Hello everyone! My name is Nicole, I am an illustrator and animator enrolled on Illustration and Visual Media. In this blog post, I am going to guide you through my journey around sustainability and how it has impacted my practice so far.
During November of last year, I had the opportunity to participate in a Live project brief called ‘Not Just a Shop’. This project was about designing a new product or a product range for retail sale within UAL’s shop located in Holborn and their online store. I was really excited to take part in this brief because it gave me an opportunity to design and produce products for a business.
For me this was like a trial, an opportunity to experiment with materials, designs and a range of different types of products. A part of me wanted to see if I had a chance at selling my work to customers or to see if the type of products I was selling, is something someone would buy. This was important to me because I would like to open my own business one day, selling a range of products from stationary to art prints to cuddly soft toys of my characters.
Originally at the beginning of the project, I wanted to sell art prints of my Inktober 2020 illustration series. But then I was opened to the world of business. I found that my Inktober illustrations were not fit for purpose. This was because all my illustrations were of different dimensions, the tiger character in each illustration had a different design and for this to work each piece had to be consistent throughout. I found this to be quite frustrating, but I was open to the new possibility of creating something new.
A few of my Inktober 2020 Illustrations
I found out the reason why they had to be consistent is because not only it would look visually pleasing having all illustrations from a collection the same size, it would also help customers to identify the character if that character has been designed the same way each time. For example, you would always recognise iconic characters like Mario, Hello Kitty, Pikachu etc. because they are repeatedly drawn the same way each time making them stand out and known to everyone. Where my character looked different every time I sat down to draw him. I honestly think this was because the shape of his head kept changing as I kept experimenting with different styles and materials.
Another problem that I faced was how to make my products and packaging environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible. To be honest this was a challenge. It was something I’ve never thought about or done before and I felt that I knew so little about the subject, that made it difficult to apply the knowledge to my practice.
I started my research into other illustrators that I admire who have their own business selling products within the line of work I would like to go into myself. The first illustrator I looked at was Catherine Kay, she created Katnipp Illustrations in 2015 and sells her product line through Etsy. Being a fan of Katnipp, I’ve bought a number of Catherine’s products and I’ve noticed they come in a bio-based film plastic bags which is compostable, biodegradable and recyclable. You do have the option when ordering to leave out this packaging especially if you’re cutting down on using plastics.
Katnipp Illustrations Products
The other illustrator that I researched goes by her illustration name EllievsBear. Ellie sells a range of products from art prints to stickers to pins of her lovable characters on her own online store on her website. I wasn’t able to find out if she uses sustainable materials as I was more interested in the type of paper, she was using to print her artwork onto. She uses archival paper with a matte finish. The archival quality of the paper and inks prevents the colours from fading over time. Which I believe is definitely worth the price you’re paying for your prints. This was knowledge that I needed to know as I was planning to make my prints and vinyl stickers in house, although I believe Ellie outsources her pins and stickers.
At the time, I was only looking at how to make my packaging sustainable. This was until I changed my ideas which then lead me to thinking of making the products sustainable too. My new idea was to create a series of 3 A4 art prints that comes with a pack of vinyl stickers, which focuses on the tiger character and the themes of Japan & Food. During a tutorial, I was given the idea of looking into sustainable bamboo paper to print these art works onto. I thought this was an excellent idea as the bamboo paper goes well if the themes and I felt like this would be an ideal gift to have at home or in someone’s office.
At first, I found it difficult to find sources that sold individual sheets of bamboo paper that allows inkjet printing. I was mostly coming across sites that allows you to place orders of prints to be printed within their studios and mixed media bamboo paper that was used for watercolour painting, acrylic etc.
I was able to find a pack of 25 A4 Bamboo paper on Hahnemühle’s official website. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise how expensive sustainable paper can be. Currently I am thinking of outsourcing my art prints using ‘dStudio’ as I can order a sample pack, which contains printed examples of all 14 papers that they print on. I also think this might be a cheaper option for me in the long run as I don’t need to test print my artworks which could save me money on costs and materials. Ideally, I would like to make my own vinyl dire-cut stickers from home using waterproof vinyl sticker paper. But with all the tests I’ve done so far, they are not at a good quality standard to be sold to customers. It’s possible that I might have to op to outsourcing the stickers too.
dStudio – Hahnemühle Bamboo Paper
At the moment I am in the process of transferring my practice over to sustainable methods. About a month ago, I purchased a new dotted grid A5 journal from Yop&Tom. This journal was exactly what I needed to get creative with my day-to-day planner! This journal comes with pure white acid-free sustainable paper, the paper is extra thick 160GSM uncoated which provides no ghosting or bleeding. It has a lay flat binding which allows you to design across 2 pages and the cover is vegan leather that is soft to the touch and stain resistant.
Yop&Tom Journal – My Planner Designs
Planning my day-to-day is very important to me as it helps to keep me organised and keep track of what I’ve accomplished. But there’s nothing nicer to see your own designs in a journal to help brighten up your day! My next step is to see if I can switch my sketchbooks over to a more sustainable method.
Author: Nicole Briley
Course: Illustration and Visual Media