This month we had the pleasure of chatting with Katie Abey, an independent illustrator and owner of two Katie Abey stores in Matlock and Alfreton – not to mention her amazingly colourful hair! From doodling cats in her onesie to running her own business, we spoke to Katie about her journey as an illustrator, her new children’s book, and where she gets her inspiration to create such quirky products and designs.
“I jumped into the self-employed world straight from graduating university,” Katie tells us. “My first 'proper' freelance job was for Bear Nibbles, designing a sticker book for them which was the most fun project. Alongside freelance work, I also did loads of markets to get some feedback and get my products out there a bit. I started off just wanting to make enough to contribute to the household bills – little did I know it would grow to a size big enough to become a full-time job for both my husband and me!
“Around the time I graduated, I set myself a challenge to do an illustration every day,” she continues. “This really helped me build confidence and develop a coherent illustration style. I kept this going for five whole years, it definitely played a big part in the evolution of my work. I guess in some respects that the response my illustrations have got on social media has directed my style a bit.”
Katie Abey Design was opened online in 2014, providing “doses of happiness, motivation, sarcasm and general randomness”. After her most popular product ‘The Mug of Motivation’ (a well-received Secret Santa present in the Jigsaw24 team last year) took off in 2015, the business eventually grew large enough to open a high-street shop in Alfreton, Derbyshire.
“No two days are the same for me, which is part of why I love my job so much,” Katie says. “I might be working on book projects, ordering stock for our shops, designing new products or venturing out the office for meetings or book promo events.
“We became a limited company in 2016, and we now have a team of six of us working on different aspects of the business. We love being a company that can offer flexibility for our staff to work around their children, their own creative loves and other commitments.”
As well as greetings cards, postcards, prints, mugs, badges and pins that Katie’s art adorns, she’s also published two children’s books – We Wear Pants (2018) and We Eat Bananas (2019). Alongside beautiful and colourful illustrations, the books encourage children and help parents who may be struggling to get their kids to get dressed or finish all of their dinner. Parents in Touch described We Wear Pants as “perfect to involve children – this is a book that puts them in charge.”
“I’m currently working on the next children’s book in the We Wear Pants series and I’m loving it!” Katie says. “Anything that involves drawing lots of animals, especially wearing clothes, and I’m happy!”
Though many creatives will always have a place in their heart for pencil and paper, creative technology gives them the tools to do more with their work. Katie tells us: “The creative programs I use allow me to instantly upload something to social media as soon as I have drawn it, which is way more helpful than when I had to manually scan things in back in the day. I use Hootsuite whenever I want to schedule anything in advance and find it works really well.
“I’m a massive Apple geek – their products are designed with creative use in mind,” Katie continues. “I couldn’t live without my iPad Pro! I was late to the party getting one but I can’t imagine not having it now. I use an iMac as my desktop computer. The app Astropad is great for linking the iPad to the iMac. It turns it in to a sort of drawing tablet which is ace.”
When it comes to being productive, Katie tells us “nothing can beat a good old list! Whether it’s a physical written list or a list making app. Our company have recently started using HiTask [a project and task manager for teams] which is fantastic. You can set tasks for everyone and get notifications when they’ve ticked them off.”
Katie’s designs are full of motivational sayings, Harry Potter references and an abundance of puns – but where does her inspiration come from? “I love using Instagram,” she tells us, “and following other makers who inspire me. But in the same breath, I sometimes find that a break from social media can be equally as inspiring. Daft things my friends come out with inspire me – or sometimes things strangers say in passing leave me feeling like 'I need to draw that!'”
When asked about other illustrators she admires, Katie says, “There are so many! Nick Sharratt is a childhood hero of mine, and also Shirley Hughes, who is still illustrating in to her 90s. What a legend. Adam Ellis's comics always brighten up my feed, I love his sense of humour.
“It can be so difficult to start feeling motivated and productive sometimes,” Katie adds. “And it can be so easy to compare yourself to others too. Focusing on your own journey is the best thing you can do, I think.”
Want to get your hands on some of the must-have tools mentioned above? Get in touch with the team on 03335 409 204 or email DandP@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, inspiration and events, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
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