Feature Artist: Clare Lindley Papercutter Girl

This week’s Friday Feature Artist is the amazing and extremely humble Clare Lindley, of Papercutter girl. I was able to catch up with the lovely Clare via telephone this week and get to know her and her artwork better. This is what happened, enjoy!

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You are quite a country girl at heart, what is it that makes the quiet life your cup of tea?

I’ve lived in the country all my life bar a few years when I was at college and a brief stint in York, just to see what it was like. I’ve never found it boring, and being surrounded by so much nature makes you more aware of the beauty there is in the world and how we are a part of the cycle of things.  Since starting papercutting nature has become an inspiration so I’m right where I want to be. I don’t sit in fields drawing what I see, but there is something to see every time I leave the house and it all gets filed away to be used or not, at a later date. I’m not into crowds and busy places, and can be a bit of a recluse so I am happy being a bit of a bumpkin. And I must belong here because I got asked to judge the handicrafts at the local show the other week! What more could a girl want!!

Is there anything about city living that you wish you had in your cottage?

The only things I wish were on hand would be galleries and museums, and all the lights glittering in puddles on dark, wet winter days. It would be nice sometimes not to have to drive miles, to meet up for coffee!

What’s your most treasured possession?

Ooh, this is hard! If it can only be one, it will have to be a book, A Ballad upon aWedding, illustrated with wood engravings by Eric Ravilious and published in 1927 by theGolden Cockerel Press and is one of only 375 copies.

Do you have a special artist that you love to collect and why?

A printmaker called Johnny Hannah. His work is rooted in British folklore and can be quite dark at times as he draws on the true tales not those cleaned up by those pesky Victorians! So his pictures are full of ghostly black dogs and dead maidens. He also publishes his own books which I am lucky enough to own two of. He plays the ukulele and he thinks I’m a witch! What’s not to like!

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Did you always want to study art?

I did, though I briefly toyed with nursing and my art teacher stopped talking to me!

How were your college days and what did you study?

I studied Graphic Design back in pre-computer days, yes, I’m that old! I hadn’t a clue what it was when I applied, and was petrified I’d not be able to do it when I got there, but I loved it, especially the illustration. It was hard work as we had tight deadlines to work to and I always left things till the last minute but I learned a lot and it was the start of my obsession with detail. We worked hard and drank hard, there are a few lost nights from those days . . . it wasn’t my fault it was the vodka!

What influences if any did you have growing up?

I was drawing practically as soon as I could read apparently, usually animals and birds my mum always encouraged me. We always had books in the house, so reading fed my imagination as did an old set of Encyclopaedias. I didn’t enjoy secondary school it was too big and there were too many people but I had a fantastic art teacher, Mr Rafferty, who was so encouraging, and made me feel that I could grow up to be an artist.

Is anyone else in the family creative?

I have to say, nearly everyone in my family has a sensible job! Although my brother has a side-line in customising motorbikes, my mum is a bit of a demon flower arranger on the side and my dad was a church organist, Elgar expert and fireman! So creativity in different ways.

Have you ever had other none arty jobs and how were they?

Up until recently I’d always had other jobs, nothing glam. Pubs, shops, theme park and for a couple of years I gave up art altogether and was a cleaner! The word ‘cleaner’ in a rural area covers a multitude of sins and I met some characters! The couple who kept or left (delete as you wish) their kinky bedroom stuff out all over the place, whips and handcuffs anyone? Then the polar opposite, with gardening and bird watching, with the eccentric old dear who just wanted a bit of company. I remember a young couple who lived in a house with a ghost, who banged around upstairs until it got used to me. Then the lady whose very rotund husband would walk around the house naked! You see country life isn’t at all quiet and boring!!

How did you find papercutting and the Papercutter girl style you have today?

I fell into papercutting by accident, I’d been helping a friend to make cut out wooden shapes for mobiles and enjoyed it apart from the noise and the sawdust floating in my tea.  I thought I’d have a go at cutting out something less messy, paper. I’d no idea what I was doing so it was definitely a case of trial and error, most of what I did ended up in the bin and I nearly gave up. Eventually I twigged how it worked. I wasn’t a great one for using the internet then so never thought of looking it all up. I hadn’t even heard of Rob Ryan! So, I persevered. Initially I worked in just black and white but as I’d been a painter, so I gradually started adding bits of colour to my cuts. It has only been in the last couple or so years that I’ve started creating full colour pieces, building up the layers as I go along, painting with paper. I don’t work out each layer when I start I just decide what will look right where as I go along. I don’t know how to use computer programmes so it’s all done by hand.

14466324_1264643733565927_644131137_oWhat’s your favourite thing to do when you are not creating art?

I’m afraid it’s nothing exciting, it’s reading. I just got finished with The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman second time round too!

How was Ghost Bunny born?

Ghost Bunny nearly wasn’t born! I came up with him on a miserable rainy day, got him half finished then decided he was too odd and the colours too bright so he got chucked on a shelf and forgotten about for several months. Then, one day I wasn’t in the mood for starting a new picture, so I rummaged about looking for something half-finished and found him again. This time I did finish him and finally plucked up the guts to post him in one of the groups to see what reaction he got. I was gobsmacked that people liked him. Now he is a big part of what I do. An inauspicious birth but he got there in the end.

What exciting news has been happening for Clare Lindley this year?

Well, it has been an exciting year workwise. I’ve illustrated 2 books for a writer friend, ghost stories for children, done a book cover for another writer which has just gone off for printing as we speak. I’ve a children’s picture book to illustrate, written by someone else, which will be published next year. I was taken on by a greetings card publisher and my designs have proved popular, the National Trust have just asked for samples so I’ve got everything crossed in the hopes that they say yes! I’ve just done an article for the Artist magazine about my working process which will be in the January 2017 edition. And I was a finalist in the Specialist Media category in the makers’ awards run by Craft and Design magazine. Added onto this list I’ve got commissions to do, an art fair and a two-woman exhibition with a painter friend. And, for myself, I have started writing a book about Ghost Bunny.

If you could have 3 wishes what would they be?

If I were a Miss World contestant they would be, world peace, world travel and marry a millionaire! But I’m not so . . . A five door car because my dogs are snobs and don’t like my three door old banger! A London exhibition and. . . to live in a house in a wood!

 

What advice can you offer to potential new artists starting out?

Take that leap into the unknown and do it. It’s scary putting yourself and your art out into the world but that world is full of people who want art. Sometimes it can be a hard slog and sometimes the ‘business’ side can be a bit daunting but there is great advice out there.

How does real world networking compare to online?

As we live in the age of the internet, the world really can be your oyster, it is all there to connect with. And if it takes time to build that audience use it to your advantage and refine your style/technique, or go mad and organize your own exhibition to showcase what you do.

I know you have the most distinguished Ginger Tom cat, as he’s featured in some recent designs, tell us about him?

Ah, Stitch, my red and white Persian boy who acquired me via my mum’s rescue. He’s been my little helper for about two years now and is about fifteen, cute, in a walked into a wall sort of way, he thinks he is a dog a lot of the time. He sits in the garden surrounded by birds totally oblivious to them and has got looking gormless off to a fine art, although he is a superhero behind that facade! He goes out when we’re asleep in his cloak, mask and with his underpants on inside out and rescues girly cats in distress! (you can see how Ghost Bunny made it big now!)  And I can’t use my computer without him coming and draping himself over my arm, so he is reading every word I type about him. He helps with my papercutting too, now that is a challenge, hairy papercuts anyone???

What do you think you will be doing in ten years’ time?

As long as my eyes don’t fall out I hope I will still be papercutting and that I have a ghost bunny book or two under my belt. I’d still be doing my nature based pictures too, and who knows, I can hope to have that cottage in a wood.

So there you have it, a very wonderful insight to an extremely talented lady, humble, carefree and full of the good life. Thank you Clare for allowing LLD into your thoughts, watch out for next week! In the meantime, you can find Clare’s online world below:

On the web: www.papercuttergirl.co.uk

Clare’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/Papercuttergirl

Ghost Bunny Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1615972098729847/

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#TechTuesday: Is Facebook still key to your business’s success?

Hello! This week brings the start of one of our new regular features, #TechTuesdays. Do you wish you were better at using your web platforms? Want to find ways to make it easier to run things online? How about new places to show off your work, cool apps to help you out and that little bit of extra technical know-how to make you stand out online? Keep checking back at 6pm on Tuesdays for new inside information, and drop us a line for any techie tutorials you’d like to see too!

Is Facebook Still a Key to Success?

You may have noticed a fair bit of anecdotal evidence lately that Facebook ‘reach’ (the number of people who are able to see posts from your page) has been reducing dramatically lately. If you have ever paid to ‘boost’ a post, you may also have noticed yourself that your own reach seems to decrease for weeks afterwards. Your likers also now have to actively tell Facebook that they want to see posts from your page in order to get all your updates. Oh, and if you don’t post for a week or so, your reach dips naturally anyway until you up your game again.

So, is Facebook still a viable way to build your small business and your customer base? Or are other networks better for getting your face and your work seen? And what are some of those alternatives out there on the web?

twitterTwitter

Twitter is good for getting your personality out there and interacting with other people. There are also some great # nights such as #handmadehour hosted by much bigger twitter profiles specifically to help you get exposure to new potential customers. Twitter has also recently introduced a shop function, where customers can click ‘buy’ right on your tweet! However, your word count is limited, and the best handmade content on Twitter tends to be shared from other sources

instagramInstagram

Instagram is fast becoming a major platform for showcasing your work and linking back to your shop for your customers. The App’s focus on sharing beautiful pictures, and the sheer volume of examples for you to learn from, is brilliant for curating gorgeous collections of your pieces as a virtual, interactive “lookbook” of everything you can do. They’ve also nailed the hashtag game, pulling people to your content and encouraging them to search for more. The downsides? You can’t link directly to your shop from your posts, interaction with your customers is more restricted and your text updates are only visible when someone actually clicks on your image to see the description.

 

pinterestPinterest

Pinterest is a bit of a one-stop shop for all things creative. Originally meant to be a virtual pinboard across all content genres; it’s become famous as the home of recipes and DIY tutorials. But Pinterest could still be a great place for you to show off what you can do. Finished works are more likely to spawn copycats here – but insights into your process, how to make some of your smaller pieces, links back to your blog posts and sharing work you love can all help get your name out into the ether and pull people back to look at the beautiful things you make.

 

Etsy

Etsy (and Folksy in the UK) is arguably the main marketplace to sell your work if it is handmade. Commission based, they promote sellers who are active and include lots of “stock” in their online shops, while user-curated “treasuries” showcase the best the sites have to offer. Visitors come to browse, already in the mindset that they might be buying something, specifically looking for the handmade and unusual. Making use of their shop updates feature – combined with a well-managed social media presence, will allow people to get to know you and your design process and become fans as well as customers.

 

Not on the High Street

Shop-by-application, NOTHS is a managed selling site with handpicked makers and designers for a classier edge all around. Buyers are here to pay that little bit more for something truly special, and just being here will give your shop a boost. However – you need to be prepared to up your game on everything from your photography to your packaging, and, like Etsy, NOTHS is best coupled with a strong social media presence to make the most of your gorgeous shop.

 

Blogging

I couldn’t write a feature on ways to market yourself without including blogging! Blog sites are usually free and easily customisable, and a great place to showcase your work. The downside – if you are not a natural writer, you may find it hard to keep the traffic circulating to your page and you will need a schedule to make sure there is frequent new content for your readers. However – pair a regular blog update with ongoing conversations with your customers, and you may be onto a winner!

 

Custom Websites

Some people’s first instinct is to set up a custom website. Personally, I think reserving your Domain name for later is a good idea, but an actual website may not be your best port of call initially. With online marketplaces and social media, people are already on those platforms for their own reasons and, as well as people looking for you and the type of work you do, you will also benefit from ‘passing’ traffic. Custom websites, on the other hand, rely on people searching for you or your work specifically if your work is original; or your site will be competing with many others if you make something more generic. And, while this is OK on a free social network, with a website you are often paying for your presence so need to make the most of it. Great for building yourself a professional home on the web, but best when you are a little more established.

facebookFacebook

So, with all these other options out there, why consider Facebook? For me, their all round approach is still a stand-out feature in the online world. Business pages where you can share photos, text and live video; the ability to run polls and talk to your followers; their messaging function and your ability to still keep your own personal page all managed through one account.

They’ve also been smart, recognising that they are just one in a range of social networks your business will be using – the game changer has been the addition of a “Shop” button – on top of the many plugins you can use to connect with other social networks – giving you unparalleled ability to connect with your fans and customers.

Then, you have Facebook’s primary purpose – building yourself a social network of friends, family and peers to champion and support your work, while groups allow you to meet other makers and develop your craft.

And reach? Well, it may have reduced, but there are still many ways to get great engagement with your posts and reach a huge audience on this massive platform. It’s all about creating great content, and really talking to your followers – something that I’m gradually getting better at with the amazing help of the lovely Lady Lock. For yourself, why not practice some longer ‘getting to know you’ posts in our Lock In Facebook Group and get feedback from our friends in the arts community here: 
Last but not least, let’s not forget that it’s also important to know how to do all those little technical things that will really show off your professionalism as well as your creativity, no matter what platform you use – but that’s a post for another Tech Tuesday 😉 In the meantime – what little techie things would you love to know how to do?

 

13166950_945454122241048_1100713436_nTech Tuesdays are brought to you by Stephanie of Beyond Paper Stars, who in her day job is a Digital Learning Developer, film editor,  website administrator, and trainee graphic designer obsessed with all things technical. Especially if it means she gets her hands on a 360degree camera, in a space she’s designed and painted, and can let people loose in it in a virtual reality headset 😉 You can find her art here:

www.beyondpaperstars.com

www.facebook.com/beyondpaperstars

Feature Artist: Not Just Paper Boutique

Welcome to our second big Friday Feature Artist blog, we are thrilled to be able to share with you an insight to a young and upcoming artisan, who not only has talent trickling from her fingertips, she has the mind of a mad genius and the ability to create beauty from these crazy convictions.

Meet the marvellous Lee Ann Donaldson of Not Just Paper Boutique.

14424197_1258323287531305_670236268_oLady Lock Designs first started working with Lee Ann in February of 2015, there was an immediate creative and business chemistry and the partnership of mentor and designer has thrived ever since. I was able to grab a chat with Lee Ann via telephone and ask her all about her thoughts and dreams.

The phone rings and a soft, Scottish accent answers “Hello, Lisa.” I have obviously spoken over messenger many times with Lee Ann, but had never heard the sound of her voice before, so in my head it had been more southern, as she lives that way… so this was a real treat for me! I love a good accent, don’t you?

So tell me about where you were born and grew up, and what you were like as a little girl?

I was born & grew up in Falkirk, in Central Scotland. I’d like to say I was a nice, lovely, well behaved child but I think my Mum would have a slight difference of opinion on that one! I do consider myself a true Scot, (she would not confirm what that meant? Haha!!) I did move away eventually but I still consider Scotland home.

Was art something you did a lot of?

Yes, I was always drawing from as far back as I can remember. I loved art at school, and remember the old art room fondly from primary school, with the smells of poster paints and piles of every colour of paper you can imagine pouring out of drawers.

I remember having massive reams of printer paper at home – the type with the perforated edges – and spent hours drawing and painting. I think the reams of paper arrived after I drew a life sized picture of a school friend on the inside of the wardrobe door.

Growing up what other trends and hobbies were you into?

I didn’t really have any specific hobbies growing up, I was a typical kid who would be out playing with friends after school, or as I got older, “hanging out” – which was much cooler! I loved reading, which I still do, but it’s a dangerous thing for me to pick up a book as I’ll easily lose a whole day to it. I’ve always been heavily in to music – not playing instruments, I just love music. Although, my Grandma used to set me up at her dining table with an old tape recorder and had me record myself singing so she could listen back to them. I’m 90% certain those tapes have been destroyed, I’d be mortified if they resurfaced, haha!

So, what is your all-time favourite song then? The Jezabels – A Little Piece… only because it’s what I’m listening to now! She couldn’t pick, which is a sign of an avid music fan after all, yes?

Do you think you had any early influences like teachers or parents etc?

My Grandma was very creative, she loved to draw or paint, and always had a box tucked away in a cupboard full of pastels, oil paints, “proper” colouring pencils etc. I loved when she’d dig that box out while I was visiting, she always encouraged me to draw, and had a great belief in me.

After she passed, my Mum discovered an old Christmas card I’d drawn in Primary 4 – I’d have been around 8 when I made it – which she’d kept in a frame on her bedroom wall for all of those years. I don’t think I realised until then just how much of a supporter she’d been of mine while I was growing up.

How did becoming a mum affect your career path?

I used to worry being a Mum would limit me in whether I could work in the creative industry. But actually, the most difficult part is trying to juggle the two. I’m a single parent so life can get very hectic especially when I have a lot going on with my work, but my ultimate goal is to show my kids that you really can achieve your dreams if you work hard at it.

If anything I think I take less risks than maybe I should, but I prefer to think that’s me being sensible!

What’s your favourite food and why?

Ooh, tough question! I’m not sure I have an ultimate favourite – maybe steak, you can’t go wrong with a good bit of steak!

What time of the year do you love the most?

I love Summer, however, I think I may like Autumn just a tiny bit more. I love seeing the changes in nature, and my inner child loves crunching the crisp leaves as I walk down the street! Throw in a sunny but frosty morning – that’s my favourite right there.

What makes you giggle?

This is such a Mum answer, but Charlie, my 4 year old. He’s hilarious, he makes me laugh every single day. For a 4 year old he has a brilliant sense of humour and impeccable timing with his one-liners. Sadly, he takes after his mother and has almost mastered the art of sarcasm, so I’m already dreading the phone calls from school next year.

Where did your idea stem from for your Shadow boxes?

I started out doing the same as most papercutters, cutting 2D papercuts for special occassions, but I always felt there was more I could do with paper. I started following the work of Carlos Meira, and was in awe at his work – the depth he creates using single sheets of paper layered on top of each other really inspired me. At the time I couldn’t find any tutorials on this, I didn’t even know what the technique was called! It took me months to build up the courage to try something similar myself, and it did take a lot of trial and error to make something that worked for me.

I was hesitant at first about making my shadow boxes available as DIY templates, I think I felt protective over them – I had put a lot of work into figuring out the process behind them – but I love that I’ve been able to offer something different to crafters.

When do you get your best ideas?

I think this has become a bit of a running joke with me, but they usually appear late at night when I’m supposed to be sleeping. The idea for my latest Alice-inspired piece, ‘Intrigue,’ came to me at a ridiculous hour, and just last night I had a potential idea for new products for some of my designs at 2am. Which is all well and good, but I don’t just stop at the idea or jot it down in a notebook to pick up in the morning – I go all out and lay there in bed for hours thinking through in great detail, the process of how I will make the idea I’ve had.

(I am so glad she does not message me at these times!!!)

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What’s your favourite joke?

Knock knock?
Who’s there
Smell up
Smell up who?
Ewww, you smell of poo!

(Can you tell I have a 4 year old son?)

What are your best skills?

Hmm.. this isn’t earth shattering, but I do pride myself in being able to engineer something from paper. My 3D sculptures, for example, I love the process of having the idea as a rough, 2D sketch, and figuring out and then turning it into a piece of 3D art.

Is there anything you do badly?

Yes, loads! I am rubbish at drawing properly (papercutting is very forgiving!) – I’d love to be able to draw beautiful things, and if I could also have the ability to colour them and add tone and depth, that would make me happy.

How did you come to start papercutting?

I saw some work by Rob Ryan, Suzy Taylor & Julene Harrison a few years ago – I was in college so 2009? 2010? Around then.. I was really taken in by the stuff they were making, it was completely breathtaking. I started playing around with simple cutting soon after, but really it was quite embarrassing because I wasn’t very good at figuring out the designing of a papercut.

In my first year of Uni I got the scalpel out and cut an illustration into the pages of a book as part of a project, and the following year I killed said scalpel cutting the lid of a box to present a different project in (300gsm grey board, my hand ached for a week!)

Papercutting was just a hobby for me though, I played around with it for a couple of years, but didn’t start doing it seriously until towards the end of 2013, then Not Just Paper Boutique was born at the beginning of 2014!

How important do you feel technology is to the artwork you produce and sell?

I have a little bit of OCD over my designs, so always finish them off digitally to make sure everything is symmetrical, that circles look like circles. I feel like maybe it’s cheating a little bit, but I’ve used Illustrator for a long long time and it makes sense to me to clean up my designs there before cutting – otherwise I know I wouldn’t be completely happy with the final piece, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable selling them.

Are you a shrewd business woman?

I don’t think so – I honestly couldn’t tell you what sort of business woman I am! I really am an artist first and the business side of things is something I’m still trying to grasp.

What’s in store for Lee-Ann Donaldson next?

It’s funny you ask that, I’ve been sitting on some pretty big news for the last couple of weeks and have been bursting to spill the beans! Myself and 3 wonderful artists – Louise Dyer of Paperlace by Louise Dyer; Sarah King of Apple Seed Paper Cut; and Emma King of Bluebirds & Paper – have been invited by my good friend, Panda herself, Louise Firchau, in her next Paper Panda and friends exhibition. Eeeek!! There, I said it! The exhibition will run from 25th March to 7th May 2017 and will be held in the National Trust Nunnington Hall in North Yorkshire. I’m incredibly excited for it, I think it’s a huge positive step for myself as an artist, and a massive opportunity to exhibit alongside such talent.

That aside, I want to go back to experimenting with paper sculptures, similar to the work I made in the dome jars earlier in the year. I feel like these are the next step up from the shadow boxes for me – a friend and I joke about this, we call it “levelling up”, think Mario!! – and creating them is incredibly enjoyable, it really gets the brain ticking when you’re trying to figure out how to engineer something from a simple sheet of paper!

I love paper engineering – I lose hours scrolling through Pinterest & Instagram looking at the works of the likes of Hattie Newman (who is incredible, by the way!) and when I look at this type of work, it lights a fire inside me. So I feel like it’s a natural step forward for me to explore more.

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Can we expect any Christmas gifts from NJPB this year?

I hope so! I have a couple of ideas I need to try out, so fingers crossed!

If you had a magic wand what would you wish for?

More creating time! Ooh – or Bernard’s Watch! I’d just pause the world and take as much time as I needed to complete a new piece of work, that way I wouldn’t miss anything going on around me.

If you could offer advice to another budding artist what would that be?

Don’t be afraid to make bad art, sometimes our most disappointing works pave the way to creating something you’ll be most proud of. Don’t be afraid to experiment or try new things either – if you don’t try it, how do you know it won’t be the one big thing that gets you noticed? And lastly, don’t give up at the smallest hurdles!

So there you have it! A very down to earth woman with an imagination high in the clouds. A joy to work with and a beacon within the papercutting family. We will be sharing more exciting news with Lee Ann and others very soon so stayed tuned – but for now, take a look below for the links to Lee Ann’s various online homes:

www.facebook.com/LeeAnnDStudio

www.twitter.com/LeeAnnDStudio

www.instagram.com/notjustpaperboutique

 

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?
panda-pic
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:

An Inside Job

So – welcome to our very first blog for The Lady Lock “Lock In.” It’s lovely to have you here! This is our little sister site, which will be filling up with loads of articles and teasers in the run up to the big reveal of the brand new Lady Lock website in around a fortnight.

But, for now, I thought I would introduce you to what inspired me to create the Lady Lock small business mentoring scheme in the first place, and get you nice and settled in ready for our next HUGE post that is coming at 6pm tonight. Trust me, you do not want to miss this evenings reveal! And, in the meantime, remember you can register for updates (and freebies) on our brand new site in the making by clicking ‘join the party’ above and registering with your email address!

Sitting at home, loving my family and new house, was a beautiful experience. Especially as I had worked my corporate socks off for the last twenty years and the break in employment to have another baby at 40 was very much needed. There was just this thing bothering me…  a constant desire to create my own dream job, but not knowing how to create it, or what it truly looked like was a major stumbling block!

It felt like a pie-in-the-sky, frivolous idea to be honest. The reality of having to re-enter the rat race was looming heavily in the distance. Yet my idea wouldn’t go away! For all dedicated parents (membership of 23 years and counting), putting your children first is your default setting when making important personal and professional decisions. Still having a pre-schooler myself meant juggling this conundrum on a daily basis. I still wanted the best for my little one and a great job! The two together are hard to find.

Again my brain ramped up the old imagination…. .I knew I had to be at home. I did already have some spare time – but how could I use the skill sets I had acquired over my working life and what did I really love doing the most?’ That’s when I started to dream about the vision of helping others from the comfort of my own sofa! I guess my business started that day as I began to mentor myself – pulling my ideas and skill sets together, doing a ton of research and networking a lot, looking for potential opportunities to link into.

Finding people to actually work with was not going to be easy! Who was going to trust a nobody? I had no previous clients from a creative industry background but what did I have that was different to anyone else? What made me unique? I kept bumping into online self-help downloads and promises of ‘watch this live Workshop and all your prayers will be answered!’ The reality was carrot dangling information, and “Buy my book now! The answers are all in there!” Which are all fine in their place.

But how could a one-size-fits-all coaching approach help me? I had gathered some really weird qualifications and hobbies over the years! I wanted real people to talk to, with time for me, and support when I wanted to throw my laptop out of the window, or just a kind word of support and direction when I had come to a dead end or lost motivation. Someone to suggest the right advice at the right time for me. Someone that I felt actually cared and wasn’t just interested in cashing in.

So, driven by frustration, I had found something that I felt wasn’t out there. A unique way of mentoring small creative businesses and tailoring things to them and their needs. I offered two talented ladies the opportunity of a lifetime! (you gotta fake it till you make it right?) They gave me the feedback I so badly needed and, in return, I got to create Lady Lock Designs and my bespoke small business mentoring scheme that has now grown and grown.

 Now, I am nearly one year in and I am about to expand and turn my dreams into a reality. To say it’s not been hard work would be a lie, but it’s hard work that I’ve loved! The rewards I experience are real and long lasting. Seeing others improve their businesses and achieve their aspirations is a massive honor and a huge sign that I am doing a great job. I am ready for the next chapter and the exciting journey that will come with it.

Want to come with me and develop your business? Then you should join me!

Lady Lock