Thursday, January 31, 2008

DAY 4 OF MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

Well the "cafe meeting" went well, (as did the interview thank you for asking - but more on that later.) I had to work through pretty late to get everything ready, but am really exicted with how it's coming together. This meeting was a "first rough/concept" meeting where I presented my ideas on colour theme and shapes through presenting actual ranges. I had not worked out some of the finer details, but it was really only a chance for the client to indicate whether I am on the right track before I get too far into the project.

Fortunately she loved it and after sharing some of her own great ideas on where to take it from here, I feel really inspired and am itching to get stuck into things,so will keep this short.

(Can you tell that I got the go-ahead to do some character stuff!?) would you believe that some KIDS apparel business prefer boys to look like men, so I am thrilled to be given the go-ahead to make it a bit more "fun".

Have not had the chance to edit the post about self promotion, but have not forgotten. Thanks for your great comments and support so far.


Type the rest here

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

TOO BUSY, CAN'T TALK

OK, it's been a busy day and there's still so much to do! I have a 10am "cafe" progress meeting (I love cafe meetings!) and it will be a late night to be prepared!.....and potentially an insanely early morning at this rate! Lots to do. So little time.

I have prepared my thoughts on self promotion, following a question in the comments from my last post, so I will share that in the next day or two, (am just trying to make it a shorter read!)

But for now, must work.

(Contrary to the below link - there is no further text to read!

Type the rest here

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

YOU WILL NEED A CUPPA AND CHOCOLATE FOR THIS ONE


Are you still there? Did any of you brave the previous post in full?! Well as promised I am also revealing my design processes for this apparel project, so this might be more appealing to some of you.

It's been a productive day, but I confess that this picture summarises how I made it through the day - and it's only day two!

If you are interested in reading about the design process then click on the link below.
WARNING: You may want to prepare with a “cuppa” and chocolates before hand (or save it for a weekend read!) – it’s even longer than my previous post!

I really am the queen of procrastination - even when I am busy!


DAY TWO OF MISSION IMPOSSIBLE:
It’s been a pretty productive day. I have managed to chat to my new client about my research and early design direction thoughts, and was relieved to learn that the “girls” ranges can now be designed “in-house”.

While I would have loved to design the girls ranges as well, it was really pushing my timelines, and adding to my stress levels! It does complicate things slightly as I will need to draw all of the final garment shapes for both the girls and the boys ranges, so that the “handwriting” of the presentation looks consistent. This will still be much quicker than me designing the full ranges though!

Obviously I can not show you the final story concepts, but I have gathered some progress images to give you a feel for the processes, as promised.

APPAREL DESIGN PROCESS:
STAGE ONE = RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH
Are you getting the feeling that I place A LOT of emphasis on research?! It’s such an important element in the design process.
TRENDS:
At the design level, the research is all about TRENDS. In Australia this still tends to mean “what’s happening overseas”. I do tend to think that we focus too much on what everyone else is doing and that in some ways it makes the industry more of a commodity, but you can read my thoughts on this here.

That said, it IS important to have some understanding of what is happening overseas as it will inevitably have such a strong influence on what everyone will be doing here within the next few seasons.

The real challenge is to understand these trends in order to know how to make your product stand out from what everyone else is doing. My experience with the large retailers is to do this within the boundaries of also being seen to be right “on-trend” with your ranges. So I guess you need to find a unique way to INTERPRET the trends.

COLOUR TRENDS:
I get a lot of colour trend ideas from what’s happening in the stationery and homewares industries. If you watch the markets you will see that a lot of the fashion trend setters get their inspiration from this area anyway, and it eventually trickles down into the more commercial and identifiable mainstream trends anyway.

Colour is my favourite design element and I could quite easily just spend my days putting together colour palettes and inspiration boards. I always draw ideas from everywhere, and like to add textures and fabrics to my boards when I get the chance. I would usually do more detailed boards such as these for the start of seasons,



and would then move to smaller and tighter boards for actual range designs such as these.





There are professional “trend forecasting” services throughout the world that many industries rely on to keep up with market movements, one of the leaders is a business called WGSN. This is used across most of the industries I have worked in and is a wealth of knowledge. It’s quite expensive to join up and they are extremely strict on keeping access and passwords confidential, so I am unable to access this resource for research. I have spoken with the inhouse designers of the client I am working with to get a general idea of what they are learning from this service.

I have always drawn inspiration from many other areas, and the internet provides so much information access anyway. I have also gained an insight into world trends simply through participating in the blogging community!

STYLING TRENDS:
I need to know what’s happening with the latest garment shapes. Are shorts above the knee or below the knee. Are big pockets the go, or hidden pockets, should I use contrast stitching, or matching stitching. There are so many options and decisions that researching gives you the confidence to make those decisions.

Here’s my research, right in the thick of things! And yes I am working in the lounge/kitchen as I needed all the bench space!



THEME TRENDS:
This is basically getting and idea of what themes your range might take, such as fishing, sporty, heraldic, environment, or whatever. This can have quite and impact on the customers purchasing decisions. Many Major stores buy in items rather than stories, so this approach may vary depending on the wholesaler you are working with.

GRAPHICS TRENDS:
This is more about the style of artwork that your range will reflect. Are strong solid shapes and colours popular? Or detailed technical images, or hand drawn art? This is all part of the trend analysis.

DETAIL/APPLICATION TRENDS:
Are metallic prints popular, or embroideries, badging. Is there some hot new technology that has impacted on printing or embroidery options. Technological advancements can often have quite an impact on the apparel industry.

FABRIC SELECTION:
This can have a big impact on pricing and quality, and is also trend driven to some extent.

PRODUCT MIX:
This is a really important area that can too easily be overlooked. When putting together ranges that include multiple items, it’s really important to give the customer choices in purchasing, but it’s also important to give them a reason to buy EVERY single piece in your range. This can be challenging, but it’s all about balance. I am ultimately looking for the customer to make multiple purchases or to gain “add on sales” within the range.

This can be done a number of ways:
1. Giving the customer varying price points to select from within the range.
2. Product styling. By mixing up the types of tops and bottoms within a range you are potentially catering to various needs, rather than giving them various options to satisfy one need. Does this make sense. Basically, there would be no point in offering 3 styles of denim shorts in one range, when you would probably have more chance of multiple purchases by offering one denim short, a cargo short and a more casual board short. Some of you may disagree on this one, but it is the approach I have taken. If I also include a cargo short and denim short in the second range, then I would make sure it was very different to the one in the first story so that the customer would still have a reason to buy two of the same type of item it they wanted. Does this make sense?

3. Varying the colour balance. i.e some striped/checked, some solid colours, some tonal colour mixes and some strong/loud contrast pieces etc.

4. Graphics. Some large dominant graphics, some softer, more subtle,….positioning of the graphics on the garments.
Here’s a sneak peak at my first thoughts on this: I am a really messy sketcher when it comes to roughs, but they get better as my ideas progress!!




I am also designing across two age groups. It makes more economic sense to carry the one story into both age groups in order to share fabrics and to reduce manufacturing costs. It is also important the styling, fabrics and graphics reflect the differences in the age groups. It worth mixing up the colour balance a bit too to make the ranges look a little separate from each other, even if this means using a fabric only once in one of the stories. Perhaps a colour that was only a highlight in older boys become a key colour in the younger boys version.

Imagine two brothers who might be in the different size groups and I am sure that even at this young age a 5 or 6 year old does not want to be dressed the same as his “baby” brother!

It’s all about the add on sales!

COSTINGS:
Of course the way that all of this information is interpreted into product is ultimately cost driven! At the end of the day, certain markets have retail price point expectations and you must be able to work within these constraints if any money is to made from it! How terribly unglamorous, hey?!

WHAT'S NEXT?
I am now ready to start drawing up the garment shapes and sketching up some graphic concepts.

I will try to make this a more concise report instead of this novel! I have my full time job interview tomorrow, which I will give you more details on, and netball tonight! Busy days I tell ya, busy days!

THE DEVIL REALLY DOES WEAR PRADA!


The movie “The Devil Wears Prada” came out within weeks of me leaving the fashion industry and my husband still gets a laugh out of remembering the look of horror on my face throughout the movie! It was all a bit too close to home for my liking! My husband kept nudging me throughout the movie saying, “Hey, that’s you,” and, “ You’ve said that too.”

Well, the movie was a little extreme in some places, (and my boss was the absolute opposite of hers), but some of the fundamentals were spot on this film and I could really relate to the main character!

Anyway, I have an uncontrollable urge to give you a bit of an over view on the fashion industry. It comes with a warning though – while I loved the company and people that I worked with, I did leave somewhat “jaded” with the industry as a whole – a la “The Devil Wears Prada” style. I guess my thoughts on the industry will reflect this a little.

Once I started writing, I could not stop! I feel like I could write a book about all of the industries I have worked in! (Hhhhmmm, once you keep reading you might argue that I already have!!)

If you are interested in reading more, click the link below for a bit of a reality check on the “glamorous” fashion industry! I hope it does not overwhelm you!

(A special thank you to my gorgeous husband for setting up this “expandable text option” on my posts! We just have not worked out how to do posts without this function now! Oh well.)


INDUSTRY OVERVIEW:
These thoughts are based on my own experiences and can be a bit generalised at times, but I just wanted to give you a bit of a background into an element of this industry as I have experienced it.

For the record, I worked as a Children’s wear Product Manager and Designer for almost 2 years, with a large Australian wholesaler, who also do Men’s and Ladies wear. It was an exhausting and extremely challenging experience, but one that has taught me invaluable lessons and equipped me with a whole new set of skills and abilities! (Phew, thought I‘d better cover my butt for any potential new clients reading because I really do love the challenges!! )


MAJORS V’S INDEPENDENTS:
The Australian market for most products and industries is split into two distinctive areas.

1. THE MAJORS: Large retailers such as Target, K-mart, Big W, Myer, David Jones, Officeworks, etc .
2. INDEPENDENTS: Smaller independently owned and operated stores.

Generally speaking the Major stores are very trend driven and need to make purchases based on strong commercial potential – so basically it needs to appeal to the mass market. They are expecting to be offered products that are influenced by what has worked overseas, or that may be coming through as the next “big thing”. There are specific buyers withing the Majors who are specialists in their field, and you will normally be presenting directly to them. They are usually well travelled themselves and will already have a pretty strong idea of trends and market movements.

Independent stores can vary in actual size, but these tend to be more individually owned and rely on the owners taste and understanding of their customers. Most of the larger wholesalers will have a specific sales force directly selling to this market and often they will be presenting to the owners of the stores. It is often the designers responsibility to equip the sales team with all of the information and detailing that they will need to get out and sell the products.

The independent market generally encourages a totally different approach to what the major stores are offering, as they often can not compete with the pricing and marketing machines that the major stores have. These buyers are expecting to be offered something different to what the mass market might be buying, and infact many of them wont buy ranges that they know are being stocked in the major stores.

On the one hand, the “Majors” have more potential to sell more of your products to more people (and to increase the chances of you spotting someone wearing something you have designed!), yet the independent market has so many players that it is well worth catering to these market requirements. I generally found the independent market allowed a little more creativity for budding designers to experiment in.

My current project is for the “Majors” market.


LEAD TIMES:
The fashion industry basically has two seasons – Summer and Winter. Designers will be conscious of a slight Spring/ Autumn slant to the timing of the ranges in store.
We often work 6-12 months ahead of seasons in Australia. This is partly due to the time it takes to get things through the production processes (especially with offshore factories) and partly due to the way our retail markets are set up.

Those in Australia may have noticed that even though we are technically in the middle of summer here, all of the autumn/winter collections have now hit the stores following all of the January sales. This also means that the brand new Summer 08 collections have well and truly been designed, and are in production at the factories, ready to go into stores in the middle of our winter – around June/July. Because my new project proposes a brand new label that is not yet established, it will need quite a lead time to get off the ground and to get the retailer to commit to the ranges, so we are pitching our concept with the Summer 09 as it will realistically be the first range that goes into store under this label. (Many of the other wholesalers will be working on Winter 09 at the moment if they have not already finished!)

Therefore, I am working on the Summer 09 Collections for this presentation! Obviously it is pretty challenging to try to predict what will be hitting stores in January 09, so that’s where the research and overseas trends really come into play. The lead time required to get products to the market will vary depending on the sizeof companies and their production processes, but there is something to be said for local manufacturing in terms of the speed in responding to market opportunities.


PRODUCT LIFE CYCLE:
Part of the reason that the fashion industry has a reputation for being so”high pressure” and “cut throat”, is due to the short “life cycle” of the product. There are so many companies playing in this arena, and with the boom of the on-line industries, we really are competing with a global market. Consumers are also on the constant look out for something new. Regular visitors to stores (both on-line and physically real) are expecting to see something new to entice them to purchase.

During my time in the Toy industry we could get 1-2, or even 3-4 years out of a product line (which would surely have shortened a little now with the surge in the global markets) and in the bedding & manchester industry we could get maybe 12-18 months out of a really good product range.

In the apparel industry we estimated the shelf life of our products to be about 6 weeks! Then we had to be ready to offer something new!

The first “drops” of ranges into store at the start of a brand new season is basically where the bulk of the sales came from, and then smaller ranges were introduced throughout the ranges to inject new life into ranges that were already in store. Some of the later drops “in-season”were designed to enhance the sales of ranges you already had in stores, but it was also a chance to introduce and elements or trends that might have been overlooked at the start of the season. Late additions to seasonal ranges can often be a way to “test the waters” on potential new product directions for the following trends in that particular season.


Most Buyers tend to buy ranges well in advance of the seasons and rely on the wholesalers and manufacturers to be on the ball about trends and predictions. There is also a growing trend for buyers to delay committing to seasons ranges until as late as possible, with some even buying “in-season” rather than in advance. A move in this direction will have a huge impact on the industry, as most businesses would obviously like to have commitments to ranges before the production stages.


BUYING TRIPS/OVERSEAS TRENDS.
One thing that frustrated me about working in the ragtrade was the obsession the industry has with trends and what everyone else is doing! This may sound ironic as that is basically what fashion is about, but at the mass production and commercial level in Australia, it’s all about what is happening overseas!

There are constant “buying” trips throughout the year as Designers and Managers return with bags full of all the latest “must-haves” from around the world. What frustrates me the most about this is the “knock off” nature that usually results from these trips. If you’re in the industry long enough you can walk the stores of the major retailers and identify the actual garments/samples from overseas that were bought to “inspire” particular collections.

Sometimes I wonder why they even have designers in this field. I have heard of companies who present Buyers with actual overseas samples to buy from and then the companies head back to the office and run with a “slightly modified” version of the garments, or sometimes the actual garment just gets sent straight to the factory to reproduce.

As an illustrator, designer and graphic artist, this frustrates me beyond words and is part of the reason I got out of the trade. (Not that the company I worked for promoted this. We had an exceptionally talented team of designers who did not need to “knock off” overseas designs!)

That said, it is important to have some understanding of this process in order to get a feel for what’s coming and what everyone else will be doing. The world has become so much smaller with the introduction of the internet and we can do so much of the research and trend watching on-line. The buying trips are all about having the actual samples to send to the factory so that they can see how a garment has been constructed. This also speeds up the whole production process.

Now, after getting all of that off my chest, we have no overseas samples to work with as we are working to far ahead of the market! And funnily enough - I am OK with that!

Check out my next post to see how I adapt these principles to my latest project.

Monday, January 28, 2008

THE APPAREL PROJECT BEGINS.


My Inspiration Monday has taken a bit of a twist today. With all of my new work projects taking priority, I have decided to take you on a journey through the processes involved in completing all requirements. I hope this inspires and enlightens you in some small way, or at the very least sheds some light on some of the processes I go through to bring ideas and products to life.

Feel free to leave comments, ask questions or leave any tips or advice you may have.

Today I am starting on my Apparel project. I am still waiting on the final quote approval, but this deadline is so tight, (and I have not yet had the go-ahead to start the other projects)so I am taking the risk and starting anyway.

This project begins at the research stages of the design process.If you are keen to read more, just click on the link below.


APPAREL: THE BRIEF
This apparel project is one of those rare opportunities for a freelancer. Most apparel freelance work that gets outsourced is purely graphic/design work with occasional opportunities to get involved in the garment styling. Much of the research has usually been done and freelancers are usually given a pretty tight brief which includes colour palettes, themes and exact graphic requirements.

However in this project I have been given the responsibility of compiling the look and feel of an entire new label/brand - from the corp ID and marketing, to the actual look and feel of the products. This is pretty exciting and allows me to get a real ownership of the project and to really make a contribution.

So - first things first!

STAGE ONE: RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH
1. CUSTOMER: the first thing I needed to do was to get out and walk the store of the major retailer we are targeting, to see what they are currently doing and to learn about the type of customer they are appealing to.This allows me to get a feel for the type of product that will be required, what that product mix should be, and how it might fill any potential gaps or satisfy a particular customer need.

By looking around the store you get a feel for what appeals to the buyer, and stock levels are usually a good indicator of consumer responses to particular products. Masses of particular items that are on sale at a crazy bargain price usually indicate items that may not have worked so well, while ranges that may have only one or two items left may indicate a more popular product. This can vary depending on what stage of the season you visit the stores and this is where it pays to be a regular observer of what is going on at store level.

Large retailers often have their own individual buyers who wholesalers sell their products to. In this case there are two different buyers. One boyswear designer and one girlswear designer. Our presentation will need to gel together as final "look and feel" of the ONE label, as well as catering to the different requirements of EACH of the buyers, as well as the end consumers! This means that as a designer I need to gain an understanding of what the buyer is looking for to satisfy their customers, as well as some notion of the final end consumer. This retailer also has their own in-house design team and label, so we need to offer them something that they can't do within their own team. Lots to think about! It's a big challenge, but not uncommon in the fashion industry.

At the end of the day, the more research I can do at this stage, the easier the design process will be.

2.COMPETITION: I need to get and see what other retailers are doing and offering their customers in order to gain an understanding of why they might buy our product as opposed to our competitors. What can we offer them that our competitors can't or don't.

3.PRICE POINTS: This is also a great chance to look at price points and to see what customers expect from their products at various price points. Ultimately it will be my client who will prepare and set the pricing policy here, based on the relationships they have with their factories and suppliers. As a designer, I will need to have an idea of the target retail pricing of this label and design the products accordingly.

4.GAPS/OPPORTUNITIES: Such thorough research allows you to see gaps and opportunities within the market place. Without this background and understanding, then you are designing blind.

Ok - I have done all of the above, and have a good background now to start formulating a starting point.

TOMORROW I WILL SHARE THE DESIGN PROCESS!

DAY 1 OF MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

Not the best start!
I missed my normal 6:00am Monday morning exercise class this morning to enjoy the luxury of a sleep-in with my hubbie. In my defence, it IS a public holiday here in Australia!

So, torn between the desire to make the most of a day with my husband, and seizing the opportunity to get stuck into my workload without the interuption of client emails and phone calls, we have reached a compromise.

We are off to see the movie Juno that everyone seems to have been raving about, and I am trying to justify this by going to the cinema at our local Highpoint shopping centre where I can then do some more research on the big retailer I am preparing the apparel presentation for.

When I get back, I'll share some of the things involved in this research phase of my project.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It never rains, it POURS!


TO DO LIST: (In no particular order!)
1. Mascot drawings: Waiting on go ahead from client, but looks like a go-er!
ESTIMATED TIME REQUIRED = 3-4 DAYS
2. New "Double Book" (i.e. twice the number of illustrations usually required) in the series I worked on throughout most of last year.Waiting on final brief in order to commence work.
ESTIMATED TIME REQUIRED = 5-6 DAYS
3. NEW apparel project = FOLLOWING MEETING WITH NEW CLIENT LAST WEEK.
Brief: new logo, branding, & marketing concept for proposed new label. Also required to research and design the associated apparel ranges for the proposed label - sizes 0-2 AND 3-7 for both GIRLS and BOYS. Waiting on quote approval but too scared to waste a second on this project, so have already done store research, market analysis and competitor studies. Have commenced colour palette concepts and theme/story ideas.
ESTIMATED TIME REQUIRED = 4-5 WEEKS
TIMELINES:
-Total time required to complete all above projects = 6-7 WEEKS
-Total time available to complete all above projects (as per deadlines) = 4 WEEKS
-Total time available until leave for two week holiday = 4 WEEKS
(Yes it IS booked, and YES it is NON-REFUNDABLE, and YES we are going, no matter what - as we are looooong overdue for this!)
CONCLUSION: No life for next 4 weeks = holiday reward, money in bank (eventually!) and happy campers (literally!) all 'round.
ACTION PLAN:
- Cancel dentist appointment for next week. DONE 25/1/08
Well, come on - I am now far too busy and important to enjoy the luxury of personal appointments! It's all about prioritising!
- Attend interview for full-time product design job in the middle of next week.
(Just to further complicate my life and to punish myself for having a moment of weakness and self-doubt about my ability to maintain consistent freelance work.) Did I mention that I will be returning from my Tassie trip to no less than 10 book projects that I have already agreed to?!But the job sounded so tempting! It's the first one I've come across that really caught my attention!
-Blog about the entire crazy process as much as possible, instead of posting a warning that I will be falling off the planet for the next month in order to complete all requirements!
I will be restricted by copyright again in terms of how much I can share with you, but I hope to be creative about the imagery I can share.
Hhhhhmmm. How come none of the Business Management Books ever read like the above?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY!


Some of you might recognise this from a previous post, but with a bit of "tweaking" I thought she'd be ideal for today's celebrations!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Giraffe rides again!


I had such a great response from my last Illustration Friday that I have been playing around with the giraffe character a bit, and am contemplating taking the step into selling some of my characters on a few products. Not sure yet, but here's a sneak peak at one of my first ideas.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Inspiration Monday: Toys

Today’s Inspiration Monday is focused on TOYS. I worked as a product designer for one of Australia’s largest toy companies for over three years and continue to draw inspiration from this industry in my own art and illustration. Here are some gems from my own collection, as well as some personal favourites.

JIM EDMISTON
Jim Edmiston is a UK based toy maker who hand makes a unique collection of toys and products that include mobiles, animal boxes, and magnets. He has held several exhibitions and published many books on his art. Incredibly, all of his products are hand made and painted and I am drawn to his strong colours and fun characters.

I came across Jim's work when I was living in England several years ago, and I bought this fabulous animal box which has become one of my favourite items. I also bought one of his mobiles as a gift for my nephew, and I now wish I had bought more from this talented artist.


Unfortunately Jim appears to phasing out his toy business, but you can still buy his products by contacting him here. Spend some time at his website here, and I challenge you to resist these mini puppet theatres or these animal boxes!
PAPOOSE: COLOURS OF AUSTRALIA
Our local talent this week is Colours Of Australia who are based in Melbourne’s West (yes I am biased!) Renske Carbone is the talent behind these unique products and over the years she has developed her passion for textiles and felting into a wonderfully unique business sold under the Papoose label.

Their felt ranges are particularly gorgeous and I was lucky enough to have been given these products as a gift! I just adore them and intend to hang them on my walls, once I work out which room needs them!



Papoose also sell some fabulous craft packs including felt beads, wools and squares in a stunning array of colours, and it's easy to find a "must have" among the great selection of bags!



It’s also worth reading this section here on how and where the product is made.

I had some difficulty in locating purchase points for any of these products, but if you are really keen perhaps you could contact them directly here, or try your own explorations on the website here.
ANJA BORETZKI
I don’t normally like to post about things that I discovered via other people’s blogs (as it can end up just re-hashing what others have written) but I have to make an exception today. I discovered this artist via Natasha Rosenberg's beautiful blog.


Anja is a German based illustrator and I am struggling to find the words to express my adoration of this artist so I will let her images speak for themselves. You MUST check out her website and blog .....and this one!

IN YOUR OWN TIME:
I like to leave you with a few things you can explore in your own time and here are a few temptations for you:

EEBOO:
Are you familiar with Eeboo? They specialise in games, cards and gifts for kids using the talents of children’s books illustrators. There are some fun products and some great artists. Check it out here when you get the chance. These products feature children’s book illustrator Melissa Sweet.


MAMMA'S AND PAPPA'S
I know that Mamma's and Pappa's are a large commercial business, but they are doing some fantastic product design at the moment, and these items in particular make me want to get crafty myself! (Yeah I hear ya - I am all talk on the craft front aren't I?!) But at least check out this section when you have some time.

I hope this helps to kick start your week. Be sure to check back next week for a peek at some more great inspirations.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Year confessions....er, resolutions.

I am cheating a bit today with the imagery, but I wanted to show you this gorgeous bag that my clever sister just "whipped up!" I love it and am hoping to convince her to make me one. She's the crafty one (and my Mum). I just think about doing stuff. They actually do it!


Work is due to hot up again in the next week or two with more books and projects in the pipelines, so I have really tried to make the most of my down time to be creative. It's a real luxury to have the time, and I am putting together some greeting card ideas and working on my book concepts. I have so many ideas in concept form and my goal this year is to flesh them out into something tangible and to actually show them to publishers!

On the home front, I have commenced actions to cross off both of my new years resolutions within the first few months of the year! They may be lame to you, but I have talked about them for so long that this year is the year of action.
(And for the record - NO I am not pregnant! I wish people would stop asking me that!!)

1. I have acquired all the necessary paper work to finally get my name officially changed - after almost two years of marriage!! Looking forward to signing Mrs Danielle J....hhhmmm, I had better start practicing my signature! Perhaps I'd better actually fill in and SEND the paperwork first! Paper work was never my strong point!
(Will keep using my maiden name for my professional work though.)

2. And this one really terrifies me - I have made an appointment to visit the dentist! The stupid thing is that I have actually needed to go for longer than I will care to admit, (as I have ignored a reoccuring pain that I know I will regret not doing something about earlier.)Unfortunately he is booked out until the end of this month, so I have 14 more sleeps to stress and worry about it.
(AND I WILL!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

ILLUSTRATION FRIDAY: STITCH



All completely fictitious of course! This topic inspired me to imagine a little pack you could buy to stitch my designs onto your own products. Cute in theory I guess!

*Update: There has been some disappointment expressed at not being able to read the details in this one (thanks Raymond J) so I have up-dated a higher resolution version for any of you curious readers! Sorry if it takes a little longer to load the image for all you still on dial up!)

Monday, January 14, 2008

INSPIRATION MONDAY: VIVA LA FRANCE!

I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend, and that you are all ready for week of inspiration and creativity. Here’s a few things to help get those creative juices flowing.
I have always had a bit of a soft spot for all things French and today’s inspirations share some of my favourites.

100drine
I first encountered these gorgeous products at a beautiful homewares store in South Melbourne called Manon (in Park St for all of you Melbournites.) I have since built up my own little collection of items from this designer (as shown below), and just completed the framing of the notebooks on the weekend.



Sandrine Fabre is the talent behind these great designs and she is perhaps most well known for her beautiful tin collections. Her background in illustration and textile design has seen her artwork applied to a huge range of products, including cards, stationery, bags, homewares and more.

The 100drine website is well worth a visit, (the English version is still under construction, but it’s worth testing out your basic French skills to explore this site.) Sandrine’s history of collaboration with Atomic Soda and Sentou also make these sites a great place to explore collections of 100drine products, and you may just discover some more fabulous French designers on your visit.

Atelier LZC
I was introduced to this French collaboration at the Life In style show in Melbourne last year.
(On in Sydney next: on the 21st-24th of February 2008. I highly recommend a visit if you can get along to it. There is a special children’s section called Kids in Style where I found some of the great businesses that I featured on this segmant last year.)

The Australian distributor for these products is Nomades (contact: Eglatine here) and their stall at the tradeshow included this fabulous book.


I want this book so badly!

Atalier LZC is a design studio established in 2001 by 3 incredibly talented artists: Vanessa Lambert, Babara Zorn and Michael Cailloux. This studio creates beautiful designs for textiles, illustration, and hand–made screen prints, as well as exclusive collections for homewares, apparel and more.


Their art appeals to all age groups, but it is the children's area that I find particularly stunning.




The Atelier LZC website is so beautifully designed that I just want to print out some poster sized screen grabs to hang on my walls! (This site can be accessed in an English version.)

It is worth exploring some of the beautiful on-line stores that sell Atelier ALC, where you will also find some more great french designers. This is definitely one to add to your links and favourites.

Mini Labo
Another French discovery on Australian soil! I spotted a gorgeous card from this collection on a store research visit several years ago now.




This is another beautifully designed website that almost makes me cry with envy at the talent displayed. Never mind framing this stuff – I want them as murals ON my wall! Check out the website to get a full understanding of what I mean! You can also purchase some of their items on-line here.


Poppies for Grace
Now for the local stuff! Poppies For Grace (Arghh, I even love the name of this business!) caught my eye at the Melbourne Ready Made Design Market at Federation square a year or two ago. My sister and I bought a writing set, along with a few other items that are now “display only”- as they are too nice to actually use of course!

Poppies for Grace are a Melbourne based duo of designers – (Alana and Sara) who lovingly hand make beautiful stationery ranges that include invitations, lolly bags, tags and much more. Alana and Sara combine beautiful graphics and colours, with layers of fabrics, and sewn detail. The presentation is gorgeous and the attention to detail irresistible.


The popularity of Poppies for Grace seems to have gained momentum, as I have noticed more and more of their products popping up in stores and magazines. I am delighted that they have still managed to keep their handmade approach to their product and design.

The Poppies For Grace website is another beautifully designed site that creates the perfect environment to showcase the charm of their products.

Check out this fabulous site called Indie Art and Design for a great interview with Alana and Sara, and I bet you wont be able to resist exploring the rest of this clever site!
NEXT WEEK:
Well that’s more than enough for today! Tune in next week for some more great inspiration to get your week off to a creative start!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

TWO WESTIES, A NEW PROJECT AND AN OLD CONTRACT

Thank you to everyone for your kind words on my Inspiration Monday. I am really enjoying this segment and can't wait to do the next one. Meanwhile, I am kinda officially back in the office ... ah "studio" this week. Here's a quick rap of the week so far:

MONDAY: "TWO WESTIES"
I started with week with an "internet date" on Monday. I discovered that the very talented Lil Kim had just moved into the suburb next door to me only a few weeks after we moved into our new place. We could not resist the temptation to meet up.

Kim found this great cafe for the meeting and we decided to bring some work to share with each other - perhaps more as a "I'll be the one with the black folio" rather than the one holding a red rose! Anyway, we chatted for three hours non stop - like long lost buddies. I had a fabulous afternoon and it was so lovely to share experiences. Sometimes when you work at home it can be a bit isolating, so it was great to just get out and about. We hope to do "studio visits" next! Thanks for a great afternoon Kim. Will chat with you soon.

"GALLERY SUNSHINE EVERYWHERE"
Our cafe meeting experience was enhanced by a wonderful exhibition of children's art on the walls of the cafe. The exhibition was organised by a group called Gallery Sunshine Everywhere. This clever group promotes the art of students of all ages from Schools in the suburb of Sunshine in Melbourne's west, through exhibitions, cards, calendars and more! What a great concept. Check out the website if you get the chance. Sounds like the sort of thing I would like to get involved in.

TUESDAY: A NEW PROJECT.
Had a call from an old friend to see if I was interested in a new project to create a mascot. We had teamed up on a pretty successful mascot project a couple of years back, and I am excited at the prospect of working with her again. (She's such a great talent - Hi Al!) So hopefully we will get the go ahead. It's a tight deadline, but I am not due to get busy again for a few more weeks, so the timing is great!

WEDNESDAY: AN OLD CONTRACT
I have finally tied up the signing of my first book contract. (Um, yes the work had already been completed! Is this the norm?!) I can not believe how scary it was to sign on the dotted line! It was so daunting to have a 15 pager for a first contract! It's not enough that we have to be creative genius', but we also have to be accountants, business people, marketers AND lawyers!

And for the record, YES I did get the contract professionally assessed first! Anyway, after some emails, phone calls and hours of going over the fine print, it's done! I had the awful feeling in the pit of my stomach afterwards. Not because I am not happy with the contract, but because I hate negotiating and dealing with that side of things. I am definitely not in this game for the money - it's not about that for me, but I just want to cover my own butt on the legal stuff. Has anyone else suffered over this as much as I have? I'd love to hear any of your contract experiences.

Anyway - am still sitting in my pyjamas - eek, yes, on a "work day", so I had better get moving. They have forecast another two days over 40 degrees (over 100 Fahrenheit) tomorrow and Friday, so if I don't get things done today, I will have no hope later in the week. Have a good one and if you are a Melbournian - stay cool!

Monday, January 7, 2008

FIRST INSPIRATION MONDAY FOR 2008

For those of you who might be new to this segment it's my chance to share with you some of the things that inspire and motivate me to be creative. Please feel free to leave some feedback or a comment, or you can contact me here with any suggestions you may have for me in this segment. Who knows - I might be able to feature YOU!

Today I am looking at some wonderfully creative illustrators both locally and globally, including Patricia Geis, Keri Smith, Odette Ross and more!

PATRICIA GEIS


These books are from my private collection. I first encountered Patricia’s books on a research visit to my local library. I was so impressed with her work that I had to go out and buy these books right away.

There are two more titles in this series:
“Today I am an Apache” and “Today I am a Pirate.” I can’t wait to get them!


Patricia Geis is a Spanish graphic designer and illustrator with at over 40 children’s books to her credit – many of them board books. Her books have been translated into both French and English. Patricia’s simple, graphic style is well suited to the board book market and her strong sense of colour gives these books an element of sophistication.
Her website is currently under construction, (I assume! My Spanish is non-existent!) but no doubt it will be worth checking back in with this one in the future.

KERRY SMITH:
The second I saw these books I had to have them! They are literally “stories in a box”. Once you open the box it becomes a pop out scene (from the included book) where you can play and act out the story. It also comes with little cut out characters and accessories to make play time complete!



This to me is a complete concept! The colours and graphics are irresistible and this whole set is a favourite of mine (and my niece who always gets it out to play when she visits!)
Keri herself is a brilliant and clever artist with a wicked sense of humour! Many of you will no doubt be familiar with her blog and her website which includes some hilarious tips and advice for illustrators including this clever piece entitled “How to be miserable as an artist”. Add this one to your links and spend some time with this unique artist.


ODETTE ROSS:
If you are familiar with my previous “Inspiration Monday’s” you will know that I can not let a post go by without including a local artist.

These books are also in my personal collection and I was introduced to these books by the wonderful illustrator Ann James on a visit to the Melbourne resource centre for kids books Books Illustrated.



Odette is a Melbourne illustrator with a background in design, which is evident in her strong computer based illustrations. The simple clean layout and strong colours always make me want to pick up a pencil and start work on a baby book! With my background in product design I can also see the potential for application to various products. I would to see what she could do with pattern repeats! No website or blog that I could find - sorry.


NOW JUST A COUPLE OF QUICK ONES:
If you really like these you might want to find out some more about these artist at their websites. These books caught my eye on a recent research trip out in the stores.

VALERIA PETRONE:
I was surprised to find this little gem among the Little Golden Books! Are they still around?! I remember having quite a collection of these as a kid. Veleria's website.



ED VERE:
You might have guessed that I love the strong colours in Ed’s art, but I also love the use of black and the expressiveness in his characters! Very cute! Ed's website.



I could really keep going with this topic, but at the risk of bombarding you I will stop there and save the rest for another post! Have a great day and drop by next week for some more Inspiration Monday to start off your week!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

ILLUSTRATION FRIDAY: 100% ...(OR NOT!)


5 TOP TIPS TO AVOID SLEEP DEPRIVATION ON HOT SUMMER NIGHTS (Based on true events endured last night.)

1. Don’t under ANY circumstances get sunburnt during the day that the weather bureau forecasts hot conditions overnight. Do you have any idea how much heat radiates from sunburnt areas?!!
It was worth it for all the fun we had boogie boarding at the beach yesterday! Oh yeah, and I FINALLY bought AND WORE shorts for the first time in 10 years...the lilly white legs were always going to be an easy target for those nasty UV rays!

2. Boot your husband out of bed BEFORE you try to go to sleep in these conditions. You are already generating enough body heat to power a small country town and you don’t need any help thanks very much.
I promise that Raymond J made his own decision to try to sleep outside on the lovely new Sun (or should that be “moon”?) lounge that I gave him for Christmas.

3. DO NOT give in several hours later and try to join your husband outside, as the mosquitos have already sucked him dry and are looking for their next victim.
(This one is self explanatory.)

4. Don’t think that a lovely “cool” shower at 2am will make any difference at all. It only makes you wide awake and the cooling effect wears off the split second that you turn off the taps.
(Did I mention that this was based on true events?!)

5. Sleeping with your feet at the headboard and your head at the foot end makes absolutely no difference to either your body temperature or the temperature of the room. Neither does sleeping on your back, or your side, or your tummy, or……

Hense the sleepless night in Melbourne. Arrrggghhhh! Yeah, don’t worry I really CAN hear all of you parents out there screaming “welcome to my world”! All I can say is how the hell do you do it?
(And NO I AM NOT PREGNANT!!)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

CHECK OUT THE UPDATED STUFF


Best wishes for a fabulous and inspiring 2008!
I am really excited about the upcoming year with a long overdue holiday on the horizon (well, you know - an actual trip somewhere that is!...could it even be the belated honeymoon that we never really had?!) We hope to be heading off to Tassie for a few weeks over February! (That's the state of Tasmania for all of you international readers!)
I am smug with relief to already have several projects lined up for the new year, and have already been researching some new opportunities that I will share with you as I go. I also have quite a few new products and ranges hitting the stores in the next few months so I thought it was about time I shared some of this stuff with all of you.

There are some great new Inspiration Monday's already lined up, and if we can find the charger to our camera (missing somewhere since the big move and I am not sure how it has lasted this long before finally going flat!....hhhmmm shows you how much we use it!) then I also plan to share the development and decoration of our new house as it becomes our home.
There will be more Illustration Fridays, and hopefully lots of sketches, thoughts and ideas to be shared, and I hope to even get into a bit of crafting - inspired by some of the wonderful blogs I have been reading.
This morning I have had the luxury (ie "time") to explore some new blogs and sites, and I have updated my links. There really is some amazing stuff in there so check it out when you can and let me know your thoughts.
I am excited beyond words to have discovered that Bloesem is now doing a special new blog BLOESEM KIDS which obviously specialises in kids stuff! I always feel like getting creative after visiting her site!
Well take care and keep up your comments, thoughts and emails - it's a fabulous motivation, and it has lead me to some wonderful sites and some great people. Thanks again for all of your support!
Don't forget to check back on Monday when "Inspiration Monday" starts back!

ILLUSTRATION FRIDAY: SOAR





This is perhaps a bit more like "hover" than "soar", but it was still inspired by the topic!

Could not resist including the sketch for this one either.