Our next behind the scenes is all about the Fantabulous collection. A quirky, illustrated collection that features whimsical children’s characters from magical mermaids to daring knights.
I have always loved creating the illustrations for our children’s greeting cards and since having or little girl Ophelia I have definitely seen my passion for it increase. Reading her beautiful stories and playing imaginative games has inspired so many ideas. However, with running a business and having a little one, time can sometimes not be on your side! I had three concepts for children’s collections, our Wowzers, Zoopa Doopa and Fantabulous. But the deadline for print was looming and I had not yet started the final collection.
I discovered Carly through Pinterest one day and absolutely loved her designs, and felt they were a perfect fit for my vision for this collection. How Carly brought her characters to life, each one having personality and really telling a story, a long with the small details and texture of each piece - I just adored! I contacted Carly and she was just as excited to collaborate on the collection, so I was thrilled.
First was deciding on the concepts of the cards. I knew I wanted to include some ages for younger children and more generic cards for other birthday milestones for little ones. I wanted a few designs to focus on young female characters and a few to focus on young male characters and then some that would be gender neutral. In summer 2020, during the break in lockdown when restrictions had eased, my friends and I along with our children visited Audley End, which has an enchanted fairy themed outdoor walk. All the children loved it, so a fairy was definitely one to include in the mix. With the younger aged cards I decided on themes that Ophelia loved. Age one was to be focussed on the farm; Ophelia loves her farm books and doing all the animal noises. Age two was a teddy bear’s picnic; Ophelia loves her teddies and arranging them into little gatherings. And finally under the sea themed for age 3, the colourful creatures are always a big hit, with Finding Nemo being her fave film! The monster was a later addition as I had seen one of Carly’s alien illustrations and I loved the textures and the crazy arms and thought this was a playful design that children would love.
After doing very small thumbnails and getting my ideas on paper, I then began to look at the colour palette. With all collections before getting on my iPad, or using my pencils and paints I work out a palette and the balance of colours. This meant that Carly had a clear direction for when she started to draw the characters.
The next task for the brief was to draw my thumbnails a little bit tighter and also provide any inspiration on the characters, shapes and textures. I picked out some of my fave parts from Carly’s work that related to my concepts. For example she had a few underwater themed illustrations in her portfolio and I loved how she had created texture in the sea, so I knew I wanted that to be on the large blue number 3 to represent the water. I also loved the opacity details on the jellyfish so again wanted to include some of these on this design. I then repeated the process for each of my ideas.
I kept the backgrounds neutral so the details of the illustrations could really pop out. The other two children’s collections I had designed were both quite punchy and had bright coloured backgrounds, so I wanted this to feel a little different.
Once the brief was completed me and Carly had a zoom call to meet each other and chat through the designs. Carly created three designs first for my approval so we could make any tweaks before creating all eight designs. The first three were the farm age 1, the teddy bear’s picnic age 2 and the fairy. Mark and I absolutely loved them! I was so thrilled and couldn’t wait to see the others.
I wanted to add a little luxury to this collection with a gold foil that picked up some of the copy and also the little details in the illustration. The finished product is beautiful and I am so pleased with this collection.
It was fabulous working with Carly and seeing how she bought to life the little characters that I had imagined. Carly kindly answered a few questions about what inspires her and how she creates her wonderful designs.
How long have you been a designer/illustrator?
I’ve been designing for just over 10 years, I began my career as a children’s clothing designer and soon found I enjoyed the graphic and illustration side of design more. I gradually worked my way from clothing to graphics to illustration and surface pattern. I now split my time between working for commercial clients, designing greetings cards, graphics for clothing and surface pattern, and children’s book illustration.
How do you create your designs?
I love character design so a lot of my design work starts with sketching some character ideas and little assets to go alongside them. If I’m designing for surface pattern or greetings cards, I then look for a colour palette and usually draw straight into Photoshop so I can play around with shapes and colour. Once the placement is sorted I like to hand draw lettering to go with my designs. I sometimes peruse Instagram and Pinterest for ideas, but often just draw what pops into my head.
What is your favourite medium to use?
If time and scanning things in weren’t an issue I’d love to draw everything with pencil crayon, oil pastel and felt tip. I do love the speed that Photoshop allows me to work at and I have been experimenting with adding more texture and depth to my work.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I enjoy spending time in nature, whether pottering in my garden, or walking on the moors around Manchester. It’s inspiration that is very close to home and unique to this area, the colours, light and shapes of plants and wildlife are ever-changing and inspiring.
What is your favourite design from the Fantabulous collection?
The mermaid, I love her! The little fish and jellies swimming around her just makes me happy.
I hope you enjoyed the little insight into the Fantabulous collection and into this fabulous collaboration!