Meet the Maker: The Catkin Boutique
Nicky from The Catkin Boutique is an illustrator who has created a mini menagerie of animal jewellery from her drawings. She also screen prints tote bags, prints and stationery. She’s one of the those people you imagine with a pencil forever in hand, always watching, always doodling, always thinking about the next design. We caught up with Nicky to talk about her work, why she believes anyone can draw and what she does if she finds herself stuck in a creative rut…
Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
Hello, my name is Nicky and I design and make jewellery from my original animal illustrations, which I sell under the name The Catkin Boutique. I also screen print Fairtrade tote bags and cards at a local print studio in Cardiff.
My style is simplified, realistic, cute. I just draw things as I seem them.
How would you describe your style? Has it changed over time?
My style is simplified, realistic, cute. I just draw things as I seem them. I’m inspired by Japanese art, both bold woodblock prints and cute decorative illustration, which I think you can see in my work. My style hasn’t changed at all over the years, it’s just getting neater.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’ve always loved drawing. Like most kids, I would entertain myself as a child with a box of colouring pens and paper. I remember crying once because I’d come to the end of my sketchbook! As a teenager, I’d design characters and draw comic strips. As I grew up, what I wanted to be would change by the week – jewellery maker, illustrator, author, graphic designer –and now funnily I’m doing all those things through the Catkin Boutique!
Everyone has their visual voice. It takes a long time to learn to see things as they are and put that on paper, but that’s the best thing about drawing: you’re always improving and learning.
When and how did you start selling?
I stumbled across shrink plastic somewhere and I remembered playing with it at a friend’s house when I was little. I wanted to make myself a rabbit brooch so I played around drawing on the plastic and then did lots of other little designs that I made into earrings. I loved the tiny details you could get with shrink plastic (and still do). I first sold these pieces of jewellery alongside some drawings I was exhibiting as part of a local village art group. They were surprisingly popular. I then started to list some online, and soon made my first sale to an actual human who I didn’t know – in Australia! This gave me more confidence and my ideas and product range grew slowly and steadily.
Where do you look for inspiration?
My main inspiration is nature and, more specifically, animals. My best ideas usually come when I’m sketching or bouncing ideas off people. I have lots of sketchbooks full of doodles and things to make, so I’m never stuck for what to do, just the time to do it! I also peruse my Pinterest boards, where I’ve saved lots of pictures of animals in the hope that I’ll come back and draw them. I do love a funny animal video online too: “Red pandas are so cute! I’ve got to make a red panda…”
Can you talk us through your design process?
I’ll have a little scribble on a page with lots of other designs. Then I’ll develop this in my sketchbook until I get a drawing I want to use. Most of my animal jewellery is drawn from my own photos or even real life, but for more exotic creatures I’ll have to go back to my Pinterest board and sketch away from there.
I know what I want to do with the image before I start, so if it’s going to be a necklace, I’ll look at how it will hang or if it’s going to be a silkscreen print, I’ll look at what scale the image should be. Then I draw the final image, which will be turned into jewellery or a print. Coloured images are done in pencils, and silkscreen images are drawn in pen and ink.
Craft is about people and community. Rather than spending money with a faceless corporation, you’re helping the person next door who has a skill and, in turn, that will help your local community.
Tell us about your studio…
My ‘studio’ is a little desk in my bedroom. I don’t need a lot of space to draw, thankfully. I’m surrounded by my all my tools: pencils, pens, jewellery findings and much more. I also have pictures and objects that I love all around me, my music and an internet full of reference pics. I sit by a window that looks out on to a back road and the rear of a row of terraced houses. I love to watch the birds and cats that inhabit this place. There is a ginger tom who sometimes comes and looks at me. I’ve called him Ginge. One day we will be friends.
Have you ever been stuck in a creative rut? What do you do if that happens?
Yes, it must happen for everyone once in a while? You just have to power through. Either do the boring accounts bit or tidy your studio – you might discover something you had squirrelled away that inspires you, or find a project you always meant to do but hadn’t got round to. Where I get stuck sometimes is with the ‘oomph’ to do things – you can lose your confidence and this is the biggest creativity killer. What to do then? Whatever you like. Make something just for yourself or take a break entirely. It always passes and you’ll be excited about the next project before you know it. Sometimes if I’m in a rut, I’ll go outside – a bit of fresh air and being around nature again can be enough to shift any mental block.
As I grew up, what I wanted to be would change by the week – jewellery maker, illustrator, author, graphic designer –and now funnily I’m doing all those things through the Catkin Boutique!
What does craft mean to you?
Craft is about people and community. When you buy handmade you appreciate that it’s someone’s vision and skill – it’s unique and special. It’s a cliché but rather than spending money with a faceless corporation, you’re helping the person next door who has a skill and, in turn, that will help your local community.
What would you say to someone who thinks they can’t draw?
That’s like saying you can’t talk. Everyone has their visual voice. I’m not much of a chatterer, I like to read but I’m much more drawn in by images – that’s my main language. People who ‘can’t draw’ usually draw honestly and children who haven’t troubled themselves with visual rules pack in more creativity. We’re not all going to be on da Vinci’s level – it takes a long time to learn to see things as they are and put that on paper, but that’s the best thing about drawing: you’re always improving and learning. And as Picasso said: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Embrace the way you depict things. It’s your unique voice.
Use the code meetthemaker for 15% off Catkin Boutique – this week only.
Have you seen the tote bag Nicky designed for us? You can get your hands on one for just £8.50 plus postage.
Buy the official Folksy Tote Bag by The Catkin Boutique >