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Turtle print: from inspiration to final design

Many of my print designs are inspired by my travels including the new turtle print.

A couple of years ago I visited the beautiful Greek island of Zakynthos. The island is home to an endangered species of turtle which are absolutely adorable but hard to spot. On a day cruise around the island we were lucky enough to see a few and snap a couple of pictures. I loved the fascinating patterns on their shells and was inspired to design a turtle print.

Loggerhead turtle of Zante

I knew that I wanted to use watercolour paints for the drawings of the turtles to match their watery habitat. It’s great to get all my paints and brushes out; the possibilities of all the different colour mixes is really inspiring. To begin the drawings I always draw a rough outline in grey pencil. For watercolour paintings I draw the outline with a watercolour pencil so that the lines can be blended in to the painting as it progresses.

As well as the photographs I’d taken in Zante I researched more pictures to have a bigger range of angles and shell designs to choose from. I selected three different turtles with a mix of different colour shell patterns because I wanted to give variety to the print.

The final stages

Once I’d painted the turtles it was time to scan them in to the computer and clean up the images. Cleaning up drawings is an important part of the print design process. When sketchbook pages are scanned the texture of the paper is also picked up which can look messy in a digital print.

After cleaning up the paintings the final stage is to arrange the turtles in to the digital print. This stage always takes far longer than I think although I knew that I wanted the turtles to be in a random arrangement to look like they were swimming around. After a lot of tweaking (2mm up, 3mm across and repeat) the design was finished!

Finished turtle print

I also tried it with a sea blue background colour to make them look like they’re swimming in the ocean. Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments below.

Finished turtle print sea background
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Lighthouses of the North East – From inspiration to print design

There are so many fab lighthouses along the North East coast.

If you haven’t checked out the first lighthouse post featuring the inspiration behind the latest print you can see it here. Once I’d chosen the lighthouses I was going to use I set about drawing them. I knew I wanted this to be quite a graphic illustrative print design so I started drawing the lighthouses in bold pencil.

Souter lighthouse drawing

I started with Souter lighthouse. It’s a very classic lighthouse shape so it seemed like a good place to start. Other than the windows and railing, this was a fairly straight forward sketch.

Seaham lighthouse drawing

The next one I had chosen was Seaham lighthouse. Again this is a pretty standard shape so it was important to get the proportions and lines right. I didn’t want to use a ruler for the edges as I felt that would look too perfect and would jar with the hand drawn style.

St. Mary's lighthouse drawing

Next on the list was St. Mary’s lighthouse in Whitley Bay. This is a iconic landmark near to where I live so I wanted to do it justice. Although it is a simple structure, this also makes it tricky to draw as there is not much detail to work with. It’s also completely white so I wasn’t sure how I was going to colour it in. This could make it hard to stand out against a plain background.

Amble lighthouse drawing

By far the hardest one to draw was Amble lighthouse. Trying to get the perspective right on the railings was so tricky! After a lot of rubbing out and redrawing, I finally got the main structure right.

Time to colour in

Once I’d finished all the drawings it was time to start digitalising them. I scanned them all in to the computer then cleaned them up in Photoshop to make the outlines stand out clearly. To achieve the bold graphic look I wanted I decided it would be best to colour them in digitally.

Souter lighthouse coloured in

I love the classic colour combination of Souter lighthouse. I used colour swatches from photos to make sure the shade of red was just right. After adding colours, I used shading to give it more of a rounded shape.

Seaham lighthouse coloured in

Next up for colouring was Seaham lighthouse. This lighthouse is simply black and white so the foundations were easy to colour. However I wasn’t happy with how flat it looked. I decided to run a lighter shade of black down the centre to give it more depth, and studied the rust colour of the door to get the right texture.

St. Mary's lighthouse coloured in

As predicted St. Mary’s lighthouse was very tricky to colour. The lighthouse is completely white but with no colour at all it simply looked like I had forgotten to colour it in. I decided instead to use a light shade of grey to shape the lighthouse. I also studied photos of the lighthouse and saw the door and windows were darkly shaded so this added interest to the drawing too.

Like with Souter Lighthouse, I colour matched photos of Amble lighthouse to make sure I used the correct shade of red. I shaded the white portions of the lighthouse to match the off-white colouring of real life.

The final lighthouse is Longstone lighthouse. I drew this lighthouse for a previous print design inspired by the Northumberland coast. Although the style is slightly different I still thought it was worth including it in the print design as it would add a good pop of colour.

The final print

After scanning in and colouring all the lighthouses it was time to start assembling. This took much longer than I had originally anticipated. It was surprisingly difficult to get all the lighthouses arranged in to a well fitting pattern. I wanted to spread the red lighthouses evenly throughout the print and create a mix of sizes. Eventually I was happy with the layout and the print was complete!

This print design will be featured in a range of products this autumn winter. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below or share on social media!

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The highs and lows of running a small business

Spoiler alert: it’s a real roller coaster.

I love my job. I have always wanted to work for myself but I can tell you for free that running a small business is not easy. I’ve been running Drawn by Rhiannon for three years now and pretty much every day is a struggle. However, for me nothing beats being your own boss. Today is a beautifully sunny summer’s day so I’m writing this blog post with an old fashioned pen and paper outside in the garden. Of course I will have to type this up later but that’s a job for this evening when the sun goes down. And that’s one of the first things I love about running my own business – the flexibility.

It’s great to be flexible.

I have never particularly been a morning person so starting work at 8am every day isn’t an ideal situation for me. I find I’m much more productive later on and in to the evening so I love that I’m able to start work at 10am and work until after tea instead. Sometimes I can be working until two in the morning if that’s when inspiration has struck and that works great for me.

Drawn by Rhiannon studio
I’m lucky to have a great studio at the bottom of my garden

On the flip side, the negative aspect of working from home is that you’re never able to switch off. I’m lucky to have a fabulous studio at the bottom of my garden where I do all my sewing and most my designing. Unfortunately my internet doesn’t stretch to the studio so all the website designing, marketing and general computer work has to be done inside the house. There’s always a never ending to do list so the temptation to just quickly finish off a few things soon turns in to several hours of work when I’m supposed to be taking some time off. The work life balance is something I’m constantly battling with to prevent me from spiralling in to a full blown burnout.

Freedom is liberating

The main thing I love about running a small business is being able to design what I want. You wouldn’t believe the amount of junior designer jobs that mainly consist of making coffee and doing dry cleaning runs. I didn’t go to university for four years to do that! This is part of the reason that I wanted to work for myself because I didn’t want to lose my creativity or all the skills I worked so hard to learn. I love taking inspiration trips and deciding what prints to design next. And I love not having to work to a trend brief or having to stick to a restricted colour palette.

Drawn by Rhiannon watercolour painting
I love being able to be super creative in my job

On the other hand, not having anyone to bounce ideas off can be difficult too. When you’ve spent several hours working on a new print design, staring at the screen and nudging layouts a millimetre here and there, it becomes impossible to know what looks good any more. As the business grows I plan to take on a couple of staff to help with the workload which would be a huge bonus (and would hopefully stop me going stir crazy and asking my pet rabbit which colour background she thinks works the best). Until then I rely on all you lovely lot to keep me sane so I really appreciate you replying to my questions and commenting on my social media posts.

Money talks

Now for some serious talk – money. As much as I love what I do, at the end of the day I can’t keep doing it if it doesn’t make money. I’m fortunate to have a part time job in a craft shop which ensures my house and bills are paid for each month so I don’t have to worry about becoming homeless. However, if you’re working 30-40 hours a week running a small business, you kind of want to see some profit return on that right? This is something I still find very tricky to manage, especially as the gift-orientated things I make are really quite seasonal.

I was on such a high at the end of 2018 as I’d had my best Christmas ever and was actually taking a full time wage. Obviously this was due to a huge amount of work and I spent most of the Christmas break in complete brain dead zombie mode but that’s how it is. I even earned enough to book a holiday in February to Belgium (check out the blog posts about that trip here) which I was absolutely over the moon with.

The Christmas markets were a huge success and it was brilliant seeing people wanting to buy my items for special gifts for loved ones.

However after all the buzz of Christmas, the start of 2019 hit me like a tonne of bricks. I barely made any sales and at Easter time I almost packed the whole thing in. Which brings me to my final point.

Confidence and motivation

Without a doubt the hardest thing about running a business is having the confidence and motivation to keep it going. There are times when I’m consistently working 12-14 hour days and only seeing pocket money in return. When you put your heart and soul in to something and people don’t really seem that interested it can destroy you. Sometimes I just have to keep ploughing on because I know if I stop and really take a look at things I might not be able to carry on (sometimes doing the books at the end of the month can be really devastating).

The words ‘I can’t do this any more’ have gone through my head more in the past three years than in the rest of my life combined, but so have the words ‘I love my job’. The minute I receive a message from a customer saying how much they love their order, or see someone smile at a print I’ve designed on my market stall, it makes it all seem worthwhile.

Running a small business is hard. By supporting a small business you are supporting a dream
Every purchase you make really does make a huge difference

I would love to say that Drawn by Rhiannon has been an overnight success and every day is better than the last but that wouldn’t be true. It would mean the world to me if you could all support me to help me achieve my dream by shopping small and interacting with the brand on social media. One day I hope that I can do this full time and employ some wonderful people to work alongside me but I’m not there yet. After all, nothing good in life comes easy does it?

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Product spotlight: makeup and wash bags

Makeup bags are super versatile.

“That makeup bag is so pretty but I don’t wear makeup”. I often hear this from customers I meet at markets. If this is you, there’s no need to worry! Yes, the makeup bags are brilliant for storing your cosmetics. However they’re also great as project bags, toiletry bags, or giant pencil cases.

Makeup bags - Drawn by Rhiannon
There are many different makeup bag designs to choose from

As for the wash bags, those are made with water resistant fabric so they have all sorts of uses! You could use them as pretty bathroom storage, or as a wipe clean bag to hold your favourite art supplies.

Rubber duck wash bag
The rubber duck wash bag would be fab as bathroom storage

The difference is in the fabric

Inside, the makeup bags and the wash bags look different too. The makeup bags are made with a tough and durable cotton drill fabric and are lined with a complementary cotton lining. The wash bags are made with a water resistant fabric so aren’t lined. This is because a cotton lining would get damp when exposed to water.

A makeup bag and wash bag handmade with fabric designed with the inspiration of traditional Polish houses
The makeup bag (top) is made with cotton fabric and the wash bag (bottom) is made with water resistant fabric.

As you can see, all the makeup and wash bags feature a zip along the top so whatever you choose to store inside will be safe. Each bag measures approximately 28cm wide x 20cm tall x 9cm deep meaning you can fit loads in. There’s enough space for an expansive makeup collection, or for all your toiletry essentials on holiday.

Butterfly wash bag
All the toiletries in the photo fitted in the toiletry bag with lots of room to spare

So many designs to choose from

What’s more, there are loads of designs to choose from! Here’s just a few of the latest prints available right now.

If you’re looking for something fun and fruity, the banana wash bag is the one for you! I love the contrast of the yellow bananas against the aqua blue background – very tropical.

Banana wash bag
Banana wash bag

If you’re more interested in insects (a big trend for this year by the way) then check out the fab ladybird wash bag. The classic combination of black, white and red will fit in well with any colour scheme.

Ladybird wash bag
Ladybird wash bag

Or if you’re looking for something super glam and girly to hold your favourite makeup essentials, look no further than the fabulous flamingo makeup bag.

Flamingo makeup bag
Flamingo makeup bag

Whatever your taste is I have a design suitable for you! Take a look at the full range here.

If there’s a particular design you would like to see on a makeup bag or wash bag, just let me know! Or if you have any suggestions of what you’d like to see next, such as mini wash bags, jumbo makeup bags… comment below to tell me.

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Print designing ahead of the trends

Sheep wash bag

My background is in fashion design so I’m always keeping an eye on the latest fashion trends and print designs.

Although I enjoy looking at the season’s newest styles, my print designs aren’t really inspired by current trends. I set up Drawn by Rhiannon to provide fabric designs that you couldn’t find on the high street, so following trends didn’t make sense to me. My inspiration comes from all around me, usually from my travels, but also from the beautiful British landscape. However, I thought it was interesting that this season I’ve picked up a couple of trends without even realising it!

Animals

As you know, I love drawing animals. I would say about 75% of my designs are inspired by animals because I love them! They come in all shapes and sizes which gives me a real challenge in drawing. I also love quirky designs so what’s better than a fabric covered in dinosaurs or puffins!

It looks like I’m not the only one who thinks that because the big fashion houses are at it too. Look at this fab dress by Dolce & Gabanna, covered with a mix of farm animals!

I never would’ve expected to see high fashion designing fabric with chickens on but it’s great to see them having some fun.
I’ve designed several farm animal prints over the years, and the chickens are one of the most popular.

Chicken print design on a hair bow
Chicken hair bow

The chicken print was inspired by some very free range chickens that used to escape their garden and make a break for it down the village road. I loved the rich colours of their feathers and their cheeky characters.

Since then I’ve designed a sheep print, inspired by a particularly sassy sheep we spotted one day. I really enjoyed creating the wooly texture of the fur on this print design.

Sheep print design on a coin purse
Sheep coin purse
Sheep passport cover
Sheep passport cover
Sheep print design on a water resistant wash bag
Sheep wash bag

I’ve also designed a cow print, inspired by some beautiful cows in Graves Park. You can find out more about the cow print design in the blog posts here.
I was really chuffed with the cow print design so used it to make a variety of items which are all available for sale.

Cow print design passport cover
Cow passport cover
Cow wash bag
Cow wash bag
Cow coin purse
Cow coin purse

I like the farm animal theme so I’m hoping to add to it in the future with pigs, horses, donkeys… any suggestions? Comment below!

Butterflies

Insects and other bugs can be really interesting to draw. You get to zoom in really close and see all the little details that you didn’t know existed which makes for quite a challenge. The bee print I designed is now my most popular print, but before that I designed a butterfly print.

Butterfly wash bag
Butterfly wash bag

I loved how colourful and fun this print was to design. It’s currently not in use on any of my products, but if you’d like to see it make a comeback please comment below!

Butterflies are also a big trend on the catwalk this year. The pretty bugs have been featured by many high fashion brands, including this beautiful dress by Mary Katrantzou.

As you can see, you don’t have to spend a fortune to be on trend this season. Just add a splash of print to your home and shop small instead!