On this week's Face Behind the Cards we caught up with Laura and Jess, two great friends who make up Ink Inc - an illustrative duo based in Manchester. They were brought together by their love of drawing and now create fun and lighthearted artwork to bring joy to special occasions. Find out more below on their inspiration, motherhood and shop the full range here.
How did the two of you get into designing cards together? Was it something you always wanted to do?
We actually met one another whilst working in the fashion industry. As fashion & print designers, we often collaborated together on design projects, and quickly came to realise how scarily similar our drawing styles were! We both grew up with a massive love of drawing and making cards for friends and loved-ones, but neither of us really dreamed it would end up here with Ink Inc.
The career change really came about when we worked together on a music-event poster for friends. Lots of people began to ask us why were weren't doing more illustrative work together...and the seeds of Ink Inc were planted. We began working on the first of our inky animals in our spare time...and before long, when a studio became available in the amazing @manchestercraft building - we took a giant leap of faith! We had grown jaded with the fashion industry as a whole and were both ready for something different.
Ink Inc gave us a new creative freedom & a better work/life balance...& although we've always had to work hard to survive as a small business, we've never looked back!
What inspires your work?
Animals, are of course the main inspiration for our work. Furry or feathered, little or large... as long as it's not human (we occasionally get asked to draw people but can never understand why based on our portfolio of designs?!)... we will draw it!
Our style doesn't take itself too seriously....our distinctive line drawings are laced with an element of fun. Our favourite bunny wouldn't be complete without her feathered headdress or our karaoke kitties without their mics!
Also, although we refuse to draw people, we are inspired by them too - we want to appeal to peoples sense of fun and occasion. One of our favourite things is when customers come into the shop and beam at the designs! People want to choose card designs that will make their friends and families smile....so we try our best to oblige! And of course you can't underestimate the human love for animals, especially their own pets...our work involves lots of personal commissions because people love to see there own furry-friends in ink! We've even had people feel so much affinity with our creatures that they've had them tattoo'ed - which is amazing!
What is your working process?
We're quite unusual in that we actually both contribute to the drawing of each piece of artwork. Our styles are so intwined now, that we can rarely remember who drew which element of what?! It's great though - working together means that we always have each other to bounce ideas off and we can take on far more than we could individually. Our process isn't a complicated one....pencil and paper are the basis of every design....followed by fine-liner ink pens. Sometimes we work physically together, working on an illustration on the same page...building it up between us. Other times we work on elements of the drawing separately and bring them together via scans and a bit of technology - it all depends on the piece. Thank heavens the latter approach is possible for us, because it's allowed us the flexibility to still work on commission pieces together remotely whilst in lockdown. We're super lucky to have a beautiful little studio-shop in the Manchester Craft centre in which we (usually) work. The Victorian market-building is stunning, with a glass roof & original features....and we love having somewhere not only to sell our work but also to meet and design together....we've missed it!
Has lockdown changed how you work/your daily routine, if so, how have you adapted?
Well, in a way, we were already in a kind of maternal lock-down before all this happened! We'd both taken some time to adjust to being new Mums, but were just starting to get to grips with the new, next-level 'juggle' of work & motherhood when lockdown struck. Our studio is open to the public, so the fact that we've been closed for months now is a huge change in itself. Even whilst on respective maternity breaks we were always popping in to check on the shop or to catch up with customers....it's been so strange not to be in the building at all. It's a lifesaver that we can work flexibly at home though...we wouldn't have been able to navigate maternity or lockdown had this not been the case. I think both of us would agree that 'routine' is an overstatement at the moment....but we're getting there! We're working on some new designs and products at the moment....and we still get the same feeling of giddiness producing something new that we did at the very beginning.
You both became mums recently, huge congrats! Would you say being mothers now has influenced your designs?
We did, thank-you!! We are now the proud owners of 2 little people! We are yet to find out really how the little ones might influence us in terms of actual design...but we're certainly finding out how much they influence our abilities to get things done at the same rate! That was of course, expected though and we're feeling very lucky to be able to enjoy this time with our babies whilst juggling work we enjoy! New baby cards & prints have always been a big part of our collection...we hand-personalise lots of new baby names each week, it was actually quite handy during the name-research stage!
What's a recent TV binge / Netflix must see?
Both households were glued to 'Ozark' season 3 recently, we've loved that - bring on news of season 4! 'Normal people' was as good as all the hype too, the old romantics in us couldn't get enough of that, same with 'Dead To Me'.
On a more serious note though, we've also both been taking the chance to watch and read more material around the Black Lives Matter movement. '13th' & 'When They See Us' are both essential watches. Heartbreaking & infuriating, but essential. It's so important that we're all more open and aware, & better educated about racial injustices, past and present. Things must change so that these conversations won't need to happen when our children are older.
What is the thing you're most missing/looking forward to doing when life is back to normal?
Of course, we are both missing family members and their hugs (and babysitting skills!) massively....that goes without saying! But we're also really missing sharing a glass of vino or two and a pizza together! One of the lovely things about our working partnership is that we're also great friends. What with the arrival of our children, and then the onset of the lockdown situation....it seems like a really long time since we've sat down together for a good old catch up & creative brainstorm, fuelled by our favourite pinot!
Thanks to Laura and Jess for answering our Qs, shop their full range here.