Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sources of inspiration: Cambodia // Lush and lovely // With brutal history and a brand new future // top 5 things to see and reasons to visit this beautiful country 

As you all know I love to travel and get a taste of new cultures. I have seen some amazing places, met some amazing people and every time I pack my back I have no idea what is to come. I travel without expectations. Some people thinks that is impossible but trust me, with my background you don’t dare to expect much, it is something I mastered without knowing but it is wonderful to start a new experience without any expectations attached to it. So I didn’t know what to think of Cambodia, I only knew I was very much intrigued by this war torn country. I love traveling through Asia and Cambodia became a destination I had been wondering about for a while.  

Every year I take a break in December and January. I pack my bags and go somewhere warm to escape from the holiday mayhem. After a few very busy months, renovating the new studio, starting productions, and well, running my business, I couldn’t wait to take off and explore Cambodia. Via Bangkok I traveled to the Cambodian border where my experience exploring this amazing country began. 

Scarred generations 
Cambodia has been a Buddhist country and temples are scattered throughout the country but it is facing so many challenges, the country has had a taste of freedom for just 16 years now. And I will type down some of my worries and a little history in a nutshell here. After the Vietnam war exceeded Cambodian borders the Khmer Rouge Army tried to keep out Vietnamese communists, their fights spread out throughout the country and in 1975 the Khmer Rouge soldiers seized the opportunity to take over the capital of Phnom Penh and ordered all civilians to leave and work as farmers. Leader of the army Pol Pot wanted to make a secular state, free the country from religion, his solution: killing all Buddhist monks. All educated people and intellectuals could be a possible treat for his ideology so any hint of that and they would get killed. The people of Cambodia should work their lands and free themselves from capitalism. They were forced to work on rice fields, pieces of land burned down to grow crops, crops to trade for supplying the army. it is such a sad story. Supported by China, the Khmer Rouge army kept on fighting up until the UN interfered in 1993. What happened in the early nineties, well, nothing constructive really, there were elections and the main pawns of Cambodians bloody history are housing the government up until this day. My guide called them ‘flexible.’ That sure is one hell of a positive way of looking at it. When you think about it Cambodia nowadays is still controlled by those with blood on their hands. But a new generation is standing up now, informed by media, they can obtain information, read, think and discuss. They educate themselves.  

My guide is one of those, from my generation. He grew up with a ‘missing’ dad, his older brother was killed by the army and he spend his childhood in a Buddhist monastery. He became a father a day after we visit Angkor Wat with him. He would talk about his past with defeat and repressed anger. He know damn well what is happening. This March Cambodia will have new elections, the prime minister, former head of army, has stated he won’t be going anywhere. Meanwhile Cambodia is paying back their bills to China, the war has left them in great dead for supplying their army with weapons and munitions, so China is building airports, factories, Phnom Penh is turning into an economic anonymous city with a skyline all thanks to foreign investors. What will happen to this country after the elections? What will happen when Cambodians realize they have paid enough, settled the bill? What will happen when China owns all this land and Cambodians want back their country? They are still trying to keep up their democratic appearance. Of course things are way more complicated that how I see them, how I type them down. I hold my breath for what is yet to come. Hope my guides daughter will grow up in piece and prosperity.

1 // Angkor Wat 
Cambodia is very proud of it’s Khmer history. Angkor is one of the world’s most famous archeological places and protected by Unesco, you have probably heard about it, seen photo’s. Maybe you remember the jungle temple from Tomb Raider? From the city of Siem Reap it is a quick drive to the most visited place in Cambodia. The site extends over 400 square kilometers where you can see old remains of Cambodians civilization; the Khmer Empire. You can easily spend three days driving around the old temples, (there are over a thousand), reservoirs and old Khmer architecture but if you only spend one day, do visit Angkor Wat, the Bayon and Angkor Thom and the Ta Prohm jungle temple. Rent a tuctuc and a driver to navigate the area. The temples are breathtaking, I always feel pretty insignificant watching those giant structures. The magnificence of these old creations is breathtaking. The religious sculptures, statues and craftsmanship. The interior detailing. It sure makes you think ‘how the hell did they manage to complete such an impossible task’ with such eye for detail and beauty. It is truly genius. Angkor is a wonderful place and definitely one of the high lights of my travels. A must see.  

2 // Tonlé Sap 
When I was traveling on the bus in Cambodia I loved starring out of the window and seeing the typical Cambodian houses. Built on wooden posts, their homes are protected against floods, entirely made out of wood and painted in vivid colors. So wonderful. Cambodia can be pretty wet and people are used to live with and on the water. The Tonlé Sap lake is the biggest body of water in the country and stretches out from Siep Reap all the way to Phnom Penh were you can travel further over the Mekong River. I love traveling over water. I am a little bit of a water rat but I won’t advise you to swim in Tonlé Sap! Hell no! They have some crocodiles up there. Yikes!But I do try to travel over water if I have the chance. Just rent a boat and explore the lake for a day. You can see how people live on the water. Entire villages, schools, markets, they are all floating and it is wonderful to see how Cambodians live on their colorful boats, doing laundry, kids playing, just a glance of their every day life. 

3 // Phnom Penh 
The Capital of Phnom Penh is a rapidly growing melting pot and you can hardly spot any authentic Cambodian architecture. Next to the National Museum and the Palace there is not a whole lot of typical Phnom Penh left in the city center. But it is very likely you will visit this city to see some historical places. Not far from the city center you can visit the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide. A former school that was used by the Khmer Rouge army who turned it into the notorious S-21 prison where over more than 20.000 people were executed and approximately 17.000 people were imprisoned. Inside of the old class rooms on the ground floor you can find thousands of photographs of the people that were taken to this prison. The rows of photo’s are endless as are the rows of cell blocks on the second and third story. I wondered around the third story when I got all weezy and light headed. It is not a place you enter that lifts your spirit obviously. It will stay with you for a little while. 

4 // Taste of Cambodia
Let’s talk about one of my favorite things in the world: Food. The Cambodian cuisine is absolutely amazing. The country is rich, fresh vegetables, fruit, spices. Cardamom mountains and rice fields. Because of it’s Buddhist background Cambodians do not eat a whole lot of meat and it is pretty easy to veggie your way around the country. But if you are not a vegetarian there is even more to explore. When you leave the big cities behind and travel through more remote area’s you can find some pretty interesting stuff for lunch. Marinated scorpions, spiders, frogs and tiny insects are a popular snack for the less wealthy. Stop at one of those tiny local markets and try one! And if you like cooking do visit a market to get your hands on some spices. They’re fresh and cheap. I loved the Cambodian dishes. There is so much variety in taste and ingredients and it might be good to know for European travelers: their dishes are not filled with chilly. Cambodians do not eat very spicy, they proper adding a little black pepper. I really liked my Pomelo salad with small pieces of pork and pak choi with a soy sauce dressing. Delicious! Oh and the salad with chicken lettuce and fish sauce was amazing. Do indulge in fruit: Pineapple and Mango. They are so sweet and crazy juicy. And the best thing about it all, everything is still organic. No crazy pesticides or big multinationals importing food. You eat local food in Cambodia. My rash (that was stuck on my face for the past 10 months) disappeared after a few days. While I am typing this, being back home, it is returning again. Says a lot about the food right?  
The French also left their mark in Cambodians meals today, you can find baguettes all over the country. And they are good! Cambodians are also pretty heavy coffee drinkers, you can find a proper Arabic coffee every few blocks. So don’t hesitate and try as much as you can. I loved the Cambodian cuisine. 

5 // Ghosts of the past 
Not very far from Cambodians capital there is another sinister place that is worth the visit but that will haunt you for days. Cambodia has a violent history and when you visit the country you will first and foremost enjoy the scenery, the welcoming people, the delicious food, but this is a must see when you are traveling through this country. The Killing Fields in Choeung Ek is now a memorial site open to public from 1988. When you visit this place you will follow a path which leads you to the numerous mass graves that are scattered around the plot. ‘Don’t step on bones’ a sign says. Bodies were exhumed and smashed skulls and bones are now carefully protected by the walls of the newly build stupa that holds over more than 5000 skulls. While typing this I still cannot seem to grasp what I have seen here, and what has taken place during those years the fields were a place of execution. In the small aula you can see a short video about the process of discovering the graves and the research that began after that. 

Well, with the Killing Fields I am ending this travel post. Cambodia was a wonderful place to visit even though there are some things you rather not see, don’t avoid what is part of their history. It gives you insight for a more in depth experience. Hopefully the elections in March will turn out for the better. My thoughts are with the people I have met during my trip. Hopefully Cambodia will remain ‘safe and peaceful'. Again, I feel so lucky to have been born into a country where safety is a common good.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Made with Little Smilemakers Studio Fabric // Top 5 January 2017

It is so exciting to see a finished project after working hard on a new collection of design or a series of illustrations for our clients. But with finished fabric designs it is even a bigger surprise to see what customers create. To see how final products evolve when people put their own creative energy in there is amazing.  

If you browse around on Etsy or Instagram for some kids fashion or home decoration you are very likely to stumble upon some Little Smilemakers prints. Most creatives with small home based businesses sell their projects via internet and tag us via Instagram. So we see some amazing things pop up in our feed every month. We love how Little Smilemakers creations are the foundation for other creatives all around the world to work with. So here is our monthly blog post that features some creative results from Australia, Finland and The United States. This month we selected a whole bunch of fresh colorful fabrics, turned into the most gorgeous items. Kids fashion, nursery accessories and home and interior decoration, so much to choose from! We have selected some cute bedding, head bands, leggings and soft sole shoes. Take a look and see if there is something for your little one too. This is our January top 5 selection. 

1 // Oh Boeys
We were doing a little happy dance when we saw this perfect pair of cactus soft soles in our Instagram feed. We love this fabric and are so happy to see these turn our so cute! Oh Boeys is an Australian webshop selling bows, bibs, soft sole baby shoes and blankets for your little one. They have a colorful range of products and you can also customize your own pair of soft soles. Go take a look and see for yourself!

2 // Little So Beide 
We found these cute little Hemmers Itex lions in Sofia's Etsy store. She is a passionate Finnish maker and loves crocheting, knitting and sewing. Her style is fun and pure. With a wide range of products, bibs, baby mittens, leggings and more. We love the home made items she makes and her little girl modeling those fun pieces. If you are located in Finland or somewhere Scandinavia, check out those soft creations. Here is the link to her Etsy shop. Shop small and make someone do a little happy dance over in Finland!

3 // Tiny Tiger
This Australian shop specializes in bedding for both babies and kids. But they also have a fun range of accessories for your little one. We love to see color and their shop is a wonderful colorful collection of hand made items. For this month's "Made with" we selected our blue grizzly bears and our all time hot selling pastel ice cream fabric. Both turned into bedding. Curious about their collection? Visit their shop!

4 // Le Petit Bouton 
Lisa Gillies a young mum and the owner of Le Petit Bouton. Like many new mums, she was madly searching for items for her little girl that were unique, on trend, and made with beautiful fabric and she was getting frustrated at not being able to find exactly what she wanted. That is why she decided to start her fun shop, stocking gorgeous little girls hair clips, hair ties and headbands using beautiful designer fabrics and organic knits. Our little koala's have also been added to her webshop featuring in here Australia Day collection. Her products are perfect for special occasions, party favors, birthdays, baby showers, new arrivals, school...the list goes on! For this new collection A Little Love Photography has capture the wonderful Olivia wearing our favorite piece: the top knot. Isn't she adorable?shop if you want to get your hands on one.

5 // Itty Bitty Leggings
Monica is one of our frequent Spoonflower customers, she has a range of Little Smilemakers designs up in her shop every season. She makes wonderful leggings from her Salt Lake City home while she raises her two sons. This shop is perfect if you have some gentlemen to dress. Because she has a fun range of cool boys stuff in there. For this months post we selected out abstract strokes fabric. One of our most popular prints. Monochrome fabric is trending right now! She also has some gender neutrals and more girly items too. They're lovely. Go take a look!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Have an awesome and creative new Year!

We are just back in the studio and would like to wish you an amazing new year full of joy, creative opportunities, love and warmth. This year so many things will be changing. We are busy starting up our exclusive fabric production, collaborating with a new partner, finding the right producer, we are settling in our new studio space and are finishing up our brand new brick and mortar store here in The Hague. It has been crazy hard work, testing our patience, learning something new every day. But very much worth it. Hopefully by the end of the year we can see our hard work pay off a little. We'll be opening our shop soon, we are planning new sewing workshops, so many things to plan and start. So as you can imagine I am very excited to start this new year. Hopefully 2017 will bring you bliss and laughter.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Trend alert: Typography monochromes

Some of you might know that typography can make me happy, I have studied graphic designs and typography before I became a printmaker. So seeing typography pop up as a trend makes me go yay! So happy to see this being picked up.

We wanted to feature some of our monochromes for this month’s trend alert. Raw sketches ABC & numbers designs. We have made a series of back to school prints for fabric and also added some typography designs for postcards and iPhone cases in bright popping colors and of course black and whites. Those simple and elegant black and white fabric designs are perfect for gender neutral clothes and home and nursery accessories. And we see an increase in popularity in on our monochrome designs. So come take a look at our collection.

Fabric featured in this post:
Sketch & Type
Spotted dalmatian
ABC Love
Raw Math
Strong Alphabet
Number Love

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Top 10 New Year Resolutions from an artist // Happy New Year

A brand new year! Hopefully you have had an amazing NY eve, did some partying, cocktail drinking with friends or cuddle up with your family or loved ones. After weeks of making lists and taking time to reflect on the past year it is now time to make room for a new year. Make plans, start new beginnings and of course: new year’s resolutions!

I know every year I have a bunch of silly ones. Luckily enough I am pretty content with my life so usually my new year resolutions are not very strict, life altering or sudden. For this year I have made a series of illustrations to remind myself to stay close to who I am and what I want. They say visualizing your goals makes it easier to work towards them right? The past months have been pretty hectic, so many new things, a demanding new business, to worry about, I have to keep reminding myself to be a little more kind to myself. Add some things, remove some habits, balance my time. Here are some of my favorite new year resolutions for this year.

1 // Create something every day
As a designer this might be a little obvious but the past 6 months my days were filled with contacting customers, searching for the right people for our studio renovations, being busy learning new things to set up a new business, meeting with lawyers, trying to get money back on fabric orders, trying to resolve a ‘water’ issue, fighting for justice with a company who is handing out my designs to anyone. Well, I can go on for a while. But all this meant creating was not an option. An artists day only has 24 hours so for the new year I need to sit down and create again. Do what I love most. Start my day with a pencil in my hand. Definitely my number one resolution for the new year.

2 // Don’t work for assholes
Well, as I already mentioned above, working as an independent artists means having to deal with shitty things sometimes. Every year I try to let go of those who take advantage, are disloyal or just behaving like complete ignorant assholes, mind my vocabulary. I am pretty easy going and if you do something stupid and apologize I am pretty forgiving. Unfortunately saying sorry is a little hard for some companies. I have to remind myself: I will be fine without the drama. I rather work with people that have a heart. Bye bye!

3 // Travel
The most important thing in my life is my freedom. Starting a new business might come with some extra strings but I have to remind myself to take time to travel, soak up some new impressions. I am a worthless human being when I am trapped in a routine. I want to experience new things, challenge my own perspective. It keeps me sharp, clear, focussed and most important: inspired to create new things.

4 // Eat more ice-cream
I know right? Such a great goal! No, I don’t want to lose weight, or eat healthier. I pretty much exercise twice a week and eat pretty healthy home made food, fresh veggies, start the day with smoothies, you name it. But this past summer I went out for ice cream once! Seriously! So I do need to eat more ice-cream, treat myself a little. Don’t forget to spoil yourself sometimes!

5 // Write more
I love creating, I am not a very good writer though but I like how it organizes my thoughts and experiences. We do not take enough time to let things in. To experience to the fullest. I love writing down things to sit down and reflect. It is like taking pictures of moments. They will stay with you a little longer. I love sitting down to write blogposts but I am too busy to make them as in dept as I would like. So yes, write more, and take time to write.

6 // Go for walks
I don’t spend enough time in nature. And I love wandering around the forest, take a walk on the beach. Go out and clear my mind. So important! I do not have a significant other special peep to talk about and share my day with over dinner and I know that my mind will go get busy if there is no room to digest things. A walk in the park can do wonders. I should. I will go for a walk. Once a week. With or without company. So doing this!

7 // Smile to strangers
Don’t you hate it when someone looks at you and they try to ignore seeing you? they cannot look away any faster. Especially irritating when they know you personally. What the hell? Such a weird way of treating someone. Sometimes I can feel very lonely, I walk down a busy street. No one interacts with one another. That is definitely not me. I started smiling at strangers, just a second, a short connection can make a day a whole lot lighter. A simple smile makes such a difference. It even releases endorphins, natural painkillers people! Let's give it a try!

8 // Eat more Cheesecake
Cheesecake is my guilty pleasure. I used to meet up with my best friend over cheesecake to talk about life, and love and everything that would keep us busy. Eating more cheesecake means: spending more time with loved ones. Sit down and listen. Quality time with friends. Let's make it a priority again!

9 // Quit buying shoes
And suddenly I was and accidental shoe addict. I don’t like shopping, I don’t like trying on clothes, I don’t like brief trends and I am not someone you’ll catch shopping on a Saturday afternoon. But as a human being I kinda have to cover myself, with clothes. Somehow I always go home with new shoes. I should definitely stop buying shoes instead of clothes!

10 // Get a new kitty
Or make some room in my life for something cuddly. I have had a cat for 22 years and I miss a soft purring creature that makes my house a home. But I am also a little anxious to commit. I might have some issues with commitment nowadays. Hmmm. Get a new kitty might be the first step to healthy commitments again.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas // Enjoy the holidays!

It is that time of the year again when half of the world gathers and celebrates Christmas. Christmas time is always a time to look back and reflect on the past year. We have so much to be thankful about!

The past year I have registered my new company, to take a step into a different direction. Together with a partner we are setting up a brand new shiny studio and a shop. So many things are happening! And what a great fruitful year it has been for the studio. We have worked for companies all over the world. Have seen our designs pop up in Canada, Australia, and we added South Africa and Brazil to our list of countries we do business with. 2016 was a fun year but also had some bumps in the road. We discovered a crazy lot of misuse of our designs, and struggled with a representing company not fighting on our behalf. We said goodbye to a 10 year business collaboration but in the end it will only give me and my business the freedom to stay close to the heart, create and make other people happy with our designs.

So we hope you can look back to a great and successful and most of all joyful year. Go enjoy the holidays! And take some time to reflect on where you are. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Made with Little Smilemakers Studio Fabric // Top 5 December 2016 

It is so exciting to see a finished project after working hard on a new collection of design or a series of illustrations for our clients. But with finished fabric designs it is even a bigger surprise to see what customers create. To see how final products evolve when people put their own creative energy in there is amazing.  
If you browse around on Etsy or Instagram for some kids fashion or home decoration you are very likely to stumble upon some Little Smilemakers prints. Most creatives with small home based businesses sell their projects via internet and tag us via Instagram. So we see some amazing things pop up in our feed every month. We love how Little Smilemakers creations are the foundation for other creatives all around the world to work with. So here is our monthly blog post that features some creative results from the US, Australia and India. This month we selected a whole bunch of winter and seasonal inspired fabrics, turned into the most gorgeous items. Kids fashion, nursery accessories and home and interior decoration, so much to choose from! We have selected some cute tote bags, leggings and soft sole shoes. Take a look and see if there is something for your little one too. This is our December top 5 selection. 
1 // Daily Objects 
Next to phone accessories, laptop cases and notebooks, Daily Objects now also launched a new collection of tote bags and pouches in different sizes with beautiful high quality leather detailing. We love those new totes! They make a perfect gift for Christmas. In Holland they have banned plastic bags, a cool shopper is a must. They also added some cool home decor to their range of products. Our prints are now also available on pillows. Oh yes and of course Daily Objects offers world wide shipping on their products too. Click here for their collection.
2 // Le Petit Bouton 
Lisa Gillies a young mum and the owner of Le Petit Bouton. Like many new mums, she was madly searching for items for her little girl that were unique, on trend, and made with beautiful fabric and she was getting frustrated at not being able to find exactly what she wanted. That is why she decided to start her fun shop, stocking gorgeous little girls hair clips, hair ties and headbands using beautiful designer fabrics and organic knits. Our little reindeer girls have also been added to her webshop for this holiday season. Her products are perfect for special occasions, party favors, birthdays, baby showers, new arrivals, school, stocking fillers...the list goes on! Baby skyler is modeling her fun products. Such a cute little girl! Take a look at her shop if you want to get your hands on one. 
3 // Olive the Things 
For our seasonal ‘Made with’ post we selected a cute reindeer sweater. One our our personal favorites for this jolly season. This Utah based shop offers a great selection of soft sweaters, hoodies, shorts and other cool kids items. of you are looking for some cozy pieces for your little one, this is the place. take a look at their Etsy shop and check all fun mix & match pieces.

4 // Hazel & Holly 
We love these cute Origami Santa leggings. Perfect leggings for the holiday season right? And suitable for both boys and girls. This Washington based shop offers handmade kids clothes has a wonderful collection of seasonal fashion for kids. We have created some new Christmas themes that were selected for her new range. Leggings, skirts, beanies. Check them all in her Etsy shop.
5 // Little Pitterpat 
Every month a new set of soft soles pops up in our feed. Little Pitterpat has been using our designs for over two years now and we keep loving the way our fabrics are turned into the most adorable baby and toddler shoes. These soft soles baby shoes are made by hand in Sharies studio in Montana. For this months 'Made with' post we selected their Grizzly Bear Ski Slope print. One of our fave designs suitable for both boys and girls and we know how handy those gender neutral items can be. Looking for a baby shower gift? These cute shoes make a great present. So take a look into her shop if you want to have a pair of these. She has over 500 different items, yes lot's of different prints as well, to choose from. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Top 5 fabric trends // winter 16/17 // watch out for these cool themes and styles this winter

Every season we reveal our best selling designs and make a fun top 5 of current trends. In this part of the world we are preparing for the colder season and all winter themes are picked up. But down under things are getting warmer, so we always have to contrasting geographical areas fighting for the hot sellers title. So much fun to see those two world join in our shop sales. Here is our Top 5 in fabric trends for this year’s winter season. All fabrics are listed below.

Monochromes & Textures
More and more people begin to realize we need a serene and peaceful place to call home after being overly exposed to so many things each and every day this seems to be a ultimate lifestyle change all around the world. As a designer the prints I love most are the basic, plain, pure shapes. We have been making fabric and print designs for over 8 years now and we have seen the shift from crazy colorful-all-colors-of-the-rainbow-in-one to the pure Scandinavian inspired texture like designs. And we love it. In this time and age our fabric buyers are more conscious and fabric should fit into a multi purpose: gender neutral, age neutral, cross seasonal etc. We love this strong trend since we love working with a clean simple shape and turn it into a strong repeat for fashion and home decoration. Especially the monochromes have been very popular this season. In strong black and white, less saturated natural colors and soft pastels.

Kawaii faces
When we visit japan almost two years ago we were inspired to make a new series of Kawaii style designs. We all know Hello Kitty right? Kawaii means something adorable or cute in Japanese and while I was traveling through this amazing one-of-a-kind quirky country I notice nearly everything ‘graphic design’ related, business logo’s, packaging, public adds, infographics: everything was Kawaii. Cute tiny eyes and a smiley face. So we are so happy to see these eyelashes, tiny faces and smiles pop up in home decoration in this part of the world. Our most popular Kawaii inspired print must be our popsicles and ice-cream design. But we also created some winter themes for this colder season. We mixed it up with a little Scandinavian: less colors. Hopefully we can enjoy those smiley faces for another few years.

Bears & Sloths
We looooove all the typical fall and winter animals. Animals will always be one of the most hot-selling themes and every year there is another animal standing out and trending like no other. This winter it has been the grizzly & polar bear. Bears are popping up everywhere and unfortunately a lot of copies are also going around also. But we have a cool, very unique selection in our shop. When we are preparing for snow, down under they are sewing their new summer pieces. This summer we saw our Sloths picked up all around the world. Now 8 months after releasing the Pura Vida series in our exclusive design presentation every single print artist has their own sloth available. So the sloths probably won’t be here next year but we wanted to celebrate them a little anyway. Next to elephants my personal fav-of-all-time animal. How can you NOT love those quirky creatures?

Gender Neutral Kids Themes
The past few years there has been a worldwide discussion about gender. This topic made it a little difficult to sell my pink designs as ‘girls print’ and blue designs as ‘boy print. Sometimes we get the most nasty comments on designs in blue or pink. The thing is: if someone is looking for ‘baby boy fabric’ you kinda need to tag designs in a way everyone can find what they need. It does not mean we think blue should only fit boys. As a Dutch designer I can tell you I am quite happy about the gender discussion and when people get better informed they also make better choices so that is why we see an increase in sales in kids designs that are gender neutral. It is getting more and more important to NOT label and we are so happy to see how strongly this effects our sales. That is why we wanted to add it to our top 5 trends this winter. Buying gender neutral is not only a gender conscious decision, it also reduces the footprint for our kids fashion industry and home decoration companies. Why release two lines when you can cover all at once? I love it! We plan on making more and more neutral prints ourselves but keep adding a boy and girl tag every now and then.

All night and sky related designs are crazy popular this year. It is so funny to see how all dream themes and sky related prints are trending. Our hot air balloon designs were all sold with an exclusive license this year, we did not manage to add new designs to our fabric shop but our oldies, clouds, moon & stars, they are all picked up and are popping up in small boutiques all around the world. So funny how quick a trend can set! We thought this dream topic was a good one to end this post with. If you are looking for some fresh themes go visit our Spoonflower shop and show us what you make!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Fabric feature Friday // New Apfelschick fall collection // Plus sign fabric

Our plus sign print has been one of our all time faves all over the world. This design keeps selling like crazy for over three years now. But we never licensed a darker version of the fabric up until this fall.

We have licensed some fabric designs to this small online webshop in the past year. This German company run by Dana, mommy of three, sells fabric per meter and doesn’t really turn these into kids clothes herself, ok she probably does, but when we saw this amazing photoshoot with this cute little boy showing off his new plus sign sweater and beanie we just had to share it with you guys and give them a little Shout Out. Our new plus signs are now available in her shop so if you’d like to start being creative and make some fun fashion for yourself of your little one get your hands on a piece of this wonderful fabric before she runs out. Visit the shop!

Photo credit: Eulis Nähwerkstatt

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sources of inspiration // Top 10 favorite world wide Modern Art Museums & Galleries

As an artist, I can find inspiration in everyday things — but traveling, that's a whole different creative source. Maybe it's the need to feel connected to the bigger picture, or a different culture; or to get more insight into who I am and explore things from another perspective. Maybe it's simply stepping away from my routine and overlooking things from a distance. But one thing is for sure: traveling provides an endless flow of inspiration, and there's an entire world to explore.

How often do you visit a gallery or museum? Holland has some great art galleries and museums and I love to see all these different artists and skills come to life. I often visit the Pulchri Studio close to my home in The Hague where they have new art up on the walls every few weeks. I try to visit museums during my travels. It is lovely to see cultural differences, there is a different way of expression in each part of the world. What museum would you recommend in your country/city? For this post I have selected a top 10 of personal faves. I have seen quite some Modern Art Museums and would like to share those with you. Some awesome gems of The Netherlands and some less obvious choices, places I have seen during my travels. Enjoy!

1 // MAXXI - Rome
Rome is not a typical place to visit if you love modern art. Also modern architecture is not really common in the city, but if you take a train out of the city center you can visit a few very interesting places if you stop at Euclide. The 'bugs' at the musical auditorium for instance are a architectural feast. The arena Palazzetto dello Sport built in 1960 for the summer Olympics is a very interesting piece, could use a fresh layer of paint though. But the real gem for me was discovering the MAXXI. The National Museum of contemporary art and architecture. The building itself is simple beautiful and only open for public for 6 years now. With it's sharp edges and overlaps it's a surprisingly pretty composition in a slightly neglected looking area of the city. The exhibits are surprisingly well set up and diverse. I was very happy to see a some Italian parents brought along their kids to explore this place. There is a nice library dedicated to the building and Roman modern architecture. Check out the website before you go. All exhibits are contemporary. The ones I visit were conceptual, highly political engaged and visually powerful. But of course every artist and every expo will be different. Enter a place like this without expectations and it will surprise you.

2 // Pulchri Studio - The Hague
This Art gallery is a place you can just walk in free of charge. Every few weeks there is something else to discover here. The short term exhibitions are great for a little break during a busy working day and I visit this gallery in the old part of The Hague frequently. You can also enjoy a good lunch in the restaurant area, or sit down and have a coffee.

3 // Brandhorst Museum - Munich
The museum itself is a great piece of architecture that is already worth a little glance. Inside of the museum you can find a collection of modern art with a large representation of work by American artists. My personal favorite is the collection of paintings by Twombly on the first floor. Unfortunately the Museum prohibits photography. Such a shame since I love to capture the amazing visual art to take them home to stash in my box of memories.

4 // Tate Modern - London
On the bankside of the river Thames you can find one of my favorites of all time. The very immense and industrial looking The Tate Modern is a place for modern and contemporary art. If you ever get the chance to fly in to this city do check what is happening here. There have has numerous amazing exhibitions in the part. Malevich, Kandinsky, Hodgkin, Hopper, to name just a few. You can easily spend an entire day at this place.

// Brooklyn Museum - New York
New York has so much to offer for the creative soul. There are many places worth visiting but on my last trip to the Big Apple I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to watch the Ai Weiwei expo in the Brooklyn Museum. I am a big fan of modern art but this museum also shows a little bit about the history of Brooklyn and I was surprised about the variety and quality of art that was shown here. It is a gem and truly worth crossing the river for.

6 // Moderna Museet - Stockholm
Pay attention creative peeps! If you ever visit Stockholm: visit Skeppsholmen. You need to visit this little creative island. I was lucky enough to spend a truly magical summer night here with some live music and street food in the Moderna Museet garden during the Yayoi Kusamas exhibit. Surrounded by Picasso scultures I was enjoying a live performance of one of my fav sing and sing writers José González. You can visit the Moderna Museet but don’t forget to enjoy the outside sculptures by Calder and Jean Tingely and Niki de Saint Phalle. From the island you have a beautiful view over Stockholm. Walk around the island and check out the little harbor on the northern part with old steamships and fishing boats. A great place to enjoy the sunset. From the south side you can take a ferry to the Abba Museum or Nordiska Museet.

7 // Louisiana - Copenhagen
As a graphic designer I adore this amazing Danish museum of modern art. If you ever visit Copenhagen make sure to take the train to this museum. It will take you an hour traveling North but it is a lovely way through a beautiful area of Denmark. The museum is located in the most lush area near the seaside and the sculpture garden has a breathtaking view over the water. But trust me, you don’t need the water, there is so much to see inside alone. With over 3.500 pieces of art, a combination of American, European and Danish art from 1945 till now, there is enough to see to keep you busy for a day without noticing the surroundings. Warhol, Picasso, Kiefer, Kandinsky, they are all there. But if you visit the museum on a summer day, do take a stroll through the park and enjoy sculptures from Calder, Henry Moore and my personal favorite: Miró. A must see, beautiful museum. Definitely one of my all time favorites.

8 // FOAM - Amsterdam
My favorite museum for Photography is located in Amsterdam. I think it is the museum I visit most frequently in Holland. They have temporary exhibits and change their walls every few months. I have seen numerous great photographers here. Helmut Newton’s life work. Annie Leibovitz with her famous portraits. The Kate Moss Show. Vivian Maiers black and white, street photography and this winter there is another big name to add to the list: Weiwei. FOAM is a lovely place to pop in for a quick visit. You’ll be in and out in 2 hours so if you want to see something during you stay in Amsterdam but don’t want to wait in one of those crazy museum lines go visit this little photography gem.

9 // Blain Southern Gallery - Berlin
This contemporary art gallery is located in the old press building and offers a huge canvas to artists. This summer the gallery has an impressive exhibit of Morellet. You can see his paintings and also his later work: neon installations. His work was influenced by artists like Piet Mondriaan and Max Bill. You can see some similarities in the movement and the composition but using materials like neon, concrete, metal, and leaving out color were considered to be quite modern back then and still make his work very unique. What I love about the gallery itself is that it has a huge main area with one high sealing stretching up into the sky. The canvas for the work makes the art even more astonishing.

10 // MoMa - New York
New York, one of the most inspiring art museums are based here. With the Frick Collection, the wonderful Guggenheim with temporary exhibits and of course the Witney. All amazing places to go and check out but my fav: the MoMa will always be one of the greatest places to visit if you are an artist, I think this museum is a must see. Don’t get me wrong, there are other awesome places in New York, I will have to type down a top 10 for New York only some time… The MoMa has some iconic pieces every artists should see i real life. Monet’s Water Lilies for instance. Picasso, Matisse and our very own Piet Mondriaan and Willem de Kooning spreading our strong Dutch Design. The sculpture garden has some wonderful pieces too, don’t skip those. But I particularly like this place, not because of those great names but because there is a mix of so many different techniques, that really trigger my imagination. Why choose paper or why stick with ink? Sculptures, paintings, architecture, graphics. Very inspirational place!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sinterklaas & Zwarte Piet // Dutch Holiday season start // Kleurplaat & Kijkdoos

For non-Dutchies this might be a little bit of a strange post. Each year The Netherlands celebrates Sinterklaas the first week of December. It is quite similar to the well known Santa tradition in the US but our old white bearded man comes from a typical Dutch heritage. He arrives on a boat with a dozen of helpers that come and turn the dark November month into a sweet candy filled mayhem. Like Santa fills socks, Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Piet fills kids shoes with presents and candy.

Each year we try to create a cool freebie around this traditional Dutch holiday. This time of the year we need some cool crafty projects to work on while it is pouring out go sit down and have a nice crafty afternoon with your kids. This year we have a fun project to work on. A Sinterklaas and Zwarte Pier themed set of drawings your kids can color, cut and paste into their Sinterklaas paper Peepshow. Click on the image below and save the file to your desktop. Don't forget to send us your results!

This crafting set was originally made by me around 10 years ago for H&M Holland when I was still working for a design company that was hired to do all H&M's graphic design in The Netherlands. The original illustrations were made for them and this crafting project was a free give-away they handed out to mommies and daddies shopping for their youngsters.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Top 5 tips // online shopping Christmas gifts for fussy people // tips & tricks for the perfect present

It is that time of the year again, half way November it is sneaking up on you: you have to get started on your Christmas shopping before all awesome things are sold out. But time flies and as you schedule in your day of shopping you realize it is mid-December already. There is no time to cover all those gifts in one day!

Christmas can be pretty hectic and shopping for the perfect gift can be pretty stressful. For some people hand picking a present is almost impossible. How to get your hands on a cool, genuine item your family member appreciates? I love to keep it close and personal, but sometimes some people… First of all, take a deep breath and realize we live in a world of internet and 24hour shipping. Things will be all right! We have made a top 5 for the more fussy peeps, the art of giving.

1 // The Designer
I must be the most difficult person to buy something for so let’s start with a the fussy eco-conscious designer. Go for a one-of-a-kind present and stay away of bulk knick-knacks and artificial materials. Think about something authentic and handmade like a piece of handmade jewelry or licensed designer wall art. Art can be very personal so if your friend is a designer think about what they create themselves, is their style colorful, vintage or minimal? You can find all kinds of styles, on trend and contemporary via Society 6 where you can choose different sizes, frames and of course designs.

2 // The One-Without-Any-Hobbies
One of my family members is really difficult to please when it comes to picking a Christmas gift. Don’t fall into the gift bundle or gift card trap. If you have every unwrapped one of these your know that ‘oh, yeah’ feeling. Not very exciting unwrapping those. Make your gift personal, maybe print out a small photo book of your time together. Spend some money on a shared experience, a high tea together, a day at the museum or a sewing class. Whatever fits best and shows the recipient you put in some effort. We have found some cool courses via Ansje Handmade. Take a look!

3 // The Teen
I did not grow up with a lot of cash when I was a teen so I appreciated every gift coming my way, even second hand clothes. But I remember one gift up until this day: receiving a souvenir from my fathers (then) new girlfriend: a bottle of Sahara desert sand. I loved the fact that someone took the effort to think about me while riding a camel a few 1000 kilometers away. What was perfect about this gift that it was not related to my own style and needs of expression. Stay away from clothes and specific items they do not ask for. (Or get the ones they ask for.) Give them something they haven’t seen before or expands their horizon. A lot of things can do that. A night at the theater, a concert ticket. I loved that little bottle filled up with sand, it made me wonder about the world, about places I had never seen before. After that she gave me tickets to a summer festival I could not afford. She still remains the best gift selector up until today.

4 // The Grandpa
Our older family members can use a little help every now and then and sometimes the Christmas presents they go home with seem to be more like an old people survival kit. Containing weird storage boxes for their daily medicine, walking sticks or those giant sized objects because their sight is not what it used to. Surprise your Grandpa a little and get them something fun, colorful or shiny. Something from the now, some on trend socks or a cool hat your hipster boyfriend could wear. Give them the impression they belong in this time, in the here and now, instead of teaching them they need help. We love Happy Socks but have you heard of the Alfredo Gonzales? They have some cool stuff too.

5 // The Colleague
Not sure if this goes for celebrating Christmas all over the world but in Holland we have a thing called ‘surprises’ where we blindly pick a name form a jar and then we end up having to arrange a present for our dusty accountant 60+ colleague. Everyone has to buy one person a present and that means sometimes it is for that colleague that kinda holds a grudge for you, or that spoiled posh manager. Those things can be tricky. Buying a present for someone you don’t specifically like can be hard but thank god for modern technology. Just check their devices: iPads? Laptop size? What type of phone? And get them some cool case, laptop sleeve or accessory that fits their style or interests. Daily objects for instance offers a great collection of cases. Abstracts, themed, textured, girly. I bet you can find something fun in their collection of designs.

Last but not least we have a top for all guys out there shopping for their wives, girlfriends, mothers or sisters: Stay away from beauty ‘improving’ products and of course kitchen appliances. Oh and lovers: don’t give that ring under the family tree, wait for a private moment!

All right we have covered some of the fussy peeps. Whatever you do don’t buy a ‘joke.’ be considerate and show your loved ones you love them by giving them something from the heart, not so much from the brain. Enjoy giving!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Made with Little Smilemakers Studio Fabric // November 2016

It is so exciting to see a finished project after working hard on a new collection of design or a series of illustrations for our clients. But with finished fabric designs it is even a bigger surprise to see what customers create. To see how final products evolve when people put their own creative energy in there is amazing.

If you browse around on Etsy or Instagram for some kids fashion or home decoration you are very likely to stumble upon some Little Smilemakers prints. Most creatives with small home based businesses sell their projects via internet and tag us via Instagram. So we see some amazing things pop up in our feed every month. We love how Little Smilemakers creations are the foundation for other creatives all around the world to work with. So here is our monthly blog post that features some creative results from the US, Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand and Indonesia. This month we selected a whole bunch of crisp, minimal, Scandinavian inspired fabrics, clean whites with a color pop and monochrome prints turned into the most gorgeous items. Kids fashion, nursery accessories and home and interior decoration, so much to choose from! We have selected some cute harem pants, leggings, baby blankets, bibs and cool lion hats. Take a look and see if there is something for your little one too. This is our November selection.

Mooi is a company that specializes in baby nursery textiles and home products for kids based in Indonesia. We love seeing our prints traveling all around the world. Their range of bedding and textile products is fresh and light. Their whimsical prints are on trend and we love their photography styling. Their collection is modern and Scandinavian inspired with lot's of white and color pops. For their new collection they selected our triangles and turned them into these awesome blankets. Curious about the rest of their collection? Take a look in their shop.

Kidooz is a Dutch shop full of fun kids toys, clothes and accessories. They offer a small collection of baby, toddler and kids clothing all eco friendly and we selected our bubbles and pineapples for this months made with. These prints fit perfectly in our Scandinavian style November post don't you think? Looking for a fun gift or wanna get your hands on one of these cute leggings? Take a look into the shop and order your fav print.

Ollie & Coco
Ollie & Coco is a small company based in Australia and makes adorable baby bandana's and bibs. They just added a big selection of Little Smilemakers prints to their shop. We love designing on a clear white background and clearly we are a good fit. We love to see so many of our designs pop up in their shop so we thought a little shout out was in place. We love to see some less obvious prints used for baby items. Those coffee cups and percolator bibs are perfect for caffeine loving mummies! Or Italy lovers like me. Okay, I might go for a headband then... Wanna get your hands on one of these cool new bibs? Check out their shop!

Little Pitterpat
Every month a new set of soft soles pops up in our feed. Little Pitterpat has been using our designs for over two years now and we keep loving the way our fabrics are turned into the most adorable shoes. These soft soles baby shoes are made by Sharie. All items are made by hand in Sharies studio in Montana. For this months 'Made with' post we selected their new Raccoon Cactus print. One of our fave designs suitable for both boys and girls and we know how handy those gender neutral items can be. Looking for a baby shower gift? These cute shoes make a great present. So take a look into her shop if you want to have a pair of these. She has over 500 different items, yes lot's of different prints as well, to choose from.

Bean Sprout
We love this African Lion print and are happy to see this new design pop up on finished items. Bean Sprout has a great selection of Little Smilemakers fabrics turned into the most adorable baby and kids fashion accessories. Monochromes, christmas themes, enough for you to take a look and order something cute.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Daily Objects // New Tote Bags, Phone Cases, Pillows, Pouches and Notebooks

For over three years now we have been working together with Daily Objects. The company started out selling phone cases and accessories but has grown into a full trendy lifestyle brand. They have expanded their collection with stationary products, tote bags, pillow cases and so much more cool stuff. So as you can imagine it was about time to post a little piece about this company before the holiday craziness kicks in.

Global & On Trend Phone Cases
DailyObjects works with over 70 designers from around the world and offer a fun selection of graphics. Abstracts, comics, Scandinavian inspired prints… enough to choose from. They use advanced printing technologies to ensure that your cases and other items not only look fantastic but are also durable, they even offer a lifetime warranty on their products. Their amazing collection of designs have been carefully selected from artists across the globe, now offering designs from over 70 artists from 28 countries. Watercolorists, surface pattern designers, illustrators, they are all part of the Daily Objects collective and they are still expanding. So much fun to be part of this rapidly growing business.

Tote Bags & Pouches
Daily Objects offers a small range of leather goods, key chains, leather wraps and notebooks. But now they also launched a new collection of tote bags and pouches in different sizes with beautiful high quality leather detailing. We love those new totes! They make a perfect gift for Christmas. In Holland they have banned plastic bags, a cool shopper is a must. Oh yes and of course Daily Objects offers world wide shipping on their products too.

Ok as a designer I am pretty much a paper lover by heart. So when we found out Daily Objects was also making Notebooks we got super excited. We love those notebooks. I am a pretty neurotic list keeper so I can never have enough notebooks in stock. These notebooks have a soft matte finish. Perfect for some classroom notes or scribblings.

Cushion Covers
As a print designer my couch is filled with cool pillows. Daily Objects now offers cushion covers too. These cushions are a great gift for your BFF’s birthday or as a sweet house warming present. Many of our Indian themes are selected for their pillow range. There are some abstracts and Scandinavian inspired designs to choose from too. Take a look and smile up your new home!

Oh and don't worry they still sell over a 100 different cell phone case versions, protective cases, transparent cases and wood cut cases. Also they have some cool laptop sleeves and leather items. So for all you guy shoppers out there looking for a cool present for your girlfriend; check out their cool accessory collection for more manly stuff. Enjoy!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Announcement for Shutterstock buyers // License designs // Contact our studio directly

Some of you have noticed already: We are no longer licensing our designs via Shutterstock. Due to a crazy sh*tload of misuse, and no proper sollution to prevent this in the future, we decided our designs were not getting protected as they should and we decided to delete our collection. We are very sorry for all you buyers it had to come this far since we worked with Shutterstock for almost 10 years, but things got.... unworkable.

We have removed our all our designs and we are working on a new library of non-exclusive artwork. You can now only license our designs by contacting us directly. If you would like to receive a link to view our online portfolio just send us an email and we are happy to send you a link to our work. We are still in the process of adding all designs to this library, not our entire collection has been uploaded yet but we are working on it! It will take a little while before all 5000+ designs are all up, processed and tagged. Please have some patience!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Freshtastic Little Smilemakers Fabric: Winter weather // November selection

Every month we upload new work to our Spoonflower shop and over the past 5 years our portfolio has grown from zero to over 3000 designs to choose from. Behind the scenes we can search within our portfolio but we noticed customers have a hard time finding what they want sometimes. With our monthly Freshtastic Fabric post we feature new fabric that was added to our shop. We include some direct links to these new designs and color versions. Hopefully we can filter on trend designs and make the process of selecting prints a little easier.

For our November post we selected some Winter Weather themes we wanted to give a little extra attention. We have made some fun abstract designs for our Inky Texture collection, and some more whimsical prints for fun winter home decoration or cute little kids fashion items.

Sky themed designs have been trending for over three years now. We have made som fun monochrome versions, some abstracts and now we added some winter color schemes of this Inky Texture Cloud fabric to our shop. We created the Inky texture series a year ago, we made some exclusive designs for Hemmers/Itex. But these clouds did not make the cut. Hope you like these new blue, nude and mint colors.

I personally love knitted clothes. I would probably not survive Dutch winter without those. My feet are stuck in woolen winter slippers as we speak. I like how I can make my winter mummy outfit a little more joyful by just adding some fun mittens or a colorful hat or scarf. We added these illustrated designs to our shop so you can turn them into something cosy. Check out these icy, wood, lilac and blue colors in our shop.

With the color season comes rain. Those rainy days make me all melancholic, and as usual I turn something I really don't like into something pretty: an abstract memphis inspired raindrop print. That is how I deal with these things. Just create something. These designs are ready for you to create something cute too. We already had some colorful summer schemes up in the shop, now you can also find some neutrals and more natural colors: wood, blue and lilac.

This print has been trending in our shop already. This snowmen design was part of our exclusive design series last year but it wasn't licensed up until now so we decided to add this design to our Spoonflower fabric shop. We just uploaded this winter print and it is already selling like mad. If you want to order here are the links to these featured colors: pink, blue and our favorite: teal.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween // Crazy spooky pumpkin fest

It's Halloween again! Are your ready for this year's fright night? Traditionally October 31 is the day to remember the dead. But nowadays it is a time to dress up and have fun. And we love to see what all our fabric customers are creating this year. Fun pumpkin leggings, black cat dresses. We have seen so many cute designs made with our Little Smilemakers Spoonflower fabric.

And even though this holiday has turned into this crazy dress up party world wide, it is also a day to remember those that passed. Enjoy this joyful holiday, celebrate and remember the life of those whom have passed and left a mark in your life or have influenced your being. Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Limited Edition Memphis Style Little Smilemakers fabric // available via Ansje Handmade

We have something really cool to share with you guys! The past months we have been testing the market for fabric production ourselves. We worked with suppliers in the past but never produced our own series up until this summer when we decided to test these grounds.And we have something cool to show!

We have been approached by numerous companies in the past who wanted to order fabric outside of Spoonflower. Up until now we never provided this service but we would love to see if this would be a possibility in the future. Hopefully we can start doing so in the near future but as you can imagine, we want to make sure to cover all glitches and we want a top notch quality, with a low impact on our environment. Aiming for a high end product. Safe for babies and toddlers and with a long lasting print. of course all GOTS certified meeting the highest standards in the industry.

Ansje Handmade collaboration
When the designer herself starts her own production you can make sure things better get close to perfect so for our own production we are definitely not ready yet but we have started a test production and we now have released a limited edition range of Little Smilemakers fabric working together with Anouck who runs her small fabric business Ansje Handmade. Without her things wouldn’t have come this far, she has been a vital partner in starting this process and with a whole bunch of positive energy she has supported me and together we hope to get things up and running within the next year.

Fresh Limited Edition fabric
For the first small batch we have selected 9 different colorful prints to choose from. Some fresh Memphis Style inspired abstract rain drops an brush strokes. Our all time fave geometric plus sign design and some fun kids themes of course. All designs are printed on 220grams GOTS certified jersey fabric. And there is only 15 meters of each of these designs. So for all Little Smilemakers fans in the Netherlands, rush to Anouck’s online shop to get your hands on a piece of this fresh fabric. And stay tuned for more fabric production news!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Top 5 things every starting creative should know // Starting your own design business

I was drinking my coffee at one of my favorite lunch spots here in the city and realized a lot of waiters are just creatives in disguise. Nowadays it is so hard to find a job, even after doing master after master and a great amount of unpaid internships all over the world, graphic design business and other creative business in general do not have a lot of 9 to 5 job openings. But if creating is in your genes a Barista job will eventually wear you out so lot's of newbees try to start their own business and struggle, since doing business is something completely different than creating things.

There are so many designers in this world. Why did I ever think this could be a way of making ends meet? Well, it is possible. With the right mind set, eagerness to learn new skills and flexibility you can come a long way. If you are a designer yourself and don't know where to start keep reading! Here is my personal top 5 priority list. Things that I think can really help you out while starting your own creative business.

Create a solid business plan
I never started out with a clear business plan but working in the design industry for almost 10 years made it very clear what I did and did not want for my own company. When I myself started Little Smilemakers Studio it was not to get rich and make lot's of money. It takes a good steady foundation to built something solid.

The most important thing, the one to start off with is setting clear goals. Be realistic and humble. What would you like to do? Make a description of your workflow and plan your days. What clients would you like to work with? How much time would you like to work? What is most important? What sacrifices are you willing to make or not make? Could you work from your home office and save money or would you like to have a studio? Where would you want to be a year from now?

I schedule a little time to reflect ever quarter. What can I improve? What is going well? Where there any major issues to deal with? It is important to make time to overlook what you are doing. Sometimes there is so much to do you loose track of what is important to you. The one thing that being an independent designer should always keep in mind: Am I doing what I love? You can always go back being a Barista without all the responsibility of running your own business.

The art of social Media
The first thing you should know: Social Media is your new best friend. And as your friend it needs frequent attention and now and then some critical input. I know lot's of designers that do not have their own website. We live in a very visual world and you can reach a lot of new potential business partners via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube and Instagram. Before posting and oversharing make a plan about what you think is representative of your business, be honest and only share things that reflect your skills and set a light on what you do best. Don't be afraid to delete old posts, comments and images that seem to lack quality if you at it later on.

Be visual. As a designer there is no better tool to present your portfolio to the world than on the internet. And we are working a in a very visual business, that is a big pro! But always be critical. Try to avoid posts that are too informal, no one wants to see your pet four times a week. Of course you can stay a little human too, but try to make the balance 20/80 when you post via Twitter or Instagram.

"Social Media is your new best friend. And as your friend it needs frequent attention"

Make sure your image is of good quality. If you want to post a finished product make sure you use with some good lightning that really improves image you put out there. Stay away from harsh lightning and mid night flashes. Just wait for the next morning and use natural light as much as possible. Research shows that light colored photography and visuals attract 80% more traffic than dark images. Something to keep in mind.

Create a Facebook page for your business. This looks very obvious but it needs a lot of work and make sure you upload frequently. By not posting anything for a few weeks your hits will drop and people might think you are out of business or just traveling the world. I always like to plan my posts, you can schedule posts if you are out of the office for instance so your page will stay active. I post things that I am working on, finished products and projects (tag your clients pages) but also try to come up with themed posts around the holidays and seasons. Variety is key here. Try to inspire your audience with everything you put on there and make sure all designs and creations are yours.

My favorite type of social media is by far Instagram. It is easy to post, tag and comment and that way your work will be found easily and lowers the threshold for people to get in touch with you and your work. Keep things interesting and inspiring. Keep in mind who you want your audience to be and connect with them by using tags. For instance I create a lot of designs very suitable for wallpaper and fabric, textile and home decor companies will study their market by searching by tag. So if you make patterns add 'Fabric' and 'Pattern' to your post. If you create typefaces add 'type' and typography etc. The right people will know where to find you. I have had several companies contacting the studio after getting connected over Instagram first.

Twitter is a great way of getting some attention too. Make sure you follow business related people and companies and keep a flow of communication going. I only use Twitter for current topics, design news, tips about online education and design courses etc. Keep in mind your potential clients are watching you. Don't get too involved into politics and off topic issues and mind your language. And always check your spelling!

Earn passive income
Making money as a designer is challenging but a true creative knows how to use their skills and make them into at least some money. I mainly create patterns and illustrations nowadays but started out as a graphic designer making brochures and logo's. I grew into creating things i love to create most and have the ability to focus on one thing now. But that can take years to accomplish. And you know, even designers, they got to eat.
On the internet you can earn a loaf of bread or two by selling your work via stock or Print on Demand websites. For instance I started out selling my photo's via Shutterstock, they were just there soaking up all this space on my computer and they were good enough for print and magazines so I started uploading my travel photography and themes that are popular in stock: food images and conceptual situations. I never earned a lot from selling my photo's, since I am not a very good photographer, I do not have the right technical skills to be a pro but from there I realized that I could just sell my illustrations there too. Even nowadays if I am not working on a project I still pass time creating new work for my stock portfolio and Society6 shop.

If you have no projects to work on and like to create things every day just keep in mind you can earn passive income with illustrations. photo's, musical compositions, paintings, video. There are many websites on which you can put your artwork into t-shirts or bedding for instance. But you can also start a blog and add advertisements to your page. Create video tutorials, typefaces or design templates. There are a lot of ways to earn some passive income. Research what works best for you and your business and once you have a decent portfolio and get the hang of it you will see the work will pay off. And don't forget to share your products via Social Media!

Join design organizations and connect to a creative network
Ah yes networking. It might be my least favorite part and I am so lucky I don't have to depend on other people too much. But working by yourself can be lonely, but also can keep you back from improving your skills, creative or business wise. If you are starting as a designer it is probably a good idea to consider attending meetings where people come together and can talk about similar experiences as a designer. I think networking is my weak point. But you simply can not do everything yourself. Keep creating, representing yourself to the world, learning new skills, researching wold markets, stay on trend and on top of that stay critical about your designs. Networking is a way to stay up to date and get feedback which is very important.

There are always people that have better skills in some areas in which you could use some extra. It is better to focus on what you can do though. I have a designer friend that is amazing with software, printing techniques and new features. If not for him I would just get a new computer plug and play without taking care of the right presets and things like that. Some people have more experience in doing business overseas, some have good knowledge of the producing side. It is good to have these people under your speed dial when things get complicated.

In Holland there is a design organization called BNO. Joining a design organization like this gives you access to legal information but also is a way to represent yourself as a legit designer. You can have a face to face with people but you can also join an online creative network. Whatever works for you. Do some research, there are several design organizations in each country.

Be honest & humble
If you don't have any colleagues to tell you "this header is a little off" you have to make sure you be critical about what you create all the time. Be honest about what you can and can not do. If a client approaches you and asks you to create a website and you are technically unexperienced don't prove yourself you can do it. Learn some skills first before taking your business for a test ride.

People always ask me "how does it feel to see your designs in shops world wide." I like to see how my designs pop up everywhere but it is still my job. I know my skillet, I know what I am good at and I see a lot of things that could use a little improvement too. Just because I am a designer that is creating prints for a famous brands and thus visually out there doesn't mean I am a good teacher or art critique. Some designers have this diva attitude which doesn't look very attractive on anyone to be honest. And I think literally people should mind their own business.

"Learn some skills first before taking your business for a test ride"

Be honest about your skills and trust your own creativity. Don't envy competition and don't try to be that competition. Work on your own skills and your own handwriting will convince people to work with you because you are unique and different from anyone else. Stay true to who you are.

You will have to work together with people and simply have to come up with a solution to their problem: company needs design. Know your skills and rather than lose patience in the process, give step by step feedback why you think your design would meet their needs. I have worked with a designer that had a complete lack of overview, made things that simply weren't practical and were not at all meeting the clients expectation. Keep communicating during the entire process. Instead of going back and forth meet each other half way. Stay in touch after you finished a project. Letting go of your creation can be hard and sometimes a client is persistent and really doesn't see what you see and it is hard giving up your baby. But it is true: kill your darlings.

Keep in mind, things worth your while are never easy. Stay on to of your game, set clear goals and work hard. For me it meant working 70 hours a week which is all right since I do not have a family or husband who need time. I am always looking for things to improve, stay on top of my numbers and after more than three years I can finally say I kind am getting the hang of it and can take a little step back in hours and if I travel it is not only for business anymore.