June 2, 2016

The Craft Queen | Lizzie Lees’ Collage Carnival

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Realistically I probably don’t really see myself as the crafty type of gal and I’m sure others probably don’t expect me to be cracking out a colouring book any time soon either, unless it’s my own doodle creation of course. In all honesty I don’t have the time to sit down and make things any more. As frustrating as it is with work, the blog and my various other writing commitments, I barely step away from my laptop. Occasionally I do manage to make the time though and suddenly out of nowhere I surprise myself by creating a burst of new things that fill up my Instagram feed for a few weeks. 

About a month ago I was invited to the Lizzie Lees’ Collage Carnival book launch and I have to say I pondered over whether I’d get much from it – I mean would I ever have time to collage?! Nevertheless, after taking a look at Lizzie’s website I was intrigued to meet her and find out how she brought this new concept to life. With the colouring craze a little oversubscribed, I was interested to see how the market was progressing and what was next in the land of creative publishing. 

It’s a decision I’m glad I made. Not only was Lizzie delightful and modest, you could clearly see the effort and energy she had put into making the book a success. Her whole personality conveys exactly what this book is about and just from the few conversations I heard at the launch I knew I was going to be collaging an evening away and leaving my phone on silent. The book is full of cute illustrations and amazing patterns that you can pull out and complete little tasks with. I have to be honest in the fact that I haven’t stuck to the rules when it comes to following the instructions – perhaps a little too basic for someone who studied Illustration and wants their own creative control. However, it is certainly something I’ll be bringing in my suitcase when I visit my little sister (FYI she’s eleven), I know she’ll love following the guidelines and creating her own interpretation, while putting the stickers everywhere. It’s very therapeutic too, so maybe I have just found my digital detoxing activity for one of this lazy Sunday mornings.

On another note, publishing a book is something I hear a lot of illustration students mention as a dream of theirs, so never one to shy away from the nosy questions I thought I’d ask Lizzie how it all started for her. Read on to find out a little more about the book and it’s background. 

First off I just want to say how much I admire all of the colour and vibrance in Collage Carnival, it’s really refreshing to see something so different and creative in the book world. Where do you gather inspiration from? 

Oh gosh – thanks so much Emma! I think Ive always had a natural pull towards colour and pattern. I’m trying to calm down my house as I get older to make it less cluttered and pattern crazy as a result! I get my inspiration from everywhere – Pinterest is a fantastic tool to collect images on the web. I love magazines like Flow and Amelia’s Magazine – they are packed with quirky illustrations and designs. I live in East London and find the vibrancy of the people and the ever changing world of fashion and individuality very inspiring – I love people who travel their own path. 

When did the opportunity arise for you to get Collage Carnival published and just how easy did you find it?

I am very blessed to have contacts within the publishing world. I was told they were looking for illustrators and was encouraged to show my portfolio. I am extremely lucky that they liked my work and together we came up with the idea of doing an interactive collage book. At first I found the whole concept of designing a book quite overwhelming – where do you begin when you have 124 pages to come up with?! But I gradually got into the flow of it and worked out my own method of putting it together. It involved a lot of printing, cutting and sticking! 

Can you tell me a little about the process from the idea to what we have on the shelf today? Has the concept changed at all? 

My editor Lucy Smith at Pavilion Books and I did some brainstorming at the beginning before we landed on the final theme of collage. Pavilion really wanted to do a new kind of interactive craft book after the success of the colouring books they published with Millie Marotta. I was thinking along the lines of a travel journal initially but eventually we landed with collage as a lot of my illustration work is collage based. It seemed like the perfect direction and move on from the colouring book trend. I was given a lot of freedom with the book which has been fantastic for me as I really feel like Ive had the chance to express myself and my silly sense of fun. 

What is your top piece of advice for those with bold ideas but a lack of knowledge on how to bring their concept to life?

Have faith in yourself and your creativity. Ive learnt throughout my time in the industry, that not everyone can like your designs but it doesn’t matter because for every person that doesn’t, another one loves it! You can’t appeal to everyone. Be confident, keep your toes in the world of trends so your work is relevant to todays market place, be yourself and have fun! 

You talk about using Collage Carnival for a digital detox. What does your perfect day without social media look like? 

Digital detoxing in todays busy world is so important to me. Our brains are overloaded with so much information I personally feel it is essential to slow down and get back down to earth by doing things with our hands. So with that in mind, my perfect day would be start off cooking breakfast with my boyfriend using herbs picked from our garden. Then I would go for a swim in Hampstead Heath ladies pond, followed by a picnic with my female friends and some prosecco! Followed by a big collage, glitter, sequin carnival with all my friends of course! 

What is your own favourite collaging activity from the book? (Top tips for those who’ve just bought it!) 

One of my favourites is the hilarious Cockatoo! They are such amusing and funny looking birds. You can really add personality to your creations using extra papers from the back of the book, adding your own details with pens, pom-poms and sequins. The speech bubble stickers in the book are great fun for adding in a message for a friend or a silly message. It’s all about just letting go for your creative fears and just being ridiculous! I think everyone should be ridiculous more often! 

Lastly, is there anything else you are involved in that you’d like us to know about? What is next for Lizzie Lees? 

Pavilion and I have got plans for the next book on the way, but this is top secret at the moment so you will just have to wait and see in regards to that. I am also a founding member of a creative platform – The Exhibition Collective, which gives artists a chance to exhibit their work on a yearly basis at a very cost effective rate with a support network of creatives doing the same thing! We are a great bunch so far and always welcoming new members. Our next exhibition is planned for November time this year so watch this space! 

Thanks so much to Lizzie for answering all of my burning questions, I hope it helps brings some ideas to life for anyone out there looking to dive into the literary world. Please do take a peek at Lizzie’s site and keep up to date with all of her collaging ventures. Obviously get your hands on the book too.

Disclaimer: Collage Carnival was provided for free in a goodie bag to me at the launch event. All curiosity to find out more my own.


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Emma Jane Palin is a freelance art consultant, interior stylist and multi-award-winning blogger residing in Margate, UK. She has worked with various home and lifestyle brands not limited to West Elm, Apple, John Lewis, Habitat, MADE, Caran D'Ache + No.3 Gin. Emma is also a regular contributor to Hunker where she writes about design trends and interior advice.

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