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ASTRID MUELLER



















PotatoMammaDesign offers illustration, storyboards and graphic design, with the main focus on illustration. I'm a one woman business, and just opened my company in April 2006. My main customers are women and lifestyle magazines so far. Just recently, I opened my online store, and now am looking for interested manufacturers to produce larger quantities of products, for stores. Apart from that, I create character designs, greeting cards, imagery for products and gifts, book illustration and more. I'm looking forward to working for whichever company might benefit from my illustrations!


http://www.PotatoMammaDesign.com
http://www.cafepress.com/potatomammashop


When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
My route to becoming an illustrator was definitely not a straight forward one. Art was always my favorite subject at school, but when I first tried, I didn't get accepted at the creative school of Switzerland I applied for. I didn't put in more effort back then, and just opted for a monetarily safer education in the office world. Only years later, after having had a quite uncreative job at a life insurance company, I started another effort, and found a job as a graphic designer, where no experience was needed. It was rough at first, because I had to learn everything from scratch, with classes, and by experience. Amazing how they trusted me, at first my knowledge was so small that I thought I could convert a .tif file into a .jpg file by just overwriting the three letters after the dot! (Still embarrassed about that one, haha)

Quite a few classes, a multimedia producer diploma, and an art study year in the U.S.A. later, I came back to Switzerland, and was looking for a job. My pivotal moment in choosing the illustration career was a class I got to take for free from the unemployment insurance of Switzerland. First I just took it because it was free, and I thought some marketing knowledge might come in handy sometime later in life. This class called "how to open you own business" was so good though, and the teacher so supportive, that I soon decided that I was just going to do it, I would open my own business! I already had my portfolio, my computer, all the software, I couldn't really lose!


Who or what inspires you?
I love illustrationfriday.com, a website that puts out a creative challenge every friday for artists who would like to contribute. Just for fun, and to exchange thoughts and comments with each other. I try to post every Friday, and it's nice to get feedback from other artists, and I love browsing through everyone else's artwork. I've found great artists there, and even made some friends. Sugarfrostedgoodness.com is another great source of inspiration, or places like http://drawn.ca, which has new inspiration every day!

I also love browsing through illustration books, and sometimes I look at other artist's work on places like theispot.com. And I get inspired as well by everyday life, on the street, seeing interesting people, spying cute products when window-shopping...


Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
As mentioned above, I didn't do the full illustration school career, and don't even have an art school diploma. I worked my way into the field with many different software, typography, creativity and design classes, a multimedia producer diploma, and an art study year in the U.S.A. In that study year (ordinary university with art department), I picked mainly classes that I was interested in, and didn't follow the normal credit requirements for obtaining a Bachelor degree. My favorite class was art history, I'm really grateful I took color theory, drew and painted a lot, and even tried printmaking. The college I went to wasn't specialized in illustration or design, which was a bit of a pity. If you want a strong background and thorough training, I recommend you do good research of universities and their programs beforehand.


How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
By subscribing to magazines like 'computer arts', sometimes 'page'; by seeing other artist's work on places like illustrationfriday.com, or in illustration books; by going to fairs like the Frankfurt Book Fair, Greeting Card fairs, Brand Licensing Fair London. If you don't have time or the funds to go to market fairs, often a lot of the information and contacts are available online on the website of the fair organizer. When I see an interesting store in a city, I'll go talk to the owners too sometimes, to ask what sells, or if they'd be interested in buying artist's products.

To keep "fresh" in my style of artworks, I try not to limit myself to just one style or technique. I've noticed that interests in the markets shift sometimes. For instance apparently many magazine art directors prefer a painterly look of illustrations now to the vector look, saying that the latter has been seen so much for quite a while. If you have different techniques, you can reach more tastes and market needs. Another reason why I love illustrationfriday.com is that it gives me a reason to be creative once a week (if I have time haha), without a client briefing. It's just a topic and off you go drawing whatever you like. I've tried new techniques like that a couple of times, which is always a benefit for future client projects.


What are some of your current projects?
I'm in the process of sending out a postcard mailing to 500 magazines. Would never have guessed how much work this entails ;-). I'm also in a pitch for a manufacturer of gift products for teen girls, such as key chains, mugs, diaries etc. That's a first, and I'm really looking forward to that! I have 2 projects going on for greeting cards, and one for an international fashion consumer goods company where I developed a girl character who always shows on their website once or twice a month, to an editorial text about the new products. For another company, I'm in the development phase for a new character design (for advertising), there are 2 or 3 graphic design projects going on, and I have to update my online store. Can't complain of boredom these days ;-)


Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I love the girl for the fashion goods company! Her name is Stella. She's custom tailored to the company's main target group, to appeal to them, and increase traffic on the website. We were careful to get all the details of the person's character and look right, so that the customers can really relate to her. She's 35, a fashion editor, cute, fashion oriented but also kind and friendly. I'm proud of the project because it's for the international company Swarovski, and they have great feedback from all around for Stella, and are keeping updating her every month at least. It's a great, fun, project!


Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
Commercially, I usually work digitally. I would like to paint with real paint again some day (don't seem to have time these days ;-)), and I'd like to get more familiar with the program Painter from Corel. I'm already using it, but there are so many tools and possibilities in the program that I still would like to learn better. I'd also like to try ink pens and watercolor together some day. And and and...


Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Build up a portfolio of your best artwork, research which markets might benefit from it, and start making phone calls. Try to get appointments if possible, because you have a higher chance of getting a job than by just sending an email. Make a mailing of postcards or a flyer to companies that might like your style and artworks. Tell everyone what you do, and always have small artworks on you. I used to have a mini portfolio for instance. It was so small that it fit in my purse, and I had it on me wherever I went. It has happened before that I got a job by talking to people on the train! Don't be shy to ask other illustrators for advice. When I started, I was so bold and just emailed to my favorite hero illustrators asking them for tips. Most of them were so nice and wrote back with suggestions! =) Don't give up. Someone will love your work! Key is to find the market for it =)


What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
If the target group looks at it, loves it, and wants to take it home =) I think in small numbers too though: it's the greatest thing if someone looks at one of your artworks, beams, and says "that's so cool!" What would anyone want more?


What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
If I'm really out of energy, I'll go take a nap and will get up way early in the morning if necessary. I read a book that I really like. Or go for a walk to a place with a view and birds singing. I try to aim for customers and jobs that I really like. That's motivation by itself! And I just live life, doing things I like, being around people I love. That always recharges the batteries.


And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
I have no idea. I don't own one =)

Thanks so much for letting me be take part in this! I hope it was useful somehow to you all out there! I I haven't been in the business for very long, but if there are any questions you may have, I'll be happy to try to answer. Just send me an email =) Good luck everyone!


Related Links:

http://www.PotatoMammaDesign.com
http://www.cafepress.com/potatomammashop

Recent Work:










2 comments:

MR.C said...

beatiful and nice work, great line and colors!

TimeforLifeVA said...

Wonderful interview Astrid. I was able to get a sense of who you are and how your personality relates to your designs. Good luck going international!

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