells notebooks in bulk and don't add any branding of their own. There could be trademark issues if you use a brand name notebook like Moleskines and promote it as such, especially if it could lead people to believe it's an official licensed collaboration. Hope that helps! (15 Jul 2012)
I really enjoyed your Guide To Setting Up Shop Online You mentioned: Cons: Needs a lot of technical knowledge (or outside help) to make a template really your own. Any outside help (service or company) you can recommend? I have a designer. Thanks.
In general, I recommend Shopify Experts or the Shopify Forums if you just want advice - there's some great people on there. And of course, I build Shopify stores myself. For other ecommerce sites, I have some recommended designers who do everything from coding to character design. (6 Jun 2012)
How can I get your Shopify theme - Prettify. I searched and did not see it in the Shopify theme store.
I'm afraid Prettify has been discontinued. I designed it as a paid job for Shopify a few years ago and they upgraded it to work with new features (sometimes in ways I wasn't entirely happy with) but eventually Shopify added so many awesome new features that Prettify wasn't worth upgrading any more. If you ever want something similar, you can hire me! (6 Jun 202011)
I feel so stupid. Can you please define the word Kawaii for me? I have some of your zines and etc., really enjoy them and like the images.
No problem. Kawaii basically means cute in Japanese. So in Japan they use it to describe anything they think is cute. People like me started using kawaii to describe our Japanese-inspired cute products to differentiate it from the what most western people describe as 'cute'. It's become a bit diluted since then, but even now, the difference between typing 'cute t-shirt/necklace/whatever' and 'kawaii t-shirt/necklace/whatever' into etsy or ebay is quite obvious. (6 Jun 2012)
I am in love with your 'Sew cute' rain boots. I am searching & searching for them on the internet & my size is no where to be found : ( I am so disappointed. Is there any other site that sells your boots? :)
Aww, they were limited edition so I know some of the sizes are sold out now. The only sites I know selling them are Plueys, Ready For Rain and my own shop. You could always email Plueys and demand they sign me up to design another pair :) (6 Jun 2012)
On your website you're offering shoes, I should can buy on Zazzle. The problem is, on Zazzle I can't! They are not offering the shoes anymore. Will you offer the shoes above another service or aren't they available as long as Zazzle don't provide them?
Yes, Zazzle have put all the shoe designs on hold until they launch a new shoe option sometime this year. I'm annoyed too as I wanted to order some new shoes! From what I've heard, the new shoes won't be Keds but they will have a lot more options to customise. So hopefully it will be good, but I may need to redesign all my shoes to fit the new template. I will be sure to blog when I know more. (27 Jan 2012)
UPDATE - this still hasn't happened. Hopefully one day! (22 July 2014)
How did you first get out there with your zines?
I've been making zines for a looong time, and also publishing my writing online at diskant.net for 10 years and then on my own blog. If you're asking how I promote and sell my zines, then it's a mix of great search engine rankings from all the content I've published, writing about things people are interested in/find useful (Japan guides etc.) and the skills and audience I've picked up running my own shops (good product descriptions, photos, promotion etc.). (19 Sep 2011)
What camera do you use for your product photography?
It's right beside me so I can tell you it's a Fuji Finepix F31. Just a basic digital camera. My Photoshop skills outweigh my product photography skills. (25 Jul 2011).
UPDATE - I now use my iPhone 5s for all product photography as it's better than my camera and I haven't had time to look into buying a new one. (22 July 2014)
How do you get on with having your products 'printed on demand'? I am working on a few illustration/design ideas that will need to be printed on paper on a on-demand basis as I can not afford to pay for a print run up front. Does this work for you?
Print on demand works fine for me - I still sell quite a lot. However, I only offer those products via the sites that make them - Spoonflower, Zazzle, Society6 and Lulu - so customers understand that it's another company handling their order, not me. For prints I would recommend Society6. POD is also a good way of finding out which designs are popular so you can get those printed yourself first. I have done pre-orders on my own shop and I think as long as you are extremely clear (and honest!) about the timescales then people don't mind waiting. I'd always say it's best having the actual products ready to ship though - many of my orders are last minute gifts. Quite a few printers will do small runs now so it's worth asking around. (30 Jun 2011)
I was just wondering how long it took before you got your first sale?
Difficult to say as I sold zines and records and things by mail order long before I had a proper business. Even when I started Asking For Trouble, I first sold things through Miso Funky at craft fairs and their website. So pretty much straight away. Having a dig in my archives, it looks I sold my first things on my own site, Etsy and Folksy quite soon after I opened each one. I guess having the experience before I started properly really helped. My early photos were pretty bad though! (26 Jun 2011)
How did you get your name?
Asking For Trouble? it was going to be the name of my record label, which then turned into my business. I like the sound of it, and I am often asking for trouble - I have a deep-seated belief that everything will work out, which can be a bit dangerous. (26 Jun 2011)
Tomorrow is my 25th birthday. The best birthday I had was my 21st when I went for a picnic with my friends - what's the best thing you've done for you birthday?
Happy birthday! My best was going to Japan! I went for the first time around my 31st birthday and they ended up swapping the days of our organised trips so we got the day off in Kyoto. We went to the botanic gardens and ate ice cream, and I bought a bunny woodblock print at the bunny shop. Generally, I like to find somewhere exciting to go for my birthday. This year I went to the ballet, another year I met up with all my diskant friends at a Shellac gig in London. (27 Apr 2011)
What was your first design ever?
I used to design sleeves for my 7" singles when they didn't come in a picture sleeve. Sometimes you'd get DJ copies or promos cheap in blank sleeves so I'd make my own cover and recreate the logos, or make up my own. I must have been about 13. I think I still have a couple in my collection. (27 Apr 2011)
If you could start your life all over again, would you do anything differently?
I wouldn't go to art school so young. I was only 17 and had no idea what I wanted to do. I could have learned so much more 5/10 years later. But generally no. Maybe you'd end up at the same place anyway, or things could turn out for the worse. (27 Apr 2011)
What is your favorite unexpected color combination? What about it makes it "work" or what about it is inspiring to you?
My favourite is definitely the colour scheme in my Fruity Friends fabric - those colours are way out of my normal palette but everything else I'd tried looked too wishy-washy. It made me vow to use more bold colours. I was also impressed with the Morocco colour scheme of my Sew Cute rain boots. That was what Plueys asked me to use, and again were colours I would never choose. The boots look really stylish and grown-up, and they go with everything! I'm not sure that sort of colour scheme would fit with my general product style though. (24 Apr 2011)
Who do you consider being your competition and what do you think makes you differentiate from them?
I don't really think of anyone as competition as such, as illustration is such a personal thing - for example there are hundreds of cute cupcake characters out there but some people like mine best. I hope my attention to detail and drawing style set me apart, and things like my blog and book that give people a look into my world. If you want names, people I think are on a similar wavelength and cover a similar audience are She Likes Cute, Berrysprite, Nut and Bee, Cute Plush, Cute Creations. We all have our own styles though, and I own stuff by all of them. (24 Apr 2011)
What sparked your interest in Japan?
I write a little bit about this in my book, and decided it must have been Nintendo. We were big Nintendo fans and totally fell for Pikachu when the Pokemon games started being released. The gaming magazines we read were always doing articles on the amazing stuff they picked up on trips to Japan and it just seemed like an amazing place. And then I discovered Ghibli films and woodblock prints and kimono/chiyogami patterns and bento and all the other inspiring things about Japan. (24 Apr 2011)
When did you start creating things?
I've alway been making things since I was very young. I went on to art school and started making prints and zines, and then websites and now a whole product range! The earliest things were probably cards - I've always made it a point of honour to make my own personal Christmas cards each year, and I've never missed a year yet. I just wish I'd had a digital camera or scanner back then so I had a record of them all. (24 Apr 2011)
Why do you like bunnies so much?
They're so cute! The floppy ears and fluffy tails and twitchy noses. Plus they lend themselves so well to kawaii. Also, I had a bunny rabbit as a child who was awesome. Bunnies! (22 Apr 2011)
I'm hungry. Tell me about your favorite desserts :-)
I like cheesecake best - the baked kind - with some kind of fruit topping. Or pie and custard. Or chocolate cake. Or my mum's profiteroles with melted Mars Bar sauce. To be honest, I like most desserts unless they involve dried fruit, or a lot of alcohol. Having said that, I haven't had a proper dessert in ages - not since my birthday a whole month ago! That was churros though, with chocolate dipping sauce, nom nom. Now I'm hungry :( (20 Apr 2011)
Imagine you wake up tomorrow only to learn you have won A LOT of money at the lottery (I don't know, like... a million pounds!!). What would you do that day?
I would go househunting! I like my current flat fine but it could certainly be improved on. If I could find an island of my own to buy that would be ideal. And then I would invite all my friends out for a hugely expensive dinner. I could easily carry on and tell you what I'd do with the rest of the week too. But after that, I would pretty much go back to normal. I'm already doing what I love! I hope this does happen tomorrow, even if I never play the lottery. (20 Apr 2011)
1. What makes your designs different to others? 2. Are there fabric designs you wish you shouldn't have made? If yes, what's the reason behind? 3. What is the best compliment you've ever heard pertaining to your designs? Did it make you cry?
1. The way I draw, my use of colour, the way my printmaking background influences my digital design, my lack of schooled training, who knows? 2. No. Even if I end up disliking some designs after a while, I learned so much each time that they were all worth doing. 3. I get lots of lovely compliments - the reviews of my rainboots were the most exciting as everyone was so nice and were people who had never heard of me before. The best would be if someone sent me a photo of something they've made with my fabric. That might make me cry :) (20 Apr 2011)
Have you ever been through a "dry" period... When you thought inspiration was gone for good? How did you overcome that feeling and got the creative groove back?
I can't think of any. I have so many projects on the go at any time that If I get stuck with something then I can work on something else until I figure out the next steps. Also, I don't really have many deadlines - I imagine it would be a different story if I had to create a whole fabric collection twice a year or an illustration every week. I do have loads of unfinished designs sitting on my computer but I'll figure them out eventually. (20 Apr 2011)
Is it hard for you to balance work/family/free time? Do you have any tips on that?
Not really, since I started having a schedule. The most important thing I did was set 2 days as my shipping days (Mondays & Thursdays). Those days are now my out and about days once the parcels are packed - post office, shopping, errands etc. Tuesdays & Wednesdays are my p/t job (freelance). Fridays and Sundays are my work/admin/blogging days. Whether I work or play on the evenings and Saturdays depends on my workload. (20 Apr 2011)
If you had known, when you were little, that you'd be doing this when you grew up, how excited would you have been?
I think I would have been pretty pleased, once I'd got over the disappointment that I wasn't regularly travelling into space. (17 Apr 2011)
Is there a name for a fabric design that is so awesome you'd come up with a design just to be able to use the name?
Quite possibly! The names of my products/characters usually come after I've designed them but Monsieur Le Bun and his family were all named and well discussed as individuals before I drew them. The more crazy Spoonflower contest themes are a bit like that too, though I've never actually come up with a design from one yet. (17 Apr 2011)
Which designers do you most admire?
Off the top of my head - Ink & Spindle, Cute Plush, The Small Object, Lizzy House, Anna Maria Horner, Heather Moore, Lucie Summers. They all do something unique in their own special way. They're all female too, which was unintentional. I like a lot of design work in graphics, book covers, furniture, typography etc. as well but I don't usually keep track of individual designers unless they're interesting bloggers too. (17 Apr 2011)
I think instead of our heads being filled with our brain it should be full with those things that we love best and that represent us. What would those things be for you?
Bunnies! Also daffodils, old books, Zelda, cake, vinyl records, space, snowmen, the Yamanote Line, the sea, zines, buttons, Totoro, sunshine, tracing paper, gashapon, hotels and patterned fabric. But mostly bunnies. (17 Apr 2011)
What are the five blogs that you would really miss if they disappeared from the Internets?
Popjustice (always makes me laugh), Bad Astronomy (for space wows), AV Club (for tv/film news and reviews), Serious Eats (for recipes) Manhattan Nest (entertaining home and design stuff) (updated Jul 2014 because some sites were gone)
I would like to know how do you started making a living from your art
It's been a long process - I've been selling zines I made since I was 17, and then records. Plus I was also doing freelance design. Once I started selling handmade and illustrated things in 2007 it was a case of building my customer base and freelance work until I could quit my day job. So even now, only a small part of my income comes from my artwork - the rest is freelance web design. (15 Apr 2011)
Who's the first designer you remember being influenced by as a child? For example, were you a Holly Hobbie or Mary Englebreit fan or more like Hello Kitty kinda girl?
We were into Lego and Sindy and Strawberry Shortcake but I'm not sure if any of those influenced me. Books were our big thing, which definitely influence/d me - I still have a lot of them. The real answer is probably my dad! He made us these amazing play sets, like a big zoo, and a house which was done up in the same flooring as our actual house. They were amazing. (15 Apr 2011)
I've been interested in the Spoonflower products. My question: do you know if the printed fabrics hold their colors (and their prints) in the sun? I think some of their fabrics would make nice window treatments, but am worried about sun exposure.
I had no idea but a bit of searching on the Spoonflower Flickr group found me this. Looks like it does pretty well :) (15 Apr 2011)
UPDATE: The fabrics have changed a lot since 2011 so I would always advise buying a swatch to check yourself. The linen/cotton blend fades quite badly. (22 Jul 2014)
If you could take a time-travel trip to any time in history, and any place, where and when would you go?
Really hard question! I guess mission control during one of the moon landings in the 60s/70s would be amazing. Otherwise, Kyoto back in the Tale of Genji days. (14 Apr 2011)
What's your favorite Glaswegian music group and why?
Mogwai. I've loved their music since the beginning and they were the first band to treat us zine makers as peers and friends instead of fans, and not take themselves too seriously. And now 10+ years later, they are still the same awesome people. I think they're also the only band I like where each consecutive album is consistently better than the last one. Most bands have a dodgy period, or an album they never quite surpass. I also love Errors, whose music hits me in exactly the same emotional places as Mogwai, but they do it electronically. A lot of my favourite bands are from Glasgow though eg. bis, the Yummy Fur, Eska... (11 Apr 2011)
In your "Things to do in Glasgow" blog entry you mention you wouldn't be interested in living anywhere else. What is it that you like so much in Glasgow?
It just suits me. It's a major city but not too noisy and polluted, and everything is quite close together. We get a huge range of gigs, events, festivals etc. but without the London prices. Lovely parks and gardens and architecture. Good transport links to Edinburgh, London etc. Amazingly friendly and supportive DIY community spirit. Close to some awesome scenery up the west coast. etc. etc. etc. If it was nearer the sea (I'm from a seaside town), it would be perfect. (11 Apr 2011)
UPDATE: Of course, I no longer live in Glasgow, but I only moved 50 minutes away so I could be nearby and also have the seaside! (22 Jul 2014)
Does the city of Glasgow work as an ispiration for your work?and if it does in what level or which part of your creative thinking does it do so?
I guess it does, because it makes me happy living here. Happiness is a big factor in motivation. (11 Apr 2011)
What is the one funny thing about you that most people don't know?
Maybe that I basically failed art at school, left school literally as soon as I was 16, got into art school on the waiting list and have no qualifications in web design. And yet now I'm a full time illustrator/web designer! (11 Apr 2011)
If you weren't doing what you're doing, what would you be doing instead?
I was talking about this with my sister the other week, how as a child I wanted to be an astronaut, a journalist or an artist, and I pretty much found a way to do all of them together (assuming writing a zine about the solar system is as close to space as I'll get). If I wasn't allowed to do my current job, I would like to be a travel writer or an antiquarian book seller. (8 Apr 2011)
What's your favorite part of the creative process?
The moment when an idea clicks together into a Plan. I have millions of ideas floating around in my head, but have to wait til things come together. Sometimes it's finding the right name, or the right printer or a combination of character and subject. Most other parts of the process come with possible issues - design indecision, printing issues, finances etc. - so they're never completely enjoyable. (8 Apr 2011)
Do you get design ideas from dreams?
I don't think so. My dreams are very mundane. However, I do get a lot of ideas when I'm just about to fall asleep or just woke up. That's my best thinking time. (8 Apr 2011)
You have a great eye for color! I adore your antique button print in the teal. Where does your inspiration for the colors you use come from?
Thank you! I was told at art school that I had a very unique sense of colour (meaning, you are mental but somehow it works) so I guess it's inbuilt. I am definitely a bit odd about colour. Last night I was enormously pleased by my pink and green tulips against the dark blue of the sky so maybe that will turn up in a design. I also hoard images from the web with colour schemes I like. One other tip from my website template days - I often use the Hue/Saturation sliders, or Colour Overlay options in Photoshop to see how a design looks in different colours, especially if I'm stuck. It can throw up some colour choices I would never have considered. (7 Apr 2011)
I have always wanted to start my own stationery range with the patterns and designs I create but really have no idea where to start. Do you have any tips?
That's a very a big subject. I would just give it a go! Pick a product - cards are a good starting point , and relatively cheap to print - and download a template from somewhere like moo.com or vistaprint.com. And then play around with your designs. You can draw stuff directly in programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, Inkscape etc. or scan in your own drawings. Try mixing sizes, colours, fonts etc. and keep doing variations until it works. Have a look on sites like Folksy and Etsy to see how other designers lay out their cards. Don't copy obviously, but you should start to see what works and what you like. If you want to do something more handmade, you can get your designs made into rubber stamps, or you could buy a gocco printer or sign up for some printmaking classes. Another good idea is to enter design contests or start a Zazzle store - both will restrict you in certain ways (size, colours, theme) so you'll learn how to make your designs work for different products, seasons etc. Plus the feedback will help you see what's popular. There's a LOT to learn really - I've been designing and drawing stuff for nearly 20 years now and I still feel like I have loads to learn. If you want to ask any follow up questions, I'm happy to try and help! (20 Oct 2010)
What is the weirdest thing you own?
So difficult! Obviously my Japan trips and love of handmade means I have a whole lot of crazy in my house. It's probably Playmobil Satan though! (18 Oct 2010)
What music are you listening to these days?
You can see what I'm listening to at Last.fm. I'm still working through a re-listen of my entire iTunes library. Other than that, I'm enjoying the new Gold Panda album and been digging out old Yummy Fur albums ready for their show in December. (16 Oct 2010)
What is your favourite colour?
Grey. It looks so nice with pretty much every colour. And if I can't have grey (since it isn't technically a colour), I like yellow and aqua. (16 Oct 2010)
What is the tattoo on your arm of?? Do you have any more tattoos?
I just have the one - it's an m, for marceline. I got it done about 12 years ago down at the harbour in Aberdeen, and yes, it did hurt. I would quite like to get cakeify tattooed on me at some point. (16 Oct 2010)
How do you pronounce kawaii?? Is it kah+why?
That's pretty close! Also similar to Hawaii. If you're using it to express over-excitement at something super-cute, then it's basically "ka-wa-eeeeeeEEEEEEE!" :) (13 Oct 2010)
Which one of your products is your most favourite?
It changes all the time but at the moment, my Busy Bee Organisers. They're cute and useful and I use one myself, plus they take 10 seconds to package so I'm always happy when someone buys one as there's no work involved! (9 Jul 2010)
What one thing couldn't you live without?
I couldn't live without my laptop. I had an eye infection and sore arm last week and I was so bored, plus I got nothing done. (9 Jul 2010)
Do you accept paid reviews or sponsored post?
Not really. All the things I write about on Asking For Trouble are things I've bought or love. On diskant, I review records and zines I've been sent for free, but there's no incentive to be nice about them! On Super Cute Kawaii, we do accept freebies to review or giveaway, but only things that would be of interest to our readers. (4 Jun 2010)
What other print on demand services would you recommend? Would you even recommend this route for someone starting out? I'm quite worried about quality control as I obviously want to offer the best for those buying my products.
It is difficult. Spoonflower is definitely the best because you have to buy a swatch of every design before you make it available for public sale. Swatches are cheap plus you know what your fabric will look like and you can post photos for buyers. Other companies, it's a risk - I can't afford to buy one of everything I have for sale on Zazzle, for instance. But I do get a seller discount and updates on sales, so I can take advantage and buy a few things to check the quality. So far everything on Zazzle has been much better quality than I hoped so I'm happy to trust the rest of their products. I guess that's the only thing you can do - buy something at random and see what the quality is like. I would definitely recommend Sponflower and Zazzle if you're a designer/illustrator - it's a great way to guage interest in your designs. Once you see which designs/products get the most views, sales, features, you can decide what to get made yourself in bulk. (8 May 2010)
I'd love to hear how do you handle being a freelance business woman. I wish I could be one some day...
It's hard to describe - it's just what I do. I've always been creative and self-motivated so it's more that it's difficult for me to do a normal job! However, I do also work 2 days a week for another company so I'm not entirely freelance any more. It give me a bit of security and I learn a lot. I did spend many many years working on my creative stuff as well as a full time job until I was sure I could make a go of it on my own. Take as much knowledge as you can from jobs that can be applied to freelance stuff, whether it's design or accounts or marketing or communication skills - it's all relevant. I'm lucky in that I co-own a flat in a cheap area and don't have a lot of expenses so I'm able to live on less money than most people. I would say the most important thing is to have multiple sources of income - even small amounts add up over time. If you really want to do it, you'll find a way. Good luck! (16 Apr 2010)
What is your favourite food to eat when you are in state of Melancholy? Excuse the randomness! :)
Mashed potato is my ultimate comfort food, but not always easily accessible. So probably salt & vinegar crisps. My actual cheer-up purchase though is lemonade! I love lemonade but it's so completely devoid of nutrition that I severely ration myself. It's for special occasion/eating out/cheering up only. (16 Apr 2010)
Where is your favourite place to spend a lazy Sunday?
A what? Okay, hypothetically, if I wasn't working. Mono in Glasgow is one of the best places to hang out with a bunch of friends, being ridiculously laid back and containing food, home-brewed lemonade and a record shop. If I'm on my own, I like a good Botanic Garden. The one in Glasgow is my favourite but I've yet to meet a bad one (and I've been to lots!). (15 Apr 2010)
Where would you travel if you had limitless funds?
Once I've exhausted Japan (still want to go to Kyushu and Hokkaido), my top wish is to explore China. After that, it goes Hawaii, South America, Singapore, Philippines, USA. If someone could make this happen, I'd be delighted, thanks! (15 Apr 2010)
What 3 things could you not work without?
My laptop - I do everything on it. Pen and paper - doesn't matter what, I need to scribble down lists and sums and things Peace and quiet - as anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I turn into a raging mentalist when things get noisy around my house :) Runners-up: my iPhone, Shopify, camera, books. (15 Apr 2010)
How did this all start? What was it that caught your interest so much that you decided to make a living out of this?
Oops, I kind of answered this below. In terms of this being my job now, that mostly came down to me getting RSI from too much computer work. I had to find some hobbies that didn't involve computers so I took up sewing and started drawing again. Of course, now I do most of my illustration work on the computer, but since I work at home to my own schedule, my RSI isn't such a big issue any more. (14 Apr 2010)
How did you first get into designing/illustration & can you remember your very first cute character?
I've always done it. After I got over wanting to be an astronaut and then a journalist, I wanted to go to art school and that's what I did. I never thought it was something I would do for a living though so I feel very lucky. I fell into web design after art school and that slowly brought me round to more illustrative work. I have cute drawings I did when I was about 5 years old but I suppose the first character would be me! I used to draw myself to go by the intros to my zines - I've done a few manga-ish ones. I should dig those out :) The first character I drew for a product was Cakeify and he's still going strong. (14 Apr 2010)
Where do you find colors for your fabrics? I love the combinations that you use!
Thank you. I find them in my head! Basically I have a very bizarre and strong colour sense - I used to baffle my tutors at art school with my strange colour choices, and once got rejected from a class exhibition because my painting was 'too pink'. However, by the end of my time there they were on side and totally pushing me on it so I guess I won. It's the same with my web design, so it's definitely inbuilt now :) My favourite tool for colour combinations is the Hue/Saturation slider in Photoshop. You can quickly see your image in all kinds of crazy colours and use the best ones. I also save a lot of photos, illustrations, magazine images etc. if I like the colour scheme and refer to those if I'm stuck. (14 Apr 2010)
Do you think Bread Slice is a relative of Mr. Toast? Or just from the same region?
I think Bread Slice is closely related to the Scottish Plain loaf, a type of bread so gargantuan you can fit an entire picnic on a slice. Mr Toast seems like more of a smaller artisan bread. However, I'm pretty sure they've met at the annual BreadFest conference. (10 Apr 2010)
I find I've got favourite colour combinations that I use over and over in my work... do you do that? & if so, which colours do you use most/least?
Teal and pink. I don't know why - they just look nice together. I'm also horribly attached to white backgrounds - it's a big wrench to get me to use a different background colour. I suppose that comes from being a web designer for so long. I think this is my favourite thing about fabric design though - you have to do different colourways so you're forced into trying colours you wouldn't normally pick.
If your designs suddenly came alive and started to wage war against you, how would you defeat them? That'd be an army of cupcakes, suns, bread and others versus and army of one...
Well, first I would put on my grim face and hope to scare them into submission. If that didn't work, I would start eating them one by one, starting with grumpy Cakeify and moving on to the Cutie Fruity Friends. Hopefully they would see sense before I had to eat the snail or the bunny. (10 Apr 2010)
If your store had a mascot, what would it look like, and what kind of personality would it have?
It already does - Cakeify, the happy cupcake! Cakeify's personality is similar to mine - mostly happy but with occasional bouts of severe grumpiness. However, he also has a chip on his shoulder about how I made him look a bit like an ice cream and he worries a lot about the cupcake trend ending so no-one will love him any more. (10 Apr 2010)
What superhero power would you most like to have?
Teleportation! There are very few aspects of my life that couldn't be improved by teleportation. (8 Apr 2010)
What or who inspires you the most when fabric designing?
Specific to fabric designing, I just like looking at patterns and colour combinations in pretty much everything from clothes to book covers to wallpaper etc. - I would say a good 50% of the images in my inspiration folder (stuff I've liked online) are there for their colour combinations. Fabric designers that inspire me include Lizzy House, Summersville, PataPri, Anna Maria Horner and of course all the kawaii Japanese designs. (8 Apr 2010)
Describe what it was like to sell an order of your fabric for the first time! Did you know the person? If so, what was it like to sell your first order to someone you didn't already know?
It was a total surprise! I had absolutely no idea as I (wrongly) assumed Spoonflower would email me going OMG someone actually bought your fabric, HURRAY! So I just spotted it in my recent activity one time I logged in and did a double take. I've sold a few bits now, all to strangers, so that's lovely. Out of all the things I sell, the fabric makes me happiest, I think because people will use it to create something else. The day I see photos of something someone has made with my fabric, THAT will be the most exciting thing. (8 Apr 2010)
After you've gone through the process of designing, how does it feel to FINALLY have the finished fabric in your hands? How do you celebrate?!
I'm feeling quite bad now, with all these questions about fabric design being a difficult, stressful process. Is it like that for everyone else? Maybe I am a terrible designer but I find it all really fun. I dabble around with various ideas - leave them and come back to them, play around with colours and sizing and then just get them printed. So of course it's REALLY EXCITING seeing the fabric but there's no pressure or sense of relief, I guess because I'm not designing a professional collection. I celebrate by thinking of all the cool stuff I could make, except I can't really afford to buy yards of my own fabric, sob! (8 Apr 2010)
What's something that you can do (other than the obvious) that would make people go 'ohhhhhhh' (ex: I can wiggle my ears)?
Hmm, I have double-jointed fingers so I can bend my fingers back at right angles to the rest of my hand. Other than that, my ability to come up with amazing ideas and solutions on request always seems to impress people :) (3 Apr 2010)
I've always been intrigued by how designers produce a collection or series of fabrics that tick ALL the boxes eg variety + cohesion + true to own style + fits the brief of the company who commissions it etc + relevant etc?!?
Me too! The more I look at fabric collections, the more I realise how much skill there is in it. It's not just designing a bunch of patterns. I'm still very new at this, though I would like to design a proper collection sometime soon. There are two things that have helped me no end - the True Up blog (and now Kim's amazing book, A Field Guide to Fabric Design) and Lizzy House's ebook, How to Enter the World of Textile Design. The latter really explained to me how you put a collection together - I learned so much! I really recommend buying both. (3 Apr 2010)
What kind of things do you doodle whilst on the telephone or bored on a bus?
If I'm not thinking about it, flowers. If I am, it's usually bears. That's why I had to do the I Like Bears badge set - I had pages of them. (3 Apr 2010)
How will you cope when Lost has finally finished?
Haha. Around the end of S4, this was a BIG worry for me. I've never watched much TV so it was going to leave a huge hole in my life. I think I'm a bit more ready to let it go, now we're in the final season. They're doing a good job of finishing it all up. I wouldn't really want them to keep dragging it out. What I'll miss most is all the debating and theorising and BWAAAing - that's been my absolute favourite thing about LOST. Fringe will fill the gap well enough, and then I'm mega excited about the Game of Thrones adaptation in 2011 so I think I'll manage. (3 Apr 2010)
I've been thinking of putting together a little zine for a while now, do you have any tips of tricks or know of any cool tutorials?
Firstly, you should DEFINITELY do a zine. They are awesome and I think everyone should do one at least once. My favourite tip is to make a mini mockup of your zine so you can see how many pages you need and what goes best where. just cut up some paper and fold it and scribble on it. It's easy to forget you need to work in sets of 4 pages so this way you can't go wrong. For the actual zine, cut and paste is always fun - you can use comics and stickers and things for fun backgrounds and borders. There are no rules when it comes to zines though so do whatever you think looks good. Good excuse to buy lots of zines for layout inspiration too. There's also a guide to zines called Stolen Sharpie Revolution - I've not read it myself but it's pretty much the bible of zinesters in the US. Have fun! (3 Mar 2010)
UPDATE: I wrote my own guide to zinemaking, Let's Make Zines! Available as print or PDF for just £1! (22 Jul 2014)
Who do you get this fantastic creative artistic talent from? Could it be your mother!
Why thank you! I would suspect this of being asked by my own mother except she always says I get it from my dad, who's an architect. My mum is creative too though - she does calligraphy and things. Also my sister makes stuff as jiji~punch so we're quite the creative family :) (3 Mar 2010)
What software do you use for formatting your zines?
I use Adobe InDesign, which is a professional print layout program. It's probably overkill for zines but I use it for designing posters and other print things so I'm used to it. Plus it's great for margins and columns and page spreads. Before InDesign existed I used Illustrator to do each page separately (insanity!) and before that it was good old cut and paste using basic word-processing programs and even a typewriter back in ye olde pre-computer times. (27 Feb 2010)
What music (if any) do you listen to when you're creating?
Most of the time, nothing. I find it very distracting, probably because I spent so many years reviewing music for diskant. However, I do sometimes play music when I'm printing or packing up orders - today I've been listening to proper vinyl records by Errors, Unwound and Icebreaker International. You can see what I listen to when I'm out and about over at Last.fm. (20 Feb 2010)
What are the skills/talents/qualifications you use the most in your work?
I wish I could say it was drawing in my sketchbook or printmaking but it's got to be image editing in Photoshop - not just for editing my own product shots but making product mockups, resizing things for Etsy/Folksy etc. and rejigging my illustrations for printing. Drawing things in Illustrator and web coding would be runners up. Oh, and procrastinating. I'm very skilled at that. (16 Feb 2010)
How do you stay motivated?
What gets me up in the morning is all the little plans and ideas I've been thinking about. Once I have an idea, I HAVE to try it out as soon as possible. I'm also quite disciplined about getting the most important tasks done before I can have fun making new things. I have bad days when I just can't be bothered but I either plough through some monotonous tasks like filing emails and doing accounts or else I switch off and go do something fun instead to recharge my batteries, and come up with even more ideas. (16 Feb 2010)
What/who inspires your artwork?
My drawings and other artwork for Asking For Trouble are inspired by my trips to Japan and all the kawaii characters you see everywhere you look. There is literally nothing the Japanese can't put a cute face on. My more personal designs are inspired by travel, teenage girls magazines (from when I was a teenager), secondhand books, manga art and the patterns and colours I see everywhere. I think being extremely short-sighted means I see details in things that others might miss (my vintage buttons for example). (16 Feb 2010)
Looking back on things are you glad that you gave up your full-time job? Has freelancing/crafting been like you thought it would be as regards work and money etc? Would you recommend taking this step to others?
I haven't regretted giving up my job for even 10 seconds! I love working from home and getting to do things my way and being able to work with nice people I choose myself. In retrospect, I wasn't prepared for how much time I'd have to spend chasing up leads for freelance work, doing accounts or packaging shop orders. I can definitely see why people have agents and accountants and interns! Because of this, I wasn't really making enough money to live on, which is why I now have a part time job (also working from home). Now my bills are paid even if I make zero money for the other 5 days of the week. I would definitely recommend this life to others, but only if you are extremely motivated, have multiple ways of earning money, plus some savings, and have a low maintenance lifestyle, at least for the first few years. I basically gave up buying things and going out - making clothes out of pillowcases, renting DVDs and trading books on Bookmooch is almost as fun as buying new stuff. (16 Feb 2010)