In this, the latest in her Meet the Maker series, Juliet Bawden meets Joy FitzSimmons
JB I know you as a card designer and maker. Can you tell the readers did you train as a graphic artist?
JF Yes I went to Liverpool Art School 1971 -74 and studied graphics and illustration. It was in the days when we all learned to set hot metal type and the Tate Liverpool was an atmospheric derelict dock.
JB What is a typical day for you?
JF My typical day starts at 8.15am with a bracing walk round one of our local parks with our two dachshunds. I walk with a friend who has two dachshunds and during that 45 minutes the we compare thoughts and experiences and leave the park utterly refreshed. As I work from home there is always the invitation to be distracted by domestic matters. I dispatch these as quickly as I can. Then spend a large part of my day in the workroom at the computer as I produce all my work in Illustrator. I do fit in a certain amount of admin work for my husbands business then of course have to address my own admin work. I like a change of air midday when possible. When you are working alone it is good to meet a friend even just for a coffee. Give the eyes a rest. My working day usually finishes as I address the evening meal preparations after six. I enjoy this as it involves more active movements over a stove! And a change of scene.
JB What do you love most about what you do?
JF I love the fact that I have developed a routine of sitting and drawing to develop the theme of the artworks. My ongoing theme is placing a dachshund in a well-known painting or sculpture which totally changes the meaning. It has been so rewarding to copy from the great masters then give it a humorous slant. I love to engage with the buying public in person although setting up a stall at a market can be demanding! I have to admit the pleasure I get from anyone wanting to buy even a card. It endorses your work.
JB What do you dislike most about what you do?
JF I dislike the fact that there is so much admin and trouble shooting which gets in the way of design time too often. Time management is a fine art.
JB Have you ever worked for anyone else, or done any collaborations? If so, with whom?
JF My early career was as a book designer and I worked freelance for twenty five years in the world of book publishing. Working for Weidenfeld and Nicholson and Studio Editions and eventually Partworks. During this time I also produced two illustrated children’s books. I think my timing was unfortunate as the recession of the 90s hit too many old publishing houses, including my own! But my time at Dorling Kindersley was spent visualising. I was the only person employed to use a pencil and this was good and bad as the mode of book design went totally to computer and I had only worked with paper galley paste ups, unheard of now. At the end of this time I found I was not trained to design books in the now required fashion. So I slowly taught my self to use Illustrator in order to illustrate.
JB What made you want to start your own creative business?
JF London Pooch came about when I unfortunately had to have prolonged treatment for breast cancer. I suddenly had time on my hands recuperating. So we acquired two dachshunds. I had bought a small die cutting machine and collaged doggy cards seemed to be emerging. At that time I was printing all at home. From here I practised in Illustrator and London Pooch slowly started to develop. When my mother developed vascular dementia she came to live with us and producing greetings cards was an easier way to work round my additional job as carer. (her attempts to help with the packaging were hilariously disastrous and short lived.)
JB Have you had any training recently? If so where and why?
JF I have had no further training although my computer/Illustrator skills are all self taught. But I have been delighted to join a local life drawing class. Working from life straight onto paper again with pen and charcoal is immensely rewarding. And to work along side others who produce a totally different vision of the same object is a constant delight.
JB Can you describe your creative process?
JF Most of my designs at present are based on parodying art and popular architectural sites in London. All with the addition of a dachshund printed or collaged onto the card. The cards and prints are all printed in Kent by a well established printer. The tea towels printed in Lincolnshire. I have help to finish and pack the cards. We send out orders from here.
JB What are your biggest challenges ?
JF Deciding what quantities to invest in when it come to production. Finding a good agent. Leaving enough time for new designs by delegating more to others. I handle the website largely myself since it was setup for me which is not perhaps the best use of my time. Fascinating though web design is I fell I need more purely creative time and must address this.
JB What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field today ?
JF Talk to people already in the field at Trade Fairs and Local markets. All maker seller crafts people are generally keen to share stories as we all work in isolation and find that many working lives are running parallel.
JB Compared with when you started, do you think it is easier for designers to set up on their own nowadays or more difficult? Why?
JF I think it is easier to get an public awareness of who you are these days through social media. Also the trend towards small businesses and the spread of fairly high end craft fairs are all in the interests of young new makers. In these days of highly sophisticated marketing the public are definitely move towards small producers – see the spread of farmers markets at a time when sales in the high street are suffering. Heartening.
JB Have you exhibited? If so, where?
JF Only at trade fairs. But my print collection is expanding now so I am looking to exhibit at some point and I have also done Artists Open House in Dulwich
JB How do you find clients?
JF I have an agent for the London area and home counties. I have until now, sold myself into galleries and museums around the country but I am now looking to hand all of it to agents. Social media has been good, but taxing on time. This takes me back to back to time management!
JB What are you currently working on?
JF I am always working on new designs. I usually have two or three in various stages. It is easier to be more objective about how they are shaping up unless I have a precise commission.
JB What is next?
JF I am gathering together enough work to produce a book. I loved word play. My first book was written in rhyme. I would like to produce more in this field. Would like to start all over again really. I have just produced my first Pooch plate.
Words: Juliet Bawden
See more of Joy’s work at: HERE and buy your dachshund loving friends the best Christmas gifts!