The blog has had a makeover! Autumn is turning out to be a great month. I found a job, I got my blogging mojo back, I have a new logo and theme for the blog and I have been accepted as a probationary member of the Garden Media Guild. Additionally, I recently visited the Chelsea Physic Garden for the first time – I will write a post on it soon. But, in a nutshell, I loved it.
I have had the blog Tulips and Terracotta for 3 years now. It hasn’t really grown compared to other garden blogs because I used it as a personal log; its niche wasn’t very well defined either. I started blogging before I had an allotment, in the garden of the house we were renting at the time, so it’s unsurprising that it does not have a plot-related name. I chose the name on the day I decided to start a blog. There was a beautiful florist’s on my way home who also sold vintage gardenalia; there I found some old terracotta pots that I just had to take home with me. On that same trip, I spotted a bunch of tulips in a bucket. They also came home with me. And that’s how it all started!
The current housing situation means that people my age and with a similar lifestyle are unlikely to be able to afford a house, nevermind a decent garden. Therefore, the aim of this blog is to show that it is possible to garden while renting, even if it is all concrete over with no open soil. If you do not own an allotment, container gardening is likely going to be the solution to a lack of space. So we should talk about it more. Sing its praises, and not lament our nonexistent herbaceous borders.
I have worked with an amazing illustrator who has designed the header for me. I had been following her on social media for a while and I had purchased a couple of things from her shop. She kindly agreed to work with me when I reached out to her with an idea and some of my own photos. Zoe, from Zoe’s Garden Prints is extremely patient and intuitive; she will give you options and her opinion which, personally, was extremely reassuring. That’s where the idea of doing a Q&A with her came from. She has managed to marry her profession with her passion, resulting in garden and vegetable prints you will want for yourself.
1) Did you set out to be an illustrator as a career? At what point did you realise selling your art online could be a job?
I’ve always loved drawing since I can remember, some people grow out of it at some stage in their life, but I never did. I knew I wanted to go to art college after school, and in my interview I remember saying I was interested in illustration as a possible career. But I ended up going more down the graphic design route as I thought there would be better opportunities for work. I went to uni and did a BA(hons) in graphic design, and my first job was working in-house for a publishing company. I’d always hoped that I would find a way to do some illustration work in-house, but apart from a few small things, that didn’t really happen.
Then I went freelance and slowly I started to get commissioned for illustration jobs as part of the book jacket design, but oddly I still didn’t seriously think of myself as an illustrator. It’s only been quite recently through illustrating a journal for my allotment, and then setting up my Etsy shop, that I decided I could call myself a bona fide illustrator, rather than a graphic designer who doodles in her spare time!
2) If someone wanted to work with an illustrator for a bespoke design, how would you go about it?
- Make sure you know the illustrator’s style and that it’s right for you, or your commission.
- Have a clear idea of what you want / expect from the process.
- Communicate as much information as you can. Photos, examples of stuff you like, etc. all help towards getting a better idea of what you want.
- Ask for lots of changes to be made after the work has been finalised. A good illustrator should send you roughs with plenty of opportunity for changes to be made prior to this.
- Expect illustrators to work for nothing.
3) What do you like working on the most?
I like working on illustrations for my Etsy shop products, just because gardening and growing food is my passion, and it’s always nice to work on something from the heart. But I do also like to be challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone occasionally too, it can throw up results I didn’t think I was capable of.
4) What is on your illustrator bucket list?
I don’t think I have a bucket list, but to illustrate a gardening book would be fab. Also, I’ve always had a secret (or not so secret now) desire to write and illustrate a children’s book. Maybe I’ll pluck up the courage one day.
5) What came first, gardening or illustrating?
Illustrating and drawing probably, which I’ve done since a child. But then I have fond memories of gardening with mum when I was quite small. She let me have a small patch of my own and allowed me to dig up any self-seeded plants she found to transplant into my little bed. She definitely sowed the seeds for my love of gardening.
6) Why do you garden?
My mum was (and still is) a very keen gardener, and as a child I just loved pottering around the garden with her. But it wasn’t until I had a house with a garden (rented to start with) that I rekindled that love, and then I discovered the joy of homegrown tomatoes. I was hooked from then on. Now I have a full allotment plot and, together with my partner, we enjoy being out in the fresh air, away from computers and technology, being at one with nature, and taking home some tasty fresh vegetables at the end of the day. It’s hard work, but then so are most things in life that are worth anything.
6) Proudest moment, and something that failed.
We’ve had huge success growing outdoor chillies this year. I think there’s an assumption that we don’t have hot enough weather for them in the UK, but so long as you can get them started early and to a reasonable size before planting out, they grow really well. Much better than those we grow in pots at home on the windowsill. My failures are too many to mention, but anything that has failed doesn’t put me off straight away. Sometimes the weather conditions just aren’t right in one particular year, but next year could be completely different. So I’ve learnt to always try again.
7) Plans for next gardening year?
Planning to try kohlrabi for the first time, and some new squash varieties. And dahlias, I’ve been inspired by some beautiful photos of them on social media, so I want to grow lots of colourful dahlias next year.
I agree with Zoe. Social media is great for finding inspiration or new varieties to grow. It also brings a community of gardeners together, one which I am very proud to be a part of.