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October- A Month of Portraits

I will never forget my first real “commission”. I was 16 and fundraising money for a trip to Bulgaria. In exchange for support, a family friend commissioned me to draw a portrait for them. I was very excited and felt like a real artist for the first time. Ever since then making portraits has been a part of my artistic practice.  I even once painted a portrait of the well-known Indian-born Canadian chef Vikram Vij (definitely one of my most nerve-racking projects!). If you doubt me, you can go to his restaurant, eat some of his delicious food and ask him about it :) My style has changed much since my first portrait as a teenager (hopefully improved too!), but I still get the same thrill of excitement when asked to do one. I find them challenging because the clients will always notice if I’ve not done my best work. Although I always make a disclaimer that this is my artistic interpretation and not a photograph, if they don’t see a resemblance in the drawing, they will most definitely complain. This challenges my artistic skills and holds me accountable.

This month I had the pleasure of illustrating four portraits for a couple who connected with me through my website. Each portrait portrays them in a different setting and without knowing them personally,  I think it’s safe to say that they share a love of travel and nature. The final illustrations were drawn by hand with ink and then digitally coloured in photoshop.

Next month, I will be working on some more portraits and starting an exciting food packaging project. Thanks for reading again and happy October! P.S If you are interested in an illustrated portrait you can find more examples on my Etsy shop here.





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Stitch It Yourself Book Photos (plus some baby cuteness)

First of all, I have to admit that I’ve been very bad at updating this blog in the past 3 months. Until May I had a good rhythm going on, but a certain life event happened and I haven’t been able to post anything new until now.  I am happy to share the news that I am now a mother to a super cute, baby girl! Her name is Ellie Rae and she was born end of June. We can already tell she’s going to be full of stories. Here is a photo of Her Cuteness.ellieblogphoto

The next big piece of news is not quite so life-altering, but still very exciting. The ‘Stitch It Yourself’ written by Petra Harms and published by Droemer Knaur is now out!septemberblogphoto2

I received my copies in the mail last week and have already seen it on the bookshelves of some local shops here in Berlin. It is a beautiful book, filled with a great variety of embroidery projects from 14 international artists. I’m proud to say I’m the only Canadian.  The book is written in German and is the first of it’s kind in Germany. There are already many DIY books, but none that focus solely on embroidery. Hopefully this will open up the market for more of its’ kind. I’m looking forward to trying out some of the tutorials myself, especially that cute little bear by Indonesian artist Ria Paramita that you can spot in the top left of the cover. Here is a look inside the book of the 3 projects I created and photographed.








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Why I Embroider Illustrations

A couple weeks ago, I was asked to answer a few interview questions for a book coming out this fall with Droemer-Knaur. (You can read more about this project on my previous blog post). Naturally, I was excited to talk about embroidery and my work with it. I realised after answering the questions, that I’ve never written on my blog about my reasons for using embroidery as an illustration medium. It is something I’ve put a lot of thought into over the last 4 years.

All art is difficult, but making illustration with embroidery is particularly challenging. Here are a five reasons why it’s difficult:

  1. It’s slow. I have figured out ways to speed up the process by mixing applique techniques with embroidery, but there’s no denying hand-embroidery takes time. It requires a lot of planning, is a pain to re-do when mistakes are made and requires the extra step of photography before it is ready to be used in a magazine or book.

    Here is an illustration I'm working on right now, which has already taken 4 hours to plan, before even starting the embroidery.
    Here is an illustration I’m working on right now, which has already taken 4 hours to plan, before even starting the embroidery.
  2. It’s viewed primarily as a “craft”. When I tell most people that I am using embroidery for illustration, they are quite surprised and confused. This is a new concept to grasp because historically embroidery has always been a craft or hobby.  In some cases when I show pictures of what I do, I get the response: “Well, that’s nice that you have a hobby”.
  3. It’s difficult to reproduce. Embroidery is difficult to photograph properly and prepare for print. It requires good light, a great camera and lots of practice to figure out how to reproduce this medium so that it looks just as good on paper as in real life. And I will admit it, the original embroidered picture still has a magical quality you can’t quite replicate in a photo.

    To date, this was one of my most difficult pieces to photograph.
    To date, this was one of my most difficult pieces to photograph.
  4. It’s not common. Nowadays most illustration is created with 2D mediums. Though I see more and more artists experimenting with 3D materials (for example, paper-cut illustration), most of the jobs available for illustration, require digital or traditional mediums. This makes it difficult to market and figure out where this type of  illustration fits in.
  5. It’s a risk. For all of the reasons listed above, embroidery is a risk. This alone can be a deterrent for potential illustration clients.

For these reasons, I’ve considered giving up on embroidery as an illustrative medium many times. Along with embroidery, I also love drawing and it wouldn’t be a difficult switch to using this as my primary style. It might even be easier to do this. So why don’t I do it?

Because every time I imagine giving up embroidery, I feel like Ariel selling her voice to Ursula. Embroidery expresses me the best.  Maybe in 10 years it won’t, but right now it’s my visual voice. I can’t bring myself to give that up.

So here are 5 reasons why making and marketing embroidered illustrations is a good idea:

  1. It’s slow. Time is valuable. So taking time to create something, shows that you value it. Sure, there are projects that need to be completed in 6 hours. But there are enough illustration styles that can meet these demands. Embroidery has the unique ability to give the value of time to projects.
  2. It’s new and old at the same time. Embroidery has a long history and has been used in many different contexts for centuries. It is a familiar, yet still evolving medium. There aren’t many illustrators working with it, which means there is an opportunity to do something new and fresh. This excites me!
  3. It requires commitment and expertise to reproduce.  The fact that embroidery requires time, proper equipment and lots of trial and error practice, means that the finished product ends up looking pretty fantastic. It also means that not everyone can do it. You can’t get away with improperly photographing these illustrations, or they will look horrible when printed. Embroidery forces me to be thorough from start to finish.
  4. It’s tactile and 3D. It has natural shadows and textures that make it visually appealing and causes it to stand out.

    Check out this tactility. Don't you just want to touch it?
    Check out this tactility. Don’t you just want to touch it?
  5. It’s a risk worth taking. In my opinion, the most meaningful experiences in life involve risk. So the fact that embroidery is a risk shouldn’t be a reason to give it up.
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New Embroidery Book with German publisher Droemer Knaur

For the past month, I’ve been busy working on some embroidery designs for a book being published this Fall with German publisher Droemer Knaur by author Petra Harms. I was thrilled when the editor contacted me and shared the idea for the book called “Stitch it Yourself”. It will feature around 15 artists or bloggers who all work with embroidery, and will include 25 step-by-step embroidery tutorials. Naturally, it will be written in German which is also very exciting.

Since, I’ve been living in Germany I’ve come across many do-it-yourself type books, but none focusing on embroidery. The author also noticed this gap, and thus came the idea for the book. I’m looking forward to holding the finished product in my hands this fall, and seeing what the other artists and bloggers have created. I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful. How could any book about embroidery not be?!

For those of you who speak German and are Mr. Buttonman fans, you may be excited to know that there will be a Mr. Buttonman tutorial in the book. I created 3 different tutorials in total, and here are a few sneak-peek photos below.


Thanks for reading!

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Leipzig Book Fair 2016

This is going to be a short blog post, but I wanted to share a few highlights from the Leipzig Book Fair last week.

MarchBlogPhotos11. Books, books and more books! I spent most of my time in the children’s publisher section of the fair, but also wandered into the art books section towards the end of the day. There are many beautiful children’s books being published this year, and I was especially excited to find a couple with embroidery on display.

2. Great location. The Leipzig Messe is the biggest and most beautiful exhibition space I’ve ever visited. It’s full of natural light and easy to navigate, considering it’s size.

3. Ice cream! Need I say more?

4. New connections. Last year I was too shy to practice my German and didn’t talk to many of the vendors in Leipzig, but this year I dove right in, handed out some fancy new business cards and met some really nice people.


5. I bought a new sticker book. Like my hat? Very excited to put these stickers to use on my outgoing mail orders.


Have a great week!




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Instagram Challenge: #MarchMeettheMaker

I’ve been wanting to bulk up my website with more photos of my process, and the “behind the scenes” of my freelance business, so I was excited to see this #MarchMeettheMaker challenge on Instagram a few days ago. I’m a few days late jumping in, but here are a couple photos I’ve made for the challenge so far.



I find challenges like this are helpful to get ideas flowing and it’s interesting to see what makers around the globe are up to. Hopefully, by the end of this month I’ll have at least 5-10 photos that I can put together as a collage on my website .

Being an artist is kind of a risky business and I have many days where I ask myself if this is a good/responsible career choice. So I’m sure this will be a good 30-day exercise of re-focussing on WHY I do what I do and also to show those interested a bit of HOW I do it. If you’d like to follow along, you can find my Instagram account here.


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Book Contract with Simply Read Books!

I’ve got some very exciting news to announce in today’s blog post. After much planning, dreaming, learning, promoting and waiting I have signed a book contract with Canadian publisher Simply Read Books for the first-ever Mr.Buttonman children’s picture book!

I first met the publisher of Simply Read Books last year at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair where I introduced my book idea to him. He was very open and interested in my character and embroidered illustrations and we immediately exchanged contact information. Now almost a year later, the agreement is official!

The story has been written by me and will be filled with 32 hand-embroidered illustrations. There is much work ahead before publication next Spring 2017, but I am so excited to get to working on it!


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Comic Illustrations and Wedding Invitations

Happy Friday!

This month has been full of exciting new projects. I had to put aside the embroidery for a couple weeks, to work on a rather complex comic project for the German company Bosch in collaboration with Knusperdesign. The illustrations were drawn in a traditional, black and white inked format, which was a bit scary for me at first, as it’s been a while since I’ve dipped my brushes in black ink.  But everything turned out well and the comic is in it’s final stages of production as we speak.



In addition to this project, I’ve been working on a number of wedding invitation commissions this month. Did you know I design wedding invitations and thank you cards? You can find examples of on my Etsy or Dawanda shop. All the invitations include a custom portrait or other illustration which I base on photos I receive from the couples. The portraits are drawn by hand in ink and coloured digitally. I haven’t attempted to do any embroidered wedding portraits yet, but it’s in the back of my head for this coming year. So if you know anyone getting married in the next year, send em’ over! Here are a few examples below:


All in all, 2016 has started off well! We’ll be flying to the homeland of Canada in a few weeks for a visit and I have a few illustration meetings lined up while I’m down there.  Hopefully, I’ll have some exciting news to announce on here when we get back to Germany in February!

I hope you’ve had a great start into the New Year, and thanks for reading!

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New Christmas Illustration


As I was planning this new illustration I had to remember Christmas’s with our wiener dog, Karmen. Yes, I know, it’s not exactly the most manly of names, but he was named after my great-grandfather’s wiener dog. Karmen was a feisty little guy. We quickly learned that wiener dogs are much bigger in their heads and very capable of mass destruction. He always found something to rip to shreds, if we weren’t quick enough to give him a bone to chew on. The cuteness factor quickly wore off for our neighbours who had to endure his incessant barking. But I loved him in spite of all his mischief.

I think if I had been a bit smaller, I could have easily convinced Karmen to pull me in a box around the living room. Given the opportunity, he would be the most determined little reindeer on Santa’s sleigh.

I hope you have fun looking at this illustration because I had a lot of fun making it. Maybe it will bring you back to your childhood Christmas’s and all the imagination and “anticipation” that surrounded the season (though I still haven’t grown out of this!).

And on a totally different note. I finished that CD cover design I mentioned in my last blog post. Here is a photo of the printed CD’s taken by Projekt: Kirche.


My inspiration for the cover design was a patchwork quilt. The CD contains music from 12 different artists, who have through this CD project been patched together. Most of the artists are based in Berlin. The CD can be purchased through Projekt: Kirche, and 50% of the cost goes directly to the artists. The other 50% covers production costs. I would highly recommend it, if you are looking to discover some up and coming musicians in Europe.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Portfolio Review with the AOI

Well, it’s that time of year again. The Christmas markets have opened in Berlin, the smell of yummy Glühwein is in the air and I’m sitting at home frantically trying to finish up some work before December 25th. Gotta love the holiday rush.

Last week, I had a portfolio review with the Association of Illustrators and was given some helpful feedback on my work and advice for the future. One reminder that was particularly helpful, was to continue promoting my work via snail mail.  I have slowly moved away from mail in the past year, thinking that in this fast-paced, online world, art directors and publishers must prefer emails over paper. But apparently, well-written personal letters and printed samples sent to the right person, are still relevant and even more appreciated. This was a great reminder, and since then I’ve been working on some ideas for Christmas promotion postcards. Here are a few of the sketches:


I was also encouraged to share about the private commissions I’m working on. This is something I haven’t always done, as some of the work I do is quite different in style from my main portfolio.

One project that I’ll be starting (and finishing!) this week is a CD cover design and illustration. The album is a collaboration between 10 different international musicians. Many of them are based in Berlin, but a few are from other places as well. The CD will be coming out just in time for Christmas and will be sold through Projekt: Kirche (a church based in Friedrichshain, Berlin). 50% of the proceeds of the album will go to the musicians, and the rest will cover the cost of production.  I’ll post more images and information on where the CD can be purchased when it’s completed in a couple weeks.

And as a side note,  if you are looking for a unique illustration before Christmas I still have time for a couple private commissions. You can message me through my website or Etsy shop if interested. Here are a few ideas below.


1) Family or couple portraits 2) Christmas Cards 3) Home-brew beer labels

I’m very thankful for organizations like the AOI that are dedicated to helping freelancers like myself. It’s reassuring to know I’m not alone in this journey and to  get outside opinions on my work. I feel encouraged to move forward with my illustration and keep growing my portfolio.

Thanks for reading!