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Sian Shrimpton 2017 Penguin Calendar

The Story of Penguin and a Brief-ish History of my Business (Part Two)

Last week, in part one, I started at the very beginning of Penguin’s story and covered the start of my business story. If you haven’t read it already, please pop on over and have a read, otherwise, this part won’t make much sense. I left it on a huge cliff hanger, in this part two you’ll find out what happened next?

To recap, at the end of my previous post, I was newly self-employed, I had decided to re-design the Penguin desk calendar for 2017 and was determined to make it work.

Creating the 2017 desk calendars and a mini creative crisis

When it came to creating the desk calendar for 2017, I had all of the illustration ideas down on paper and I knew they were already popular with my friends and family. I remember my Uncle asking if and when I was creating another version of the Penguin calendar. However, this didn’t stop the mini creative crisis that followed.

Do I continue with the watercolour style that I had started with a couple of years before? I had loved lettering up until this point and should I include my lettering in with the Penguins? How can I combine the two? Will they be good enough? Will they sell? I had found scanning watercolours really tricky to get the colours right, if I was going to sell these and make it the start of my business, it had to be perfect. I loved creating vector illustrations and this was where my comfort zone was, was that enough? How could I push it further? I compared myself a little bit too much to strangers on the internet. This was the start of my dream, I had jumped right into the deep end with starting this business, I wanted to make it work, I needed to make it work! It was still a bit of a shock that I was now working for myself, and a lot was going on personally too but I was determined to make this work!

In the end, after much deliberation, I created the first “official” Penguin calendar using vector illustrations and I sent it to print. For some bizarre reason, it didn’t occur to me that I could print the calendar pages as A7 leaflets, and so that first run of calendars were printed as flat A3 sheets and I cut each and every page out with a ruler and scalpel. I printed 40 copies of that original calendar, with 13 pages for each including a front cover, it was a lot of cutting by hand! Realising that I could print the pages as A7 “leaflets” saved me a lot of time and saved my hands because, after a while, that was painful! 

Sian Shrimpton 2017 Penguin Calendar

The unexpected success of Christmas 2017 and many (many) trips to the Post Office

I reopened my Etsy shop and on 17th October 2016, announced on social media (now on my “business” Instagram account) that the Penguin Calendar was available to buy in my shop alongside a minimal hand-lettered version. As time went on, the popularity of the Penguin version especially, completely shocked me! I remember feeling a lot of imposter syndrome, in awe of their popularity, waiting for someone to find me out or to complain about them. But no one did! Everyone was over the moon with them.

I sold 134 of those Penguin desk calendars for 2017 and that was just on Etsy. It continues to be one of my best selling items each year.

More Creative Crises

After the success of the 2017 Penguin Calendar, I didn’t quite know what to work on next. I faced a bit of an internal crisis, wondering what I “should” be doing, reacting to what I thought customers might want and feeling a little lost. A lot had happened in 2016, and to process all of that, I created a series of colourful floral paintings, which were really intricate and cathartic to create. These I made into a collection of note cards, which are still in my shop today.

Sian Shrimpton Rainbow Card

My very first card designs from 2011 had been painted dots, with little funny faces and legs drawn onto them. Did I want to continue painting my designs? (But ahh the scanning!) After designing our own Wedding Stationery, which I loved doing, I wanted to help other couples by creating their wedding stationery for them, so I created a few wedding stationery collections, which would act as samples. I loved lettering, I loved vector illustration, I enjoyed painting, and working on wedding stationery, how does this all fit together? I hadn’t studied illustration previously, I had worked as a graphic designer/art worker (working on very corporate financial & healthcare brochures etc) as my job for 6 years previously. I thought that carrying on with the Penguin illustrations wasn’t “serious” enough to be part of my job and I wasn’t an illustrator, what right did I have “pretending” that I was? It has been a long process of working it all out and is still an on-going process.

All the while, I’d listed all of my older card designs on Etsy and sold a few of those. What if the Penguin calendar was a one-off fluke and I’d never make or sell anything ever again?

Penguin takes over

It wasn’t until September 2017, after working on those wedding stationery collections, setting up my own website and a few other creative experiments to see what I really enjoyed doing vs. what my customers liked, that I used one of my favourite designs from the upcoming 2018 Penguin calendar as inspiration to create my first enamel pin badge.

Sian Shrimpton Pink Penguin Enamel Pin

Those original pin badges have continued to be another best-seller since I launched them in 2017 and looking back through my Instagram feed, Penguin has been a regular feature throughout my product ranges and social media posts since then.

It took a while and a lot of thinking, trying different things and more thinking, but I realised that people really liked the little Penguin character and I really enjoyed creating products featuring him!

Penguin has featured on a selection of notepads, more pin badges, 2018, 2019 and 2020 desk calendars, wall planners, stickers, postcards, a selection of greeting cards, wrapping paper, a cushion, birthday cards and Christmas cards. This has also included two successful Kickstarter campaigns and a lovely collaboration, which featured in a magazine no less…but now I’m just showing off! There are a lot more plans for him to be featured on more things in the future.

I still love lettering and illustration and they remain big parts of my work, I’ve also had the pleasure of working on the wedding stationery for a few lovely couples, branding projects and a lot of work for corporate clients over the 3 years that I’ve worked for myself. It hasn’t all revolved around Penguin (although, I’m sure he’d tell you differently!)

Lost along the way

It wasn’t until I created a comic strip featuring the little characters who sit on my desk a couple of weeks ago, that I realised I’d really missed the storytelling side. I had almost forgotten how and why it all started in the first place. So I’m going to try and share a few more stories of Penguin as time goes on and embrace doing what I enjoy rather than what I think I “should” be doing.

I hope to continue to be completely flexible with my business though, sometimes floral illustrations, sometimes lettering, sometimes wedding stationery, sometimes corporate brochure design or artwork, and sometimes cute Penguins on a notepad or greeting card, depending on the bright ideas that I have.

So that’s it! That’s the very long answer to why I chose Penguins to feature so heavily on my products (or rather how they chose me!) and I hope you’ve found this little insight into my business interesting.

I hope to make blogging a more regular thing this year, do you have any unanswered questions that I might be able to answer on the blog? As you can see, a small question like “Why do you draw so many Penguins?” has been translated into two whole blog posts, so any question large or small and I’ll see what I can do, just let me know in the comments. 

Penguin doodle by Sian Shrimpton

The Story of Penguin and a Brief-ish History of my Business (Part One)

Penguin doodle by Sian Shrimpton

Last month, I spent a lot of time thinking and planning about the why, how and what of my little business. I’m sure you’ll hear more and hopefully see the results of all this as time goes on, but it led me to answer one very important question: Why do you draw so many Penguins? And as I started to think about this question, it wasn’t a short answer. I like Penguins for sure, and although it’s very difficult to look at a Penguin waddling along and not smile, I wouldn’t even say they’re my favourite animal! (I’m so sorry to disappoint you, they’re one of my favourites, but this isn’t the reason why I’ve made Penguin drawings a central part of my business).

Read on to find out the real story behind Penguin, which has been intertwined with a not-so-brief history of my little business. Take a sip of water every time you read the word Penguin, and by the end, you’ll be well hydrated!

The very beginning

Rewind back to February 2013. I’ve just scrolled back through my personal Instagram to find the exact post and spent far too long reminiscing. At the time,  I was working full time in London, I was joining in with the #FMSPhotoADay challenge, I really enjoyed keeping up with my scrapbook and my previous blog. I only had about 77 followers on Instagram back then, but that felt like a lot. I had already opened my Etsy shop about 3 years prior, but it made a grand total of £10 over the 6 years before I started it back up “properly” in 2016. I look back on the cards I designed back then and smile (then cringe a little!) and realise that I had really no idea what I was doing. I still feel like that sometimes but I think 2013 Sian would be pretty pleased with how 2020 Sian is doing! I must try to remember this when I start to doubt myself.

Anyway, I digress. I had recently been to a Dollhouse and miniatures fair with my friend Harriet. I didn’t have my own dollhouse at the time but loved the idea of creating little scenes and I marvelled at the intricacy of the craftsmanship of all the tiny furniture and details. Harriet (who has since written, illustrated and published 11 Isadora Moon books, and in the process of finishing a 12th) had brought along Mini C, a small doll who she photographs in little scenes and situations, all of which are so cute and I love keeping up with the goings-on of Mini C. On that day, I was inspired to look more into my own story-telling. I didn’t want to copy Harriet but I loved this idea of creating a little character, who would get into all sorts of situations. Mine would be drawn rather than a physical doll.

It started with a doodle

At the time, I didn’t even draw regularly, and if I did, it was most probably lettering and not character drawings. I’d been keeping a notebook for little doodles and thoughts whilst I commuted into London every day and I don’t even remember why I thought of drawing a Penguin one day. The original drawing of Penguin was very square because I’d used the squares in my notebook to help me draw the lines and curves, he then had a little speech-bubble saying hello. I posted it to Instagram on 3 February 2013 with the caption: “Meet Penguin, he helps me with the day to day running of this place (ie. standing there smiling at me while I’m being a busy bee)” and Penguin was born and I miss his birthday every year. (Sorry Penguin, I will change that!) Looking back, that photo received a grand total of 3 likes…I’m sure I was over the moon with that too.

Sian Shrimpton - The very first penguin doodle

Why a Penguin?

I still have no idea why I drew a Penguin that day, it was a long time ago! Looking back at the Instagram photo, there seems to be a faint drawing of a person on the page that had been erased, maybe I considered making my little character a human first of all. I’m fairly convinced, however, that I drew a Penguin because I thought they’d be much easier to draw! It sounds like something I’d do. Let’s not forget that it was just a doodle to start with, I didn’t quite imagine that 7 years later I’d still be drawing Penguins.

I imagined a Penguin character and drew it using really simple shapes and it wasn’t until a few years later that I realised the Penguin I’d drawn, from no reference at all, didn’t look like a specific breed of Penguin at all! Oops!

What I do know is that the idea of a little Penguin as an assistant would be really cute! I can imagine them getting into all sorts of mischief, waddling around getting tangled up in things, making a mess, being a little clumsy! The Penguins I draw these days are similar to the Blue Penguin breed (also known as fairy penguins, little penguins, little blue penguins or Eudyptula minor) they are the smallest of the penguin breeds, but a few of my recent designs have included all the different breeds of penguin.

As time went on, I doodled Penguin in a selection of different scenarios, he’d be lying on a beach, the dancing version was one of my favourites, sitting behind a bunch of papers doing my work for me (I wish!), floating away on a balloon was another of my favourites, splashing around in some puddles, you might have seen some of these as updated designs since.

Penguin doing all the paperwork doodle by Sian Shrimpton

Fast Forward…

Fast forward to Christmas 2014, and I decided to make those Penguin drawings into little desk calendars, as gifts for family and friends. I had been experimenting with a few different art mediums by this point and decided to paint them all in watercolour, before scanning and printing a few times at home for different members of my family and a few friends. I partnered the printed pages with a little easel so that it could sit on their desk. To my surprise, they went down amazingly with my family and friends! A few people said: “you should definitely sell these!” and I’m sure I dismissed that at the time, but it continued to stay in the back of my mind.

The very first Penguin desk calendar original designs by Sian Shrimpton

The Other Beginning

Penguin almost took a back seat after I created those little desk calendars. We’d got engaged at Christmas in 2014 and so my mind and creativity were all consumed with planning our wedding and working full time. I had bought a little needle felted Penguin I the meantime and he’d featured in a few photos, including a little photoshoot with Harriet’s Mini C. However, I hadn’t drawn him in any new drawings or worked on my Etsy shop for a while. I think I’d even taken down all the Etsy listings by this point, because I just didn’t have the time to maintain a shop alongside working full time and that 1.5hr commute to and from London each day.

Then in September 2016, I was made redundant from my job in London and although a shock, I saw this as a huge positive. It had been on my mind since graduating in 2010 that I wanted to create my own product line, have an online shop and work for myself. It was always one of those “one-day” dreams and I didn’t let the fact that my Etsy had only made £10 previously stop me, I saw this as my chance to make a real go of it. I had a sketchbook full of sketches and little ideas that I just hadn’t had time to implement. Over the following week, I decided that I’d create a new version of the Penguin Desk Calendar for 2017, see how I did and see if I could make this dream of mine a reality.

…and that’s where I’ll leave this story, on a huge cliff hanger, until next time when you can find out how well or how badly it all turned out. 

Three Years of Sian Shrimpton Design & Illustration

Shop News | Stickers, Postcards & Christmas!

There has been a lot going on in the shop since the last time I posted, so I thought it was a good time to update you on the exciting goings-on around here.

Three Years of Sian Shrimpton Design & Illustration

Third Business Birthday

First of all, on October 3rd, I celebrated three years as a freelancer and three years since I opened my Etsy shop. It doesn’t feel as long as 3 years at all. When I first started this little venture, I had no idea what direction I’d be taking it in. I had a few ideas, some of them I haven’t even had the chance to work on yet but there is still time. Some of the things I have worked on, however, have surprised me. I never thought I’d create enamel pins, for example, I never thought I’d run TWO successful Kickstarter Campaigns (more on that later!) If you’ve supported my business at all over the last 3 years, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Every like, comment, share, cheerleading message and purchase means the absolute world to me.

Sian Shrimpton Design - Keep Going Postcard

Postcards & Stickers

I have a few new products in the shop, one of those is a collection of new postcards and the option to buy the hand-lettered postcards individually rather than as part of a set. There are plenty of cute colourful Penguin postcards, perfect to send a little note to a friend or to pop on your noticeboard to cheer you up in the end.

I also now have stickers! If you had told ten-year-old me that I’d be making stickers, notepads and postcards as part of my job, I’m not sure I would have coped. 30-something me is also finding it hard to comprehend that this is my job sometimes.

There are Penguin stickers and my favourite of the hand-lettered pieces, “keep going” all available now, with a few more to come once I have sent out the Kickstarter rewards.

Kickstarter update

On the subject of Kickstarter, the campaign was a success! It ended at 151% funded which was fantastic. I had my doubts as the campaign went on because a few pledgers cancelled or changed their pledge to a smaller amount. I understand why you would cancel or change a pledge, however, I feared the campaign wouldn’t get to fully funded, let alone to the stretch goals! Everyone surprised me though, and I shouldn’t have doubted it! I did reach the first stretch goal, albeit after reducing it slightly and there are two lovely Penguin pin designs in production as I type this!

Christmas!

Sorry if it really is too early to be talking about the c-word but the organised among you have already been asking me about Christmas so…I’m sorry!

As you can possibly tell, there is a lot going on in the shop at the moment and I have a lot of new products, with more to come soon! This does mean that there have been no brand new Christmas themed designs, for this year. I did create two brand new designs for Christmas wrapping paper last year and looking back at my Instagram and blog, I didn’t even promote said wrapping paper! Doh! These are back in the shop for this Christmas and there are plenty of my older designs for Christmas cards and tags in the shop too.

Keep a lookout for a few new and exciting products coming to the shop in the next couple of weeks. If you missed out on the Kickstarter pins, if there any leftovers, they’ll be added to both my website and Etsy Shops. They’ll make the perfect for little gifts or a treat for yourself and I also have a few super-secret products to add soon, including a very exciting collaboration.

Penguin Desk Calendar 2020

Shop News | Kickstarter Campaign, Penguin Calendar 2020 and Surprise Boxes

Hello Hello! Long time no blog! How have you been? I’ve wanted to update the blog for a while now but other things have always jumped in the way. Life is busy, work has been busy and then I became out of practice and didn’t know where to pick up again after a long hiatus. So here we are, I plan on starting with monthly shop updates, because although I try to promote everything on social media, you might miss something and I don’t want that happening! Then I’ll try to punctuate those updates with useful little updates about my work, my process or some of your frequently asked questions. If you have any questions or things you’d like to know about, please comment below or pop me a message and I’ll add it to the list. So what have I been up to…?

Up & Away Penguin Enamel Pin Kickstarter Campaign – Only 6 days left! 

Right at the end of August, I launched a Kickstarter Campaign to raise funds to create a new collection of penguin enamel pins. The initial goal is for a design based on one of the my favourite penguin drawings, Penguin floating away on a bunch of colourful balloons. I have planned a couple of stretch goals, including one that is slightly festive, some stickers and a cartwheeling and dancing penguin pin.

The campaign has been a bit slower than I thought it might be and after 2 weeks, I decided to change around the stretch goals. I didn’t do this lightly, however I feared that we wouldn’t reach the first stretch goal as it was a big leap, so I made the slightly festive, penguin with all the gifts pin, the first stretch goal and felt a lot more positive that I’d get to that first stretch goal. 

Penguin Enamel Pin Kickstarter Campaign

After a couple of slow weeks, the campaign is doing so well. At the time of posting, it is at 138% funded with only 6 days left. This means that (all being well) the up & away pins will be produced and I only need £51 of pledges to get to that first stretch goal! 

If you haven’t seen the campaign yet, you can read more about it and pledge for a copy of the final designs here. 

Penguin Desk Calendar 2020 – available for pre-order now!

The best-selling* Penguin desk calendars are back for 2020! I’m so excited about these!

This is the fourth year in a row that I’ve designed a little penguin desk calendar to cheer up your desk all year long and after a shaky start with a bit of creative block, I’m so pleased with how these calendars look this time. They remain the same A7 size that they have always been and the little wooden stands are back for the 2nd year running. The actual calendar is 13 pages (one month per page with a front cover) and sits comfortably in the wooden stand. You can opt to buy the calendar with or without a wooden stand if you already have one or if you’d like to pop the pages in your diary, scrapbook or on your notice board each month. The options and uses are endless!

The calendars are now available for pre-order, and they will be printed in time for dispatch at the beginning of October, so you won’t have to wait long.

*best-selling: these have been my best selling product for the last three years

Penguin Desk Calendar 2020I have also updated the Academic wall planners for 2019-20, there is a Penguin version and a minimal version. I’ve added the option to print it on my studio printer for you, this time after a few you requested that option. As always, there’s the downloadable version too. The updated 2020 versions will be available at the beginning of October.

Surprise Boxes

This is something that I’ve wanted to arrange for a while. I love the thought of a little surprise in the mail, and as my product range grows and as we approach that lovely festive time at the end of the year (it is coming, I’m sorry! I won’t mention the C word in September though!) it seems like the perfect time to start offering these surprise boxes.

There are a few options:
Small surprise box – You pay £5 and receive a surprise selection of notecards, stickers, postcards to the value of about £7.
Large surprise box – You pay £10 and receive a surprise selection of enamel pins, stickers, postcards, notepad, notecards and/or calendar to the value of about £15.
Greeting card surprise box – You receive 5 greeting cards for the price of 4. You’ll receive at least 3 birthday cards and 2 other notecards for any occasion.

These can be customised slightly if you have a favourite colour, design or if you have a special occasion coming up, you simply need to write me a comment at check out and I’ll see what I can add to your surprise box. If you need a wedding card for example, as part of your greeting card surprise box, I have a couple of options that I could add. I want these to be a surprise but I also want you to love what you receive. Christmas themed products will only be included as a special request, they won’t be automatically included around Christmas time.

So there we have it, my first update in a while and I’ve been busy! There is a lot more to come, I have a few more plans to work on before this year is up. Next month, I celebrate 3 years of self employment, and I hope to have a lot of those plans ready to reveal then.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, if you have any questions or suggestions for blog posts, I’d love to hear them. Let’s hope this is the start of more regular blogging from here on out. 

Cute Penguin Rainbow note card - Illustrated Card

Shop news | New Penguin Cards, 2019 Calendars, sneak peeks and 10% off

Good Morning, how is your week going so far? For a while now, I’ve been trying to make a plan for this blog. I’ve read many an article saying “you must have a blog for your business,” “if you want to succeed on the internet, you must write a blog” and “blogging is back” (in my book, it never really went away!) and I’ve written for my own blog for a little under ten years now, with a few breaks here or there. I’ve written about my research at University whilst I studied for my Graphic Design degree, then later about working in London, my life as a graduate and creativity, with a little phase where I loved creating scrapbooks.

Recently however, I’ve been trying to figure out how I want this space to work and considered all different types of blog. I want it to be a useful, helpful space for you, whether you are a regular customer of my Etsy shop, a potential client or an engaged couple, considering asking me to design your wedding stationery. It took me a while longer to figure out what that looks like and so I think I have a little plan.

I plan on posting three times a month (roughly!) with a mixture of posts, featuring:

  • a freebie post at the beginning of the month, like a free desktop wallpaper,
  • a shop update around the middle of the month, with all the new things in my shop and any new goings on, which may or may not let you know about offers or sale events in my shop (that’s what this one is,)
  • a useful post towards the end of the month, some ideas I’ve had so far for this are about my process and what I’m doing to help the environment. I think of this as an extended version of an FAQ section, so if there’s anything you want to know, just give me a shout in the contact form.

Enough chatting about it and more getting on with it!

New super cute card designs in the shop

I have been dreaming up a few new card designs for a while now and finally got round to getting them printed. There are now three new Penguin note cards available to send to a friend to cheer them up, to say hello or just-because. I’ve also added a few colour variations of my floral birthday cards.Cute Penguin Rainbow note card - Illustrated Card

Back to School wall planners and an offer!

If you’ve gone back-to-school or back-to-college/university this month, or just want to get organised for the academic year, I have added two new wall planners to the shop. There is a minimal version and a version with cute penguins on it, if that’s your thing! These are instant download wall planners and available in A3, A4 and US Letter sizes. To celebrate back-to-school, I’ve created a little offer in my Etsy Shop until the end of September, you can get 10% off those new wall planners, penguin stickers and notepad & pencil sets when you use the code BACKTOSCHOOL (or click on the code to add the code to your basket straight away).

Penguin academic wall planner

 

2019 Calendars (a little sneak peek!)

Now for the exciting bit, I have had quite a few messages asking if and when the Penguin Calendars will be back for 2019 and the good news is that I have been working hard on some new designs for the 2019 Calendars. I have expanded from just a Penguin version this time. There will be two other versions and I have exciting new stands that they’ll sit on this time as well. I hope that these will be available next month ready for my 2nd business birthday!

On the subject of calendars, the 2018 version is now available at the ridiculous price of 50p (+postage) and these won’t be available from October 1st to avoid confusion, so if you’d like one make sure you order one before the end of the month. I made the mistake of printing a few too many and so I’m pretty much giving these away. A few people have said that they’re cutting off the calendar part and using them as bookmarks, as postcards, sticking them on the wall or even as gift tags. I’m sure there are endless possibilities!

2019 Calendars sneak peek

 

No. 7 Cherry Tree Lane

On a non-related note, I have set up a new Instagram account for my dollhouse. I had considered documenting the progress here as I had started to write about it on the blog, or setting up a new blog for it, but I struggle to keep up with this one. So, I thought an Instagram account would be perfect. Updates are slow, and I’m still catching up with posting the progress so far but I’m excited to post more about it in the future.

7 Cherry Tree Lane, Dollhouse Instagram Account

 

So, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the first of my shop updates. There might be some months with more to update and others where there isn’t much at all. Let me know what you think, and just give me a shout if there’s anything you want me to write about that might make ordering from the shop or working with me easier.

Penguin Enamel Pin Kickstarter Campaign Sketch

The Story behind my Penguin Enamel Pin Kickstarter Campaign

Penguin Enamel Pin Kickstarter Campaign Sketch

If you’ve followed my work for a little while, you’ll know that I created a little Penguin Character a while ago. Penguin has featured on all sorts of products, he started off on his own calendar in 2017, which formed the start of my freelance career and Etsy Shop. Since then, I’ve created a second Calendar for 2018, Christmas cards, Birthday cards and a little enamel pin, which was quite popular!

Whilst preparing for Christmas 2017, I really wanted to create a few more products featuring my little Penguin and created Christmas cards for the occasion but for a few different reasons, I couldn’t branch out into different products. As Christmas approached, I had the idea that I could create a Kickstarter Campaign to raise the funds for these new products but as Christmas was so near, I knew I had run out of time. Christmas came and went and that idea was put towards the end of my to-do list and almost forgotten in the busy-ness that is Christmas time for a small business.

Fast forward to April this year and whilst planning out my work for the month, the perfect opportunity arose to launch my Kickstarter Campaign – World Penguin Day on April 25th!

Now, if you are unaware, Penguin is my little office assistant, he sits on my desk, making me smile, keeps me in order and doesn’t do too much else! He is a firm believer in my productivity, getting all the cool stuff done and having an ice day!

So, the products that I have designed for this Kickstarter Campaign are based on this. First of all there is a cute enamel pin, where Penguin is carrying his trusty pencil with the words “Get cool stuff done” on it. There is also a notepad and pencil set, and a few different colour variations of my original penguin enamel pin.

Penguin Notepad, Pencil and Enamel Pin Set

I launched the Kickstarter Campaign on 25th April and in the matter of a few days, the original target was met! I am still in shock to be honest.

If you’re unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a website where creatives can raise funds for creative projects through people pledging to support them. People who pledge can opt for a reward in return for their pledge and so in my case, you could opt for the new pin design, a notepad and pencil set or the new colour variations of the original pin design. Kickstarter is all or nothing, so I put in a target of £260 for the “Get Cool Stuff Done” Pin and if I didn’t reach that target, no money would be taken from you, and the project wouldn’t go ahead. However, the target was reached within the first few days and I’d created stretch goals to be able to create the notepad & pencil and the new colour variations, which have also been reached. As I’ve reached all of these targets, is likely to go ahead, the money will be transferred to me at the end of the campaign and I can get these new products manufactured! All fingers crossed that everything goes well at the end of the campaign.

The campaign has just over a week left and at 339% funded at the moment, it is highly likely that these new products will be produced, which is so exciting! This also means that there is just over a week for you to be able to pledge towards the campaign to ensure you get your flippers on one of these new products before anyone else.

Simply pop over to my Kickstarter campaign here and select the reward that you’d like.

If you’ve already pledged, I just wanted to say thank you so so much for your support so far, this process has been a great learning curve for me and has been so far out of my comfort zone but your support has made it all well worth it, so Thank You again and I look forward to sending out all of the rewards once they are all made.

May Free Penguin Desktop Wallpaper

May 2018 Free Penguin Desktop Wallpaper

May Free Penguin Desktop Wallpaper

…and just like that, it is May already! I can’t quite believe it. April was a seriously busy month for me, which was absolutely fantastic. It was full of new couples approaching me about wedding stationery, a whole heap of freelance work and towards the end of the month I celebrated World Penguin Day with the launch of an exciting Kickstarter Campaign.

I will write more about the kickstarter campaign next week, including the story behind it all. But for now, you can take a peek over on kickstarter itself. I launched it just over a week ago and because I’ve been super busy with previously mentioned freelance work and wedding commissions, I haven’t had too much time to promote it or tell you all about it on the blog. As you’ll probably see, it is well on it’s way to smashing the stretch goals that I’ve set for it in just the first week!

I hope you have a lovely May Day bank holiday weekend, what ever it is you do. I’ve heard rumours that the weather is going to be gorgeous here in the UK, so I hope you manage to get outside and enjoy it.

As always with these little monthly updates, below you’ll find the links to this month’s free desktop wallpaper. Penguin is waving to his friend in a hot air balloon, which is ironic because I saw a hot air balloon up in the sky when I was out on my walk yesterday! Simply click on the relevant link below, save the image and make it your wallpaper.

iPhone 6/7 Plus & Android | iPhone 6/6s

iPad | Laptop | Desktop

All Design and Illustration by Sian Shrimpton and strictly for personal use only.

Penguin in the springtime for the March 2018 desktop download

March 2018 Penguin Desktop Wallpaper

Penguin in the springtime for the March 2018 desktop download

This month’s calendar page and desktop background feels like some sort of silly, non-funny joke at the moment considering the weather that we’re having in the UK at the moment. Up until last week, it had been fairly mild and my daffodils had started to grow, but now, those poor daffodils are under a few inches of snow and it’s bitterly cold outside. We’ve been quite lucky in this part of Hertfordshire so far, but I know that a lot of the country have had it a lot worse! I hope you’re keeping safe and warm. You have my permission however to use the January calendar for these first few days of March (and I really hope these conditions only last a few days, I would very much like some Spring-like weather soon, please!)

iPhone 6/7 Plus & Android | iPhone 6/6s

iPad | Laptop | Desktop

As a little update, I have been working hard on updating the wedding stationery section of my shop, all photography has been updated and I’ve updated the prices and how you order wedding stationery from me. You can find all of my wedding stationery on my Etsy Store or on Love & Lilah.  I have also been designing some new greeting cards for all sorts of occasions, so I hope to share those with you very soon.

I hope you have a happy and successful March, please stay safe in the snow and let’s hope it doesn’t last too long!

All Design and Illustration by Sian Shrimpton and strictly for personal use only.

March 2018 Free Penguin Desktop Wallpaper
Sian Shrimpton Design Colourful Note Card

Things I’ve learned from my first year being self-employed

After celebrating my business birthday on 3rd October, I thought it would be great to evaluate my first year of working for myself and write about all that I’ve learned. It has been a testing, challenging, exciting and mostly fun learning curve and I’m not sure I would have realised any of the following things if someone had told me at the very beginning. Some things you have to learn on your own but if this helps someone, then I’m glad.

You can’t do absolutely everything
I look at other creatives who are self-employed or running businesses online and a lot of them are on facebook, twitter, have a large Instagram following, they keep up with Instagram stories, have a youtube channel, they’re on Patreon, hold in-person classes and workshops, they run a blog, promote their blog, they are pinning on Pinterest, they’re on Etsy and not on the high street as well as having a selection of amazing clients and are magically able to eat and sleep!

In reality, no one person is actually able to do all of the above and if they are, how? The internet is truly amazing in allowing us to do all of these things. I’ve just got to carefully choose which things I want to do as I can’t do it all.

This also applies to design work that I do, I can’t be everything to everyone. I can easily think that I’m a failure because I can’t design or illustrate like insert artist’s name here but I’m not them, and they’re not me. So I’ll carry on doing my thing. In fact, one could say that I’d be more of a failure if I didn’t do my thing and simply copied someone else.

Keep it simple
This almost ties in with the previous point but I have a tendency to over complicate things. I want to do all the things, and always have big plans but I’ve found recently that the key is to keep it simple. Right at the beginning of this year, I spent a lot of time thinking about my skills, what I could offer, what I’m good at and what I enjoy. There are a lot of things that I enjoy, for example, painting, hand lettering and I have a background in graphic design, I wondered how I could strike a balance where all of these things could feature in my shop. I found that I was fighting to keep all of these things together all at once and it meant that I just got confused and nothing seemed to work or make sense. Equally, I had plans for Wedding Stationery but how does that fit in with the Penguin Calendars? How does it all fit together? I panicked a lot about my shop and business being a little bit of a mix n match of different things but I learned that that was ok. The thing that ties it all together is me and my style. I aim to be a helpful and approachable designer and offer colourful, cute and personal design and illustration to you lovely people. As soon as I realised that, I’m a lot happier with my shop.

Do what you’re good at…at all times
Short story: Earlier on in the year, I started work on what was a small project. A Groom asked me to design some envelope liners and source some gorgeous envelopes for his Save the Dates. This was a project that I absolutely loved, starting work by looking at all the lovely paper samples was my idea of a perfect day! I went back and forth a couple of times with different paper and envelope samples. Every time I would send a paper sample in the post, I included a small hand-written note to explain what kind of paper sample I was sending. After a while, the Groom asked if I would hand write the addresses on his envelopes as he liked my handwriting so much. I have had a few comments on my handwriting before and make sure I put a little effort in whenever I write a note to someone, making sure it’s neat but I hadn’t considered offering handwritten envelopes as something I do. If you have something that you’re good at, keep doing it because someone will notice and one day you’ll be addressing 70 envelopes. I will be adding envelope addressing to my Etsy shop really soon.

Everything takes time
Drawing takes times. Improving takes time. Editing, printing, photographing all takes time. Healing takes time. I’d get frustrated earlier on in the year that I wasn’t growing as a business as fast as I’d like but these things all take time. I’m actually glad for the slow and steady growth because all this is a huge learning curve and there is a lot to learn. The slow and steady growth has helped me learn along the way.

Momentum
This brings me to momentum. I’m glad that things have taken time but at times I could have got things done a lot quicker. A lot of the time I’ve felt like I’m catching up with myself. I’ll write down ideas, finish what I’m doing (fret about that project, delay actually finishing it for a little while) work on the next priority and over time the enthusiasm fades for that idea or I never get round to even giving it a try. The experts would say that if I lose the enthusiasm for that idea, it wasn’t meant to be anyway but I’ve learned the importance of keeping up momentum and creating when the idea is fresh and it seems to be working at the moment.

Photography & Lightroom
As I said in my year roundup, I’ve learned so much about photography. I took the product photos of the Wedding Stationery samples about 3-4 times before I was happy with them, get the right background, getting the layout right, then learning all about lighting, exposure, white balance, and focus. Product photography is still the most difficult part of running my shop for me but I definitely see an improvement. It’s a lot quicker to create a photo that I like now and I no longer have to battle with my camera to get the right effect.

My photography life also changed the day that I downloaded Lightroom, a photo editing software from Adobe. It is seriously amazing for quick edits and I highly recommend it. I even have the app on my phone which has changed my Instagram life too!

Drawing & Layers
My drawing style has definitely changed (improved?) over the last year. I have done a lot more drawing than ever before, which has given me more confidence in my style. Over the last year, or even the last few months, I’ve started to use layers of paper to create the illustrations that I work on. I do this by using thin paper (not quite tracing or layout paper but cheaper pads of paper that I’ve found in a local stationery shop) sketching out the main shape of the illustration, then laying other piece of paper on top so that I can see the original illustration through and add the details, if it doesn’t work it’s fine because I haven’t had to erase the whole thing losing the original illustration! This has become especially useful in the Christmas card and Calendar designs that I’ve worked on recently. I layer up the drawings so that I don’t ruin the original pencil drawing by trying different details that may or may not work.

I carry this through to my work on illustrator and put the scanned pencil drawing on the first layer, roughly draw out the initial shapes on the second, add shapes of colour on the next, brush strokes to outline and add details on the following layer, then finally add a background behind it all and hide the original scan and rough shape layers. This may sound like such a simple thing but it’s a simple part of my workflow that keeps me organised and means it’s a lot easier to create and edit afterward.

I’m not dreadful at what I do
I was really struggling with my work before I was made redundant a year ago. I became so unsure of everything I worked on. I thought I had been progressing over the 6 years that I worked in the job but was still referred to as a Junior Designer, which knocked my confidence. I had worked so hard but was still seen as a Junior. Then over the last year, I have worked on some relatively small projects with clients who have been over the moon with the work that I’ve done and have been really complimentary of my work, which has been really great to hear. Not only that, I’ve had the chance to work on the projects that I’ve wanted to work on, in the style that I’ve wanted to use, through my Etsy shop and it hasn’t been dreadful.

Calm
I underlined the word calm on my list of things that I learned. All of these things are a complete work in progress and none more so than to keep calm. I remember many a day of fretting over my style, worrying about my ability, am I doing enough? Am I trying to do too much? Am I even cut out for all this? But I’m slowly learning not to worry about all this and to breathe, go for a walk, hide my phone and just get on with it.

So that was quite a lengthy list! I probably could go on for a while with everything I’ve learned in the last year! It has been a great year and I’m so thankful for the opportunity. Is there anything you would add to this list that may help others?

My first year of self-employment

Wow! 3rd October marked one year since I officially became self-employed and I can’t believe how fast that time has gone. This time last year, I had just been made redundant from a job I had worked at since University, I spent a few days processing the news but knew deep down what needed to be done. I had wanted to set up on my own for a while, I knew I wasn’t ready but I felt like this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. I thought, I’ll give it 3 months but haven’t turned back.

When I was made redundant, my confidence was dashed quite considerably. I had very little confidence in myself as a person and even less confidence in my work and my ability to do just about anything. Designing a Penguin Calendar was something I really wanted to do, however, so I did it. I used drawings that I’d worked on, two years before and within 2 weeks, I had vectorised those drawings (drawn them again on the computer) and they looked great. I sat on those designs for a little while, doubting whether they were any good, wondering whether I should add anything to them. I had been painting a little for my mental health so I tried adding some painted details to them but that didn’t quite work. I think I forgot about them for a few days and then revisited the illustrations to find they weren’t dreadful, so after a few tweaks, I sent them to print alongside a typographic design that I had worked on and fretted about in equal measure.

In the beginning, I got just 40 printed and the Penguin Calendar sold out pretty quickly. My sister-in-law snapped up quite a few and I thought she was just buying them to help me out, she gifted them to her colleagues, however, who all loved them! I went on to reprint the penguin design quite a few times as they sold out quite a few times and I worked out that I’d sold about 200 of those Calendars over the Christmas period. I learned so much at that time.

I hand cut out each and every page of the first 80 Calendars that sold! I struggled to find a printer who printed that small, so printed on flat SRA3 sheets and cut each one out. Thankfully, I found out that the same printer would print A7 “leaflets” which was exactly what I needed.

Christmas was then over and all of the Calendars had sold, what now? How do I follow that? I also had quite an upsetting and stressful Christmas time that it took me a little while to get back into creating confidently in the new year. I had big plans for designing Wedding Invitations and Wedding Stationery so set out in designing those. It took a while to settle on a style for those and in the end, I had 7 House Collections of Wedding Stationery, which I really love. Since then I have designed for a couple of lovely Weddings. I hope to do a lot more in the new year.

I’ve learned so much about photography whilst trying to photograph these collections. I’ve taken the photographs 3 or 4 times over, thankfully they get marginally better each time.

The early summer was quite stressful for me, I had quite a lot of things going on, alongside my shop going quiet. I worked on a few great branding and design projects which were lovely. I continued to paint for my mental health again, which resulted in a bright and colourful selection of notecards for all different occasions, which look really great and I’m so pleased with them.

Throughout the year I’ve also faced a horrible habit of comparing myself to others. I would get into a trap of scrolling and scrolling, then wonder why 1. My work wasn’t as good as theirs’ 2. Why my Instagram feed didn’t look amazing and 3. Why I hadn’t done all that I needed to that day through scrolling all day. It’s really silly thinking about it now. But at one point, in July or August, I made a plan, to create furiously and to just keep going regardless of how I felt, about my work, regardless of what someone else had posted online and how good it was. I decided to lock myself in a little bubble and to do my thing and keep going.

Since then, I feel like my focus, momentum, and attitude towards my work has really changed, which has been great. I feel like I’ve found my groove. It has helped that I’ve started working on the Penguin Calendars again which I really love. So that brings me to now. I hope I manage to stay in this groove for a while and continue to create furiously.

Now, this post started off as a “things I’ve learned..” post for my first year of being self-employed but it ended as a pouring out of honesty about how things have gone. I am so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work for myself for the last year and I’m incredibly grateful for the work that I’ve been able to do this year. It has been testing and challenging at times. I have faith and hope that my second year will be even better.

My second year starts with preparing for Christmas again, which is exciting. I have designed two versions of the Penguin Calendar this time, with all new illustrations. I have a Penguin Pin badge which is so unbelievably cute! I’ve also been busy designing a selection of Christmas cards which I’m so pleased with and are now available in the shop.

I have a few Christmas fairs lined up, I share a table with my sister-in-law, who sells candles and we make a great team. I’m also excited to have been accepted for my first ever solo fair (a table all to myself) for the Hertfordshire Etsy Made Local in Ware, I’m sure this won’t be the last you’ll hear about that! I’m excited to meet all of the other members of the Herts Etsy Team and to sell at a local Etsy event.

I have some big plans for the new year, including offering custom portraits, prints, designing a range of birthday and thank you cards, and to take my Wedding Stationery Collections to at least one Wedding Fair. I would also like to take on a few more freelance clients and commissions (so if you’d like to work with me, please get in touch. 😉 ) I also celebrate my 30th birthday next year and what better than to make it the best year yet!

So here’s to the first year and all that it has taught me, let’s hope for a successful second year!