The Fri-YAY Surprise presents… Zabby Allen

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Posted on 29th March 2018

Hi team! I’m Zabby – you’ve probably spotted my face in The Lucky Dip Clubhouse mini mag (previously Girl Planet), as I’m the editor! I spend my weekdays working for several indie businesses and spend evenings and weekends working on my own products. I design pins, patches, stickers and keyrings inspired by all the things that make me happiest; so Mac and Cheese, rainbows and dogs all feature! I’m also a big advocate for sending things in the post and writing letters, so I make a snail mail sets and postcards too. Who doesn’t love getting surprises in the post eh?

I did a degree in Book Arts and Design, learning all about book and magazine design and hand binding books. I never dreamed I’d end up editing for Lucky Dip Club, Caboodle and The Happy News – something actually relevant to my creative degree, lo and behold!

Why do you create? What positives does it bring to your life? How has it challenged you?

I guess I have just always had the need to create (I know it’s a total cliché). It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to share my work, and especially to sell it. I actually started out selling handmade notebooks made from my collection of vintage postcards and old photos that I drew over with my spirograph and then handpainted with neon paint…. yep.

Working on commissions for other people is always the biggest challenge for me and I learn the most through these jobs. Whether I’m working on a painted pet portrait, a magazine layout, or a flyer design I will always learn something new. Making mistakes along the way has taught me the most – there’s always a positive to be found from a mistake that can seem like a big fat negative at the time. 

Share a part of your making or design process. What makes what you do unique?

I keep a big list of ideas for products and illustrations in my bullet journal and on my phone. Quite often I find them days/weeks/months later and have no idea what they mean anymore. Recently I discovered a note on my phone that say “mystic pig” – if anyone can shed any light on that I’d appreciate it.

I guess what makes me unique is my flexibility to work in many different roles and with a wide range of materials, techniques. In the space of a week I’ll use multiple design programmes, physical materials and have been an editor, designer, illustrators’ agent, social media manager, artist… the list goes on.

Who inspires you?

I’m lucky to work for several small independent businesses on a regular basis, all run by women. These are the people who inspire me every single week. Watching the way Leona has created, run and evolved her businesses over the year has always been a source of inspiration for me. The stories in The Happy Newspaper inspire me to be a better person and watching Emily Coxhead work so hard to pull it all together never fails to impress me. Kayti at Caboodle is a total badass who created something really cool in Caboodle Mag (she also inspires me to be the best Dog Mum I can be). I also work regularly for two illustration agencies, Phosphor Art, run by Trina and Artist Partners run by Christine – both businesses have been around for over 50 years and Trina and Christine are two of the most glamorous women I know who have had to learn to adapt their businesses over several decades of changes.

Which piece of work are you most proud of and why?

I’m always proud of our little zine for the LDC boxes, I love seeing photos of happy subscribers on instagram, with people chilling out and reading it with a cuppa. 

I guess in terms of my own products I am proudest of the Girl Power pins – so many ladies buy them for friends, colleagues and family members and I get some lovely messages from customers about them. One woman in Australia bought a bunch to give to the school netball team she coached and my first big wholesale order was for a couple buying 70 for their Save the Dates! They’ve also gone into tons of charity goodie bags across the world which makes me very happy.

If you could change one thing about your creativity what would it be?

I wish I could draw things off the top of my head, without having to look at reference images! I’ve always been good at copying things, but when it comes to getting things from my head onto paper (or screen) I really struggle! I have always wanted to create cartoons and comics but I’m just rubbish at getting my ideas on paper without having tons of reference images to work from.

Favourite material and why?

Good old pen and paper. When I have time to relax (which is not often, let’s be honest!) I like to paint! I bought myself a set of Kuretake gouache paints and I love them. Painting animals and birds is my fave. I actually have an idea for a book about badass female animals, I just need to find the time to make it!

What tips would you give someone aspiring to lead a more creative life?

JUST DO IT! Set aside some time each day to create – don’t worry too much about what it’s for or how “good” it is yet, just work on being creative. The more you work on your craft the more confidence you’ll gain and the better you’ll get. One of my favourite quotes on creativity is from Ira Glass (host of This American Life) who I think sums it up perfectly.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Also – if you’re feeling uninspired take a trip, get outside, go and see some art that’s totally different to the art you create. Just go and focus on something else and the inspiration will find you.

Tell us something fun that your customers won’t know about you!

My real name is Elizabeth!! I’ve never been called that though, apart from by a few supply teachers at school and occasionally my Grandma on my Dad’s side who insisted that “Zabby is a cat’s name”, haha! Zabby is basically a joke that got out of hand when I was little and it just kind of stuck.

What’s the one thing in your workshop/craft room/creative space you can’t live without?

My bullet journal! Working for so many businesses in my freelance life means I have a lot of deadlines, meetings and plans to remember. I would genuinely be lost without my bullet journal (I actually have four…. but let’s not go there!).

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