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.

As you might have noticed I’ve hit a number of milestones this past week. It was my birthday, the end of my grad scheme, and my very first blogiversary. As a compliment to all of the reflective posts I’ve written of late, I thought I’d share something that looks towards the future: my goals for the next year in creating. I’m sharing the things I want to achieve by this time next year with you in part to hold myself accountable because if I’ve told you I’m doing it, I have to do it. So, please do keep me on track. Without further ado, these are the six things I want to achieve:

GROW MY STORE

I’ve started this new year of blogging by launching my store! Yes, that’s right you can now by greetings cards, postcards, stickers, prints, a zine and original drawings all by yours truly – check it out! So it only makes sense that I want to grow my store this year, both in terms of sales and traffic but also the range of products I stock. That means a bigger range of cards as well as a bigger range of different products. If you want to keep up with all of my new products and get exclusive discounts you should definitely sign up to my newsletter (in the sidebar) – it comes out every other Friday and it’s packed full of good stuff.

DO MORE COMMISSIONS

This year I’ve done a few illustration commissions, but I’d love to do more. The business side of what I do began with a more graphic design practice with logos and publication design, but through this blog, I’ve found that I really love illustration, and I love illustrating for other people. There’s an added challenge in illustrating for someone else and trying to capture what it is they want in visual form and that little interpretive puzzle is so much fun. Plus I’m always on the look out for more faces to draw so I’m definitely keen to do more portrait commissions. If you’d like me to draw something for you (whatever it may be) please do hit me up!

COMPLETE AT LEAST ONE EDITORIAL PIECE

As well as more commissions I’d like to get into doing editorial illustrations for magazines, zines, and books. I’m not very established at all so I don’t expect this to become a huge part of my practice anytime soon, but I’d like to at least dip my toe in the water. That means I’m going to have to reach out and try and pitch editors. But now I have my new portfolio it’s something I feel a little bit more ready to do. In addition to editorial illustrations, I’d also like to pitch some writing. I still don’t consider myself a writer but I have really enjoyed writing more as a part of this blog (and I hope I’ve gotten a bit better) so I’d like to try and develop that in a more professional setting too.

LEARN SOME NEW SKILLS

I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about the fact that I don’t know enough about design and  I haven’t done an arts degree. But there are so many courses and ways to learn more out there I really have no excuse not to educate myself on my own terms. So I’m going to start taking some skillshare courses to develop my skills. If anyone has any recommendations for courses about design, hand lettering, or animation (on Skillshare or not) please do let me know!

MAKE ONE BIGGER PIECE OF WORK

Blogging has meant that I’ve focused on consistently turning out content quickly, which has been a lot of fun and really helped me develop my skills. Writing and illustrating at least three posts a week has meant I’ve just had to create and become way less precious about making. But it has also meant I don’t spend as much time developing work. That’s something I always enjoyed when I was in school and working on pieces for weeks if not months for exams. So this year I’d like to make something that has a bit more substance to it. I’m not sure what form it will take. But I’d like to make something I’m truly proud of, that feels much bigger (perhaps not in physical scale but who knows) than anything I’ve made this year.

TELL MY MUM ABOUT IT

I still haven’t told my mum about my blog. I know that’s stupid. We talk all of the time. But I’ve just not felt ready, or like the blog was ready to be shown to her. I feel like if I could have gotten away with it I wouldn’t have told any of my friends. I need to get over that feeling and instead be proud of this platform and share it with her because I think she’d probably like it and it is something that’s now quite a big part of my life.

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.