Interview: Super Duper Things
Happy Friday! I hope that you’ve had a good week? On my side, there’s been a lot of rushing around London to meet with people for work and for the blog too. I can’t believe how much I’ve fitted in these last two weeks of freelancing. I’m feeling much better about the pace of it and in hindsight I realise that I just needed a little time to adjust. I’m excited to let you know that I’ve been preparing a couple of interviews with creatives recently and I hope that you’ll like today’s post. Personally, I love reading about others’ journeys, personal and professional so I’m hoping you will too.
Today I am chatting to Louise Evans, a graphic designer, illustrator, and maker extraordinaire at Super Duper Things. I was excited to chat to Louise because I’ve been following her for over five years on Etsy if you can believe it. She has very kindly offered to gift a trio of A5 “Building Blocks” prints (pictured above) to one lucky blog reader too so don’t go anywhere after reading the post and please take a minute to enter the giveaway.
Interview: Meet Louise Evans
Hi Louise! Great to have a chance to chat and learn a little bit more about you, where you grew up, your creative and professional background, and your entrepreneurial journey. Should we start there?
I grew up near Cambridge, and when I was little my Mum (a childminder) was great about finding us crafty activities to keep us out of trouble. We were always gluing toilet rolls tubes to cereal boxes and calling them jetpacks, or something similar. So perhaps that’s where this all began! I went to Norwich School of Art and Design to study graphic design, and there’s a fabulous little craft market there called Clutter City. Well, I’d been making jewellery for myself for a little while, got really into it and found myself with more than one girl could ever wear! So one day I booked myself a table at the market, and it all grew from there.
What is the split between the paid projects you take on as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator and your work designing and making for Super Duper Things? Can you walk us through a typical day (or week) in your life?
At the moment, things are quite fluid and changeable which I’m enjoying, after the full-time job routine! On Wednesdays I attend lectures and seminars all day for my MA course at LCC. The other weekdays are split between freelance work either at home or in-house for a client. When I’m at home I can also take care of Super Duper Things – otherwise, evenings and weekends are filled with making prints, packing any orders that come in, and doing the research/design work for my course. Oh, and somewhere in there fits stuff like cooking (I love cooking) and washing! So far, everything seems to be muddling along okay, although I’m rather new to this and the nature of the work means that things can be so different week to week! I’ve found a new passion for writing to-do lists…
I saw that you’re studying part-time at the London College of Communication at the moment, you’re a busy bee! Can you tell us about your MA and your interest in pursuing it?
It’s so good! I thought about it for years and it just seemed the right time now. It’s a part-time Graphic and Media Design MA, which I still feel like I’m just getting stuck into. It was a surprise to me how out-of-practice I had gotten at reading and writing in an academic way! But it’s so interesting, there are so many potential research projects I want to pursue that I may just have to keep repeating the course over and over for ever :)
Let’s move on to your creative process: I discovered you when you were making jewellery and worked on vintage pieces that you gave a modern twist to but at the moment your work revolves more around graphic artwork, prints and paper-based goods. Can you tell us about the evolution of the Super Duper Things brand?
That’s a very good question! I think this move through different products and media has come about because I’ve always made what I myself wanted to have – at first, I made the jewellery that I wanted but couldn’t find in shops and luckily other people liked it too! After a while, I suppose my personal style changed, I found that I wasn’t really wearing jewellery much myself anymore. And my work life was increasingly computer-based, so I missed the hands-on cutting, printing and making with paper that had taken me to art school in the first place. Hence the shift in emphasis!
On the subject of branding, is it something you’ve given a lot of thought to or was it quite an organic process? I love your brand’s name, I think it’s the perfect embodiment of your aesthetic which is colourful and has a playfulness about it. Do you have a particular customer in mind when you design?
I’m not entirely sure where the name came from, I seem to remember it popping into my head right at the beginning when I was thinking about doing my very first craft fair, before even Etsy came into the picture. I was really into collage and hand-rendered type at the time, so the aesthetic followed that for several years and has kind of evolved hand-in-hand with what I’m into myself. It’s funny, because as a trained graphic designer I could see myself breaking the ‘rules’ of branding but just did whatever felt right. Super Duper Things is a playground for me to explore whatever I can’t do in my professional life, I suppose! I’m glad you say ‘playful’ – I never want it to feel serious, if you know what I mean. So the style changes but the name will always stay the same.
I wanted to ask you about some of your bestsellers through the years and the bespoke pieces you create for customers who are looking for something unique. What are some of the most original projects you’ve worked on?
As you say, what I’ve been making has evolved a lot over the years! Back when I was creating jewellery with leather offcuts, there was a day when I had a load of coloured triangles on my workbench and it struck me that it’d be cool to join them to make a necklace that looked like bunting. They turned out to be hugely popular, and then suddenly I was seeing bunting necklaces everywhere! Not that I claim to be the Inventor Of The Bunting Necklace or anything… I guess it was one of those zeitgeisty moments! As to particularly memorable custom pieces, there was a small number of these leather skeleton hand pieces, inspired by Queen Michelle of Kingdom of Style. Each was fitted exactly to the hand measurements of the owner. They were fiddly as heck but so fun to make!
There is an emphasis on shapes, colours, and texture in your work; I wonder where you go, physically, mentally, and digitally for inspiration? When it comes to Instagram, what are some of the feeds/hashtags that inspire you?
Hmm… I find it really hard to tell exactly where inspiration comes from. Often it’s an accidental coming together of colours, shapes, patterns or ideas that I saw in the street, or that emerged out of the mess on my desk. And of course there’s always Pinterest! Inspiration is a tricksy thing, often I think an outside observer couldn’t really see a link between the original spark and the outcome, and that’s a good thing – copying is such a difficult issue in this internet age where we see everything all the time! But that’s a whole other discussion… Some wonderful instagram accounts that always make me feel good to see are @charlottelovely, @monomio_research, @silverpebble2. Oh, and of course the incredible @finelittleday, who I’ve been following, blog, site and insta, for the last (eek!) 7 years!
People can find Super Duper Things via your own TicTail shop but you have also kept your Etsy shop open over the years and I saw that you’re quite involved in the London Etsy community. What is it like being a maker in London?
For a long time I just had the Etsy shop, but in the last couple of months as I left full-time work and turned to this more seriously, it just seemed to make sense to have my ‘own’ store separate to Etsy as well. At the same time, I joined the Etsy London Local Team to get out and meet other makers in the area, which has been so good because there’s so much pooled experience in the team. Everyone is so supportive, passes on their knowledge and we all try to get better and better together. I’d definitely recommend it because it can be a little isolating, on your own at home wondering if you’re going about things the right way! London itself is a great place to be a maker in that there’s a good range of markets and a real maker community here available to tap into.
Did you have a mentor or people you turned to for advice as your shop grew and you embraced a creative and freelance lifestyle? Are there helpful resources you could recommend to the makers who might be reading us?
Well, right at the beginning, back in University, I just sort of sat down with my laptop and my camera and got on with it. I read all that I could in terms of advice on Etsy’s own site, and little articles from other sellers, and did what I could. And it just sort of happened… The funny thing is, several years later, after a lull while I concentrated more on my design career, it’s noticeably way harder to work back to that place! I guess both Etsy and the crafty internet in general are so much bigger now than they were in 2009 :) There are reams of advice out there, Kim Lawler who makes lovely things at Finest Imaginery has great and generous articles on her blog and you can check the Merriweather Council blog too.
I saw on your site that you are a lover of typography, storytelling, and sometimes even make your own zines. I’d love to learn a little more about that, any zines you can share with us?
Yes, books are my first and absolute love. Paper, pages, binding, type… these are the things that really get me going! My favourite zine so far is Exchange, a project I worked on with my poet friend Cat, where she wrote some poems, I drew some pictures and then we swapped them and responded to the other’s work. It was fun to turn the traditional writer-illustrator dynamic around for half the zine. We’re working on another project now, a sort of game of ‘Consequences’, played through the post, which will emerge as a new zine at some point.
Finally, I wanted to ask about what’s next for you Louise! What are some of your goals for the year, personally or creatively? Thank you so much for your time and answering my questions, it’s been great to get to know you better.
I’ve got a new collection of botanically-themed prints that I’ve had in my head and in sketch form for well over a year, which I’m hoping to find the time to produce as well as the long gestation time makes it deserve! Apart from that, I want to do more markets this year as meeting people is one of the best parts. And I’d love to start doing more custom print work, such as stationery and wedding invitations for people, it’s so satisfying to make something special for a particular person and know that they’re pleased! Thank you very much for such kind words, thoughtful questions, and for giving me the opportunity to talk about myself so much! :)
Super Duper Things Giveaway
I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and meeting Louise! If you have any questions for her, please feel free to ask in the comment section below and for your chance to win a gorgeous trio of the “Building Blocks” prints, it couldn’t be more simple:
2) Leave a blog post comment for Louise or me on this very post
3) Hop on to Instagram to give Louise’s feed a follow @superduperthings
4) Hop on to Twitter to shout out about your entry to this giveaway
Best of luck everyone!