Many of you may know (especially if you're subscribers to our book box) that I have an extremely talented sister who does most of our design work. She made our logo, the logo for the bookshop crawl, the postcards we have for sale in our shop, the bookmarks you receive with your monthly Ninja Book Club subscriptions, and the map of Tulsa included in our August box. She's also making something amazing for our November box so look out for that! We've been struggling to get her online for a long time now and finally we feel like we're achieveing something. Although her webiste has yet to be finished, we have interviewed her here so that you can find out more about her.
Oh, and she also made the graphic for this event... Without further ado, here she is (ok, she's probably still in bed actually). Esther Fairbairn!
How would you describe what you do?
I am part graphic designer, part crafts person. It's difficult to describe exactly what I do because it's not all one thing. Creative is the obvious word to use for it. Wacky, quirky or unique are words that I prefer. I make or design things that inspire me. I am very much a passion and ideas driven person, once I've thought of something, once I've got the spark, I just run with it. The short story is that other people employ me to make things look good and work well. I try to make things eye catching and look a little bit different if possible. For myself I make and design things based on my interests and building from personal want or need. I often use words as my inspiration, quotes, statements or sayings that really apply to me. I draw as much as I can, and have found that pen and ink drawings, particularly the monochrome Ninja work is really my best style, and it just so happens that people like it enough to offer me money for my creative musings. My aim is to design and make things that inspire and bring happiness to the people who see or use them.
You're just starting out having graduated a couple of years ago. What are some of your plans and ambitions for your freelance work in the future?
I think about my future a lot, mostly because my complete lack of a plan terrifies me sometimes. The upside is that it also act as a kind of fuel, an encouragement to clear off my back burner and revamp some of my ages old ideas that never made it beyond existence as a post it. The only semblance of a plan that I have is a list, an idea that I got from Neil Gaiman's 'Make good art speech'. I have a bucket list of things I would like to work on, they're wide spread but all within the creative realm. For instance I would like to write and illustrate a children's book. I have no big plans (Ninja says: writing and illustrating a children's book isn't a big plan??), but it looks to me that at the moment my place in the world is as a small ship sailing solo, supporting independent businesses and ventures that promote adventure, exploration, discovery, happiness and ultimately creativity.
You've designed most of our stuff (logo, bookshop crawl graphics, the logo for this event, bookmarks, postcards...) How do you decide what kind of look fits with each client?
I tend towards a monochrome pen and ink look, which is very evident in my work for Ninja. I like to make things look simple in a complicated way. I try to think about things very simply, taking the key points of the project, which often involves a name and think about what it means to me. Wherever my mind goes to, wherever my imagination takes me, that's where I start from. For Ninja I knew that part of the draw of the idea was discovery and for me that was the key, books open doors to new places, new ideas and new experiences. Sometimes clients already have a pretty good idea of what they want me to do, which can be helpful as it means that all I have to do is find a way to make it my own, however sometimes that can also be a hindrance because I'm not so fuelled by my own creative energy. Ninja is a great design job for me because it is a project after my own heart, so all the inspiration that I get from reading, and the desire to pass on that inspiration to someone else feeds in to it. It's a self sustaining system.
Can you describe what a typical working day looks like for you?
Weeeeelll....First there's some sleep, then after a bit more sleep there's some coffee, then there's the semi comatose, mostly immobile watching of Gilmore Girls for about an hour, possibly accompanied by some knitting, whilst my creative energies are left to steep. Then there are many notebooks, many lists and eventually, some sketches, then some serious drawing, then some scanning and playing with adobe. Then after 20 or so versions that I kind of like but I'm not really sure about, I reach out for feedback from clients. Then I take a break and have some tea.
I don't really have a typical day if I'm being brutally honest. Having Rheumatoid Arthritis makes mornings very challenging and each one is different, sometimes they're really good, sometimes they're non-existent. My every morning, typical or otherwise starts with coffee. Then I check my emails, and make a list of all the things that need to be done today (or in the near future... and my whole life). Then I try to prioritize. I start with the most pressing job I have and I work on that for a couple of hours, then I take a break. Tea is next on the agenda, followed usually by any project that is more craft orientated as it give me a bit of a break from sitting at a desk staring at a screen. Then after about an hour I switch back to the most urgent project. My aim is to try and do a bit on each project I have on the go everyday so that I keep the fire burning on all of them. That is the ideal, however it's not always possible. I have several things that I try to do during the day to try and discourage stress (it really wants to be my friend) I often take breaks and play the ukulele, or knit for a few minutes, of go for a short walk.
What's your favourite thing about what you do and what inspires you?
There are lots of things I love about what I do. The first would be that I am continually learning new things, and every new job no matter how easy it seems at the start comes with problems and obstacles that have to be overcome. It's also an excuse to do what I naturally do in my spare time, I love making things look good. I also love making quirky things. Whenever people take notice of or show interest in my work I feel like however small the victory is, I have succeeded. Working for me is a major struggle due to health reasons, and freelancing is my solution to that, so every day I manage to work is a great day for me. My list of inspirations is long, a lot of the work I've done for myself is inspired by my interests, particularly books, comics, graphic novels, films, maps - The artist Paula Scher. I love cartography and typography. I also find that I find lots of inspiration whilst walking. I've always loved the illustrations of old children's books, like Swallows and Amazons and Alice in Wonderland and I think it's had an influence on my style, I love the clarity and the detail...
What are some of your favourite books and authors?
That is a very long list. My long standing favourites are Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, Neil Gaiman (everything but especially The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere and Fortunately the Milk, and of course Sandman.)and David Gemmel's Ravenheart. I also love Scarlett Thomas. Dragon's Green (thank you Ninja Book Box- Ninja: the book included in our May box) and Our Tragic Universe have both been major factors in my own desire to write a novel. Rainbow Rowell is a great author and her work always makes me happy and wish that I could write a kick ass book with that many nerdy references in it. Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus is one of my all time favourites and has had a definite impact on my design work, I did two projects based on the circus whilst I was at College and University, each as an attempt to bring to life that beautiful image of an entirely black and white circus in an art form other than writing. Bill Willingham's Fables series is my absolute favourite series of Graphic Novels. I also love Gretchen Rubin, Margret Atwood, Swallows and Amazons, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and all things Jane Austen. Sorry for the lack of a concise list but there are just too many awesome books and brilliant writers in the world.
Many of you who know me will probably see the similarities between my sister and myself and realise why we work so well together! It's been a pleasure having her on the blog today and she has of course donated some raffle prizes...
Announcing another raffle prize... Esther has kindly donated a set of 6 of the Grand Adventure postcards that she designed for our summer box, and a set of the hand drawn, hand cut bookmarks she has produced exclusively for us! They are part of one of our three phenomenal prize bundles and as you're probably aware by now, all of the money raised is going to charity so please do get some tickets if you can!
Check back tomorrow for another amazing business and catch up with the event so far here.