Who are you/what do you do?
Hi, I'm Sarah Lewis and I run Alphablots. I make graphic gifts and greetings, for kids and colour-loving grown ups.
Is there a story behind the name (if it's not your own?)
Well when I started out I was working solely on letters and typographic designs, so I wanted to include the alphabet in there somewhere. I really wanted to call it Alphablobs, but someone got in there first (damn you Spongebob Squarepants). Blots tied in nicely with the ink that I was always covered in - I was hand screen printing everything at that time.
Officially Alphablots is a year old this month, but I've been designing the prints and doing craft fairs for a couple of years. It started out as a personal project - my friends were starting to have babies and I wanted gifts to give to them, but everything was either too neutral or too sentimental for my tastes. I wanted a gift with more colour, that felt cool and well designed but that would still appeal to kids. So I designed an A (for Aeryn) and then a B (for Bea) and it sort of spiralled.Do you have a style? What are you known for?
Really bright, in your face, love it or hate it colour. That's my calling card really. I work in vector, so everything is very crisp and precise and I get a real thrill from aligning and simplifying designs as far as I can while making sure there's still an element of fun or joy in there. I know computer generated art can feel cold, but I think I manage to avoid that.
Who/what/where inspires you?
I like to get out to galleries or museums whenever I can. I trawl through old type specimen books and love looking at vintage adverts and matchbook art - anything where the printing process was so basic that they had to simplify the shapes down.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Well, when I was little I was an artistic roller skater. I would have liked to aim for the Olympics, but it's not an Olympic sport, so instead, I threw myself into art. I went through a lot of options; architect, set designer, hairdresser... but everything always had a creative element. Even the skating now I think of it - I loved choreographing the routines and designing the costumes more than the skating itself. For the record, I was never going to be good enough for the Olympics - training was way too much like hard work.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It's ok to be vulnerable. I think if I'd know that when I was younger I'd have put myself out there more, creatively speaking. I thought I had to project confidence and that I had everything under control.
How did you learn your craft?
Art school, followed by lots of free or poorly paid internships (thanks mainly to my Mum who helped me with my rent for two years!). Then fifteen years working as a graphic designer. I learnt an awful lot from the other designers and artworkers I sat next to - there's only so much you can be taught at Uni.
What do you do on your days off?
Roller skate. Disco dance. Drink cocktails. Not always in that order.
Biggest highlight or achievement to date?
Winning the Paper Award at my first Top Drawer was pretty highlighty - it gave me a massive confidence boost going into the show.
My main problem is time - it is always in short supply and I often struggle to know what to focus on first. I'm trying to put some systems in place to help. The other thing I struggle with is working alone. At the moment I'm co-mentoring with another designer who's working on her own brand. We meet (on Zoom) once a week to talk about what we've achieved, critique each other's work and make plans for the following week. It's really helping - having worked in teams and big studios my whole career I miss having that sounding board.
What sparks joy in what you do?
When someone says they love a piece of my work or chooses it to give as a gift. I just did an installation on some windows that have been boarded up during the Corona lockdown and seeing people's reactions as they walk past has been pretty joyful. I walked past it this morning and there's not a single piece of graffiti on it, which made me smile.
Dream stockists/brand to collaborate with?
I love the clothing store L.F. Markey, it would be amazing to do a collaboration with them. They have a way with block colour and clean lines that really does it for me.
Any lessons you'd pass on?
Get out there, learn as you go, ask for help when you need it. And remember that it (probably) won't happen overnight, so keep going.
What's next for you and your business?
Well I've been working on lots of new designs during lockdown, so I'm hoping to be able to launch them once the shops are able to open and things get moving again. I'm also hoping to do some more site specific work and murals. At the beginning of the year I worked on a commission for the children's Neurophysiology department of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and I really enjoyed the process of working for a specific space, so more of that sort of thing would be great. Oh, and I recently started toying with the idea of making stained glass from my designs. This is a long way off, as I'm only just starting to research it. But if anyone knows a stained glass maker who might want to collaborate, send them my way!