Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cover design & illustrations // Uitagenda Rotterdams Uitburo // Stof Rotterdam



During my internship I was lucky enough to work as a graphic designer for Rotterdamse Schouwburg. Now, almost 10 years later, I collaborated with Albert (my former mentor during my internship) again. Meanwhile he set up his own design agency; Stof Rotterdam in Rotterdam and this time we worked together for Rotterdam's Uitagenda and this is the result. I was asked to make the Magazine's cover for this years start of the cultural season and a series of colorful kids illustrations for the Children's Agenda insert. I am a great fan of live performances, theater and music and I realized, while working on this project, I miss that creative energy going around, working in this creative energetic environment. Uitburo Rotterdam has also published a short interview on their website which you can read here. All in Dutch! Sorry guys.

So I am very happy I will be back working for performance theater this upcoming year too. I am part of a team working for Stills. A performance written by Caroline Rottier that will be part of the Art Brut project during Mons 2015, Cultural Capital of Europe 2015.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Happy birthday Dick Bruna // The man that made me follow my dream and inspired me to do what I am doing today // A short story about an amazing illustrator

I wanted to write about this man for ages but never got around to do so. This summer Dick Bruna decided to stop illustrating and enjoy retirement after 61 years of creating whimsical illustrations. And with his birthday today I thought this would be a great day do drop something about this warm Mister.



For those of you that do not know this man, a little introduction: Dick bruna was the creator of Miffy, the little adventurous bunny little toddlers all over the world get to know during their bedtime stories. But he has also made numerous other books and stories and started his career as a graphic designer.

During my Graphic Design studies we had to interview someone we looked up to. I knew that mister Bruna has had worldwide success with his great Miffy books but I also loved where he came from. A history in book publishing, designing book covers for years, yes I wanted to meet this man.

I wrote him a long letter about how awesome I thought he was. Yes, I felt like a teenage groupie going on 22 back then and I never expected a letter in return. He welcomed me to visit him in his Studio in Utrecht. So I prepared some questions, packed my camera and took a train to his hometown Utrecht to meet him.



When I rang the bell and Dick Bruna opened the door I remembered my first thought was; what a sweet smile, his eyes were twinkling and his mustache made his smile look even bigger. He welcomed me with a big hug and offered to make me some tea. While he was preparing our drinks in his studio kitchen he told me he loved interviews, because inviting people over would give him a good excuse to buy some of his favorite cookies. But why they were all so interested in his story he could not figure out. " I am just a man that has made some books, I am not any more special that a guy on the street."

"If someone takes the effort to sit down and write me a letter, sending a responds is the least I can do."

We sat down for a chat and I was caught up in his stories right away. He talked about his daily drawings for his wife before leaving home, how he took his bike to the studio every single day and I loved how he spoke about his fans. Little kids from all around the world sent him little artworks and drawings. Mister Bruna made room in his studio to save each and every single piece that came by mail and told me he sat down to answer all those expressions of admiration, letters, postcards, everyone got a personal thank you from his hand. After all these years, still making time to do so! I was so moved, a man would put so much effort into others.



He showed me his studio. With an impressive bookcase with all his Dutch children's books but also translations of the Miffy books, published all over the world. A little nook to sit in with cushions and kids artwork everywhere. He picked up some artwork "Look what amazing pieces of art. This stencil art was send by a little girl all the way from China, can you believe that?" He opened one of his cabinet drawers and showed me some folders and flyers, some logo designs and magazines that he had worked on. An entire very impressive portfolio was lying there, right in front of me. With his typical colorful illustrations and clean crisp typography. And then I saw his drawing table. His glasses, pencils and a large sketchbook. He told me drawing was not as easy anymore. His hands sometimes were too shaky and it took much more time to drawn clear clean lines like he used to. "But now it is up for your generation, nowadays the industry is much more competitive it must be a lot harder to make ends meet with doing what I do. But remember this, it is possible. If a small man from Utrecht can do it, you definitely can do it too."

It has been a great ride: 120 children's books and a respectable age of 87. Mister Bruna, please enjoy your well deserved retirement. Your work will influence many generations to come. And you have inspired me to follow my heart and take the risk to do what I love. I find myself working in my own studio, just doing what I love and people happen to pick up on my work. Thank you mister Bruna! You are an inspirational man.

If you ever visit Utrecht you can also visit the Miffy Museum: The Dick Bruna House, which is very close to Centraal Museum. It is a great place to visit with kids.


Friday, August 22, 2014

A brief visit to Antwerp // City of delicious beer // Jazz // Vintage shops and cultural heritage.

This summer I decided to house sit for friends of ours. I love working from abroad, working out of the office is a great fuel of inspiration and not having a vacation to look forward to, this was a great change. Now I have made a little short list of places I love. Of course there is no way you can bring it down to 5 but maybe you can keep these in mind while visiting the city in the future.

Antwerp is the first city I escaped to after finishing high school. A brief study of Fine Arts introduced me to this great city. My father was also living near Antwerp for over 13 years so I always felt connected to this city and so I have seen how much the city changed after 15 years. Of course this is the capital of fashion with top designers like Haider Ackermann and Dries van Noten but there is so much more to this city than just that love of surface.

Great museums like MAS, Muhka and of course the Beer Brewery Museum. Walking through the city you can see an amazing mix of architecture from the surface but there is much more to see inside. Stop by the old city Library, Henrik Conscience, a small library close to the cathedral, with an amazing collection of old books and a breathtaking interior. If you are a big fan of music you will find numerous places to enjoy live performances. The Muze, an old smokey jazz cafe. Do check out their live agenda if you plan on visiting the city. Great jazz musicians have performed here and this old building by it's self has such a vibrant energy. Antwerp is also a shopaholics paradise.

The city has a great amount of boutiques and shops. Eat your heart out! For vintage lovers: check out the Kloosterstraat for quirky retro furniture or visit the Kammenstraat and Nationalestraat for some old vintage fashion, this area has enough little shops to spend an entire afternoon. But well, down to my favorite top 5 of the city, before I go on and on…



1 Espoo Nordic Design // Vlaamse Kaai
Scandinavian design never seems to go out of fashion. During my trip to new York earlier this year I noticed it this European trend taken over design shops, fashion and furniture design there as well. This design shop was the first Scandinavian design shop to open in Antwerp. They have a great collection of Nordic brands like HAY, Ferm Living, Donna Wilson and Muuto. I love interior decoration and spotting new accessories. If you like clean, light and crisp design you will love this shop. They offer great pieces of furniture, lightning, but they also have amazing little presents and gifts. I founds a gorgeous little necklace here made out of copper. Unfortunately Scandinavian design remains pricy. For a designer like me most furniture is way out of my league. But a girl can dream!

2 Botanical Garden // Leopoldstraat
This little piece of green heaven was built almost 200 years ago next to the old hospital to grow medicinal herbs. Nowadays it is a small park in the middle of Antwerp's city center. Close to Mechelseplein. I love to sit down with a sketchbook and home made lunch and spend a hot summer afternoon in the shade drawing. The garden also has an indoor desert garden with a great collection of cactus plants. You can only visit the indoor garden during weekends. Well worth the visit, they are gorgeous!

3 't Stad leest // Steenhouwersvest
I am a big fan of book shops, in Holland every book stored seems to despair. Every time I visit Antwerp I go treath myself on a long afternoon of booknerding. This beautiful book store is located in a little street near the shopping city center and offers a great amount of children's book and design books. So yes, I love it! But they also sell paper goods, stationary and small home decor items too. A great place to find some inspiration. It also has 'real' books too, just in case you were wondering.



4. Cafématic // Vleminckveld
As a designer working from home I love to search for cute little lunch spots. I found this lunchroom near the Kammenstraat when was working in Antwerp last year during a theater project. This little place, filled up with vintage furniture, offers a great variety of healthy home baked goods. I am a big fan of the Chai Latte, of course. But make sure you leave some room for desert too. Cafematic is also a fun place for a quick stop while on a shopping spree. Antwerp is a city with delicious food so finding a place with good ingredients and a great menu is not very hard. I love this place because of the very friendly staff and the cosy atmosphere.

5. FoMu // Waalsekaai
One of the reasons I really adore Antwerp is it's cultural heritage and a great selection of museums. It is hard to pick just one but for me photography in one of my greatest passions so I would have to choose this amazing museum, all about photography and film. I have seen an amazing selection of politically engaged photographers. Where lot's of museums only show the photograph itself, this museum is uncensored. They tend to pick artists that have something to say over pure esthetic. I am always surprised to see how well documented the collections are and how much effort is but into the story behind the image. There is a big exposition about war photography including images of Richard Mosse, which is definitely worth a visit.

Photo info L/R: Cafematic // Antwerp central station // Botanical garden // Mas Museum // Historical city center // FoMu photograph by Richard Mosse // Espoo Butic

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beach tote tutorial // Cacti Garden project



Spoonflower has had another Little Smilemakers feature on the blog this week. This week, Spoonflower's guest blogger Sara from Radiant Home Studio has been working on a tutorial including this teal & mint colored pattern. If you are curious about how to make this tote bag yourself just visit the Spoonflower blog. Sara also has her own blog on which she posts new sewing tutorials frequently. So if you are looking for some inspiration visit her website and take a look at all the gorgeous projects that she has posted so far.

I must say I am quite happy with the cactus trend going on in crafters-land. I have made this illustrated pattern a few years ago and now this print is one of my best-selling designs for fabric and paper goods. If you would like to purchase a piece of this awesome fabric just check out the Little Smilemakers fabric shop.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Shutterstock Contributors Drink & Draw Rotterdam



A few months ago I was asked to set up a contributors meeting for all Shutterstock Illustrator Contributors. Lot's of create people work by themselves from their home office so this was a nice chance to get some traction from outside of this usual working space. Meet colleagues, chat about work, illustrations and design and hopefully inspire others to also come and join.

Over 40 people showed up on our first Drink & Draw and to give contributors some more insight about the company they have been working for, Gerd had prepared a small presentation. About the company, how it all started, their vision and some information about latest trends.

It was such fun meeting contributors from all parts of the country. One of them told me she was so happy to finally meet other Shuterstock contributors. She had never met any other illustrators before our meet-up. And I understand how nice it can be to get to know others in the business. Learning form each other is so important. If you don't read the blog or forum, working in stock can be lonely, working from your home studio. But I think this is a great first step to get to know each other, people with same interests exchanging experiences and tips.

Hopefully we can do another Drink & Draw soon and keep this great energy alive.

I was amazed by all the positive responds, fun chat's and great feedback. Hopefully we can do another Drink & Draw soon and keep this great energy alive. And I hope to have more time to talk to each of you and to know all of you. Thank you Shutterstock (tnx Jennifer!) for letting this great event happen and a big thanks to Gerd for his presentation and 'props' and the Lungo Rotterdam staff for their great help.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Oh dear! Oh dear! I'm late! // Alice in Wonderland // Some long overdue fabric designs



When I was a little girl Alice in Wonderland was my very favorite book. I kept her story underneath my pillow hoping to dream about her adventures in this amazing country of smoking caterpiller's and awesome non-birthday parties. I was fascinated by the cat, the colors, the diversity of settings and places. Stuck in a hallway, lost in a forest. Her story seemed to take her a lifetime.

When Tim Burton made a movie about this children's book, oh my, I couldn't wait to see it. With Johnny Depp starring as the Mad Hatter. How could someone top that? Although I loved the screenplay, I am a big fan of Tim Burton, the new book I found was even better. Now, many years later I am still taken by this amazing trip of Alice and see myself buying a book for my little niece. Rebecca Dautremer has illustrated an amazing book of illustrations that tell this story in a visual way. Gorgeous drawings that go far beyond my imagination.

Feeling all 'wow' again about this story I decided to make my own little Alice in Wonderland set of designs containing 3 seamless patterns for both boys and girls fabric. Designs that will be available in the official Little Smilemakers Studio fabric shop at Spoonflower within a few weeks. I had so much fun making this. Hope you will like the prints too.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Crazy Cat Planner // Ankepanke brings 50+ illustrators together for her new project // Pre-order now!



"About 5 weeks ago it started to ‘itch’ again and I felt like creating a new planner" Ankepanke says. Maybe you’ve seen the GIRL or Pretty in Pink planner? This time it’s a Crazy Cat Lady planner! 50+ creatives from all over the world participate in this new project.

Ankepanke has taken initiative to, once again, bring all these amazing pieces of art together. Last year she already made the Pretty in Pink planner in which I was asked to participate as well. This year I send in my most recent Cat theme. You can now pre-order the Crazy Cat Planner in her Etsy shop. So sign up if you are a cat lady and you wish to get a copy. If you are curious about Ankepanke's work check out her blog.

Here are a few of the amazing illustrations that are featured in the planner.
Click on the images to go to the creators website.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why you shouldn't be jealous of people who are doing well for themselves // a little personal note about a personal battle



All right. I have thought about it over and over again and realize this is also a part of me that needs to be addressed. I know the internet is a happy place and as a designer my words should be inspirational and motivating people. Just don't read any further then. This is not much of a happy piece. There are so many interviews I am having nowadays and so many questions I need to answer. But there is never a time to get real about this part of my life. I love what I do, I love to be a designer. And the interviews are a way to make this all look like an amazing fairy tale which it is, it can be as well. The way I can earn my living now is simply the best way for me but it is not all a choice. I am so happy to work with people from all over the world, working night hours and weekends, flexible hours they would say. But for me this is a necessity too.

Drawing was my greatest passion even when I was a little girl. But I loved to do athletics, horse back riding and all sorts of other active things. What a lot of people do not realize is that I had to give up a lot of those things. When I was 8 I had trouble walking and holding my pencils, by the age of 15 my doctors told be not to move and let my joints rest for an entire summer. I had to give up a lot to sit still, all by myself, in a house that did not feel like home, while my friends went out enjoying summer. I started drawing again. But more than an hour was impossible. My fingers just could not hold a pencil any longer than that. And I realized I would never compromise that much ever again.

Three years ago, working for a company here in The Hague, work during office hours was impossible, the pain was driving me crazy and the stress caused me to lose a lot of weight. (Strangely enough people kept telling me I looked good at that time, losing weight and all… That was even more painful) I tried to look into what was wrong with my body and why I was stuck in this cycle of pain. My doctor advised me to just start working again even though I still was not able to sit down for more than an hour. Then I realized, my body does not meet this system, 9 to 5, it does not work for me, I can not sit for 8 hours straight each day. I had to make a choice; either be held captive in 'how I should work' in this business structure of ours with pain driving be up against the walls or take matters into my own hands. So I quit my job and started on my own.

At this moment, using my keyboard, typing hurts. The weather is changing and my body feels like one piece of concrete. What is your biggest inspiration they ask me time after time. There is another reason for me traveling as much as possible. A warmer dry climate keeps away the pain in my joints & muscles, lets me do all those things I can not do here in Holland. Taking a long walk for instance. Or enjoy long warm nights outside with friends without this paint in my body the next day.

Today is a bad day. I got up at 11AM. Most people would call it being 'lazy.' People that know me would never in the world call me a lazy person. But for my work this is very difficult. How can people I work with respect that, not having any insight about who I am. I can not blame people around me not taking it serious. But I simply cannot move my body until it moves. People can not see a broken leg or arm. My pain is hidden and I try not to let my life be ruled by what I cannot do. But I have limitations. And I will have to keep them in mind and be creative with that.

So I carry on working long hours during summer time when I can stretch my body to the limit to make a living and provide for myself. Hoping it will pay off during fall and winter when pain will increase. It is not all that easy as it seems.

All though I do things that are worth the pain sometimes: I skip the summer festival's and try to let it not bother me, I can not sleep in a tent and celebrate these summer days outside with my friends. I would love to be part of that but I have to let some things go. And it is so hard to tell them over and over again I am just not up for it because I do want to share those moments so bad. A depressing thought that really hurts, but not as much as my body will after the fact. I have to think about the bigger picture.

Don't be jealous of people who are doing well for themselves. They have to fight for it, they all fight there own battles you don't have any notion about. Jealousy is only a destraction to not have to change things yourself.


I deliberately did not add the 'physical 'box' i checked.' Every experience is a different one.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Shutterstock Instagram Takeover // Behind the scenes at the studio & a great dose of inspiration



Instagram must be my favorite type of social media. I am not e great writer, I a visual person. So when I was asked to take over Shutterstock's instagram feed for a week I was more that happy to do so.

Posting for someone else is a completely different experience. Shutterstock followers tend to choose Photography over illustration. So this was a great chance to post some more visual work made with different materials. Show followers how I work and what inspires me. But of course this take-over was also a great chance to show a little bit about my country and the places I visit, little snaps of my daily life. I love to travel but forget there is also a lot to see right where I come from. Especially for followers from so many countries around the world.

I was amazed with the great feedback I got. I am so happy I was able to show off a bit more illustrations and patterns. If you want to see all images take a look at the Shutterstock Instagram feed. And don't forget to follow @littlesmilemakers too.



If you would like to read more about my take-over you can check Shutterstock's blogpost written by the awesome Sarah Maloy. Thank you for this great story.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Feathers of Freedom // Birds of Paradise



This week I am working from abroad. There is no greater place than working in a buzzing city that is full of creative energy. I am spending my days working from my dear friends apartment in the old part of the city of Antwerp.

Today I was able to schedule a visit the MoMu. Antwerp's famous fashion Museum with a great expo about feathers in fashion: Birds of Paradise. I am a big fan of the feather. That sounds a bit strange right? But if I tell you that feathers to me are the ultimate symbol of freedom it will explain why I love this little piece of wings that I also use in my art often.

As an artist I need to feel free in order to create, too many boundaries will create a 'writers block.' But ultimate freedom in design is not only bliss, I do need some sort of 'rules' to work with.

For me a big chunk of the designing process is solving a problem: A clients request for a design. How could something be appealing to a target group, what color will give that feeling to the design I wish for, a certain theme has to be kept in mind. But if there are too many things to worry about it will blur my view on a design, there is not enough freedom to create.

In my daily life I try to live as 'free' as possible. I try not to be the airhead consumer and only buy things which i really need. I try to be open minded about things I haven't experienced and done before.
So yes, feathers for me represent that what I am passionate about and what drives me to create. the museum has a great collection of designer's items from Vuitton to Balenciaga, dresses, shoes, and beautiful feathered hats. If you are passionate about fashion, go see the exhibition if you are visiting Antwerp. You can visit the MoMu until August 24th.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ahoy Amigo // Grizzly bear woodland // Kids clothes



Ahoy Amigo is a little shop in the US that sells adorable little kids fashion. Fun typographic quotation t-shirts and cute little pants, leggings and accessories for mini peeps. This Little Smilemakers Grizzly Bear Woodland fabric was featured in their Etsy shop. Take a look and find out what other Little Smilemakers Studio designs are in their fall collection. If you would like to create your own little mini peeps fashion check the Spoonflower shop for more fun fall and winter fabric themes

Monday, August 4, 2014

One year of animal illustrations // Woodland Fall // Winter Wonderland // Indian Jungle and Brazil Paradise



July was a month filled with great new projects. One of these projects was for my former internship collegue. Ten years after my internship at Rotterdamse Schouwburg he contacted me to work on this great new series of illustrations for UITagenda Rotterdam. A cultural magazine that also includes a kids culture agenda. I was asked to design a new series of designs for the children's section of the magazine. These four patterns are a little preview for what is coming. This upcoming cultural season kicks off with a cute woodland fall theme. But I was also asked to make a design for the magazine cover. Looking forward to see all designs in printing.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Fabric hotsellers // Start your fall projects and get inspired by new geometrics and woodland trends



Time to announce this years Little Smilemakers Studio fabric hotsellers. Lot's of peeps are already starting their fall projects. Warmer darker colors are very popular. The geometric trend will be going on for a while and of course the domestic animals, cacti and woodland themes will stay.

After the Aztec trend the geometric wave has just grown stronger and stronger. Together with scandinavian minimals this trend will survive fall and winter. A mix of organic drawings and geometric animals will pop up in fashion and home decor. Also the pastels will appear even on winter themes this year. A natural warm earthy tone color palette will be introduced this fall. Something to balance out the cleanliness of the whites and popping neon colors. So yes, everything goes this year. There is enough to choose from in the Little Smilemakers fabric shop. Take a look and start your fall projects. Have fun!

Are you inspired to work on a new project? Visit the fabric shop at Spoonflower and see what else is available.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jeff Wall // A day at the museum // Explore cultural differences all over the world



How often do you visit a gallery or museum? I was just in time to visit the Jeff Wall exhibition at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Holland has some great art galleries and museums and I love to see all these different artists and skills come to life. I often visit the Pulchri Studio close to my home in The Hague where they have new art up on the walls every few weeks & I love Foto Museum Antwerp - FoMu where I have seen so many talented photographers show (off) their work. I try to visit museums during my traveling. It is lovely to see cultural differences, there is a different way of expression in each part of the world. What museum would you recommend in your country/city?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Enjoy Eid Mubarak // A little postcard for my Muslim friends



I have several Muslim friends and I am always somewhat jealous about their great celebrations. There are so many special holidays all around the world, every country every society and every religion has it's own amazing celebrations. Not at all jealous about not eating for a month though, not eating makes me so cranky! Most muslims mark Ramadan by fasting from sunrise to sunset, during the summer those days can seem endless. So indulge! Happy Eid!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Live on the Shutterstock Blog // 5 Must-See Global Destinations for a Great Boost of Inspiration




As mentioned in an earlier post I have been working on a piece for Shutterstock's blog. 5 must see places that inspired me to create. ! Havana, New York, Costa Rica, Berlin and of course my beloved India. How is that for a kick off? Enjoy reading!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Inspiration and things that matter // finding your own style and designing your creative process



Since my last trip, New York in June, I have been working on several Shutterstock things. Taking over Instagram later this week, I have been setting up Holland's first Drink & Draw contributor's event for Shutterstock but also I have been writing a piece for the contributor's blog which let me to think about what I do and what is important to me.

I feel so blessed that I am able to do what I do now. Make my living with illustrations and patterns. During my studies I found it hard to choose a more 'abstract' way of living. So instead of choosing Illustration as mayor I studied graphic design and typography. This foundation, combined with my passion for illustration and photography makes my work so much more diverse each day. I am so happy for choosing another direction and not be limited like other designers. For me designing is about inventing, diversity, searching for solutions between the 'set rules' for the final product and my own hand writing merged into a piece that works for the company I work with.

I see lot's of designers trying to hold on to their own handwriting, meaning repeating designs, they just end up making the same thing over and over again. I love to experiment with different types of materials. Ink, paper cutting, vector drawing. I am so happy to work with all these different techniques and companies still choose me for my own style. The foundation of my designs is always visible. I think every artist evolves. When a musician looks back on the music he made years ago he would say: "I would do that completely different now". I would be bored out of my head if I had to make the same design in another version day after day.

I do have some preferences, white backgrounds, poplin' colors, I work with. Some limitations to a design are necessary to accomplish a great result. But do not limit yourself. Let the client set your rules and stay open for growth. If you then are able to trust your own skills and experience you can make a living with doing what you love.

My inspiration lies in diversity and experiencing new things, I think my designs reflect that what is most important to me.

Featured images are available via Sutterstock, Society6 & Spoonflower. Also available for licensing.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Free happy Eid printable poster // Hamsa hand of Fatima // Id-al-Fitr



ramadan is almost over so it is time for our Muslim community to celebrate with lot's of love, family gatherings and food. Happy Eid to all of you muslim peeps!
Postcard available via Kaartje2Go.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

// Brand new baby elephant designs // New series for boys & girls nursery textiles, invitations and wallpaper



With over 3500 downloads the colorful kids elephant patterns are still our all time bestsellers in Little Smilemakers Studio stock portfolio. I have seen the design on bags, postcards, an entire stationary range, wall art for kids. From China to Brazil, in giant shops like Wallmart and on little tiny markets in India. These little elephants have reached the entire globe in retail by now. So yes, after all these years and after only making some small updated versions of the original design I thought it was about time to make some new elephant designs. Some seamless patterns for print and fabric, and some cute designs including typography. What do you think?

All elephant designs can be purchased via Shutterstock. Check the license agreement before downloading. For commercial use, please contact the Studio.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Sweet nappies series // Bambino Mio



The series of nappies that were launched at spring at Bambino Mio were a great success. The prints were so successful, there had to be a whole new series. Soon to come!