Angela and Mike are the creative brains behind Pickle Punch, the kid-at-heart artists behind their dragons and beasties, not to mention superhero-eque parents to their tiny tike son. They’re also catching our eye as Make It Designer of the Week! Sit with us as we chat up on what the punch is in their biz and check out more of their products and info at www.picklepunch.com
What made you want to start something like Pickle Punch?
A few years before our son was born, Mike and I were sponging up all things French during a week long trip to Paris. We were living in central London at the time, and were working as Creature Animators at a well-known British feature film production house. The hours were long, and while the projects were enjoyable, neither of us felt that our individual creativity needs were being met. Both of us craved an outlet that would allow us to work on our own little projects. We had spent many hours coming up with story ideas over a pint or two of beer at our local pub though. Also, Mike would spend hours late at night drawing out concepts for new characters that would hopefully come to life one day in print form. However, it wasn’t until our trip to Paris that we had a eureka “we-should-start-a-business” moment! During a wobbly walk through the narrow cobblestone streets one afternoon, we stumbled upon an old fashioned print shop. It seemed perfect! There were gorgeous local French artist’s prints featured in the window, and in the back we could see the old printing presses that were over 100 years old. Something just clicked for us both at the sight of this quaint Parisian shop, and that night we decided we would do something like this too. It was an exciting day that I’ll never forget it.
Jump ahead 4 years. We moved back to Vancouver, got jobs as Animators again, I went to Emily Carr and did a Painting Certificate, and then we had our little boy. Pickle Punch came to be after our son turned one, once the timing was finally right!
Dragons & Beasties, Elephants, Mice & All Nice Things – Where did all these characters come from?
All of our Beasties come almost entirely from the creature “tickle-trunk” (hopefully you know that reference) that is Mike’s brain. We’ve been together for 14 years now, and not a day has gone by where he hasn’t been sketching out new ideas for characters, or exploring and fleshing out existing characters. Our studio and home are filled with thousands upon thousands of drawings, story ideas, and sketchbooks!
Mike is Dutch and spent a great deal of time reading European comics as a kid, and was also inspired by the Dutch Children’s artist Fiep Westendorp and Dick Bruna. As a big kid now, I’m sure he’s also been influenced from working at cool studios like Aardman Animation, and Pixar Canada. However, Mike has worked endlessly since we opened Pickle Punch, to hone a style that is distinctly his own, and that’s also interesting to children. Once he’s come up with a new character that we want to use for Pickle Punch, we both come up with the story and composition for each print. We want our characters to have depth, and seem real to the kiddos.
We also came up with a set of guidelines for who and what Pickle Punch characters can be. They should be fun, expressive, compassionate, and a little bit cheeky! The Canadian woodland creatures are also a major focus for us right now, and new prints and cards will feature Canadian animals, and focus on childhood in Canada.
We’re stoked to meet them all! We noticed that this is going to be your first show! What are you most excited about in being part of Make It!?
I work alone in cafes and our studio 95% of the time, so being lucky enough to be part of a lovely buzzing show like Make it! will open a whole world of other local artists to me. So I’d say meeting all the vendors, the event organizers and talking to people visiting our booth will be the highlight. Being connected to the arts & crafts scene in BC, and supporting small business is hugely important for us too! It’s going to be revitalizing to be surrounded by such abounding talent! We are very excited for our first show!
4. For others out there still nervous about sending that application out to Make it! and other craft shows, what advice would you give out?
First of all, try visualizing yourself at the show already. What does this look like? How is your booth and table set up? Do you feel comfortable in the venue? What kinds of people are attending the show, and what will they be shopping for? If you can imagine yourself fitting in and having a good time and having success, then that could be the show for you! I’ve been going to Make It! Vancouver and other craft shows for years now as a buyer, and I had a strong feeling about Make it! I could really see myself as an exhibitor there. So I’d say trust your intuition. It can be your best friend!
Secondly, take some top-notch photos of your product that are well lit, and also include some good lookin’ close-ups. This advice was given to me many times over on both Etsy and from other veteran sellers, and seems to be key. Etsy has some fab tutorials and tips on how to create cheap and easy lighting setups. I’m always changing my photos because I feel like they can always be better! On the applications for shows, only select your best shots that really showcase your product, and also some photos of your studio and yourself creating your art/product.
Last but not least, get involved with social media, if you aren’t already, and start pinning, posting, blogging, and talking on arts and crafts forums or other places where similar like-minded artists as yourself are discussing inspirational topics. Create the online presence that you want for your brand and your biz. It’s easy to get carried away, so I try to set myself an hour a day time limit for facebook updates, pinning and blogging etc.
What’s a ‘typical’ work day look like for you?
5:30 am – Awake: Before I even look out the window I check my smartphone for Pickle Punch email updates. Since the rest of the world has already been up for an hour, I want to see what’s happening.
6:00am – Boot camp (hopefully), shower, get the wee one fed, watered and dressed, cats fed, lunches made, laundry folded, beds made, say goodbye to Mike. It’s crazy in the morning!
9:30am – Walk 6 blocks away to drop off our lil’ guy at the Nanny share, so I can start work part 2; Pickle Punch.
10:00am – Go to one of three coffee shops (I’m a bit of a coffee snob) and set up “my office”. This is where I do all the photo updates, social media posting and commenting, checking for orders, writing customers, suppliers and retail shops, and ordering supplies. If we have a new greeting card or print then I write up the product descriptions for Pickle Punch’s online shop, and our Etsy store.
12:30pm- Head home for a quick lunch that I can bring up to the studio, which is in our converted attic. I put together the orders here, and also look at the prints and cards Mike worked on the night before, and I take notes to give to him. I’m really picky about color, so that’s usually what I want to change, but most of the time I’m just wowed by what he’s drawn out! If we have any graphic design work to do then I do this in our studio too.
4:00pm – Pick up our son from the Nanny
4:30pm – Have fun at the playground together and head home to play some more! This is a great time for me to unwind and just relish in my son’s curiosity about the world. 2 year olds live completely in the moment, and he reminds me to do the same.
6:00-8:30pm – Make dinner, bath the wee one, and bedtime stories. Hearing our son comment on all the characters in his books help me come up with fresh ideas for new art. I try to figure out why he’ll go back to the same animal or person over and over in a book, and why it makes him laugh.
8:45pm – 10-ish pm – finish up any online stuff I didn’t get to in the day, and help Mike out with feedback on the latest print.
10:30pm (If I’m lucky) – Collapse in bed, and hopefully dream about new stories for our prints
How has your son added to the artistic process and inspiration behind Pickle Punch? Think he’ll take over the business some day?
Mike and I have our boy on our minds 24/7. He’s woven into the creative process of every piece we do. So when we say there is love poured into everything we make, it’s meant sincerely. Sometimes it’s more obvious, like in our “Everyday Dragon” print, he is the dragon afraid of the bath. Also the expressions on our characters are often faces that our son makes on a daily basis too. Watching him grow up will also provide a plethora of incidents that will inspire ideas for new artwork. He’s a hilarious kid, who is also very gentle and loving towards animals and nature, and we’d like to reflect these attributes in the characters that we create for Pickle Punch.
As for taking over the business, hopefully he will want to one day. For now, he’s happy to scribble circles and make play dough kitty cats.