To celebrate 10 years of The Printed Peanut, I thought I'd show a brief history of how it all came about and how it has developed over time.
This was my first ever market. It was Christmas 2012 and I had spent a week hand printing paper then hand-wrapping Pass the Parcels. No one in Canada knew the game and I actually went hoarse from explaining it so many times. I sold lots of them though and was really encouraged to carry on. I'd never made money from my own creations before and it was exciting!
I then started selling my cards and Pass the Parcels in the shop I was working in (Paper-Ya on Granville Island). What I find fascinating to see is that I didn't even dare to use my own drawings - I used ones I had found in old Victorian catalogues. I also barely used colour! A lot has changed since then as my confidence in my own style grew and developed.
I used to do fairs with my friend Maya (@thelovingspoon) and over a dinner one night we came up with the name The Printed Peanut. I knew I wanted something catchy and related to printing. I've always loved the word peanut and living in Canada I was eating a lot of peanut butter at the time!
I used to handprint all the paper to make my pass the parcels and then handmake each one. I did this for years! I think I worked out I had wrapped 30,000 layers of paper over 5 years (not all handprinted!)
First desk space - in our tiny flat in Canada.
When I moved back to the UK, I carried on trying to screen print my products.
I was always trying to think of new party games and products to make. I spent so much time, money and effort trying to screenprint, and it always went wrong. It was such a good thing to learn that I could outsource printing to experts and concentrate on what I did best - the design.
I worked so hard every day (maybe 12-14 hour days). I was so determined and tried everything I could to get my work out there. I was also quickly developing my style and learning how to make the sort of images I wanted to make. I worked out that I liked using mainly hand drawn images and paper cut outs, combined with Photoshop. I use Photoshop like another tool and it's handy to get colour separations ready for printing. I loved to make pictures that look like they are handmade or riso printed (see soap packaging below).
My business started at the same time Instagram really took off, which was a blessing and it has helped me massively (those were the days). I was contacted by Joe from @designfortoday saying he admired my soap packaging and did I ever want to collaborate? I had just done an exhibition in Leeds amongst my favourite illustrators (like Mark Hearld and Emily Sutton below) where I had made some prints featuring shop fronts. I told Joe I would love to do a book of shops and he said he wanted to make a concertina book. We came up with Up My Street (2015), a modern take on Eric Ravilious' High Street.
This lead to attention from book publishers and I was contacted by one publisher after another to make books. I love making a book alongside running the business as it uses different parts of my brain. Sometimes you have a creative burst to make lovely pictures and sometimes you want to do something more mundane like packing orders.
By working on my pictures all the time, I developed a more cohesive style. I began to outsource more and more manufacturing as it was super exciting getting my designs printed on different products. At one point I did ceramics, tea towels, bags, soap, t-shirts, cards, mirrors, pins, stickers and books amongst other things. It became a bit tricky to keep track of stock and send out parcels containing all sorts of different shaped items!
See a video of my ceramic being made here.
The first ever print I made was this Ice Cream Van Risograph. (I have now reprinted some old favourites for the 10 year anniversary.) I discovered the joy of riso printing after becoming increasingly frustrated by screenprinting. It's quick, cheap and done by a machine. I love how it is always a bit mismatched and offset. The colours are limited and the print makes a nice dotty texture. I get mine made at Marc The Printers in Manchester.
One big day was when Chronicle Books got in touch to see if they could make my Pass the Parcel. The dream of not having to handmake each one was real!
I continued to do fairs, mainly at Christmas time.
The combination of getting my products out there in the real world and showing my illustrations on instagram caught the attention of people, which then naturally snowballed a bit. I got to work with big brands such as Boden, who featured me on their blog (below). I also had a regular illustration in Flow Magazine every week. When you're new and exciting magazines and blogs want to feature you and this helped my exposure. You can see all of my illustration work here.
I was even featured on a Chinese TV show once!
Some packaging designs for Liberty.
My illustration work and The Printed Peanut development really are hand-in-hand. I am one and the same person so it does get a bit confusing, especially about what to post online but I think it shows how personal the business is. I like to share all the creative ventures in my life, like how I decorate my home or make my artwork from the kitchen table.
One I had my first child, things changed a lot and I really had to prioritise my time. I decided to bring The Printed Peanut back to it's origins of mainly paper-based products. I love the range you have within this bracket and it all became much easier to get things manufactured and also to post orders together. Paper doesn't have a shelf life (like soap) and you can't break it (like ceramics).
I was now living and working from home, which makes things easier around childcare.
On a boat in my home town of Hebden Bridge :)
I make an income in a few different ways now, such as selling my products online, wholesaling them, doing bits and bobs of teaching such as my Domestika course and of course freelance illustration. I've changed the logo and look of the business a few times but not much else has changed - it's still a one-woman operation and all the products are my own designs. I do each and every aspect of it from the initial idea to the photographing, packing, posting, social media, emails etc etc. Sometimes it's hard because it all relies on me being present and sometimes I need a week off here and there, but I think people appreciate that it's a small business and that's what is appealing about it. I don't have plans to make it a huge thing. I want people to have that feeling when they stumble across me like when you have a new favourite band that not many people have heard about yet.
I'm not sure where I am heading to on this fun journey but I'm enjoying every minute of it x