Friday, 5 April 2013

Miss Magpie Designs

It's Follow Friday!

Miss Magpie Designs is founded by Emily Summers.  Emily creates delicate, dainty and detailed illustrations.  Nature is a huge inspiration for Emily particularly birds and other wildlife species.  So is typography and colour.

You can enjoy daily reads from Emily on her blog and find designs on a range of products in her etsy shop.  You can also find Miss Magpie Designs on Facebook and follow on twitter @MissMagpie_says.

Have you always wanted to be a graphic & surface pattern designer?

Since I was 15, I had my heart set on becoming a costume designer. I'm obsessed with costume dramas and musical theatre and it held a great amount of interest for me so I ended up going to the Arts University College of Bournemouth (as it was then) to study Costume with Performance Design. It took the first year and a term into the second before I realised that it just wasn't for me. It was quite a blow but I bounced back and explored other areas within art and design that interested me, which is how I stumbled into illustration-I do think of myself as more of an illustrator although I am exploring pattern design as we speak!

How have you got to where you are now?

I've always wanted to be my own boss and build up a business, and during that period of time post-uni when I was deciding what to do with myself, I started a series of bird illustrations which inspired me to turn them into handmade stationery. That was the initial birth of Miss Magpie Designs, and since starting in August 2012, I've been developing lots of new and exciting ideas for seasonal and non-seasonal stationery and gifts-it's been great fun!

What inspires you?

I only have to look out of my window to be inspired at the moment! I live in rural Sussex so there's plenty of wildlife activity outside-we have a whole host of birds visiting the garden feeders and I love to watch them. I also find a lot of inspiration in the work of artists I admire. Creativity breeds creativity and I can easily while away several hours looking at illustrators' blogs!

What motivates you?

I'm quite self-critical so tend to go through rollercoaster journeys of motivation. One day I'll be feeling really good about a piece I've just designed then the next, I'll inexplicably decide it's complete rubbish! I find thinking about all the positive feedback I've already had from some very loyal and supportive customers and followers of my work is incredibly motivational. It's amazing what a difference a few words can make! I also have to stop and realise I'm actually doing something that I truly enjoy and I've never had a day where I've wished I was doing something else. No matter how bad I feel about my work, I don't think I'll ever yearn for a different line of work, which is certainly something to appreciate.

How do you start a new project/design?

Every little idea starts in the mind and grows from there. Recently, it was hearing a line from a poem that inspired my to start planning a new series of designs (I'm not giving away anything just yet though!) I've been training myself to get back into sketchbook work as it's a great way to plan out ideas and decide on my final illustrations. I'll do a bit of research online, mainly for reference but the compostions, colours, characters all come from my head and some messing around in the sketchbook.

What do you enjoy most about design?

That's a tough question! I love the freedom there is to start from a tiny idea and develop it into something beautiful. Being able to realise something from your head into a physical design is a liberating feeling.

Do you have a favourite design that you have created?

One of my favourite designs has also been one of the most popular! I did a series of three mother duck and duckling illustrations for Mother's Day this year and the "You're a quacking Mum!" piece with two ducklings was really popular. I loved it when I designed it and still do-I think it's innocent and adorable, the pefect way to tell mum you love her.

Do you have any of your designs on products?

When I create my illustrations, it is with intention of turning them into greetings cards and other stationery, so my Etsy is filled with cards, envelopes, gift tags and at Christmas I did a calendar. One range I am working on at the moment, I hope to use the designs on tea towels, pocket mirrors and maybe mugs. I also designed a writing set for using my Valentine's birds which has been quite popular.

What is your typical day like?

As well as the illustration work, I also frequently take on commissions which are normally pet portraits. When I have several of these booked in, my day is quite neatly divided up into two. I'll spend the morning working on my current portrait, making the most of the natural light which is not so readily available in the Winter months! The afternoon and early evening is dedicated to my illustrative work, finishing up new drawings, doing some digital work on Photoshop, anything to do with designing the current range. I do try my best to limit how much work I do into the evening as I can easily find I have no spare time left and will be exhausted! I also try to dedicate some time every couple of days for myself-if I'm going into town to post off some orders, I'll have a coffee with my mum or friends, and I'll go for a woodland walk when the weather is good! There's never a set schedule; I've tried that before and it just doesn't work so I just go with the flow most of the time.

What medias do you like to use?

My specialty materials are watercolour pencil and acrylic ink. I love the softness of the pencils but you also get a lot of control with them. I use the ink to finish pieces and add extra details. I recently bought some Derwent Inktense pencils which are apparently very good so I'm looking forward to trying those out!

What do you hope that 2013 will bring for you?

My main goal this year is to get my website up and running. I'm very lucky to have a father who dabbles in web design as a hobby (he's an IT developer) so it's becoming a little project for the two of us to work on together. I'm really excited to work on it! I'm hoping to have some more generic cards designed, as in not just occasion-specific, so that I can find some lovely stockists willing to sell my products. Really, I just want to develop Miss Magpie Designs even further and get the name known-I'm still in my first year of business so it's a tough time but I'm very determined!

Do you get a lot of support from family and friends?

I can't even tell you how much of this I've had! I'm extremely close to my family and both my parents have bee extremely supportive of everything I've done over the years, even when I decided to leave university. I'm constantly turning to my mum for second opinions on designs and we have what we jokingly call 'board meetings' over coffee or lunch, just generally talking about the business and my plans. I think I get my artistic traits from both sides, but from my dad in particular. As I mentioned, he's in IT and has an interest in web design so I find a lot of help from him as well as Mum. I think my relatives and friends feel like I've been hiding my abilities because they're always surprised when they see my latest work! But they're always encouraging and supportive; I'm extremely lucky.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years time?

Oh I'm terrible at these! I guess I want to have developed some solid ranges of stationery and have them stocked online and in brick and mortar shops! I really do want to get my work onto household items like tea towels, mugs, aprons that sort of thing and for it to be a recognised style. I'd dearly love to have organisations such as the RSPB and National Trust stocking Miss Magpie products!

Do you have a favourite illustrator, designer etc?

I have many! I've been in love with the work of Geninne Ztlatkis ( for a while now-everything she does makes me smile. I also adore, Madeleine Floyd, Kate Broughton and Rob Ryan.

Favourite blog?

Geninne's blog is fabulous, always full of beautiful photos and artwork. I also follow A Beautiful Mess ( Ladybird Likes ( and Stacie Swift (

Favourite design book?

Matt Sewell's "Our Garden Birds" is my favourite book at the moment. It was a Christmas gift and I love love love it! His watercolour birds are just adorable.

Thank you for your time Emily, I really appreciate it.  If you'd like a blog feature and interview, please don't hesitate to contact me via email:

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