I'm very excited because today sees the start of my new Illustrator Interview series. Some AMAZING illustrator's will be popping by the blog over the next few months to give us a little insight into their lives. Awesome huh? And we're starting with Laura Hambleton
Hi Laura, thank you so much for joining me today! I first got to know you working on One Stitch at a Time, and since then I am continually amazed by you. You illustrate, write, craft, and have recently opened your own shop on etsy. Wow! So onto the questions…
~ How did you first get into the children’s book world? Did you study illustration?
I graduated from Norwich School of Art and Design in 2000 with a First class Ba Hons in Visual Studies. It was a combined arts course but I specialized in my final major project in children’s book illustration.
I have always loved books as objects but never really knew that jobs existed to create books for children until that point. I was very inspired by European children’s books, mainly because their illustrations were very artistic and unusual. It was at that point that I was inspired to create my own children’s book by using a mixed media style and so I wrote and illustrated my first book ‘I’m afraid too!’ on my final degree year.
After graduating I decided my best route would be to work as a designer within children’s books to satisfy my love of illustrated books. I was employed by an independent publisher, as the sole designer for the children’s English and dual language list. They also saw my book in my portfolio and were keen to publish it too. My graduation book went on to be Commended winner at the V&A Illustration awards!
I was fortunate to find a publisher that believed in my style and supported both my designer role (later promoted to art director) and my illustration ambition.
With them I have since published 8 further children’s educational, board and picture books and it also opened up further book projects with other publishers.
~ You work as an art director too right? Have you always illustrated your own books alongside the day job? And how easy is it to do both?
I have worked as a full time designer in children’s books for 12 years now. I became freelance after five years of employment and was keen to have a bit more flexibility to work on my illustration work. However I have had constant work in design (and work in house for two publishers each week), so yes my illustration work has always been created in my evenings and weekends.
I do really enjoy working as a designer and working with very talented illustrators and authors on their books and this also inspires me to continue with my own books after my day job.
I also enjoy the occasional school/activity centre workshops that I do that are based around my books. It’s great to read my books to children and get their reactions to the illustrations. So it is a bit of a juggling act but a great one to have!
~ And how on earth do you fit everything in?
It can be hard fitting it all in and I’m sure you understand this! Especially when deadlines for book illustrations are tight. But I do love what I do so I rush home from my day job to fit it in. I do have a very supportive and creative husband who is a Design Director in marketing and advertising and really understands my drive to illustrate and create. He has to put up with me disappearing to our garden studio during the evening and weekends, whilst he often cooks the evening meal!
~ You have worked on some gorgeous books – do you have a favourite?
As a designer I have worked on a variety of books from baby books to adult books and all in between. My favourite books are the ones that I have worked on from the beginning concept to the end publication. It’s great to help formulate an idea and then source a great illustrator to make the idea come alive in a book format. One of my favourite’s would have to be One Stitch at a Time working with you! It was lovely to design a book that combined my love for both illustration and craft and working with a fab toy maker. I did also love receiving your felted animals through the post!
In terms of favourites with my own books it would be hard to pick. Each one is special to me and I am always happy to be able to have my stories and illustrations published. I’m pleased with my most recent books for Collins as they challenged me to create short little stories in a limited amount of words!
~ If you could illustrate any book/text from any time in history, what would it be?
It would be fun to illustrate some popular stories such as Alice in Wonderland. As a child, I always loved Arthur Rackham’s illustrated version. My mum gave me the book on my 8th birthday I thought the illustrations were amazing I can imagine creating the grinning Cheshire cat!
~ Do you have new books in the pipeline?
I am working on a few picture book ideas that I hope to get published in the future. I also spend time creating various samples for my agent (Bright Illustration) to try to keep my folio fresh and new and working on samples for books when publishers approach me. I love to create my art in a craft format too and so have started in the past year to create a collection of handmade crafts to sell, as well as taking on commissions for bespoke craft pieces.
~ You’ve also just opened your shop on etsy – how are you finding it?
It’s great to have an online shop to sell my crafts and the amount of talent on Etsy is amazing. I think it does come down to time to promote the Etsy shop and to always keep it fresh and updated. I am constantly thinking of new ideas to work on and am looking at printing some greeting cards and make your own kits to sell in my shop along with my handcrafted items. It’s a new area for me and eventually I would love to get some of my art into shops and also hold a stall at a few craft and design shows.
~ How have you found creating your own products as opposed to illustrating for books?
I have always loved creating art through mixed media. My illustrations often have a 2D effect to them as I include materials and textures such as balsa wood, leaves, felt etc. So really my illustrated work gravitates naturally towards the craft area. I also see the product side as a 3D extension of my illustrations and most of my handcrafted products are inspired by children’s stories such as: The Frog Prince (for my felted frog) and Red Riding Hood (for my peg dolly).
Laura thank you SO much for popping by today. You are such an inspiration!