Today I have an ‘Inspire Me’ interview for you with a very talented woman.
Jennie Maizels is a well established illustrator who has had sixteen children’s books published to date. You’d think this would have her kept fully occupied considering each book can take a year to complete, yet, Jennie also has a line of furnishing fabrics with Linwood, stationery ranges and also a great collection of embroidered iron on fabric plasters ( I can personally vouch for these as a really big hit with the kids ! :) )
Did you come from an artistic background ?
Yes I did, my parents met at Chelsea school of art, my mother is an illustrator and photographer and my father is a fine artist. Together they run the art magazine ‘Raw Vision‘ an international journal about Outsider Art.
I was bought up without a TV and my parents spent alot of time drawing and painting with me, it was a very creative childhood !
What did you study at St Martin’s College ?
My degree was in Graphic design but you were given options after the first year and I chose to specialise in Illustration.
I think St Martins has changed alot, I was there nearly 20 years ago and as far as I can remember there really wasn’t much teaching. We were left pretty much to our own devices. Although at the time frustrating, I think as an illustrator being left to ‘fend for oneself’ and not be too influenced or guided makes it is easier to develop your own personal style and in a very unselfconscious way.
Who and what inspired you to become an illustrator ?
As I was growing up I never thought I would be anything else to be honest. It may well have been ‘Hobson’s choice’ as I wasn’t particularly academic and there were no other subjects at school I felt so passionately about.
I loved watching my mother draw with her coloured pencils. I was fascinated by their colours and how pointy she kept them.
My Grandparents lived in Geneva and always gave me tins of perfect Caran D’ache pencils which I would literally wear out.
For my 16th birthday my parents gave me a beautiful huge box of Prismacolor pencils. Over 200 colours. I opened it on Christmas morning and after staring at them for over an hour, I started copying a William Morris design and didn’t stop until Boxing Day night.
I can honestly say that my obsession with coloured pencils lead me ( no pun intended ! ) to become an illustrator. I knew they had to become the tools of my trade.
As far as inspirations from other artists, apart from my parents, I have always adored Fornasetti, I love how he covers literally everything with his illustrations, from plates and fabrics to furniture. I found this incredibly inspirational, it made me think that the work of illustrators shouldn’t be confined to flat surfaces and could be used on all manner of objects which are usually just adorned with print and pattern.
You have worked on sixteen children’s 3D ( pop up ) books over your career so far. The illustrations are really detailed – how long does each page take ?
A particularly complicated page of a pop-up book can take me up to 3 months. The final spread of The Global Garden Book comprises of a big bunch of symbolic or ‘useful’ flowers and is stupidly detailed. My studio was full of glorious bunches of extraordinary blooms, however, 6 weeks into the artwork and the flowers were all droopy and revolting, my children wouldn’t enter the room on account of the horrid smell !
In my recent Pop-Up London book, there is a small flap ( which many may miss ) revealing a cross section of Piccadilly underground section. It took me a whole weekend to draw and the image in the book is the same size as the artwork ( really really small )
Some single pages can total as much as 20 pages of artwork as there may be wheels, layers, flaps and big pop ups with the reverse artwork for the 3-D pieces too. A book will take on average a whole year to complete.
I love your line of furnishing fabrics for Linwood – are the prints taken from your book images at all ?
The wonderful thing about my fabric deigns for Linwood was that I had completely free range. I came to them with ‘mood boards’ expecting to go away and rework and elaborate, but instead they just said “yup” to each design and I started artwork straight away.
The images themselves were a mix of my most successful Clothes Plasters designs and a completely fresh think about what I thought would make great kids fabric. The Keep Out, Control Freak and Dream Room designs were originally designed as wallpaper, which I really hope one day to be able to do for them. They were all completed with the same coloured pencils though…
Will you be producing more fabric prints in the future ?
I would love to. I would really like to design a range of slightly more ‘grown up’ fabrics, something I have discussed with Linwood, but it’s up to them, I have a sketchbook full of fabric ideas ready and waiting !
Can they be purchased on your website ?
Yes all the fabrics, cushions, Clothes Plasters and stationery can be bought from the shop on our website www.jenniemaizels.com it’s free post and we even gift wrap them for you !
Your wonderful boys and girls fabric plasters make perfect stocking fillers – how did you come up with the idea for them ?
I have two ( now not so ) little girls who are real Tomboys. I was always so upset when their pretty tights and dresses got holes in them. I am no sewer and even if the holes were darned the fabric hung oddly, especially their stripy tights ! So I tried to buy some small attractive motifs to cover the holes. I discovered there really wasn’t anything out there apart from nasty brands or plain patches.
It took us over a year to find a supplier who could replicate my artwork, we were so delighted when we saw how beautifully embroidered they were and what perfect colours they had chosen.
We now have themed sets as well as single patches and I am working on new designs as I speak.
With your vast experience – could you offer any advice to illustrators/designers ?
Gosh ! What advice would I give ? Definitely never ever give up, if I had a pound for every ‘nearly life changing’, exciting project that fell through… So important to learn to pick yourself up and keep going. Be doggedly determined too, I remember doing massive mail-outs after graduating and spending hours making follow up calls and then traipsing round London for weeks with my portfolio.
Make your ‘voice’ heard above the rest, send out samples not just emails and target your publisher/art director thoroughly, researching the types of illustrations usually commissioned and make sure your style is compatible.
One sound piece of advice if you are keen to show your work to a children’s book publisher, do not think that you need a story. Editors have hundreds of writers waiting for suitable artists and they may think that you are wedded to the writer of the story or to your own text, let your illustration speak for itself….
2013 is on it’s way… what’s coming up for you ?
We are launching two new sets of Clothes Plasters, more stationery and even a range of mugs. I am also just about to start on another major pop-up book with Walker Books to be published in September 2014, so I’d better go and sharpen some more pencils…
Thanks so much to Jennie. Some brilliant advice for new illustrators.
I am definitely keeping my fingers crossed for ‘grown up’ fabric prints with Linwood soon ! Do you love her designs too ?
You can find out more about Jennie at her website – www.jenniemaizels.com. Become a facebook fan or follow her on Twitter – @jenniemaizels.
All images copyright Jennie Maizels 2012.
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