You might not know that one of my big, pipe-dream goals for the future is to write and illustrate a book. I made my first one when I was 16 for a class, about a Llama who lost her Mamma and I loved it. It’s still at my home in York, and I like to flick through it when I go back.

Now I’m a little ways away from being able to have a published illustrated book, but there’s nothing to say I can’t make my own. So, in a now age old tradition I decided to self-publish and start small by making my very first zine.

And where better to start than with something I love?

An Ode to Tea is all about why tea is so much more than just a drink, it’s a comforting hand, it’s a ritual, it’s a moment of understanding. Tea can be everything and I think it’s so easy to forget how much can be wrapped up in a simple cuppa, and that’s the story I wanted to tell.

Actually putting the zine together was a lot of fun. It started, of course, with me making a cup of tea. Then I mind-mapped everything I love about tea. There was a lot. Then I made an attempt at some story boards, so I could try and stitch all of those separate ideas together into some form of a narrative. Then I drank some more tea and got on with the illustrations.

When it comes to creative work I’m usually someone who just dives straight in and tries things out. I don’t have a lot of patience for planning in the way that I do with other kinds of work. I just want to make. That’s what I did when making the zine. So there were a lot of images and bits of text I scrapped in the end because they didn’t work. But making all of those failed attempts is what informed the finished product and I think it’s so much the better for it.

It took a lot longer than I thought to be ready to print properly – I did print a few drafts to see how it would look, but the final one took a few weeks in the end. But the moment when I saw all of those pages churning through the printer I felt like I had joined a special club. It felt like I had joined a union of self-publishers. Is that weird?

As fun as mass producing your illustrations is, I really wanted the zine to still feel personal. That’s why each on is assembled, signed and finished by hand, so you know each one has really come from me.

You can buy my zine on its own or in a bumper par-tea (I know I’m hilarious) bag, which includes the zine, postcard, a greeting card, and an exclusive sheet of biscuit-y stickers for just £6. That’s the same as a tea and a slice of cake, and a bit of a bargain if you ask me.

Over the last 12 months I’ve written over 180 posts, which by my rough calculations is around 126,000 words which is about the length of a novel (Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was only 76,944). When I did that quick bit of maths I was really surprised, and, you know what, pretty proud. To think that I’ve managed to write enough to fil a novel, and drawn more than enough illustrations to fill a book, in a year all while working and settling into a new city is a real achievement, and I need to get better at acknowledging my own achievements. So, as a part of my celebration of my first year of blogging I thought I’d do a roundup of my favourite posts from the year.

MOST VIEWED: My review of Affinity Designer

affinity designer review

MOST COMMENTED: On Fighting Busyness

Juggling work and busyness

 

FAVOURITE ILLUSTRATIONS: 8 Women Who Have Inspired Me

8 Women Who Inspire Me

FAVOURITE COLLABORATION: My Interview with Hollie Arnett

Chatting Design School Experiences with Hollie Arnett

FAVOURITE POST IN A SERIES: Design Story: Dr Martens

Design history of Dr Martens

FAVOURITE LONG READ: My Love Letter to Rubbish TV

In Praise of Rubbish TV

 

Postcards are the perfect hybrid of something you can keep and display, and something you can quickly send to a friend to let them know you’re thinking of them. They somehow feel less formal than a greeting card, but just as much work goes into making them something special.

I knew I had to do something with the content from one of my favourite posts, the post that got me drawing portraits, my ode to some badass feminists on International Women’s day. There can never be enough celebration of badass females, and I knew that they were something people would enjoy, after hearing about people printing the original drawings to stick on their walls. And thus, my pack of five feminist postcards was born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did change up the list of remarkable ladies, subbing in Frida Khalo because I love drawing her, and felt she would round out the list really well, but I think it still has the spirit of the original post. I also played around with a slightly textured, paint like line, to make them feel extra special.

As well as the five feminists pack, I also wanted to make a few that were a bit more fun, and like the postcards I pick out to send to friends. I took inspiration from some of my favourite illustrations of the past year, because what’s better than reusing and elevating work you’ve already done?

I think there’s a postcard for everyone in there. There are ones for friends, jokers, lovers, tea-drinkers, and everyone in between. You can also get a postcard in a pretty tea-rrific par-tea bag of goodies featuring my zine. I just couldn’t help myself on the pun front, apologies.

I also illustrated my favourite joke/cheese pun of all time, mainly because if they don’t sell well I know I will still be laughing at it no matter how many times I see it – “Cam-em-bert!” oh man. Yes, I do have the same humour level as a cardigan wearing dad. Am I ashamed? Absolutely not. In fact, send this one to your dad from me and spread the love/guffawing across the postal system.

All of my postcards, like all of my greeting cards, are printed on 300gsm TruCard stock (shiny on one side, easy to write on the other) here in the UK.

The whole reason behind me opening a store as a part of my personal rebrand was that I wanted to design greeting cards. As you know I love writing letters, and I love buying cards to send to people (I may or may not have a whole box full of them) so it seemed only natural that I have a go at designing my own. So, that’s where I started. I drew up a list of the 5 occasions I buy cards for most frequently, and then designed the cards I would want to buy and send. In this first collection, there’s a celebration card (for achievements, big or small, birthdays, parties, and life events), a hello card (for when you just want to write to someone for no reason other than you like them), a sending love card (to send well wishes, sympathy, or just lots of love to someone special), a number one fan card (to cheer on friends and loved ones) and a thank you card (to, well say thank you).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love each one for different reasons. I’ve had the idea for the “sending love” card in my mind for quite a while, and I always want more cheerleading cards like the “number one fan” design in my stash because who doesn’t want to cheer on the people they love? But I think my favourite, if I had to choose a favourite, has to be the “just to say hello” stamp card. This was the last design I finished because I really struggled with it, getting the stamp design just right, playing with different styles and just generally being indecisive as to how to make the most simple message of all something special. But I think I got there. It reminds me of the old leaflets and stamps my mum has in her display cabinet, so it’s something more than just a hello, whilst still being fun and modern and a bit tongue in cheek with the waving hand instead of the Queen.

I love sealing my letters with little stickers (gold stars are my go to) I even designed some tiny stamps to seal your cards and give them that extra finishing touch.  Each sticker is designed like a postage stamp, as an ode to my love of snail mail, and features a little illustration to convey something about what’s inside the envelope they adorn, from love, to triumph, to happiness.

I have some very VERY exciting news to share. After months of work behind the scenes, I have redesigned my portfolio, and more excitingly, I’ve opened a store!

That’s right you can now buy my illustrations on greeting cards, postcards, in a zine, on stickers and, if you’re feeling extra fancy as originals!

Check it out

This is a huge step for me, and a bit of a big gamble on myself. But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and after proving to myself I could stick to blogging for a year and build a little audience, it felt like time. I’m super proud of how it’s turned out, and I’m hoping it’s the start of a new chapter in my creative work.

I want this to be a much better platform for people to learn more about my work, and hopefully allow me to indulge the idea that making things could be a feasible part of my career.

It feels super indulgent to have just designed the cards I would want to send, the zine I would want to read, the originals I would want to hang on my wall, but I felt like there was no point in doing this unless it truly felt like it was mine. And it does.

I love everything I’ve made. Each piece has a story behind it and a lot of love in it.

I’m going to be doing a series of behind the scenes posts in the next week or so, so you can see in a little more depth how they came together and where my inspiration came from. I might also do a post on my switch to Squarespace and redesign, if you’re interested?

In the meanwhile, head on over to my new site and maybes pick up a greeting card or five while you’re there!    

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