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Springing Forward

I’m finally getting back to work! It’s the start of another school year here in Australia, and we’re all wondering where on earth the Summer went. The country has had a hideous time and we’re not sure what the future holds. On a personal level our little household has been very busy with the start of renovations and a new puppy who is growing before our eyes. We also bought four new chickens who are delightful to look at because they’re all black, but they’re pretty useless. We’ve had several escapes as they try to navigate the ladder back into the coup at night and not a single egg has been laid!

Spoonflower this week

Of course I set myself some lofty and ambitious resolutions and goals for the start of the year. And of course they’re not being met. One of them was to write a blog post each week…hahaha! Another was to complete two Spoonflower challenges each month. It’s February and this is the first one for the year. It’s a Springtime theme so an opportunity to illustrate some cute little lambs with the potential for making baby blankets. I’m really happy with this. I drew on some of the many many photos I took in the Devon countryside when I was home last year. My particualr favourites are heather and cow parsley (how good is that name!) because they remind me of walking with Dad.

cushion with a pretty Springtime pattern design
blanket with a pretty Springtime pattern design
a pretty Springtime pattern design of lambs, flowers and ducks
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Happy Holiday Season

I made this!

The holiday season always seems to creep up on me at an alarming rate in Australia. The kids finish school and the weather starts to warm up so we all hit the beach and forget that Christmas is coming very soon! I did manage to organise myself a bit this year though. I ordered some of my own fabric printed through NextState and got sewing with a beautifully easy-to-follow pattern from Tilly and The Buttons. Of course, when I came to actually wear out to an event I had a crisis of confidence and felt very silly. That’s where having daughters really helps. I swear I wouldn’t leave the house in anything but black without their help.

Puppy news

I know this has nothing to do with design, pattern or illustration but just look at this gorgeous boy! He’s distracting me a lot when he’s not napping or eating so it’s been tricky to get on with any real work. But that’s what the holiday season is for, isn’t it? Plans, drawings and pattern collections can come later. In the meantime, I’m running around in the sunshine with this one.

Happy Christmas

I wish anyone reading this the very best holiday time. Stay safe and have fun!

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Christmas! Just round the corner.

A fun illustrated advent calendar

It’s going to be a bit of a mad Christmas this year at our place. With relatives driving across the Nullarbor Desert to be with us, a new puppy and just one bathroom because the renovations haven’t progressed in time….what could possibly go wrong? One thing is certain there’ll be a lot of laughing and probably some emotional tears. We’ve had some tough times since the kids last saw their cousins so we’re all incredibly grateful that we’re all still here and able to enjoy the gorgeous Aussie summer together.

Advent Calendar

Over the next 20 days I’m offering this free A3 printable to anyone who chooses to subscribe to my news and ramblings. It’s a bit of fun and I’m thinking of using some of the motifs for cards and patterns.

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Excitement all round Play School, Fabric and Puppy!

Mini Celebrations

We had a lot of fun watching Play School yesterday and celebrating ‘Eva’s Imagination’ being read out. It brought back memories of the time when it was on every afternoon. The bubbles were non-alcoholic, and when the kids were little they certainly didn’t have chocolate and crisps for afternoon tea. Who knows if this little bit of exposure will lead to more projects, but it was certainly fun!

Fabric and sewing plans

I finally received the fabric I ordered a while ago from Spoonflower and I’m looking forward to whipping up a few tea-towels. I love Spoonflower for all sorts of reasons, mainly the mock-ups and the design challenges though. Actually ordering and receiving fabrics in a timely manner is pretty restrictive when you live so far from the USA. I’ve decided to stick to NextState. It’s local and many of the fabrics are locally farmed and woven. That’s just sensible all round. Next year I’ll be making some pretty baby wraps and muslins for markets. I’ve ordered some fabric labels for products, so I’ll have to wait for them to arrive before I start on my tea-towels. In the meantime this gorgeous sewing pattern is waiting for me to sew something for myself for the Summer. I’ve ordered the fabric in the Lily pattern I created a couple of weeks ago.

Two weeks is a long time

It’s hard to believe it’s been just over two weeks since I had a nightmare phone call from my daughter travelling in Europe to tell me she’d been in an horrific coach crash. She’s been home for ten days and is doing remarkably well considering what shes been through. So, as things seem to have settled just for a moment in our mad household we’ve decided to shake things up a bit with this little bundle. I stress about not having time to do all the design work I want to do. Not entirely sure how this is going to help. Christmas is going to be fun.

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Water Lilies

I made a new pattern yesterday with water-lilies for inspiration. I was also following the creative prompt ‘Grateful’. My cynical voice didn’t get much of a look in (‘god help me if I hear someone tell I have to be grateful one more time I’ll scream!’…that one) because I really do have something to be incredibly grateful for this week. Forever. Water lilies were what I focussed on when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter. The colours and design had to be joyful and bright. I gave this one a lot of thought and I’m happy with the result.

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Inspiration for Design

Inktober

I’m managing to keep up with two versions of Inktober, but only just. Days go by and I miss doing the sketching and then do a whole load at once. So, as with many things, I’m hopelessly inconsistent. The sketches I’m accumilating though are leading to all sorts of ideas for patterns and collections, cards and prints. There’s so much to do! It’s a good space to be in. The Christmas holidays are coming up and instead of dwelling on everything that needs to organised, I’ve decided to be optimistic about getting some design work done during that time.

Just keep swimming

Ive been looking back on all the illustration work I’ve done over the past ten years. It’s really helpful when I’m feeling like I’m not getting anywhere. There’s an awful lot of work there and some of the ‘passion projects’ I’ve done along the way have been the best to keep me focussed. I wasn’t sure if Inktober could give me a similar sense of satisfaction. Afterall it’s just sketching everyday. But the body of work that’s coming together is interesting and a lot of it will be really useful.

New collection started

This is just a start to a new collection incorporating ideas from our trip to Africa. I’m working on some guineafowl patterns at the moment as well. Completing the Spoonflower tea-towel competition was a good incentive.

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African Designs

This week’s Spoonflower challenge spurred me on to look at my drawings and photos from our recent trip to Zambia. I loved the whole idea of using a folk art style for this tea-towel design. It just seemed right. The colour palette came together easily from a mixture of folk art research and collections of photographs. I’m looking forward to designing a whole collection of patterns for children from this.

When I first looked at the tea towel challenges on Spoonflower for this month I honestly didn’t find them very appealing and thought they probably weren’t for me. But I guess that’s the whole point of a challenge. You find yourself researching art forms and genre that you wouldn’t previously have considered looking at. I love the way folk art has no rules. This design appears symmetrical, but it’s not. The drawing is naive, yet accomplished. The design seems haphazard, or cute, but it’s deliberate. This definitely won’t be my last attempt at folk art

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Do children have a say in design?

They have minds of their own

A long time ago, when I started illustrating children’s books someone very cynically said to me ‘You know you’re not illustrating for children, it’s for the parents or grandparents, they’re doing the buying’. Now that’s all fine if you’re in publishing and marketing and all that matters is shifting units off the shelf. But are we designing and illustrating to sell stuff or do we do it with children in mind? Do we consider their little personalities and the quirky choices they make? Personally I think the kids definitely have a say.

We start communicating with our children from day one. Mothers, in particular, are usually highly tuned to what their child likes and dislikes. My girls had a say in almost everything because they imposed their views and were very chatty. And, with three under 5, sometimes it makes for an easier life to let them go to kindergarten with their bathing suit on over their leggings. It’s not a great style choice, but it is theirs. Children make their own choices all the time. It’s healthy for them to be given the freedom to choose. You can buy them all the books you like, but they decide if they want to read or listen to them. They may have beautiful dresses but they often won’t choose to wear them. My middle child wore the same rainbow coloured skirt every day for almost six months until the colours faded (it did get washed). The person who bought it for her really knew how to buy for that particular child. It certainly simplified the morning dressing routine for us for a while.

Thoughtful gifts last

Some of the best gifts, the things we continue to treasure from when our children were little, were sourced thoughtfully or handmade. Beautifully made dolls, quilts and knitted baby cardigans. Things that we’ll keep safely in a box for when they have babies. I love the way we have more opportunities to choose now. I don’t mean that there are more and more things available in the shops or online. I mean that you can choose to make ethical choices when you buy things. The baby market is a throwaway market in the extreme. It’s painfully short-lived. But people buy gifts for little ones and there are more and more opportunities to buy well. Keeping in mind the environment, buying local and supporting small businesses.

Environmentally conscious buying for children

I come across a lot of washable nappy companies that use pattern designers for the wraps that go over the washable nappy. They are so colourful now! I used washable nappies but it was 18 years ago. It took some effort to source them and we had to drive about 30 miles up the motorway and pay a small fortune to get them. When we moved to Africa though I really found out that it was the best decision. To dispose of ‘disposable’ nappies there I would have to burn them (yuk…it takes ages!) or bury them (really?) So I loved them my washable nappies. It would have been so great to have had some of those beautifully patterned wraps that are available today. And you bet this little person would have had a say in which wrap she was going to wear….before she ripped it off and ran around with nothing on her bottom.

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Tea Towel Design

I’ve never designed a tea-towel before. I did this one for this weeks Spoonflower Challenge and it was an absolute joy. I thought I’d do something that would be of use to me. As you can see, the pages of my recipe book are well worn on this particular page. I’ve been making chocolate brownies for the kids since they were little, or since I was given this book was given to me by someone super clever at giving presents. I’ve adapted the recipe and simplified it but it’s usually successful. ‘Bosh it together and chuck it in the oven’ is my way of cooking. The brownies usually last about two days in our house.

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Licensing my work

This week my surface pattern designs were accepted on patterndesigns.com, a European pattern licensing site with really high standards. I was really thrilled. The designs are all checked and curated, so you have to have a sharp eye with whatever you present or it’s rejected. I’ve only managed to upload two patterns but, as with all these things, once I’ve done a couple a system can be put in place to get the rest up there.

Spring continues to inch forward here in Melbourne. The kids are on holiday so I have more time to get some more patterns designed. My plan is to get into get into working on some African animal designs for children.

I had a poke around on the Pantone site in the search for good colour combinations. These colour trends for 2019 look like just the right kind of mood for children’s patterns.