15 Nov

Tea and cake with Cupcakes for Clara

We catch up with illustrator Laura Clempson to find out about Cupcakes for Clara, a magical world of whimsical papercrafts. Enjoy!

The best ideas come to arts and crafts enthusiasts when they least expect it and this is just what happened to illustrator Laura Clempson from Altrincham in Manchester, who was inspired to start Cupcakes for Clara – which sells stationery, sewing kits, paper dolls and a LOT more – while doodling on her lunch break. Here’s why we love Clara, Macy and the gang at Simply Homemade HQ.

Cupcakes for Clara

“Clara is a fictional character who loves cupcakes, pink and dressing up, but isn’t quite so keen on poorliness, Sunday best clothes and being told off. She likes her own way and can be extremely grumpy when she doesn’t get it!

“I designed her one lunchtime at work a few years ago while doodling. I gave her a grumpy little face and suddenly it seemed like a whole new world had just been discovered. I pictured this grumpy little redhead getting into all kinds of mischief and as soon as I drew her a twin sister (Macy), it all seemed to fall into place.

“My dream has always been to have Clara and Macy picture books published, but getting a good publishing deal can be quite tricky for a newcomer. So I decided to start a blog, open a shop and spread the word about Clara as much as possible.

“I figured that if I could make a success of selling Clara products, then when I was ready to approach a publisher Clara would have a strong fanbase already. And then how could they possibly say no? That’s the plan anyway!”

Crafty beginnings

“I have always been very creative and would much prefer to spend my time making things rather than watching TV. I’ve never been able to relax just doing one thing at once! I remember painting a t-shirt when I was about four or five with special fabric crayons – it seemed like the best thing ever! I still have it safely in my keepsake box full of all my important things from when I was little.

“I did animation at university and that involved quite a lot of illustration. I never dreamed that I would continue with that side of things though, as I much preferred the three-dimensional puppet side of animation. I don’t think I’ve ever had much confidence in my drawing ability – to be honest, I still don’t! But I do love drawing and always find it relaxes me.

“I’ve worked on the puppets for quite a few animated TV programmes and films including Postman Pat, Bob the Builder, Fifi, Raa Raa, The Corpse Bride, Fantastic Mr Fox and Frankenweenie. I was in the fur department on Fantastic Mr Fox and spent nearly a year covered in fur while punching individual hairs into the puppets. It felt like a long job! I worked in the wig department on Frankenweenie, which was great. I still haven’t seen the film though!”

Favourite makes

“There are quite a few things I’ve made that I really love. Two of my favourites are presents that I made for my husband, Tom. In 2006, we spent six months in Australia and by the end of our trip in December we had pretty much run out of money and decided to make each other presents. Stupidly, I thought I’d make a pop-up book of our holiday even though I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. After weeks of studying other pop-up books, I managed to work it all out and Tom loved it!

“One of my other favourites is a Christmas quilt I made. That’s another thing I had no idea how to do it but I muddled through and it worked out. It took forever though!! But I really love getting it out at the beginning of November each year – it’s so cosy and warm!”

My motivation

“It goes without saying that my children inspire me all the time. But the thought of inspiring others is probably what inspires me the most. Imagining other children being able to feel creative with Clara paper dolls, or make-your-own kits, is just lovely.

“I love the Clara paper dolls, they remind me so much of being little. I love the make-your-own kits too – just having everything you need all in one place without needing to go out and buy a needle, or stuffing, or anything, is just brilliant.”

Family life

“My entire family is creative! Right now, my mum is helping round the corners of my tags, my grandma is punching holes, my little ones are drawing and my husband is helping put kits together. As the Christmas busyness gets busier, it’s definitely a family affair! My children are especially creative and love nothing more than drawing, painting and gluing. I think because we have all of the materials at home, they can just grab things and get creating.

“Christmas is absolutely magical at our house! It’s our favourite time of the year, it always has been. But now we have our own two children, it’s just lovely. We decorate the whole house, take a little weekend trip to stay in a cottage at Lyme Park, spend Christmas day with my large family and generally just get really cosy! Is it really naughty that we’ve started listening to Christmas music already?!”

Altrincham craftiness

“Altrincham is becoming a hive of crafty activity. There’s a monthly vintage and craft market and a lovely new vintage arts and crafts centre called No 16, The Downs that is specifically designed for independent sellers. There’s a brilliant art café called Bean and Brush in Sale and the bookshop in Hale, which sells art supplies and has the loveliest staff.”

The future

“Alongside working on Clara and Macy picture books, I’m planning a new range of products for 2013. I’m hoping to add a whole array of Macy goodies to the lineup, including bookplates and tote bags. I’m also working on four new make-your-own kits and a few craft projects for magazines.

“Other than going slower than I had hoped due to time constraints, the picture books are going really well. The storyboards for the first and second picture books are finished and I’m working on dummy books to pitch to agents. I work on the books with my author husband, and we have been in talks with a major publisher for the past year. They are super excited about Clara and Macy and so are we! I’ve applied for Arts Council funding to enable me to take some time away from my shop to finish the dummy books and sample artwork. Fingers crossed my application will be accepted, and then 2013 will be go, go, go!”

Fingers crossed, indeed! We hope you love Cupcakes for Clara as much as we do here at Simply Homemade. We can’t wait to see what Clara and Macy get up to next!

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