Two Things

Hey guys!

Today I am celebrating Frog & Pencil turning 2. Life has been brilliantly busy with commissions, etsy creations and wedding fair prep that this birthday really snuck up on me; I didn’t have anything prepared to mark it as a milestone. The Bear and I won’t actually be celebrating it until after a big wedding fair in a few weeks time. However, it’s kind of a big deal for me and I’m really proud to have reached this point that I wanted to dedicate some time to reflect on my journey so far.

hoppy 2 birthday

So, as F&P turns 2, here are a two things I’d like to share on a variety of topics; enjoy!

TWO THINGS I’M MOST PROUD OF

The first one is kind of obvious. I’m SO proud to have made it to my second year of being a self-employed creative. If I’ve learnt one thing in my lifetime it’s how to be tenacious and this skill has often been my life raft. There have been plenty of moments where I doubt it all but that niggle to keep on going gets me back on board.

Looking back to when I first started, I’m really proud of how I’ve evolved over the last 2 years. From my drawings and designs to my styling, I feel it’s all just getting better. I guess I’m becoming more comfortable with who I am as an illustrator and what it is I create and for me, having that understanding is huge.

TWO THINGS I’VE LEARNT

Network, network, network, network and network some more; and I don’t mean in a schmoozey way. Perhaps we just need a friendlier word for network. Community. Find your community and embrace it. Being self-employed and working from home can be a really lonely place. Get to know like-minded people in your industry, make friends, collaborate, support each other, inspire one another and create something beautiful together. Your mental health and the work you make will be richer for it.

Just Do Something. I’m rolling into 2018 with this new motto. I was inspired after reading ‘The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck’ by Mark Manson at the end of 2017 and one quote has stuck with me, “just do something”. It can be quite easy to procrastinate when you’re working from home but you need to find a good routine. When I have to pull my finger out and I don’t quite want to, I tell myself to ‘just do something’. One thing be it big or small. When I start that task I usually find my groove and then productivity breeds productivity. Remember the power of ‘just do something’.

TWO THINGS I’M ANXIOUS ABOUT

This is a biggie. Having just finished my tax return (definitely just as stressful as the first time!) it left me feeling pretty down. I pour my heart, energy and most of my time into this business and sometimes I can’t help but feel like ‘what is it all for?’ After 2 years, I’m now starting to return to the conversation about pricing. I know my worth and the value of my work but I have this fear that if I start to increase my prices NO ONE will come near me. I’ll be like a plagued Frog with a sh*tty pencil. I don’t know if I can continue if I leave things as they are. The ultimate question is how do I show others the value of Frog & Pencil?

In just under 2 weeks I’ll be exhibiting at the EDP 2 day wedding fair at the Showground. I’ve never participated in this one before and it’s a whole new ball game. Since the start of the year I’ve been stressing about what to do with my space and I think I’ve finally got a rough plan in place but that pesky anxiety lingers. The sunny side though is that I’ll have Lew and a lot of my community exhibiting there too, so I know it’s going to be ok…wish me luck folks!

TWO THINGS I’M EXCITED ABOUT

This one’s been on the ‘to do’ list for ages and I’m also anxious about it as I’m still to figure out the nitty-gritty but I have 3 awesome collections that I’m about to launch. I’m still not set on a ‘name’ but they’re semi-bespoke/ready to buy pieces that couples can purchase. The design remains the same but I tailor the text to match their big day. I’m really proud of the designs and I’m hoping they’ll be a hit and perhaps help anxiety number 1. It’s exciting none the less; keep your eyes peeled for these beauties to be released into the world!

I started the year with 4 gorgeous wedding invite commissions and 2 are nearly finished so I can’t wait to see how they all develop. But, I’m also really excited about my etsy shop. It did pretty well over Christmas and has been ticking along nicely with bridal party cards and love cards this year. The potential here is incredible and I can’t wait to start working on new ideas and products to sell on this space. So much so, I’m hoping to set time aside each week purely dedicated to etsy creations!

TWO THINGS I WISH I’D KNOWN WHEN I FIRST STARTED FROG AND PENCIL

Frog & Pencil is my baby and when you have your own business you will live and breathe it, it’ll ALWAYS be on your mind. You will always be checking your social media. You will always be looking at your e-mails. You will always be working late. You will work most of your weekends. You will always worry about how to bring in the next client. You will underestimate the amount of time you spend working to develop your business. However, it’s my world and I wouldn’t change a thing.

This links nicely to the point above. I put all my love and energy into Frog & Pencil, so much so, when I do take a break I often feel guilty. I think that others might be judging me if I have a random Tuesday afternoon off and it makes me feel bad. I wish someone would have told me it’s ok to take time out. We all need to recharge. We all need to reconnect with the other parts of our world. Getting away from my business gives me clarity and that has a positive impact on all areas of my personal and work life. So if you need a breather don’t give yourself a hard time, put the pencil down, turn off your e-mails and enjoy the moment.

TWO THINGS THAT KEEP ME GOING

Self belief is super powerful…and ice cream helps too.

Create a kick-ass playlist to lift you out of the funk. Music and dancing have saved me many times and will continue to do so. My two current upbeat tracks of choice are these lovelies: HalfNoise, French Class & Sigrid, Strangers – they make me feel awesome.

TWO THINGS I’M GRATEFUL FOR

My gorgeous couples of course! It feels incredible when you get that e-mail to say ‘you’re hired!’ but it doesn’t compare to when you’ve made the wedding stationery and you see the smiles on their beautiful faces. I did that. Little ole me. It truly makes it all worth it. Thank you to all my couples and clients for trusting me to make something wonderful for your special day. I honestly have the BEST couples.

My hubby Lew. Frog & Pencil wouldn’t be here without his support. He is the most gorgeous person I know and I love him to the moon and back. Thank you Bear for everything you do.

Ok, ok, enough of that soppy stuff! I think it’s time to indulge in a big G&T and gorge on choccy cake. Here’s to the next 2 years, thanks for sticking around!

Cx

Oh yes! Before I go, to celebrate this birthday, I’m offering you guys 20% OFF EVERYTHING on my etsy store. Simply add the code: HOPPYBIRTHDAY2 at the checkout. Hop to Shop here. The deal runs for 2 days and ends on 8th Feb 2018 x

I Pledge To Shop Small, Will You?

Hey guys.

Being away having a little time off has put my blog schedule out of whack but it’s a Thursday and I’d like to chat about something that I’m actually starting to get quite passionate about.

Christmas is just around the corner, so I’m pledging to shop small this year and I’m asking you to also consider it; let me tell you why. Having recently opened my Etsy shop and having barely dipped my toe into the retail market ocean, this is what shopping small means to me. When I see that order e-mail in my inbox the pure joy of it lights up my day and warms my soul. It’s also the cause of many a happy dance. Even the smallest purchase, like a card, means the world to me.

That card, on average costs £2.50 and that to me is fruit for the week. Or perhaps, it’s a ‘pat on the back’ coffee from my favourite indie cafe. Last week, I was able to treat Lewie to lunch and that hasn’t happened for a very long time. It was a simple meal of a toastie and a hot chocolate but I felt amazing and proud that I could do that for him.

These purchases fuel small businesses dreams, and your support helps them to feed their families, pay their bills and most of all it means they can keep making and creating.

Now, I’m not an idiot and I know that people want to get as much as they can for their money, especially at this time of year. I too buy from high street suppliers and from the likes of Amazon simply because it’s cheaper and convenient. You choose where you spend your hard-earned money and all I’m asking is that this year you support some small, independent businesses too. That could result in buying a handful of illustrated cards for your nearest and dearest or deciding to purchase one gift this year from a maker. Put your money back into the local economy and buy your turkey from your favourite butcher down the road or whilst out christmas shopping, stop by an independent cafe for lunch and coffee to recharge instead.

Small businesses can’t compete with the conglomerates but by shopping small and rather than getting something machine-made, you’ll be buying a product that has been handmade with love, passion, time and born from years of experience. There is an abundance of places that’s full of amazing people online. Sites that spring to mind are Etsy, Folksy, Ohh Deer and Not On The High Street but stop by the indie stores in your towns and cities too, you might find some unexpected beautiful items. Norwich is full of them, especially around The Lanes and Jarrolds has a lovely card section that supports locals too. You could also hop over to a nearby Christmas Craft Fair, that’ll be full of indie makers.

Who knows, you might find a seller you adore and would buy from again for all sorts of occasions, not just Christmas. Support them further and share the love by liking their social media channels, like what they post and even share some posts too. Oh and don’t forget a review, they’re incredibly insightful and helpful.

It may take a little more time and effort but your support is truly worth it. Be the reason someone has a happy dance moment and fill their hearts with festive glee.

I’m taking the pledge to support small, who’s with me?

I pledge to shop small badge

Cx

Meet The Maker

Hey guys,

Well, the lurgy has struck the Lily Pad and it’s a ‘Froggy down’ situation but I think I have enough energy to put this together for Blog Post Thursday. Forgive me if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I didn’t get much sleep last night.

Today I’m offering up something a little different; a Meet The Maker post where I’ll disclose ten Froggy facts about me; a fun change to my usual posts. So, first off, for those that don’t know, this is me…

Meet the Maker blog post, image of Frog & Pencil

Image credit: The lovely Rose & Spear Photography

FACT 1

One question I’m often asked is, why did I choose the name Frog & Pencil? Well, it’s from a loving nickname my hubby gave me. Apparently, from a certain angle, I look like a Frog. Having created a Frog and a Bear character for our wedding, it naturally progressed to Frog & Pencil for my business. I love the name, it’s certainly memorable but I don’t quite see the Froggy resemblance.

FACT 2

I have dual nationality and was born across the pond in Austin, Texas; I’m officially a cowgirl…best get me some boots and a Stetson!

FACT 3

I love what I do but if I wasn’t an illustrator, I think I’d want to be a florist. I have found a new love of flowers after being in this industry and I’m in awe at how creative people can be with blooms. Their workshops also smell incredible…not sure how I’d deal with the cold though…I’d have to find a fab hat! My Mum kept the most amazing gardens, so I’m hoping I’ve inherited some of those green fingered genes for my own little plot.

FACT 4

I adore Children’s books. When I’m in a bookstore I always make a pit stop at the kids section and you’ll most likely find me giggling away and drooling over the beautiful and playful illustrations. My hero was Roald Dahl and I remember how deliciously lost I found myself within his words and Quentin Blake’s drawings. A dream of mine is to illustrate my own Children’s book one day and to create something that fires off kids imaginations.

FACT 5

At some point, during all my commissions and illustrations, there will be a moment where I utterly hate what I’ve made and I think it’s a pile of poop. I’ve learnt to try to not give in to those feelings and to simply carry on. The magic happens right at the very end when the last brush mark has been made, it just requires a dash of patience and a lot of belief.

FACT 6

I have a phone phobia! I’m fine when it’s friends and family but if my phone rings I get super anxious and tense. And making a call, well that’s the worst! I have to psyche myself up and make sure I have everything ready. For example, sorting out the car insurance. I have to sit in the quiet, have a glass of water and a pad and pen ready. I’ll write down my own details, address, phone number, etc, just incase I blank when they ask for them. I even write down reference numbers even though they’re right there on the letter…they have a funny way of hiding when prompted. Holy moly I just hate it and I feel so relieved when it’s over! Silly right!?! Anyone else feel this way about phones? If so, any tips on how to manage those feelings would be greatly appreciated.

How I survived in a call centre, on the phone selling mortgages for 3 years, I don’t know, I already feel a cold sweat coming on just thinking about it!

FACT 7

I fell out of love with illustration. I was a mature student at University and after an amazing year at foundation level, I was so excited about Uni. It was mostly a horrid three years where I just didn’t fit in and never found my groove. In hindsight, I think I should have seen a doctor as I was terribly depressed and I became a crazy person. I made it to the end though and somehow passed. I graduated in 2011 and still to this day when I’m in that part of Norwich I get very uncomfortable. I’m a believer in things happening for a reason though and I discovered tenacity. It also opened some sideways and upside down doors which inevitably led me to where I am today. I’m happy to say, for the majority of the time, my illustrations and I are friends. 🙂

FACT 8

I ADORE earrings and hats. They make me so happy.

FACT 9

I’m a big fan of cheese but it makes my face tingle…I could be allergic but the stuff is too damn tasty. Nom!

FACT 10

A lovely friend recently asked what inspires my work. Some of the biggies would include, nature and the awesome colour play you can see right outside your window. Couples stories inspire my work, if they have a cute anecdote that can be captured I like to include it. Instagram is a big inspiration, the creative community on there is incredible and spurs me on to make good work too. Lastly, the local wedding supplier community fuels my passion. There are so many talented people in this industry, photographers, stylists, cake makers, designers and florists to name a few and they’re always pushing the boundaries. Their way of thinking encourages me to step out of my comfort zone. I’m honoured that I can call a lot of these guys my friends.

There you have it, some Froggy insight which I hope you enjoyed and could also relate to. The Bear and I will be having a two week break as of this coming Monday, so look out for a new post when I return, there’s always plenty to share. In the meantime, I’m off to battle this lurg!

Adios amigos,

Cx

A Hoppy Update…

Hello!

Was my last post really at the end of June!?! That is pretty terrible however things have been rather busy around here so I thought it was about time I gave you guys and update.

The big news is that the Bear and I bought our very first home! Yep, as of the end of July we became homeowners to the lovely little Lily Pad and we’re so delighted. We had to move out of my beloved Norwich but it’s only a 20 minute drive away, so it’s not too far, yay! Our new home even comes with a conservatory which is ideal for my studio and I even have a view of our cute garden.

With so much change going on, it’s naturally spread into other parts of our lives, especially Frog & Pencil. I have A LOT of plans for this little business however over the past several weeks they have become overwhelming and it makes my brain foggy. With autumn on our heels, it always signals a difficult time of the year for me personally which adds to the fuzziness. However, I’m keeping a check on how I’m feeling, making to do lists to keep proactive and organised and basically taking it one hop at a time. Does anyone else suffer from idea overload that kinda puts a spanner in the works? I’d love to know how you handle it, so please do comment below with any tried and tested tips, I’d really appreciate it.

One of my aims is to blog more frequently as there’s so much I want to share with you all; from commissions and styled photo shoots to tip-top wedding stationery advice and the odd personal post because it’s all about my Frog & Pencil journey after all. I’m going to set a particular day once or twice a month to upload posts full of exciting content and I’m hoping you’ll help me stick to a schedule.

In the meantime, I’ll keep you updated with how the Lily Pad progresses as we put our Frog & Bear stamp on the place.

Until next time lovelies,

Cx

lily-pad-keylily-pad-studio

Hoptastic Highlights: Year 1

Hello all,

As promised, here’s a wee post outlining a bunch of key moments that stand out for me from my first year of running Frog & Pencil.

HIGHLIGHT 1: WEBSITE & PESKY SEO

Ooooh boy, the website was a labour of love! I’ve spoken about it previously and I’m so proud of what Lewie & I achieved with our site; I still think it looks great today. Completing frogandpencil.com really meant that I could officially launch this little business of mine. With a year under my belt now, I have a better understanding of what I offer and create and in turn this shines a light on what my website now needs to provide. This means that there are some changes in the pipeline to make it clearer and more accessible for me to update; a big challenge for my tech guy as he’ll be putting together a swish CMS (content management system).

Hand in hand with the website is Frog & Pencil’s SEO ranking. This area is such a minefield for us, not to mention a proper headache! We read up A LOT on how to improve it and after dedicating so much time and energy into this beast, we’re seeing results. From being non-existent on google for months, we’re now on the first page for a bunch of key words. The one we’re delighted with right now is ‘ Wedding Stationery Norwich’ as we’re third in the list, wooohooo! A big ole thank you to Lew for his persistence on this one and as importantly, thank you to my Froggy Friends who link to me from their sites as a recommended supplier, it genuinely helps and I appreciate it.

The evolution of Frog & Pencil's website.

The evolution of Frog & Pencil’s website.

HIGHLIGHT 2: HELLO HIPPO COMMISSION

My first ever commission pinged into my inbox a few days after I launched. I still remember vividly jumping up and down in the lounge, exhilarated that someone wanted MY designs (and the fact that the contact form worked on the site)! It was a gem of a commission and right up my street. This couple were looking for a sweet way to announce their first pregnancy to friends and family and thought that a Frog & Pencil card featuring a Hippo Family would be a great way to do it. I loved creating this cute design and super proud that it was my first real commission. Baby was due in August, so congratulations on your new bundle and I hope you’re all enjoying family life.

hippo-family-setup

HIGHLIGHT 3: ABI & ROB

Another jump around the lounge and do a hoppy dance moment was inspired by the brilliant Abi & Rob. I met these two at A Most Curious Wedding Fair and they wanted me to create all their wedding stationery. Now, I can’t say too much at the moment as I’m still working on this commission…I promise you though, it’s going to be a cracker!

This is such a highlight for me not only because they’re my first wedding invite couple but more so in that these guys really understand what Frog & Pencil is about. This shows that there are people out there who want more quirky and personal choices, there is a place for Frog & Pencil.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these guys. What I really like about Abi & Rob is that they truly want to support small local businesses where they can when it comes to their big day and I praise that. It’s been a pleasure creating their wedding stationery and I can’t wait to show off their final invitation, it’s a beaut! For now you’ll have to make do with their awesome Save the Date.

Abi & Rob's Wedding Save our Date

Abi & Rob’s Wedding Save our Date

HIGHLIGHT 4: MEXICANA MADNESS

I simply cannot write a highlights post without mentioning the ‘phabulous’ collaboration I was a part of back in June. The Mexicana inspired photo shoot was such a wonderful day where I met awesome people and I’m thrilled that friendships have grown from it. I learnt a lot on that shoot, it was a real eye opener.

It was a brilliant experience to work with like-minded suppliers who have embraced the Frog & Pencil vibe. I can still remember this bundle of energy (Bigphatphotos Janie) coming towards me at the Wensum Valley Wedding Fair exclaiming how she’d seen my work online and thought I’d be perfect for this idea of hers. From that little meeting, Diego & Frida were born.

I’m all for encouraging collaborations between suppliers. It’s a fantastic way for work to develop, to push traditions and to make ace contacts in the industry. I’m always pointing couples in the direction of these guys. I know they produce creative and amazing work and most importantly, you can trust them to deliver on your special day. I look forward to more bonkers photo shoots in the future.

Mexicana Photo shoot - image credit:Bigphatphotos

Mexicana Photo shoot – image credit:Bigphatphotos

HIGHLIGHT 5: THE INDUSTRY

This ties in nicely with the collaboration highlight. I wrote in my last post how I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the Wedding Industry and how accepting it has been. I never expected to know so many wonderful local businesses after a year, the networking is starting to flourish. I honestly feel like a part of the gang and not such a newbie anymore and that means so much to me; I feel accepted. We simply didn’t know how Frog & Pencil would be perceived in the industry, it was a huge grey area but we’ve been welcomed, supported and encouraged. It feels amazing to know that in Norfolk there’s a change in the air, it’s not all about tradition.

 

HIGHLIGHT 6: OXNEAD WEDDING SHOW

I believe that exhibiting at Oxnead was a turning point for Frog & Pencil. It may have been the fact that we had some experience under our belts, or that we’d evaluated and made a new plan or that we had a whole new wedding fair set up but somewhere in that beautiful venue I found a new confidence. Perhaps it’s a combination of all the above and starting to feel accepted but I came away from that show buzzing and super positive about the future. Off the back of it I’ve had enquiries, a wedding invitation commission (to be unveiled soon!) and a handful of bridesmaid card orders. From this point, it started to feel like we’d landed on the right lily pad.

Final Frog & Pencil set up for the Oxnead Wedding Show.

Frog & Pencil’s stall at the Oxnead Wedding Show is ready to go!

HIGHLIGHT 7: EDP BRIDE WEDDING AWARDS

Holy guacamole, what a year! And the ‘water lily’ on the top was discovering that I’d made it as a finalist in the EDP Bride Wedding Awards. I was over the moon to be in this position and the pride that I felt was overwhelming. A finalist for Best Wedding Stationery Provider isn’t too shabby after being in the business just under a year. I might not have come home with an award but I am very honoured to have even been considered. And just think, I almost chickened out…it’s amazing what you can achieve when you believe and love what you do.

Frog & Pencil celebrating at the EDP Bride Wedding Awards.

Frog & Pencil celebrating at the EDP Bride Wedding Awards. Finalist for Best Wedding Stationery Provider.

HIGHLIGHT 8: SIMPLY BELIEVE

When I think back over the last 365 or so days of living and breathing Frog & Pencil, the main thing that strikes me is how I’ve evolved. I studied Illustration at University and after three pretty awful years I came away not knowing my style, who I was as an artist and I didn’t want anything to do with it. I can safely say, it left me at an all time low. I don’t know how I managed to graduate and I still get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I walk past the Art School…and I left six years ago.

Today, I’ve fallen in love with what I do. I’m passionate about what I create and I believe in what I do. I believe in me. It’s taken a while, I’m almost 33 but I’m so lucky to have found my inner Frog. I’m growing in confidence every day and I can see it evolve in my work. I feel privileged and I’m delighted that I can create work that makes people smile. How could that not be a highlight!?!

believe

Simply believe.

This year has been wonderful and after a week of being poorly/injured, tonight we’re finally going to celebrate this milestone.

Wishing you all a great weekend and I’ll be posting more Frog & Pencil goodness in the coming week.

‘Til then lovelies, chin chin!

Cx

Hoppy Birthday Frog & Pencil!

Hello lovelies,

Today marks Frog & Pencil’s first birthday. A whole year since we launched the website and headed out on this crazy adventure with little expectation but with a shed load of passion and grit. I never anticipated to have had such a wonderful year.

I don’t quite know where to begin. I’ve been sat here, in front of this glowing laptop for a while now thinking about Frog & Pencil’s journey and it’s hard for me not to become emotional. I’m simply bursting with pride with how far this business has come in 365 days.

Frog & Pencil went live from scratch. I didn’t have any commissions set up or any particular direction to set off on. I kinda fumbled along promoting my business, working out future steps as I hopped along. Looking back, I genuinely feel lucky that I managed to grab some spots at wedding fairs early on. I thought I had missed the Spring fairs boat but thanks to the incredible duo Dalia and Tim at Norfolk Brides, they gave me a shot. I believe that showcasing my stationery wares at their show last March was a key moment for getting on the Norfolk Wedding Industry map. It may not have generated direct business but being there introduced me to other suppliers and I’m happy to say those relationships have blossomed. So, I want to say a HUGE thank you to the Norfolk Brides Team. I think you guys are awesome and I truly appreciate all your support and advice this year. I hope to work more with you over the years as I think you’re a positive force in the business.

I wasn’t nervous about delving into self employment but I did have a few reservations about other suppliers within the industry. For some reason I had envisioned the wedding business to be ultra competitive and for want of a better word, a tad bitchy. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The people I’ve met and connected with are a wonderfully supportive bunch. Frog & Pencil has been welcomed with open arms and by the end of my final wedding fair in November, I genuinely felt like a part of the gang. To me, this is a big deal. I’ve banded together with like-minded creative people who are passionate, have a drive to deliver and encourage collaboration between fellow small businesses. I’m so fortunate to be a part of this scene.

It thrills me to see so many women led businesses cheering on the successes of other women. At a time where it can be easier to tear people down, it’s incredibly positive to be surrounded by these kick ass women! Additionally, I’m heartened by those that are managing to juggle their business with nurturing a family. To me you are (and all Mums) superwomen and it gives me hope for Frog & Pencil’s future when a cub or two may be on the cards. You lot know who you are, so thank you for inspiring me daily.

Running Frog & Pencil certainly hasn’t been easy. There have been moments where lulls lasted weeks with very little interest and it felt like I was in a crappy rut. Knowing my personality, I take a lot of this to heart. However, I’m an upbeat person too and I won’t be beaten easily. I’m learning that being productive keeps things moving, even when it feels horribly slow. Along with reflecting and evaluating my progress, it all helps me to keep on hoppin’.

This will sound awfully cliché but right now, after all this time of never quite fitting in, I feel like I’m in the right place, doing the right thing. I feel complete. I bloomin’ love what I do and it frustrates me that I took so long to realise my own potential, all I needed was some self belief.

It’s funny, when I think back to when I was much younger, as a teenager it was my aim in life to find a career I loved that would make me happy. What that actually was, I didn’t have a clue. For nearly twenty years, this is what I was searching for. I also met Lewie when we were eighteen, so we’ve been together a long time and I constantly fought the thought of marriage. It simply wasn’t a priority. I needed to find that career first. After eleven years together, Lewie proposed and I delightedly said YES. I still hadn’t found ‘the one’ career wise, but I was enjoying Festival work and there was no doubt in my mind about my Bear, he was/is my everything. Getting engaged triggered the concept of Frog & Pencil and it nurtured the confidence and self belief I needed to take the plunge. I guess what I’m trying to say is that saying ‘yes’ to something new can open wonderful adventures. I was blinkered for so long and I often wonder where Frog & Pencil might have been today had I realised what I am capable of sooner. So, if things aren’t quite going to plan, change it up a bit as you never know what’s around that corner, you could discover and realise you’re pretty awesome and are capable of anything; just get out of your own way.

This year has been a beautiful whirlwind and ended on such a high, as a finalist at the EDP Bride Wedding Awards. Simply put, I’m as proud as punch. This year is looking like a cracker too as I have some excellent commissions in the pipeline and I can’t wait to share them over the coming months.

There are so many highlights from the first year but I feel they deserve their own post, look out for it over the next week or so.

That leaves me with a few thank you’s before I sign off. Firstly, a big thank you to the industry and suppliers who have embraced Frog & Pencil. The support and advice I’ve received warms my heart and I am happy to call many of you friends. Your creativity inspires and challenges me to make more exciting illustrations, so thank you for keeping me on my Froggy toes. You guys are my frickin’ rock stars!

To my lovely couples, be it a bespoke commission or a bridesmaid card purchase, thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting a small, independent business. I honestly do a little happy dance every time a new couple is confirmed. It is a pleasure to get to know you and to create stationery that reflects your personalities and also offer an insight into your big day. Remember to always be unashamedly yourselves when it comes to your wedding.

To my treasured friends and family, thank you for all the belief, support, encouragement, words of wisdom, hugs, for every share, like, recommendation and for the laughter. The love in my life is overwhelming and I’m truly blessed. You guys are always there and that means the world. A special mention to Lewie’s folks for their unconditional generosity and to my Dad (a rival to Lew as number 1 fan) for his love, support and for encouraging the potential. I love you all, mwah! xxx

One final and special thank you is for my partner in crime & hubby, Lewie. Without you Frog & Pencil just wouldn’t be possible. You could see what I couldn’t all those years ago, so thank you for you unwavering belief, love and the daily support. Thank you for being the best ‘tech guy’ around and for being just as much as a perfectionist as I am…website v2 is going to be awesome! Thank you for being my wedding fair sidekick and for hashing out all the tiny details with me. To me you are the greatest Bear in the land and I’m one lucky, lucky, lucky Frog. Here’s to our future, I love you millions. xxx

All that’s left to say is what a hell of a year and I’ve loved every moment. It’s time to celebrate, eat cake and probably cry a smidge more (happy tears of course!). Most importantly, I’m excited to get back to my commissions and create more illustrated loveliness.

Best hop to it & hustle!

Thanks for sticking by me,

Love Cx

P.S – I’m happy to report that after a year I can easily use the correct spelling of ‘stationery’…well, almost! x

Hoppy First Birthday Frog & Pencil!

Celebrating Frog & Pencil’s first birthday. Hop Hop Hooray!

 

Mr & Mrs Piggy Ready-to-Write Wedding Invitation

A Froggy Process

Hello there!

I hope you all had a wonderful bank holiday weekend and were able to grab a chance to enjoy the sunshine. I’m back at Frog & Pencil HQ after some time away and I’m feeling refreshed and ready to hop to it.

I’ve had this post stored in the depths of my brain for a while now and I finally have some current work to use to help illustrate my points and generally pretty the page up a bit. Occasionally I meet and speak with people who don’t quite realise how much time and effort goes into creating a new design and exactly what that entails. So, I’d like to share with you how I work, from initial idea through to final product; my Froggy process.

For the purpose of this post I’m going to use my new Mr & Mrs Piggy Design.

CONCEPT

Inspiration can strike at any point and I’m influenced by nature and the gorgeous colour combinations you can find all around us. I love hearing people’s stories and more often than not these turn on my creative lightbulb. If I’m working with a client, I listen to what they are envisaging, include personal touches and then sketch up some potential ideas for them to look through.

Lovely Kate contacted me via Facebook as she was looking for a wedding card for her brother-in-law and she desperately wanted something featuring pigs but couldn’t find one anywhere. I don’t usually create one-off cards however after talking with her for a while I started to picture what it could look like and I was getting quite excited about the prospect of it. I concluded that it would be a brilliant design for my next Ready-to-Write wedding invitation which I could then transform into a card for Kate (and others); a win win situation.

SKETCHING

Now, my sketches are really not the most beautiful drawings in the world but they do enable me to have what I like to call, a ‘brain dump’. I can splurge all my thoughts onto paper and tweak certain ideas before refining the good ones. It’s all about working up the right composition (including a garland with bespoke detailing), and some days are easier and quicker than others. It can either take me an hour or up to a day to get this right.

Thankfully with the pigs I already had quite a clear vision and it only required a few scribbles. With a final composition completed, I use my light box to reproduce this design onto good quality watercolour paper.

PAINTING WITH WATERCOLOUR

I love this bit…it is where I see my illustrations come to life! This is also usually the part where within a few brush strokes I decide I hate it! In almost every case I get this overwhelming feeling that it’s now utter rubbish. However, I have learnt to trust in my ability and believe that it will all come together.

When I begin to paint I already have in mind a rough sense of the colours I’ll be using for the main characters. Throughout my creative years and experimentation with style, I’ve had one constant, I’m a colourist. I love playing with different tones and making them pop.

Working with watercolour I find that you have to be patient and allow time for the paint to dry. I’m quite precise with my colours and I don’t want any unnecessary bleeds. So, with that in mind and depending on the level of detail within the design, painting my illustrations take at least six hours.

At this point, if I’m making something for a client, I will e-mail over a scanned image of the final piece so they can see how it’s progressing.

PHOTOSHOP

Ahh, my good friend Photoshop, how I have sworn at thee a million times. If we were a Facebook item our relationship status would read ‘it’s complicated’. I think it’s pretty amazing what you can do with this programme however my skills are limited but I manage fine and can navigate it with what I need to know…and youtube helps A LOT!

Additionally, I never ever want to lose the handmade touch in my work as that’s me, so I really only use Photoshop for a few things. Mainly, as a tool to tidy up my work once it’s scanned in. I always create a ‘clean’ file where I erase any pesky pixels and make sure the illustration edges are smooth; then the image can be transferred to any project with ease. Once I’ve created a Ready-to-Write wedding invitation for example, I can experiment with background colours, introduce text and brighten the illustration a smidge so that it’s print ready. This can be a bloomin’ lengthy process. To clean the image so it looks excellent digitally can take me around three hours…even more if there are lots of fiddly elements which makes me super cross-eyed. I’m sure there is a simpler option, drop me a line if you know one.

And let’s not forget my other pal InDesign, oh we do have fun! This is more of a publishing programme which is ideal for aligning and producing more text heavy design, such as the reverse of my Ready-to-Write wedding invitations. This can take me a while to work with, but I currently have a nice template in place where I can simply edit the typography; hurrah! As you can probably tell, I much prefer making the work over the digital delights.

This final design would then be sent over to my client to get their approval before it heads to my printer.

Clean file of Mr & Mrs Piggy Illustration

Clean digital file of Mr & Mrs Piggy illustration ready to be transformed into a Ready-to-Write Wedding Invitation.

PRINTING

Once I’ve had the nod from my lovely client, we are ready to print. I’ve been quite lucky and have found a local printer who’s reliable, quick and his prices are reasonable too…oh and of course the final result looks glorious! I always ask for a proof so that I can review the colours. If they’re a bit off, it’s back to my favourite friend Photoshop for a bit of tweaking. I will never send anything to a client or sell a product that I’m not 100% happy with, so this is a crucial part of the process. This too takes time. Thankfully we have a nice relationship and usually I can see a proof by the end of the day. After that, it’s around a 24 to 48 hour wait for the final prints depending on their work load.

PACKAGING & POSTAGE

With the invites hot off the press, it’s time to package and post. I like to include a handwritten thank you note and it’s finished off with a Frog & Pencil sticker before making a trip to the post office.

BUT IT DOESN’T END THERE…

Nope, the process continues on after a client has received their goodies. As a small business I need to keep up with my social media accounts and promote myself. Showing off recent work is key to drumming up new commissions. This includes taking good photographs of my illustrations and the final pieces in eye-catching and interesting compositions. We then revisit Photoshop for some more editing, cropping, resizing and brightening so they’re primed for the web. Be it for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, my Frog & Pencil Website or this blog, it’s all important work that takes up more of your time then you’d think.

And there you have it, my Froggy process. I regularly need to remind myself of this structure for when it comes to pricing up quotes as all of these fundamental parts need to be considered so that I don’t undersell myself. It’s tricky, but I love it and I’m getting there.

On a final note, if you’re interested in purchasing my new Mr & Mrs Piggy Ready-to-Write Wedding Invitations or Congratulations Wedding Card, get in touch and say hello, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Cx