The blog of Hannah Robinson, artist, illustrator and graphic designer.

Monday, 28 November 2011

28th November 2011

Lucy Farfort Interview

Whew, life has been chaotic lately and I've barely had time to even look at this blog. But I'm please this week to bring you an interview with illustrator Lucy Farfort, an Etsy-er and Folksy-er who creates truly beautiful illustrations for us lucky people. Her work is fresh, funky and truly different, combining delicate nature-inspired objects with slick digital imagery. Coasters, brooches, cards and calendars are all available from her shop, so please do look and treat yourself to an affordable visual delight. But not before delving into the creative mind of Lucy herself...

The nosy bit - tell us a bit about yourself: 
Hi my name is Lucy Farfort aka Lucy’s Happy Place. I’m a freelance illustrator based in Newcastle Upon Tyne,
I produce everything from logos and web graphics to editorial illustrations poster design. What I most love doing is creating illustrations for children and big kids, like myself. Aside from the freelancing I also sell a range of my prints and cards from shops across the North East and online. I’m also a big fan of crafting/making and I occasionally produce handmade textile items embellished with my designs.
I work part time to fund my illustration and crafting habit but one day i hope to be able to go full time with it.

Your style involves hand-drawn elements with digital colouring and texturing. How did you arrive at this way of working?

Hm good question. I was always a bit of a technophobe and for ages refused to use graphics packages like Photoshop or Illustrator etc in my work. I would only use traditional methods such as painting and print making, to the extent that when I produced a children’s book at uni I created all the text using letterpress. When I left Uni it was a time when graphics packages were really at the forefront of illustration techniques and to compete I had to teach myself to use them. I still really wanted to keep the main part of my working methods traditionaI, mainly because I loved drawing. At that time most people were using a tablet with software to draw digitally. However I continued to draw by hand then as a kind of compromise I would scan the image into the computer and colour the piece digitally. After becoming more confident with the packages I began to love using Photoshop and arrived at a very bold and colourful style. Then I started making 3D stuff using my illustrations decoratively, in particular textile products. I noticed how well the fabrics and different textures in the fabrics really complemented my work and I just started experimenting. So here I am today.

A cliched question but the answers always vary: What inspires you?
The first thing that inspired me to get into this field was Japanese animation, which was introduced to me by my cousin. I remember watching it and being awestruck by it and was hooked. I got very into comics and became intent on being a manga artist.

Now its difficult to say what inspires me. We’re all surrounded by imagery all the time especially with the internet being so accessible the visual onslaught is constant.
Nature is an ongoing inspiration especially trees, which I think i’m a bit obsessed with drawing. Other people’s work can be inspiring but I try not to look at other’s work too much as for me it can also be quite destructive. I start to think I’m not good enough and I should just give it up.
The biggest drive for me is simply an addiction to drawing and creating. My mind keeps churning out ideas and its difficult to keep up with most of them.

Animals and nature feature a lot in your work. Have you always been interested in the natural world?
Yes I’ve always loved nature especially woodland. It conjures up such wonderful imagery, so magical. Maybe it comes out so much in my work as I’ve lived in cities for ages now, but my childhood was spent in a pretty rural area and now my subconscious yearns for the woods, glen and fields i used to be surrounded by. Actually I’ve never thought about that before but it does make sense. I lived in a rural part of the South East until the age of 9 and woodland was a big part of my world, but since then I've spent my life in towns and big cities.

What are the challenges involved in being an illustrator?
Most definitely without a shadow of a doubt promoting my work. I’m terrible at this. I hate shmozing and networking and I find it very hard to big my own work up and tell people about it. I have got better, but its not something that comes naturally. That and time. I never seem to have enough time to do all the thing associated with running your own business, one part of it always suffers -  normally the admin and promotion stuff. Basically I need a manager...

And lastly - Giant Robot or Sparkly Unicorn?
Giant Robot definitely. Thats the influence of all the anime and manga I used to consume.

Thanks Lucy! Please do visit her shop, her website and blog for unique, quirky and beautiful art, and thanks for giving us an insight into your creative process.  Comments welcome!

Copyright for all artwork featured belongs to Lucy Farfort.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sunday afternoon watercolour

These pesky short days are frustrating for painting... might have to ask Father Christmas for a daylight lamp...

Friday, 18 November 2011

New Folksy - First Impression

Well, today can hardly go by without me blogging about the new Folksy we've been waiting to see for a few months now. Today the made-over site was unveiled, and I logged in to have a look.

Before I do though, I will start with a little disclaimer: These opinions and thoughts are mine alone, so if you disagree with me and wish to comment, please keep it friendly. Feelings are very mixed from what I've seen on the forums and I can only speak for myself. So now we have that out the way...

So, I've only had a short look so far, and I'm certain there are bugs to be ironed out and issues to be straightened. This is my overall first impression, and I have to say: I like it. :-)

Love the new logo. It's bright, fresh and fun, and makes me want to shop on Folksy (always a bonus for sellers). At first glance it looks like a place to buy crafty, unique items.

I like the cool greys, white and black of the site, it showcases the items better. The products are now displayed in a sort of polaroid box and I like that too, it's quirky but clean.

At the top there are three buttons: Handmade Christmas, Hats and Kitchen and dining. If I'm correct, those categories will be rotating, I imagine, so we'll probably find different categories to browse each day. I LOVE the illustrations, they seem to match the logo, giving the impression that Folksy is more of a 'brand'. I'm a designer by trade and an illustrator, so I suppose all this marries up with what I like.

Now onto my own shop: the one thing I would say is that it feels slightly less personal, that could be to do with the fact that the banner is smaller and less central. Perhaps Folksy will take that on board, as I see I am not alone in that observation. In the meantime though, I like it, my items look good and all the information is there.

The writing is a little small, but personally I can remedy that with [Cmd +] (I'm on a Mac) so I'm not bothered about that particularly. Search engine seems to work fine.

On the forums I've read that the 6 month listing has dropped to 3 months but the price is the same. I haven't confirmed this for myself yet. How do I feel about it? The same way I feel when anything I like to spend money on goes up. Petrol goes up but I'm not getting rid of my car, because I like to drive it. Of course I'd rather it was cheaper still. Do I still want to sell on Folksy? Yep. Will I carry on selling there? Yes, I will, I do better on Folksy than I do on Etsy, even though I think Etsy have nailed the promotion and exposure better with their circles and favouriting system. Go figure.

Change can be disorientating and downright unpopular, but I always think back to when facebook has gone through numerous makeovers: there is a general uproar and a longing for the old set-up - but now I can't even remember what the old facebook used to look like. I applaud Folksy for moving forward and making over the site, I never disliked the old one but I do really like this new one. 

Sunday, 13 November 2011


My first craft fair of the year, and I had the best time of it. The day flew by. It was chilly, but bright and clear. I was at The Green Backyard in Peterborough, what a fantastic place. I met some totally lovely creative people, explored the vegetable patches, the chicken coops and tea hut. Feeling weary but happy, people reacted well to my things and I sold a nice amount. I'll definitely be back next month. Check the photos out. My friend was too shy to be photographed but I can be seen grinning inanely in front of our stall. The pink table I fished out of a skip last week and brightened it up to hold our wares. Good eh?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

10th November 2011

Craftivist Collective Interview
Mini Protest Banner
It is my great privilege this week to have Sarah Corbett in the interview chair. I know I normally publish my interviews on a Monday, but I want to promote this blog at the Green Backyard this Sunday and make sure people read about this fantastic online collaborative.

I first came across the Craftivist Collective back when I ran a feature about kits last month. I discovered Sarah's protest banner kit, and was immediately fascinated. I'd never seen anything quite like it online and I loved the thought behind it. I also have a love of 'found' art, something left in a public place for a stranger to find, so this item in particular spoke to me personally. Her shop is a showcase of interactive products centred on peaceful protest, the photography alone is artwork in itself. A few clicks later and I was reading all about the work of the Craftivist Collective. I could enthuse on and on about the shop and her website, but Sarah's better than me at explaining, so without further ado...

Please introduce us to the Craftivist Collective. 
Our manifesto is: “To expose the scandal of global poverty, and human rights injustices though the power of craft and public art. This will be done through provocative, non-violent creative actions.”

We are seen as one of the leading groups in the craftivism movement. We encourage individuals and groups to deliver our projects wherever they are in the world and support them with instruction videos, photographs of examples and personalised support when needed. We also set up events, workshops, exhibition and stunts. We have worked with the Tate Gallery, Hayward Gallery, British Museum, Sheffield DocFest, Ladyfest, comedian Josie Long, jewellers Tatty Devine amongst others.

We have craftivists across the world (including LA, Vancouver, Melbourne, Berlin, Glasgow, Manchester, London) actively taking part in our craftivism projects and supporters including Josie Long, Tatty Devine jewellery designers, Rob Da Bank, Sam Roddick and Jon Ronson to name a few (bearing in mind we find it uncomfortable to actively promote our collective ourselves).
We want to show people that making people aware of the injustices and poverty in the world can be fun as well as empowering. It doesnt have to be stressful or elitest. Anyone can be a craftivist whatever their skill or understanding.
In the words of one of our craftivists Rosa Martyn: A spoonful of craft helps the activism go down.
Our craftivism projects aim to challenge people’s views and reach out to those who may have not have previously accessed activism and groups for social change. You don’t have to be creative or an experienced campaigner. We also target media outlets that may not cover social justice issues but would cover craft, art, culture or fashion stories.
We often display our finished products in public spaces to provoke passers by into thinking about the issue. But also, the act of creating a product – crafting something with a campaigning message – should provoke thought in the maker and observer.
We encourage craftivists to send us examples of their craftivism and their thoughts for our blog. If you have a craftivism idea or a project you want our support with please contact us- we are always looking for craftivism projects to support and it has worked very successfully in the past.

What kind of reaction have you had so far to the Craftivist Collective?
The majority of people have been really supportive and positive. In two years we have gained over 900 followers and there are people and groups around the world who deliver our projects which is amazing. We have received a handful of negative feedback from activists saying we won't change the world through craftivism but we don't call ourselves campaigners but rather people who provoke thought and conversation about injustices with the hope that these discussions lead to action. Everyone seems to love our Mini Protest Banner kits and that's what sells the best on our Folksy site. I'm being asked more and more to deliver workshops, talks and stalls too which is exciting.
Craftivist Collective in the Big Issue, Oct 2011
You seek to tackle injustice through handmade craft. What kind of issues have participants chosen to address?
We have a manifesto (see above) so we have a clear purpose and our message is united: focusing on human rights injustices and global poverty as they are our big passions and we can't spread ourselves too thinly. Within that framework people have addressed the issue of domestic violence in UK and Spain (by a spanish Craftivist), climate change affecting the poorest people in the world the most, the impact of inequality, tax-dodging and so much more. You can see some of our banners on the website and Flickr. 
What's your favourite crafting activity?
I love cross-stitching. It calms me down after a stressful or busy day. I can do it anywhere: On the bus, trains (I get travel sick but crafting is one of the few things I can do that doesnt make me feel ill), cafes, with friends, in front of the TV. I also really like hand embroidery and like embroidering messages on cloth for friends as gifts but also for our current project Don't Blow It where we embroider personal messages to MPs and other influential people asking them not to blow their chance to use their power and influence for good. I'm hoping to make these into kits for our Folksy shop soon.

How can people reading this become more involved?
All of our projects are on our website in the project section here and people can do them anywhere in the world as an individual or group. Most projects include instruction videos, photos of examples and more information about the project. 
We really really encourage people to email us with an image of their craftivism piece they have done and a small write up about the issue they care about. Our most recent blogpost by a craftivist in Liverpool from Spain can be read here as an example. 
We also do events, talks and workshops across the UK when we are asked and can afford it plus we have regular events in London for people to join in our crafty activism. Our events page on the website is always updated.
Window display workshop at News From Nowhere, Liverpool

 Plus you can contact us on for more info if you can't find it on the website.
 You can also join our Facebook Group, follow us on Twitter, flow our blog, join our mailing list etc to keep up to date with everything. You can find all of the links on our homepage of the website on the right hand side.

Please do visit the Craftivist Collective website for inspiring ideas on sending your voice out into the world through craft. They also have a YouTube channel. Thanks Sarah for letting me interview you, and of course have a look at the shop. If you do decide to become involved, please let Sarah know, and me! I'd love to see people's efforts.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

In Preparation

Next week I am doing my first craft fair of the year. I've learnt some lessons from last year; namely not to burn myself out. In 2010 I spent many sleepless nights getting stock together for various fairs I'd signed up for, and as a result made myself unwell, and never wanted to look at fimo ever again. It took me until this summer to get my enthusiasm back.
This year I've got it right I think: I've chosen two fairs to do. The first one, next week, will be at a really exciting venue - the Green Backyard in Peterborough. It's a piece of reclaimed wasteland and one of our city's major success stories; the land has been converted into a place for growing vegetables, carving, murals, sculptures... there are some buildings which have been made from scrap bits of other buildings... I went there today to check out where our table would be and I fell in love with the place. I can't do it justice on here so I'll take some photographs to show you all, and if you are ever in Peterborough, trust me, you have to check it out. For now, here's the website.
Next week my friend and partner in crime Carly will be at the fair with me, we will be showcasing our new products from our illustration collaborative Pirate Unicorn. Stay tuned...
The next fair is at King's School, Peterborough, on the 25th. I'm really looking forward to this one. The kids last year were very excited about my stuff and I had a great time chatting to them, their enthusiasm was so encouraging and refreshing. That was the fair that culminated in me being poorly, but I think it was my frenzied fortnight of preparation beforehand rather than school germs.

Some of you will know that I have two outlets online: the fimo/plushie/kawaii side, and the arty illustrator-y side. I have decided to lay the online kawaii shop to rest as of January 2012 to focus on my cards and illustrations. I have a tough time promoting two shops, one usually ends up neglected plus the listing fees start to bite when you have a total of three shops (Two Folksy, one Etsy). So SweetSuzy will be put to bed in a couple of months time. Everything is reduced. The stock in there tends to do better at fairs, perhaps it has something to do with people being able to see the items there in front of them?

My Zines have sold well this week, giving me good reason to grin. And the Midlands Zine Group on  WeMakeZines are hopefully going to hold a meet soon, which I am majorly excited about too. Almost too much excitement!

And last of all, a shameless plug: my latest illustration available as a postcard on my shop. Go have a lookie.
Off to watch Merlin on the iplayer...

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A great day :-)

Today has been a really good day, with many moments of true chuffiness. First, a happy customer received their zine, and left this glowing feedback on the forums:

Hooray! So that made me really happy and glowy on the old coffee break. Then I was blogged about by RaRaBazaar - thank you! She wrote about my Bereavement Christmas cards I released last week. So second delighted self-hug of the day.

Also I have finished my christmas colouring book zine, in my shop very soon. I have the twinklings of an idea with these, will keep you posted...

Oh, and I finally sent my University application off. SCARED!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


I've finished my first zine: a colouring book, and I can't remember the last time I enjoyed making something so much. All the illustrations are hand-drawn, in fact the whole thing is hand-drawn.

So many things about this project have been refreshing and cleansing - it's not for my portfolio, it won't make me much money and it will only really appeal to a niche market, that funny bunch of grown-ups who appreciate a good doodle and even still derive joy from colouring in. I won't give away too much about the content (it is for sale after all), suffice to say there's a naked man in there, along with a contented baking octopus, some dragons and a thoughtful cloud.

The world has become a brighter place since I found that making your own little comics doesn't have to stop once you leave school and your friends don't care for little aliens on their homework diaries anymore. Hurrah!

I sold my first one within half an hour of posting it on Folksy. Encouraged! Although the forum post I was blathering on shows that there is still confusion over Zines in the online crafting community...