Monday, February 23, 2015

Sources of inspiration: Fresh whites // contrasting black and 50 shades of gray // pale nudes and beige.

Little Smilemakers designs usually are colorful prints on a white surface. The past few weeks we have been redecorating the Little Smilemakers Studio office and put up some pale nude powder tone prints. Whites make colors pop and there is no other color that creates a more peaceful environment to work in. I was inspired by numerous visits to art galleries and museums that always present art on clean fresh white walls. But the winter also brings a clean crisp vibe into the office. The powder white snow, the softened sounds absorbed by the thick layer of snow. During the winter I always feel the need to make my surroundings more calm.

After redecoration the studio I felt like holding on to the new calm color scheme of the work place. I decided to make an entire series of designs that would be gender neutral. The prints and patterns that are being sold as gender neutrals are usually based on soft pastel tones of green and yellow. Since I am not a big fan of both colors I decided to make an entire series of with fresh whites contrasting blacks and shades of gray and beige. Little Smilemakers designs usually contain numerous bright colors. It has been a challenge but also very mindful to work with only white, black and shades of earthy tones. Imagine the number of colors that usually are used in the prints. I did not have to worry about a color scheme for a change. It was all reduced to the basics and focus was on the composition and detailing more that on working with a certain color scheme. A relief!

This month I was also arranging a baby shower for one of my best friends and it strikes me that gender neutral prints, wallpapers, home decor items and fabrics are so hard to find since there are enough creative artists working on the theme. I hope with this series of designs there is enough to choose from for decoration your soft neutral nursery.

Reducing colors might be useful in the gender neutral theme but I still love to work with bright strong colors. But if you are looking for more beige and gray tones, we have an entire collection ready to be produced on fabrics. Geometric abstracts, woodland animals, Indian summer themes and many more. So check out the shop. All designs will be added to our collection first week of March so stay tuned!

Friday, February 13, 2015

New series of designs // Bambino Mio nappies

Before we close up for the weekend and finish Valentine preperations there is a little cute something to share here on the blog. This fall we have been working on a series of new designs for Bambino Mio. And after months of patiently waiting the new range of four designs is finally out in the shops.

Bambino Mio is a company that specialized in baby goods and last year we collaborated for their first patterned Miosolo reusable diaper series. After launching four Little Smilemakers Studio designs last year we were asked to add another batch of designs to their adorable baby range.

This time all nappies are gender neutral and to celebrate the new Miosolo prints, Bambino Mio has a little giveaway on their Facebook page. So do check out the new Cheeky Monkey, Circus Time, Pandamonium and Forest Friends designs. And look at those cute little models! Pick your favorite and enter their Facebook competition.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Be my valentine // new postcard & print designs // lovely mail

Little Smilemakers designs are available at several postcard and stationary companies all around the world. There is one company in Holland we are working for directly. Kaartje2Go is an online website from which you can send out a postcard to your loved one. You can choose a designs, add images and can even upload text in your own handwriting.

Since social media took over there are not many people sending out postcards anymore but digital mailing services have grown ever since. It is all about that little sweet gesture. Who doesn't want to receive a little note from their loved one with Valentine's Day? I must say it has been a few years, well maybe even 10. Yes, I know how to pick some very unromantic boyfriends (working on that!) Hopefully my Valentine knows how to surprise me this year. No need for a big present. Just a little note is more that enough.

Last year typical red and pink prints were hot sellers. Popular trends this year are minimalistic designs. Basic black and whites with color pops. A more simplistic style related to the Scandinavian trend going on in surface pattern design. But also typography in trending this year. Hand lettering with sweet notes with a little quirky touch. With a background in typography it is always nice to step aside from our daily surface pattern design routine. These hand lettered designs were made in ink and pencil.

So here we are featuring some of this years new trending designs for Valentine. So have your pick, browse around this years most popular postcard designs and send one to your BFF or love of your life. Not sure what to write to your loved one, family member or friend? Hallmark has come up with a series of sentences if you lack inspiration or don't know what message is appropriate. So if you do not know what to write check out Hallmark's blogpost about what to write to your valentine this year.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sources of inspiration: Amsterdam in a day // A place for foodies, artists and shopaholics // 5 must-see places for creatives

Since I was born in Holland, Amsterdam is one of my all time favorite places to visit when I need a serious boost of inspiration. I come from the southern part of the country where, during my childhood, my surrounding lacked of creative energy. So moving to an area with museums, pubs, night shops and 24/7 laundromat places was for me the ultimate taste of freedom. Everything seemed possible.

You can easily mistake Amsterdam for 'that city where you can get some legal pot' and yes if you walk outside of Amsterdam central station the smell of this tourist trap will be the first thing you'll experience. But for me, born and raised in Holland, this place is not about the legal soft drugs. Actually, I am not a big fan of drugs. My mind is crazy weird all by itself, I don't need an extra layer or a blurred perspective for now. For me Amsterdam is a cultural melting pot. With new people coming and going, filling the city with a fresh cool air in which anything can happen.

The past few years a lot has happened in this city. Big companies shut down and small creative studio's popped up, little galleries, coffee shops, in which you can actually drink Italian-proof coffee and not smoke pot, small boutiques with Scandinavian labels. After a few years these places are maturing as well. There is room and appreciation for genuine products and customers are happy to see refreshing, one of a kind pieces of creative expression. Every little place has it's own special atmosphere and energy.

Of course Amsterdam is like a playground full of places to see. The canal houses itself are breathtaking. The city has some amazing Museums and sights. But in this post I would like to shine a little extra light on those little gems you might miss while visiting the city for the first time. So here is a little top 5. It could have easily been a top 20 though.

1 // Bakers and Roasters
You can sit down, eat and not leave this place for an entire day. Every plate looks crazy good! This bakery, in which you can also have breakfast, brunch or lunch is definitely worth the try. The p The menu is inspired by their owners from New Sealand, pancakes, poached eggs and cocktails are all on there as well as New Sealand wine, and sitting down for a meal reminds me of a brunch in new York, you can even get a Mimosa with your meal. They serve wholesome sandwiches, colorful salads & delicious hot pies fresh from the oven. Oh my god! Well, no need to write more about this place than this: Go there with an empty stomach and eat your heart out. :) // Eerste Jacob van Campenstraat 54, 1072 BH Amsterdam

2 // Huis Marseille
This amazing architectural building dates back to 1665 and is located at the Keizersgracht. It houses Amsterdams first Photography museum. The interior is simply breathtaking and if you want to see a place of Dutch prosperity this is a good mix of architecture and photography. The museum itself has a diverse selection of old and new work. Young photographers and old iconic pieces go hand in hand with a focus on Dutch, Japanese and South African influences. The art that is shown here is usually more edgy and intense than a traditional museum of photography would show. It is not only about esthetics here. You will leave each room filled with wonder. // Keizersgracht 401, 1016 EK Amsterdam

3 // Cottoncake
The name gives it away already. This place is both a shop and a place to sit down, have a coffee and have a piece of cake. But it also has little art exhibits. The current exhibition “Flowers, Leafs, Memories” by Amsterdam based artist Anita Bogers is on show only until March. I love this little two story boutique. I am not a big fan of shopping and I adore places that have only a few carefully selected items that are basic with a twist. The place itself is light and inviting and the brands in their collection differ every season. And what I really enjoy most about this place is that it is not a typical Dutch energy here. You can feel the owners have been influenced by other places. There is a great respect for natural, pure, basic colors and materials. Quality. // Eerste van der Helststraat 76 HS, 1072 NZ Amsterdam

4 // Grimm Gallery
I am a big fan of Atelier van Lieshout with his industrial inspired art projects so when I crossed this little gallery walking around Amsterdam this exhibit took me by surprise. Famous names have been working together with this gallery the Atelier van Lieshout exhibit 'power hammer' is open to the public until March. I love how the work always is a search for another perspective in the every day. It can be revolving objects but it seems there is always a search with utopia at the end of the road. In this bright gallery you can see some scaled power tool models with a soft pastel color and surprisingly huggable texture. By enlarging the every day raw industrial tools the shape and form seem to be an esthetic sculpture. Go see for yourself! // Frans Halsstraat 26, 1072 BR Amsterdam

5 // My Little Patisserie
My Little Patisserie is just a few steps away from the famous Albert Kuijp market and is right across Cottoncake. In the upcoming Pijp neighborhood there are a lot of places to discover but this little Paris bakery is a serious must-do. The bakery specializes in delicious desserts, smooth creamy fillings with delicate flavors and a crunchy crust Since I started dating this Italian guy I became a serious coffee and food snob and I must say My Little Patisserie serves the best espresso I have had in Amsterdam so far. So if you want to hide out for the rain while shopping at Albert Kuijp market or just want to warm up and have a little break, pop in and enjoy some amazing Rose filled dessert or try a chocolate éclair. // Eerste van der Helststraat 63 HS, 1073 AD Amsterdam

Monday, February 2, 2015

New clients listed // Little Smilemakers Studio website updates

Oops! We were kinda chocked, it has been four months ever since we had done our last update on the website. We have been so busy creating new things and working with new clients, updating the website is the first thing we forget. So it was about time to add our new clients to our list. Unfortunately there are lot's of small businesses using Little Smilemakers designs without permission. If you want to make sure you purchase legit fabric, fashion, home decor and accessories with our designs check out our client list.
If you come across our prints and designs else where please send us a little note!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Swede Pea Brand // Made with Little Smilemakers Fabric

Swede Pea is a new company that specializes in little ones fashion and accessories and is located in the San Francisco Bay area. Stephanie opened up her online boutique this past December where you can find her hand made creations. We are very proud to see our Little Smilemakers designs used for numerous Swede Pea items and are happy to feature this new business on the blog.

After giving birth to her daughter Stephanie was inspired by her little baby girl to go after her long time dream. To create clothes for babies and toddlers that their mama's could match with an accessory. After months of preparation the website has been launched and the products are listed. Now you can find some very cute headbands, scarves, leggings and bibdanas in her shop but there is even more to come. This spring and summer, shorts, skirts, rompers and some mommy accessories will be added to the Swede Pea collection as well. We can not wait to see the collection grow.

"I've always loved to sew, knit, crochet, paint, draw and really anything creative and crafty. I don't have a degree in design or art. I'm a self-taught seamstress. I think I got the creative genes from my Swedish grandmother who used to sew a lot and she also does a lot of crafting, like crocheting and woodwork. I remember how much I loved being in her sewing room and watch her create."

Stephanie was born and raised in Sweden and her style is definitely Scandinavian inspired. The company name also reflects her roots. Swede Pea stands for Swedish Pea, based on the nickname they gave her when she was a little girl herself: the famous fairy tale princess that had trouble sleeping because of one little pea written by Hans Christian Andersen. If you have never heard of the story, go read it, it was also one of my favorite stories when I was a little kid.

Growing up I was called, Prinsessan på ärten (The Princess and the Pea), by family and friends. So when thinking of a name we came up with Swede Pea. I loved it right away!

Stephanie has a good idea of what designs she wants to include in her collection and tries to be consistent in her choice of fabric, colors and prints. For her collection she works with two other fabric designers; Elvelyckan Design and MiaMea Design, both Swedish companies. "I try to pick patterns that are unisex but sometimes it's hard because there's so much out there that is very girly. I like the unisex idea because I don't want to limit colors because of the sex of a child. Colors should be mixed and for both girls and boys."

So for her first few items Stephanie has chosen to work with a bunch of Little Smilemakers designs. The Geometric Feather print with minty blue, soft pastel coral, black and whites. The Pine Tree print with little lime color pops. The Aztec Feathers design in a vivid summer color scheme and the Geometric Triangle print in pink. And look how adorable those little ones look! Curious to see what else Swede Pea Brand has listed? Take a look at the Facebook page and stay up to date, or go to the shop and order some of her awesome pieces for your little one right now. You can also follow Swede Pea via Instagram @swedepeabrand.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A designing process // A brief step by step // From a cold crystal winter hike to a collection of woman's accessories

Since the cold weather is kicking in this week I thought it would be a good idea to talk a bit about my winter inspired collection, a series of designs I have worked on during the winter, and talk about the process of creation. From a walk through a cold winter forest to a collection of woman's accessories. From start to finish.

Last year I was asked to make another collection for Veritas Belgium. I just came back from my trip through the backwaters of India when I started the process of designing a new series of surface pattern designs during the freezing cold winter days of 2014.

With the raw images of India still in my head and after some winter hikes throughout the cold Dutch nature I started my research for this new series of prints. The first step is choosing a material. Usually I start drawing with a pen or pencil, but for this I felt like using a more raw material to make my drawings. Ink and dry brushes to represent the sharp edges of a winter day. The raw outline as an intense reflection of my present being.

White paper & black ink
I always start my drawing process on white paper with black ink. Color is something that will be added in a later stage. First I try to find a shape to represent what I want to create and what I feel. A combination of those two. The new collection should have a little look and feel of the collection I created a year before. This collection should be a logic follow up on what was already made. But a year later there is a different perspective to translate into the new design series. What I know already is that I want to use the raw intense emotion of the cold weather: create a translation of this raw winter woodland. The harsh shapes, clean crooked branches and cold winter weather vegetation.

100 pieces of paper
Finding the right shape for the foundations of the design takes up most time in the designing process. Searching for a base shape can take up to weeks. This collection was made with Indian Ink so that means I will have to be patient until the wet ink is dry too. This process of painting still is a pure translation of how I feel. Thoughts only get in the way of creating a pure output at this stage. How I look and feel can be brought back into simple shapes and if that shape is found I try to improve it and start repeating it until I feel it is just right. That means ending up with piles of paper with similar repetitive shapes. Painting is like a meditation. No thoughts only conversions of emotions translate to paper.

In search of composition
After finding the basic shapes the process begins of making the analog drawings into one colored vector shapes. My scanner is my best friend in the studio and is making a lot of working hours. Luckily for this process I have an assisted digitalizing the work. For this particular series of designs I have created almost a hundred pieces of paper filled with ink drawings. All these shaped will be imported into one vector document. From there the search to a strong basic repeat starts. Making combination of shapes, create layers add little textures and detailing. Another shape will evolve from here. The final prints should be related to one another but also need to have a design that is strong enough on itself. Should the shape be smaller of larger. Should a basic repeat be companied with a more tossed and contrasting composition?

Balancing colors & new compositions
Adding colors is the next step. Shapes can have a very different feel if you combine colors. Will the shape be strong enough? Will details fade or will they be too aggressive? Usually I start out with a few color schemes. Swatches I put together out of a pack of Pantone cards. For this series of designs I also had some color input from my client to work with and I will have to be looking for the right balance of working on a trend and creative a Little Smilemakers design without losing the authenticity. With a selected color scheme I will add the digital color.

When the colors are integrated into the repeat the files will be prepared for the sample printing process. That means the designs will be send to the client who will produce the final product with the print. At this stage the samples will result in small color tweaks. And then it can take up to a year to finally see the entire collection as a whole. But when it is finally there it is time to celebrate!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

2015 trend colors // New retro poppy flower winter garden

Trends. It is something we just have to work with sometimes. And even though we try to stay true in our designs sometimes we have to follow the trend instead of creating the new trend. This winter we have been working around the new Pantone 2015 color scheme. Here are a few preview designs of our new Poppy Garden series.

Little Smilemakers surface pattern designs are usually clean cut designs in either bright popping colors or pastel shades and tons of white. So creating a series of designs in this new palette of colors meant creating something out of our comfort zone. Dark colors and warm tones. But new things evolve in inspiring combinations of colors too. So here is a little preview of what we have been working on.

These apple and floral retro designs are part of a new series of fabric that will be available from February. So stay tuned for their release date!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Little Knights - Winter Woodland - Police & Thieves // Little Smilemakers for Made By Ann - Baby goods

This summer we have finished our first series of designs for Made by Ann. A small start-up in baby accessories. This winter we finally could see the result: the cute winter collection of blankets, pillows and small baby goods.

Made by Ann is a small company located in Poland that specializes in baby textiles but also sells numerous handy items for your friends baby shower. Perfect gifts for your expecting friend or family member. For the winter collection we have been focussing on cool boy prints. Right now we are already finishing up the new spring/summer collection that also include new girly patterns but these oldies are too cute not to post here up on the blog. Are you curious about Ann's shop? Take a look at her Facebook page and check all amazing stuff she has to offer.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Made with Little Smilemakers Studio Fabric // January 2015

It is so exciting to see a finished project after working hard on a new collection or illustrations for our clients. But with finished fabric designs it is even a bigger surprise to see what customers create. To see a final products evolve when people put in their own creative energy.

We have already seen a lot of awesome sewing projects made by Little Smilemakers fabric costumers. This month we made a little selection out of the dozen photographs that were sent to us or that we were tagged in. Cute home decor items. Personalized bedding, scarfs and head bands. So much to choose from!

This month we have chosen to feature some contemporary prints, some abstract geometric themes. With an amazing result. What do you think about these cute colorful circus theme abstract geometric leggings? And these series of home decor pillows made with Veritas new winter collection fabric. But our favorite must have been the little baby romper in blue. Isn't it adorable?

Want to start on a new sewing project yourself and are you in need of some fun fabric. Take a look at the entire Little Smilemakers Spoonflower fabric collection here. If you would like to send over one of your finished baby fashion or home decor projects send us an email!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top 5 designs for Valentine // Romantic winter love themes and soft abstract pastels

Valentines Day is a day to surprise your beloved with a little extra gesture of your love. Send out a postcard, bring home some flowers or create something unique with one of these new Love inspired designs that are launched just in time.

For all romantics this is the time to start your valentine DIY projects. With only a month to go we would like to show you this year's new designs available on fabric, wallpaper, postcards and also know designs that are featured here are available for licensing.

This year Little Smilemakers Studio has worked on some new Valentine inspired designs. These are this years most popular love themes.

1 // Hello Gorgeous - postcard & poster series
2 // Little Quirky Hearts - Fabric & Wallpaper
3 // Love Antlers - Fabric & Wallpaper
4 // XOXO Cupid Love - Fabric & Wallpaper
5 // I Love Your Stupid Face - postcard & poster series

There can never be too much love in your life. Send that postcard to your secret lover. And even if you are single and not looking for a relationship, Valentines Day is a great day to celebrate life and love. Spend the day with your best friend, your awesome neighbor or make someone close to you feel a little extra important.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy // Print & Pattern // 2015

First of all a happy New Year to all you readers. I hope you all had an amazing christmas. We are all back in business. Already working on some new projects, some new exciting design series are in the making and we already finished some awesome things in this first week of the new year.

But January is also a time to reflect on an awesome 2014. With new clients and great finished projects and collections. The first year in which we started working for Africa, and added numerous new clients from Australia, Canada, Poland, Denmark and UK to our list of licensees. We made our annual trip to Heimtextil in Frankfurt where we met with new clients flying in from all over the world. We worked on a new collection of little babies and toddler shoes. In May there was a very exciting visit to the Empire State Building where we had a meet up with the great peeps of Shutterstock. It just kept on going.

The Spoonflower portfolio grew into a great online fabric shop with more than 700 trendy designs, quirky kids textiles and fun geometric abstracts. The design featured with this blogpost was 2014 best selling fabric. Keep sending in those finished projects. We love to see what you create!

At the end of 2014 another Little Smilemakers Studio collection was released in Veritas shops. Homewear, fabric and accessories with new retro prints inspired by an amazing overwhelming trip to India. A lot has happened! Hopefully 2015 will be as fruitful as the year we now say goodbye to.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sources of inspiration: Rotterdam // a day on a bike // Top 10 little gems and modern architecture

In 2014 the city of Rotterdam made the top 10 in the list of 52 Places to go to in 2014 according to the New York Times. And I would have to agree on that one. Rotterdam is a city worth to explore. When I was a student I lived in the old Northern part of this city and in 10 years a lot has changed. I can still miss being there to witness it all.

My first introduction to a creative future was in Rotterdam. A place where I could lose myself, things were happening. When I moved from a typical Dutch city with canals and old architecture to this very modern place for my studies I felt home instantly. Everything was diverse. People, food, architecture, art. It still to this day is one of my favorite cities to find a boost of inspiration. I would just get my bike and camera and my little Bill Cunningham comes out.

Rotterdam has a very complex history. The beautiful old city was bombed in 1940 and had to be rebuilt from scratch. Only a few old buildings were left after the city stopped burning. Imagine the possibilities if you have an entire downtown city as your canvas as an architecture! All though a lot of places had to be built efficiently and cheap to house people as soon as possible, nowadays the city center is a place in which you can see the old and the new, built around water, a new balance. And where ever you go the city never feels like a busy crowded place. The streets are broad and open and there is something to see, something to explore around every corner. They successfully created a city for people, to live in, to be in.

This week I spent Christmas on a bike, cycling through the city. I love photography but never seem to have enough time to actually go out and capture those moments through my Nikon lens anymore. So on a day where everyone would stay in to eat and celebrate I decided to hop on my bike again. I have made a list of interesting places, architecture and historical sights. My personal favorites. If you get the chance to visit this city look beyond the new modern architecture. Get to know the less obvious little gems.

1 // Onderzeebootloods
This submarine pilot is part of the immense port of Rotterdam. This old historical sight is now a place where history and culture come together. In 2010 Museum Boijmans van Beuningen started a collaboration with the city port (RDM) and ever since they have held art exhibits during the summer. In 2013 the port decided to renovate the building and it now is a place where musical and theater performances, fairs and short exhibits are held. You can reach this place over water with the Aqualine ferry that stops under the Erasmus bridge. If you want to see the place, check out what's happening.

2 // De Hef
This industrial bridge, officially named Koningshaven bridge, was built in 1878 and was part of the railway connection to the Southern part of Holland. The construction of the bridge was not a very practical and well thought out one. Since the bridge is a part of the city Port you can imagine there was a lot of water traffic back then. The bridge was not built high enough, modern, bigger ships could not reach the other side without getting stuck so after a serious accident in 1918 the port decided to turn the middle part into a lift (hef). The metal construction over the Maas river still is a reminder of the old city infrastructure and is now part of it's skyline. Every time I pass this bridge it reminds me of how much the city has changed over the years.

3 // Markthal
The new market building is Rotterdams most recently finished architectural highlight. The building has a central hall with a food market, shops, bistro's and restaurants. The Markthal is Holland's first indoor market. I am not a big fan of the hype and this place is a little too trendy for me to actually do my food shopping, all organic, farmer's market style, no plain banana's or Rotterdam spirit here, but well, as an artist myself I do love the architecture and the overwhelmingly gorgeous art on the roof. It sure is worth a little peek.

4 // Streetart
Rotterdam is a city where everything is constantly changing. Housing conditions definitely have improved over the years but there are still some area's in the city that will have to wait their turn. Social projects pop up in problem area's. Little urban gardening, sport initiatives. Small home made markets bring people from other places into a neighborhood they would have never visit. But improvements in a district also means empty homes and squatted houses. A great atmosphere for street art to blossom. Entire apartment blocks get painted in one color, remember the blue houses on Beukelswijk, or Hofboogjes? It doesn't matter what happens to there buildings, until they are just waiting to be torn down they serve as a blanc canvas for street artists. Making the city a colorful open air museum.

(Photo source unknown)

5 // Hotel New York
Back in the day while I was living in Rotterdam, this place was my regular stop for a sunday coffee. Hotel new York was opened in 1993 and in 1996 when the Erasmus Bridge was finally connecting the city center with Wilhelmina Pier it started to be a popular place among the people of Rotterdam. When you visit Rotterdam during summer the walk from the city center to this part of town is definitely worth the effort. But you can also take a water taxi from the other side of the Maas. The Hotel has a great menu and during spring and summer you can have a drink on the terrace and enjoy the river view.

Hotel New York used to house the Holland America Lines headquarters. The near Cruise Terminal is part of that international history. The Cruise Terminal is now a place to celebrate and great NYE parties are held there. A great place to celebrate the new year. From here you have a spectacular view over the city and the Erasmus bridge fire works show. This area of Rotterdam is a mix of modern Architecture and old industrial buildings. From this pier you can watch the sunset and see the city skyline light up. If you are in need of a romantic getaway this is the place.

6 // De Maas
The water is a great part of the city. The water forms a break from busy roads and heavy industry. I love to sit down by the water and feel the breezy during a hot summer day but you can also travel from one neighborhood to another over water by ferry. There are numerous boat restaurants that will give you a tour while you are eating and you can enjoy a quick water taxi ride from the park at the Euromast to Hotel new York. The river and the connection to the rest of the waterways of Europe is why this city is the city it now is. A melting pot of different cultures with a strong steady economy. So go see Rotterdam from the water.

7 // Laurenskerk
This church is the only building dating back to the middle ages and was one of few remains after the bombing of the old city of Rotterdam. Because little was left of the old city this places seems a bit odd, surrounded by new modern architecture and close to the cubic houses. Every old Dutch city structure has a central church with a market surrounded by old canal houses and victorian architecture. In Rotterdam the only piece left of this original old part of town was this church. It now is a great place to enjoy a classical music performance and feel part of what once was.

8 // Maastunnel
This tunnel is the oldest you can find in the country. I love the bike and pedestrian area. The steep stairway to enter the tunnels, the tiles, the signing, the colors and the old urban industrial non-nonsense built but also beautiful exterior. The pedestrian and bike tunnel are similar to the one built in Antwerp in 1933 and both have been built in Art Nouveau style.

It feels a bit futuristic if you enter this tunnel. If you go visit this place on an early sunday morning, good chance you will be the only one there. The Tunnel first opened up for traffic during the second world war. The tunnel connects the Northern part of Rotterdam with the Southern part of the city and was a direct connection to the provinces of Brabant and Zeeland. If you want to visit the Southern part of the city you can enter the tunnel from the Park near the Euromast. I can tell you it feels a bit strange cycling through a massive empty tunnel.

9 // Rotterdam Metro
Some of Rotterdam's Metro Stations are definitely worth checking out. Blaak, Central Station and Wilhelmina Pier for instance. You can bring your bike along too so you can just hop on and hop off and find your way back to the city on your bike. I always love to take public transportation while I am visiting a new city. It is a great way to 'feel' where you are. Watch where the eccentric peeps get off on saturday nights or feel the buzz of the city during rush hours.

10 //Oude Haven
All right, if you are driving around on your bike all day you will probably be quite thirsty. The Oude Haven is an old part of the city center that was still intact after the war. It is a little area where you can find numerous pubs and restaurants. If you are coming from the shopping district it might be quite hard to find. It is located near the cubic houses and it is somewhat hidden. Take the stairs from on your right and suddenly you will see a small harbor with old boats and the 'Witte Huis' monument. Sit down, relax and reflect on a great day in the city.

Of course there is so much more to this city. These are just a few high lights. I can go on and on about this place to if you want to read more about Rotterdam keep following the blog.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Little Smilemakers winter fabric collection at Spoonflower // geometric animals and abstracts

For two years we have been selling fabric via Spoonflower. It started out as a little shop for creative house wives and diy peeps but after two year's it has turned into an impressive online webshop with over 600 surface pattern designs, 700 followers and almost 13.000 likes. We are so thankful for all the great comments, shares and fantastic finished product images you all sent us.

In 2015 we will keep adding new designs to the shop. Right now we are working on some new kids fabric, some Valentine's day themes and of course an entire new batch of geometric textile designs. Check out the intire shop at Spoonflower. Take a look at our best sellers and make sure to keep coming back. New designs are added to the shop every month. Check out the fox fabric here. Or maybe you prefer the winter polar bear theme?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 5 // Most popular Little Smilemakers Christmas gifts 2014

With Christmas just one week away it is time to enjoy some last minute Christmas shopping. This winter lot's of Little Smilemakers projects are finally finished and available in shops around the world. After a very busy summer we are now able to see the result. Fun nursery bed linnen, home wear, new storage boxes. For this year we have hand picked our Top 5 favorite Christmas presents.

1 // Fabric for DIY addicts
With new trends and designs added each month Spoonflower is the number one place to shop for your DIY friends. We just added another 30 designs in our Little Smilemakers Spoonflower shop. We have new winter and kids themes, abstract geometric designs and some quirky pastel ones. But if you'd like to start with some new Spring/Summer projects for your small business you can also purchase your fabric here. Take a look around and enjoy!

2 // Home Decor
It is always a blast to work on home decor projects. Wallpaper, storage boxes, family planners and stationary, it is what we love most here. Being part of someone's interior. If you are looking for some Little Smilemakers Studio originals take a look into the Society6 shop. With these fun pillows you can give your living room a little extra character and if you want to change colors and restyle your home they are easy to integrate and add for a quirky personal touch.

3 // Personalize your phone
It has been a year since we started working for Daily Objects. As you might know Maaike is a great fan of India and when she was asked to make an entire range of designs for this new rapidly growing company she was excited to add her Indian designs to their collection of designs. Now more than 200 designs are available on Daily Object's website. Take a look around, there must be something suitable for your friends and family in there.

4 // Sewing supplies and fashion accessories
This year another fall/winter collection by Maaike Boot is available in Veritas shops. If you are located in Belgium or Netherlands you can order the entire range online. Sewing supplies like fabric and sewing storage boxes are part of this year's design series but also fashion accessories: bags, scarfs, undies and cosy home wear. A completely new collection is out now. But be quick! There is not much left!

5 // Tickets to the unknown
Book two tickets to a place you have never been and go explore the world with your bestie or loved one. It is better to invest money in experiences then stuff. Get out of you comfort zone!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas // Kaartje2Go

It is that time of the year again. Time to send your friends and family a little sweet message for the holidays and wish them an awesome new year. This year I have added some cute woodland themed illustrations and Christmas song hand lettering postcards to my Kaartje2Go shop.

Last year around 170 million Christmas cards were sent out in the Netherlands only. Nothing can beat a personal message coming through your mailbox. So check out all Christmas cards and pick your fave. Looking forward to see this years designs on my doormat. I have been working for Kaartje2Go for a few years now and every year I add a couple of new winter, Christmas and December holiday designs. This years series of seasonal postcard designs were inspired by the top 10 all time favorite Christmas songs. Like Michael Bublé's version of It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and Frank Sinatra's Let it snow. Ofcourse Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You is included. The cards are a mix of hand lettering and woodland animals. Cute geometric shaped owls, foxes and grizzly bears in trendy pastel colors all in Scandinavian style. Take a look in the Kaartje2Go shop and take a look at all new designs.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sources of inspiration: Lisboa // City of music and a great creative energy // 5 must-see places for creatives

The city of Lisbon has been on the top of my list to visit for years now but I never got around to do so. I managed to squize in a little trip this November. Where I got to know a little bit about the city, the music, creative spots and I got to meet some lovely people to share some great memories with. When I arrived in my apartment in Rua Augusta, the main shopping street in the old part of town, there was a band playing some amazing jazz right at my front door. A great start for an even better week.

I travel quite a bit for my work but also every spare minute I have I like to discover new things. I love traveling alone when it is just me to worry about. Wandering the streets of a city I don't know gives me a sense of freedom. Everything is new and this is a way for me to open up and get inspired. Feel. Taste. Letting go of my routine. Lot's of designs I have made in the past are little memories from my travels. Peacocks from India, water tanks from new York City, Toucan birds from Costa Rica, the world is such an amazing place with such great diversity. I can not wait to book my next trip. But first it is time to reflect. Take a moment to appreciate what I have seen the past week.

Here you can find a little top 5 of places I think a creative mind would appreciate while visiting Lisbon. Hopefully it will be a little list of inspiration. I sure loved what I have seen.

1 // Streetart
From the old city center, downtown, you can walk up the hill to the St. George's castle. On the Rua Madalena you can find the first stairway. But you will have to search for it a bit, you will pass it easily without noticing it is there. You can also take the famous tram 28 that will bring you up this glorious sight but I recommend a little walk through the steep stairways that go all the way up to the ancient castle. The stairways are all covered in street art and traditional Portuguese tiles. You can see street art with typical Lisboa themes, fado singers and musicians but also fantasy characters and beautiful abstract and figurative art pieces by local artists. The stairways are little streets itself where people leave there front doors open to chat with their neighbors and you can have a little peek inside their daily lives. If you are a fan of modern art you can visit the Berardo Collection in Belém but there is also a lot to discover in the city itself. Walk around and discover all it has to offer.

2 // Romantic city view
I love traveling alone but some things are just a little more awesome when you can share it with a special someone. You can visit St. George's castle for a great view of the city but a little more down hill you can also enjoy the view from the Chapitô y Restô terrace with a little wine, Port of course, and watch the sunset from up hill. A great place for a romantic rendezvous. If you are not up to climbing the hill enjoy a little stroll near the river downtown and have a drink in Bairro Alto to set the mood.

3 // Belém
Enjoy the amazing old architecture that is part of Unesco's Heritage list. Visit the Torre de Belém on the river banks and take a walk through the park. This is a great area to visit on rainy days too. Belém has a few museums like the Museu Berardo in which you can easily spend an entire afternoon looking at amazing art. From Pollock to Picasso, a great collection of fine art. But take a look around and check out the rest of the museums too. There is so much to do and see. Don't forget to take a little stroll through the narrow streets and take a look inside the handicraft shops. Hungry? This is the place to eat Portugal's famous pastries: Pastel de Belém. Don't order just one, you will regret it later. This little custard pastry will be the foodie highlight of your trip.

4 // LX Factory Alcântara
This is where my studio will move to in the future. Well, probably not but I can see myself working from this creative little melting pot under the shadow of De Ponte 25 de Abril, the suspension bridge that connects Lisbon to Almada. LX factory used to be an old industrial place and every little shop, restaurant and creative studio that is now located here will remind you of it's history. Nowadays it is a place where young professionals settle. During the night the place transforms into a trendy hang out. There is a restaurant near the bookshop in which you can dine next to heavy machinery. It tends to get a bit too trendy though. You can also have a quick lunch in the old cantina which is furnished with second hand items. The place might be a bit overpriced for Lisbon standards but the experience itself, exploring these grounds, is worth the extra money.

5 // All night Fado
Lison has a great musical scene. Street musicians playing on every corner and play every type of music you can imagine. You can go to a classical concert or dance in a night club. But if you visit Lisbon, a night of Fado is a night to remember. I was taken to Tasca do Xico by a dear friend, a little bar that was packed with people. But there was no music. After a few minutes they closed the main door (you are not allowed to interrupt fado!) and a 91 year old man stood up and started to sing. It turned out to be a magical night with great wine, great music and great memories.

Of course there is way more to Lisbon than just this Top 5. The Museu Nacional do Azulejo is still on my to do list. I would love to see the Jeronimos Monastery, Madre de Deus Convent and São Roque Church. But I will have to go and do that on my next trip. This city has so much more to discover. I got trapped in the creative energy and I never plan my day by day activities. I travel without any expectations and things just cross your path when you're open to them.

A little note on the side: In Lisbon I stayed with Sara, an amazing host. She has a great, sunny apartment in the city center. You can book one of her rooms via airBNB. Check her profile here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Album Artwork // Ave Maria by Sandra Reemer // The Guardian Angel by Vince

Sandra Reemer is a Dutch/Indonesian singer and has been working in the business for a long time. Although it might have seemed quite for a while she never stopped her biggest passion: singing. For this seasonal month she has released her version of Ave Maria for which Little Smilemakers Studio has made the artwork. For this production she has worked with Vincent Boot and Roel Jongenelen. Curious? You can listen to the song preview on Sandra's website or Soundscloud. Or order yourself a copy.

Vincent Boot, that last name might sound familiar? Yes, Vince is my brother and also pianist. He has been working with Sandra for over a few years now but also just finished one of his many solo projects. The single The Guardian Angel was released this month. Take a look at his website if you'd like to read more. If you are looking for some musical entertainment for your business meeting, wedding or celebration he can set the mood with his musical harmonies.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Top 5 travel inspired fabric // Hand drawn illustrated surface pattern designs // Spoonflower

It is time to talk about fabric. Sales are going very well this season and since there is so much to choose from I thought it would be a good idea to highlight some fabric themes, current trends or hot sellers now and then. Winter is around the corner and more and more people stay in and start their crafty projects. I notice I make more hand drawn based illustrations during the cold winter months when I have more time to stay in and have enough peace to sit down and experiment with materials; pencils, brushes, paint. So this is a great time to do a little piece about the hand drawn fabrics.

I love hand drawings. Whenever I travel I carry a little sketchbook in which I make visual notes and doodles. Back in the studio I collect all these moments and convert them into new designs. I love making surface patterns that are digital roots but I do enjoy sketching by hand too. Using pencils or paint. I love the diversity while constructing new designs. This time I would like to show some hand drawn hot sellers. And of course there is always a little story behind the image with mentioning.

1 // Creepy insects and beetles - Indonesia
I had never seen so many insects, bugs and little creatures before traveling to Indonesia, which is until this day the filthiest place I traveled so far. I love the diversity of nature, plants and animals. And I don't mind some creepy visitors in my bedroom now and then. I am cool with that but a cockroach in my bed and then in my face while sleeping, that was a creepy experience though. After my trip I made a series of designs with spiders, bugs, beetles and other little creatures cause they are simply beautiful. I love them. Not in my bed though.

2 // Old timers - Cuba
There is no other place like Cuba. It is simply breathtaking. Walking through the Havana streets it feels like having a little stroll through history. The architecture, cobblestone streets, music and the amazing amount of old timer cars will make you feel part of the 50's. I also made some other designs that were inspired by my trip to Cuba. All music and vintage objects themes.

3 // Peacock feathers - India
The Peacock feathers fabric is one of my Indian themed Hotsellers. I made this design with Indian ink and dry brushed to give it a little raw edge. The peacock is a symbol for beauty and integrity. And is also national symbol of India. I saw this gracious animal during my trip through one of India's national parks and it became one of my favorite animals ever since. They are simply breath taking. So gorgeous and elegant.

4 // Sweet pineapple picking - Costa Rica
Costa Rica made me fall in love with the amazing force of nature. The country has an great variety of species, plants, fruits. During a jungle walk I took a little break, sat down and ate a pineapple. Here in Holland you can get pineapples but I never ate one with such intense flavor. Oh dear! Pineapples please!

5 // Cactus garden - Spain
I am such a sucker for Botanical Garden's. Where ever I go I always try to visit a botanical garden, forest or park during my travels. I love to see the different plants and colors of nature but in those botanical gardens you can see a version of that. It was all planted and designed by people so these gardens can be really tacky or kitch. The Cacti garden design turned out to be a great hit in fabric. It was inspired by numerous trips to spain. I love the quirkiness of the shape. Happy to see this plant is making a comeback in interiors all around the world.

If you are curious about other Little Smilemakers fabrics, hand drawn or digital art or would like to buy one of the top 5 hot sellers from this list visit the Spoonflower shop and pick your fave.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sinterklaas & his rainbow helpers

Back in the day when I was a little kid December was he most exciting month of the year. Sinterklaas would come into town, Zwarte Pieten would look round and watch if I was being good. Each day I would but my shoe underneath the weird prop fire place and stuff it with carrots and little drawings. It was a good way to improve my creative skills, very productive I was back then. And every morning I would check my shoe to see if there would be a present waiting for me.

My parents were not big fans of this Dutch children's holiday. They rather celebrated Christmas with me and my brothers so I usually ended up with a new pair of undies and some pyjama's. That was the depth of Sinterklaas for me: receiving presents.

Nowadays there is a big discussion going on about the Sinterklaas tradition. Some people are offended by 'Zwarte Pieten.' The traditional black (painted) helpers Sinterklaas brings along on a boat. Why do they have to be black though? I see a direct link to our Dutch VOC history, lot's of people are greatly proud of, but it is embarrassing lot's of Dutch people have no clue about our real history, the damage, the misuse of power, the slavery the Netherlands was involved in. It is in fact a direct link to our slavery past. Sometimes I feel embarrassed to be white, to be Dutch. When you travel you can see the depth of it. Who am I to judge if people feel offended. They sure have the right to feel what they feel. Racism is still a big part of society and every day life for some of us. (read about P's story here, written by Charlotte Simons) We can teach our children a different lesson, a different tradition.

So this year I have made a new series of designs for this Dutch holiday. Showing this tradition is about color, in fact every color. Embrace diversity. I created a print with traditional Zwarte Piet helpers but also included other colors for their skin. If it is up to me if should be a rainbow of color. Cuz when you can have a rainbow... nothing wrong with a rainbow here. Why limit yourself to black only when there is so much more to choose from?

What should have been a cute kids holiday has a bitter taste to it. Why not take the bitterness away? Why not be a little flexible when it comes to other people's feelings? Isn't that what a holiday or tradition is all about? Celebrate being together and appreciating others? Isn't that what you'd like to teach to your kids? To keep things the way they are because we always have been doing things a certain way is the most ridiculous reason to keep this tradition as is. We evolve, that's what's part of life. Let's make this thing a bit less offensive.