INTERVIEW WITH CHARMAINE LEUNG FROM I AM A LONDON
How did you become an illustrator/designer?
I started out in consulting, and investment banking. Inspired by a great friend, after work, I made jewellery and sell in etsy and craft fairs. I then realised my passion was in creating things, making products and seeing people smile - not something that I could achieve in my role in banking. Then I met a graphics designer who was giving a class on branding, he showed me a quick demo on illustrator - I was so amazed by it and saw the endless possibilities to creating even more things. I read up, one step at a time starting with illustrator, learning to design, enrolling to an online class, asking google questions from time to time especially for short cut keys, and improving along the way.
What is your creative process, and how do you come up with fresh new ideas for your products?
For me, the creative process comes from many areas. From conversations, walking around London, there’s always so much going on; modern art exhibitions; going to the movies; looking at packaging especially food packaging and talking to children - especially my 5 year old nephew Cyrus - they have the funniest thoughts and questions!
What has been your biggest achievement as a business?
Seeing people smile when they see the products - simply priceless!
What advice would you give to creative entrepreneurs that are just starting out?
Never be deterred by any set backs. Learn from people that you inspire to be. Have people to bounce off ideas with, whether good or bad - it’s amazing sometimes seeing how ideas morph just simply by sharing it. Always celebrate - a good slice of cake + a coffee - you deserve it!
Showcase your designs wherever possible, whether it is via an open pitch e.g. I am ever grateful to the Liberty Open Call, or trade fairs such as Top Drawer. They are all opportunities well worth giving a shot and gathering a lot of feedback. I still get the heebie-jeebies when I talk about my designs, but there will always be something great that comes out of it.
What is your favourite thing about Christmas?
My favourite thing about Christmas it’s really the atmosphere around and catching up with friends sharing the festivities - from christmas windows, tinsels, lights, cold weather, food, ice rinks, santa claus, christmas trees - every one - so merry enjoying themselves! Ho - Ho - Ho!
Do you have any special Christmas traditions?
Yes ! Yes ! Yes ! Making mulled wine for me is a must. Going to Christmas markets and fun fairs. My favourite ones in London include Winter Wonderland and Monocle Christmas Market.
Feasting - scrumptious Christmas meals with family and friends and popping Christmas crackers. A nice wintry walk on the 25th December. Along with a lot of snuggle in for Christmas TV and movies too!
If you’d like to make some mulled wine this year’s here’s a little recipe :
2 bottles of red wine
2 oranges (extract juice and reserve the peel, I have used clementines too, that you’ll probably need about 5)
Large orange peel from oranges
2 Cinnamon Sticks
4 Tablespoons of Sugar
Bring everything to a gentle simmer, when sugar is all melted, taste for sweetness. When wine is warm, ladle into glasses and sip merrily!
What is your favourite Christmas song?
OMG! I am so glad you ask me this question. I absolutely love to bop to christmas songs especially when wrapping presents, preparing food, as I think the songs bring the atmosphere together. So I am going to violate the rules and give you my must-listen to Christmas songs… ;o)
- Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire - Nat King Cole
- Winter Wonderland - Leona Lewis
- Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Darlene Love
- All I Want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey
- Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt
- Driving Home for Christmas - Chris Rea
- Let it Snow - Michael Buble
- Silver Bells - Gene Autry
Where do you look for special Christmas gifts?
For Christmas Gifts - I do like gifting several gifts to each person, so will venture out to many different places to find gifts which include : Smug, Choosing and Keeping, and Other Stories, Anthropologie, basement of Selfridges and my local newsagents.
The gifts will consist of :
1. a Serious*, Practical*, On the Christmas wish list* gift (*delete as appropriate)
2. a Fun giggly gift - anything from a lottery ticket, scratch cards, onesies, books, sometimes instructions to pick up a gift too for a bit of christmas hide and seek too!
3. a Yummy gift - every year I enjoy making a foodie gift - chocolate truffles, spiced nuts, chocolate bark… hm… haven’t thought about this year yet..
Apart from spending time getting the gifts, I also enjoy spending time writing Christmas cards, gift wrapping the presents adding a few surprises along the way!
*All photos directly come from Charmaine Leung - I AM A London*