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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. 

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.

Meet the Maker Week – Day 4

This week I’m joining in with #MeetTheMakerWeek organised by @joannehawker and if I were to take an “in action” video right now, you’d see me sipping on lemsip, wrapped up in a blanket, working on a boring spreadsheet. So thankfully, I took this video a few days ago when I was painting away with Gilmore Girls on in the background.

Meet the Maker Week – Day 1

meetthemakerweek_1

This week I’m joining in with #MeetTheMakerWeek organised by @joannehawker . So here goes, my name is Sian Shrimpton, I’m based in Hertfordshire and this is what I do.

I first opened my Etsy shop in 2010, just after graduating with a degree in Graphic Design. I would create hand painted notecards and stationery for family and friends. I had to stop selling because I found that I didn’t have the time with a full time job and a long commute.

I didn’t stop drawing however and I quickly filled many a sketchbook with ideas, drawings and a few penguins for good measure. Fast forward to 2016 and I have decided to take the leap and open my Etsy shop with all new products and working freelance as a designer and illustrator. Currently, I’m selling little desk Calendars and Greeting Cards (Greeting cards will be back in stock this afternoon).

My work is inspired by bright colours and bold lines. I have a passion for hand drawn lettering, paint and illustration. I put a lot of love into everything that I do and I enjoy every second of it, I hope that my work can put a smile on your face as much as it has mine.

Etsy Shop now open!

If you follow me elsewhere on the internet, you’ll know that back at the beginning of October, I made the leap to open my Etsy Shop again. I’ve started small, and have designed two really cute desk calendars. One features penguin in all sorts of cute situations and the other is a more minimal, typographic design. Each of them sit on a little wooden easel and are a perfect addition to your desk or office, with Christmas just over a month away, they’d made an ideal stocking filler.

Alongside the Calendars, I’ve added some Christmas cards and notecards that I had left over from previous attempts at an Etsy Shop, they are reduced for now to make space for new products in the new year. Plus, you can get 10% off on orders over £10 by using the code SALE10 until the 31 December 2016!

I am so proud of these and they have been quite successful so far, in my opinion anyway. I’ve had a few attempts at running an Etsy Shop in the past and I’ve sold four times more over the last couple of months than I ever did in the previous 6 years.

sianlouise_etsyshop

penguin_desk_calendar_1

penguin_desk_calendar_2

minimal_desk_calendar_3

My Sketchbook

I managed to almost fill a whole sketchbook last year for the whole year, I used a Moleskine sketchbook (rather than a plain notebook as I had done in previous years) and used all but 15 pages towards the end. It got to the end of the year however and I thought it was time for a new sketchbook.

So I started 2016 with a new sketchbook, it became a catch all for all my drawing, notes, to-do lists, reminders and little notes of encouragement to myself. I filled the pages quite slowly up until May as I was quite preoccupied with Wedding planning. But then, I fiercely filled the remaining pages with drawings and doodles until I reached the very last page a couple of weeks ago.

This is probably the first ever time that I’ve reached the last ever page of a sketchbook, and in under a year? It is unheard of! I have many a notebook and sketchbook that have drawings on the first few pages and then nothing. Some notebooks even have pages ripped out where the page was less than perfect, no such thing happened in this sketchbook. There are definitely some pages that are less than perfect, some are downright rubbish and not for public consumption but I’ve kept then as “lessons learned” – plus it’s a sketchbook, not a work of art!

One of my “keys to success” in this, was that I added a pen loop to my sketchbook, put a pencil in that loop and carried the sketchbook with me in my handbag every day. The fact that I kept a pencil with me, meant that firstly, I always had a tool to draw/sketch/write with and secondly, a pencil is far less permanent than anything else, psychologically there was far less pressure for my drawings to be “perfect.” I know they were never going to be perfect, but using a pencil really helped keep my drawings freer and I would create a lot more.

Now, just like all these drawings, I even drafted this blog post in pencil and paper. It was full of mistakes but it was down on paper and the words flowed.

I hope you enjoy a small peek into my sketchbook. There are definitely some ideas in here that I want to bring to life as products in my Etsy shop very soon.

sianlouise_sketchbook_11 sianlouise_sketchbook_10 sianlouise_sketchbook_9 sianlouise_sketchbook_8 sianlouise_sketchbook_7 sianlouise_sketchbook_1 sianlouise_sketchbook_2 sianlouise_sketchbook_4 sianlouise_sketchbook_5 sianlouise_sketchbook_6

Hello again

Hello again! This is a very unexpected post because you may have noticed that all of my previous blog posts have been deleted. I started this blog back in 2008, whilst still at Uni, so that is 8 years worth of rambling from me, all gone!

It all happened when I was trying to update WordPress and suddenly my screen went blank, I couldn’t log in to the dashboard, I couldn’t even see my website, just “Computer says no!” I had downloaded a “back-up” plugin previously and thought it had been doing it’s job, but no! To be honest I was tired, so I left it overnight, still the next morning I couldn’t find a way of getting it back. To cut a long, quite complicated, story short, I decided/was forced to just start again, I had tried and failed long enough to get all of my posts back. So here I am, fresh and new!

I’m glad in a way that I have this chance to start afresh, I had been considering it for a while but without deleting all the old posts. Over the eight years of having this (the old?) blog, I had learnt as I’d gone along and all of the old posts were in a mess, with broken links, small images, low quality images, a million categories which were unused, some questionable spelling and grammar, the lot! So I’m glad I have this chance to start again. I’m a very nostalgic person so I’m sad that I don’t get to look back on old posts because it became like a diary for me but a lot of the special posts were drafted elsewhere first so all is not lost!

So Hello! I’m glad you’ve found me. If you’re new here, Hello and Welcome! My name is Sian and I’m a Designer and Illustrator. Here I will share my work, some work in progress, a few sneaky peeks into my sketchbooks and moments from my everyday life. I hope to share my progress as I work on opening my Etsy shop in the near future.