Feature Artist: Paper Panda

Lady Lock’s Bumper Blog, with the awesome Paper Panda!
***please note this interview contains giraffes, babybells and swears***
When Paper Panda closed her workshop doors for the last time earlier this year, the sound of panderettes quietly sobbing into their Starry Night’s china mugs could be heard across the whole of middle England! How would they cope knowing they had missed out?
Fear not PP fans help is close at hand, because LLD has an interview exclusive with the First Lady of Paper! And I got to ask her anything I liked!! Did I have feel like a kid in a sweet shop? Hell Yes!!! Peel back your peepers and enjoy!
In a cosy corner of a touristy village in Bourton-on-the-water lives the down to earth and animal loving Mr & Mrs P (Ryan & Louise Firchau) to the rest of the nation. Their family consists of humans and furbabies, all nestled in surrounded by eclectic collections of times gone by and scary faced meanies! Here they run Panda HQ and create the most astonishing art work together. In fact they are pretty inseparable!
So feeling like I need to ask a real meaningful question I decide upon, “We all know and love Paper Panda and the distinct style that you have, how did you find ‘Your Thing! your uniqueness?
“Which particular distinct style? I think there’s lots! I say “mmmh, how many are there?”
“So there’s the Woodland Friends both as sketches and papercuts. Then there’s the starry night series. Floating around in between are various typographical pieces, rainbows, the odd cat…there’s actually a handful of distinct styles, not to mention when Mr P creates a template for me to cut.
So really, I’m still winging it. I haven’t settled into making one particular thing yet. I haven’t really found ‘my thing’, I’m always changing it, developing, sometimes backtracking. Unique? Hmm. I don’t see myself as unique, not really. If anything IS unique it’s that between me and Mr P we can create lots of different things between us, there’s a real diversity there.”
I say, “Talking about diversity, you and Ryan (aka Mr Panda) get to meet all kinds of amazing people in your interesting arty life style, who have you found the most intriguing and why?”
“Easy. The Pratchett peeps. We’ve been working with discworld.com for a good few years now and they are SO interesting. The whole fan base, the characters, the stories. We’ve become friends with some pretty well known people and it’s nuts, completely crazy to mix in those circles when I’m just a work from home artist who rarely gets dressed. I sit there, next to someone who has just artworked a book that’s sold millions and show him my Mutant Ninja pants. On the other side of me someone is telling an anecdote about Sean Aston playing cricket in his garden. Bonkers. I try and pretend it’s all very normal but inside I’m going WTF, eeeee, OMG and fangirling my ass off.”
So I reply, “That’s quite a big stand out moment in your memory, but what’s been your most epic moment?”
“Ever? Wow. That’s a tough one! How can I choose just one? Okay, um, the night we received an email saying that Terry Pratchett and co loved our papercuts and they’d like to sell our artwork officially. The silhouette we created of Terry two years ago has been featured quite heavily at Discworld events and it’s the new ‘signature’ seal in the books. For someone that’s been a fan for 30 years that was super epic. That evening we were both on cloud nine.”
“Talking about being in strange places, during this last year what’s been your weirdest encounter?” I ask, “I fed a giraffe? That’s pretty weird, right?” I agree laughing whilst thinking to myself, “I only just manage to feed my kids!
So I ask her, “For those who already follow your posts, we know you find the funny in the simplest of daily things, do you have any thoughts for today?”
She replies after a little thought and a glance into the garden, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we didn’t have knees?” and looks back at me with that panda glint in her eye, “ermmm, I guess sooo!” I say smirking a little, “Do bees HAVE knees?” she continues, I shrug my shoulders, “how tiny would they be?”   I snuggle back into my chair a little more now, knowing I am in for a real treat! “Like if I was a cat, what would my name be? Could I have a boys’ name? I’d like to be called King Fuzzytoes the third!” I don’t get time to reply, she continues deep in thought, “On eBay when a listing says ‘from a smoke and pet free home’ I don’t want to buy from them because they sound like right boring bastards!
At this point I nearly spill my tea, not because, she made a swear! But, more to the point! I am that boring bastard!!!! (note to self, be more daring!) So I just re jig my sitting position and place the tea firmly on the table and agree wholeheartedly, “yes very boring.” Hoping I still look cool. (no, not cool, that’s for the kids, like chilled!) Anyway, she continues, “How come Kirsty Allsop is good at everything? Do you think some of the things she makes are really shit but they cut that bit out?” Lou’s dry humour is so infectious, I can’t but help let out a giggle. Now, I love flipping Kirsty Allsop, but secretly, I do feel this way too! So start to consider my reply as she continues, “Why don’t you get a suntan from daylight lamps? (I actually don’t know the answer either!) So we move on as she is on a roll right now. She picks up some cheese from her lunch, “Why do I eat cheese when I know there’s billions of tiny bugs all over them? Do they squeal when I chew them? Does that include Babybell? Is it a problem for vegetarians? Then pops the cheese in her mouth. I am done, I have tears in my eyes and have no come back! She chews the cheese whilst, wisely sizing up her prey, knowing I am about to lose it with the giggles!!
So I pull myself together and move on to the topic of Pokemon her biggest hobby to date, I asked her, how her quest or team thing was going, she ponders for a second, “Will I ever catch ’em all if I never leave my village? How can I be the very best like no one ever was? I pondered that last statement, surely that is impossible right?
“Team Instinct for the win!” She says all triumphant, “I like to knock the guy off the local gym who has a homophobic user name. I leg it out whenever he takes the gym so he’s not there for more than five minutes. He’s gonna figure out who I am soon so I’ve started taking my daughter as a shield 😉 Between ‘Godsmummy’ and ‘TheHappyDonkey’ we’re fighting the good fight.”
I am obviously out of my depth in this discussion so decide to change the subject. “When was the last time you laughed till your belly hurt?” I ask, wondering what the hell she could say next.
“Easily playing the board game ‘Tension’ with Lou and Jon from Button Cottage. So funny. No booze involved!” I decided I wasn’t going to ask, who knew board games are funny without alcohol!
So I continue, “What is your biggest love?” knowing full well the furbabies would win out, “Biggest love is cats. I AM that cat lady from the eHarmony video. I totally get her!” Then she insists I drop the link in for you all, so here is said link! Enjoy, but after you finish reading my blog though! It a tad emotional!
“So talking about relating to others, I say, if you weren’t Panda what else would you like to have done?”
“Well, she says chewing her gum in-between her soft spoken tones, I always wanted to be an art teacher and write books. In a roundabout way I guess I’m doing it! I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do instead. Living the dream! She smiles.
I decide to share about  my animals too,“My pregnant cat sits on all my writing equipment in all the most awkward positions, so I can’t retrieve them without her having a hormonal moment! What are your pet hates?”
“I love it when God sleeps on my pillow and we snuggle. I did until yesterday morning, when I realised my face had been sleeping on a poo stamp all night.” (The joys of co-sleeping with a Kitten! for those of you not in the know, no religious pun intended there at all! Promise) Finding God is a whole other blog!
The one BIG question I was dying to ask Lou was “Have you ever lost Munch?” (Munch the dog is massive!) and I was not disappointed with the reply!
“YES! It was a Saturday morning and Ryan let him out into the garden early then went back to bed. We didn’t realise the electric gates had failed and when we finally got up at about 11am we realised he was gone. Now, an 85lb dog loose in a tourist village makes for some extreme panicking. We all got dressed in two minutes flat and rushed out to find that some brave soul had locked him into a shop courtyard nearby. He was soaking wet. We never found out what he did in those hours but I’ll bet it involved bombing it up and down the river and scaring the pants off of old ladies.”
I smiled as I looked at my next question as I am always intrigued about how ideas happen, “Your work is simply unique and bridges the gap between witty and thought provoking with the help of your forest friends, Bear and FB Hedgehog how do your quotes find their way into your sketch pad?”
She was definitely going to tell me some deep and soul searching right?
“Honestly? We (all PP staff) have a lovely long list of quotes/images/memes we’ve found or heard over the past year or so. I choose ones that provoke feelings, be it profound or funny and apply them to the Woodland Friends.” ….I was hoping for a cake and cry moment! But I guess you can’t win them all! Panda is after all an extremely savvy and successful business woman, these things do need structure after all. So I decided to dig for a little hint of what’s on the horizon for PP.
“Tell us what the future holds for Paper Panda?” Lou smiled and said, “I know it involves the Woodland Friends being published in a children’s book in 2017. Beyond that I honestly have no idea, but I hope that’ll lead to FBH being interviewed on Jonathon Ross!” I think she has great intuition.
“Lastly” I say, realising we have been chatting for ages, “can you give us your top tips for staying in the game and life in general?” no pressure there!!
“Hmm. For staying in the game? Keep changing. If something isn’t working, then you have to try and realise it fairly early on and not try to hold onto an idea just because YOU like it. Sure, you have to make things that make you happy but you also have to cater to an audience so keep an eye on what works and dump what doesn’t, even if you’ve spent time and money on it.” * she sings* Let it gooooo!
I smirk. “What about life in general?”
“I can’t possibly give you tips on that haha, I don’t think I’ve got my life together enough to advise!” (extremely humble reply, I thought and a huge understatement) She is the master of surprise and continues to shine like a beacon to women out there working hard to make their thing happen. She certainly gave me plenty to think about!
And that was the end of our chat – wasn’t it fantastic? If you weren’t a fan before, I hope this bumper blog has made Louise of Paper Panda your new fan girl favourite!!
So you can visit her online home and wow at her skills, here’s all the links you need to explore Paper Panda’s amazing world online:

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