News

The Christmas List November 17 2017

What are you getting for Christmas?

Have you thought yet ?

It's getting close.

I know what I  want for Christmas... the complete box set of Dad's Army.

That should take me nicely from Christmas Day to New Years Eve without interruption. 

Such classic comedy. Especially the episode  with the U boat German captain when he says:

"Your name vill also go on zee list, what is it ?"  

 And Captain Mainwaring replies "Don't tell him Pike!" 

I had sort of wondered what our furry creatures might be getting for Christmas. There are so many of them now, they've  become a little army.  Maybe we could get our customers to decide?  

 

Anyhow they have made a list in their own  language with lots of paw prints, so I'm sure Father Christmas will know how to interpret that, as he must get quite a lot of bad hand (paw) writing.

It does look like one of the rabbits is in charge from the picture. I hope he has got all the animals requests together. I know that rabbits  are good at multiplying so that might help, but if I find out that  little rabbit has left anyone off,

..... then his rabbit name will also go down on MY list!

 

Here is  a long list of creature paw prints,
it should give the big man some very nice hints
 
For that  special day is coming fast,
along with the flying reindeer and an icy blast.
 
It's time to wrap up warm and huddle together,
for winter is here and the snowy weather.
 
Our creature cards work for any season,
if you can think of a special loved one, 
then you've more than one reason.
 
So look at our funny creatures and have a think,
hmmm.... yes, I'll buy a few more as they tickle me pink. 
  

 

 

 

 


The Creature Feature October 05 2017

It's here, all creative great and small. 

Our new magazine styled newsletter that goes out to both trade and retail customers in two slightly different versions and we've called it The Creature Feature.

It is a monthly emailed update, styled to look like a magazine front cover. It has all  our new card designs and current offers and bits of gossip  about our animal characters.

There are the news headlines;  who's dating who and who is the bestselling  celebrity animal of the month.

Candid interviews  with  some of the creatures  and how they coping with  their pictures on greeting cards all over the world.

We'll be doing a special feature on high earner Mr. Wayne Dear,  the little  reindeer.  He'll be telling us all about what it is like coping with fame from an early age and  how he has become a Christmas icon. His recent success in Switzerland with his  picture on Christmas cards there being sold in very high numbers and how that   has catapulted him to the  stars and conquered his fear of flying.

There's a blog on our hedgehogs, how they love having fun in the autumn leaves and what its like being prickly and preparing for winter hibernation.

Our wise guys , the little owls share a book review and discuss what its like staying up all night and being a real night owl.

And lots more besides.

So we hope you enjoy our new monthly update that goes out to all our customers on our email list. The animals might just become the new Hello magazine of the animal world.

Introducing The Creature Feature...... All creative great and small.    

   


Bee Happy July 25 2017

Its July and we've bee-n so busy with  RHS Flower shows, Hampton Court, Tatton Park  and the Harrogate Home and Gift trade show, that this  month has literally 'flown' by.

So I'm just writing a short blog post for what is left of the month as we need to catch up on all the orders. We've bee-n busy bees.

Its always a lovely time of year to meet our customers face to face, both trade and retail  and what always seems to come through in the great British summer  is our  great love of bees.

A couple of years ago I put together a little range called Bee Squadron and do you know its still so popular that we might even expand it with some new bee and floral ranges combined.

Reminiscent of Spitfires and their pilots from the 1940’s, Bee Squadron are their own little heroes and flying machines, all built into one. English country gardens, brimming with wildflowers and foliage are the setting for their oversized world.

Bee Squadron is led by a dashing little bee. Yellow Leader “Buzz” Bumble is seen here, pictured with his flying goggles.

 

 

Buzzing from A to Bee, he happily leads his bees on Mission Make-Bee-lieve.

You can bee sure, as bee cards, they are busy flying around the world spreading your written words...and honey of course.

Here are some Bee facts we've taken from the internet. Whether they are all true or not, I'm not sure, but they make interesting reading.

There are absolutely loads of facts about bees, but I chose eight as I'm feeling  rather hungry and its time  I ate some honey on toast. A great afternoon pick me up.

 

1. Honey bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.

2.The bees’ buzz is the sound made by their wings which beat 11,400 times per minute.

3. Honey bees communicate with one another by dancing. That's like one of our cards.. Beehive Jive.

4. A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.

5. A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.

6. The average bee will make only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

7. When a bee finds a good source of nectar it flies back to the hive and shows its friends where the nectar source is by doing a dance which positions the flower in relation to the sun and hive. This is known as the 'waggle dance.'

8.The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.

 

 That's it................BEE HAPPY!

 

 

 

 

 


Unexpected item in bagging area... June 06 2017

Ever used one of those self service checkouts in the super market?

I'm sure you have. Well for me, until recently, it was a really big deal. The thought of standing and waiting for the cashier at the back of a long queue with a handful of shopping items can  be rather irritating. So I thought I'd have a go. 

I would say it works for me about 30% of the time before I get the voice... "Unexpected item in bagging area, assistance required" 

In my reality I don't require assistance, that's why I've come  to  use the machine in the first place. I don't want to wait in the queue and I don't want to engage in conversation particularly.  So the idea of a SACAT , or semi-attended customer-activated terminal to be correct, is quite appealing.

Because to me, it should just work.

You work left to right and scan the items across the barcode scanner and then place the items in the baggage area. At the end you add a bag, or not, and simply pay.

For me something invariably goes wrong. First at the barcode stage and then in the bagging area and the hovering attendant  has to intervene. It's usually around a piece of veg like a carrot that has be looked up in the mass of on-screen vegetables, or a chocolate croissant  which is in another touch screen look up table. The piece de la resistance is a bottle of wine. Yes I'm over 21!

So I feel quite humble ( the SACAT was actually invented by David R. Humble) and silly when the supervisor has to step in.

The attendants by the way are brilliant. They just punch in some keys and zap the terminal  with a reset zapper and its all back to normal again until the next almond croissant causes mayhem.

It does  remind me of a rather simplified version of when the computer goes wrong in 2001 A Space Odyssey. "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that" 

Digressing here more than slightly into total irrelevance , the malfunctioning, bad boy  computer in the 2001 film was known as a HAL9000. It had its name chosen for the story as being one letter either side of IBM , the original mainframe computers of the day. Amazing hey! And what interesting trivia , I hear you say, shall I quote more? 

No, I'll get back to my point, or lack of it.  I  usually waffle on to the point of boredom. My point being I suppose is technology.

It should just work. And for me it doesn't.

These electronic contraptions should all be  easy, you zap the item left to right , the machine works it all out and you just pay.

Devices are another thing. iPhones , iPads and laptops and ridiculous apps for everything , yes everything.

You can't do anything anymore, you need an app to do it for you.

Or when you get the app , you need to update it, or it won't work properly .

Why? It was working perfectly well before.

But then the little men inside the app who have been working tirelessly night and day to update the app to make it work even better for me , then send  a message to 'log on' to do an 'update'. Log on to me is putting another log on the fire.

And do  an update. Why? You need to re-enter your password. Why?   You've forgotten your password. Yes of course I have. Why is all this necessary? Why can't it all be done for me ? Or everything remain exactly as it was before? I really don't need an update.

It is my age I'm sure of it. If I was young I'd just love tinkering with those apps , having millions of them for this and that and adding the right software to make everything work as fast as possible. But I don't like doing it at all, in fact I can't stand it , I just want it to work and not give me any lip, or send me trite messages. 

On that note we are actually introducing a new website for our trade customers.  This 'should' make their ordering experience easier.

Its a sister site that will sit alongside our retail site and be accessible only by password... oh dear I hear you say. It will give our customers all their trade pricing and access to the products and hopefully speed up the ordering system.

That's the theory anyway . We may however, end up with unexpected items in the baggage area and our customers will start getting almond croissants and carrots with their orders. 

 


The Pup World Cup April 18 2017

Yup, its the Pup World Cup.

Our little Scruffy dog has taken the initiative and teamed up all his doggy mates to form a team for football and rugby. Right now he's got 11 players for footy and 15 players for rugger.

 

In a recent and rare  interview with Scruffy, (pictured below)

 

he told us how he'd put his team together. The interview came about as part of our first instalment of sports writing for our new monthly trade and retail magazine, 'The Creature Feature.' 

The Creature Feature lets you know all the latest news and what all the animals are up to. The latest headlines, gossip columns, new animals and the rising stars and who is dating who. There's a classified section, sports and interviews , homewares and gifts section and much more.

 

So Scruffy told his story through a visual  intepretation which consisted of lots of tail wagging, yapping, whining, paw scratching and running around in ever decreasing circles.

We basically had to figure  out  what he was trying to say.

But it all became very evident when we met all his other doggy friends and they all began chasing his ball.

At first it was total chaos in the park and there were fights and arguments over whose ball it was. But they all eventually settled down and realised they were better when they formed a team and worked together.

All the  dogs in the team are a mixture of  abilities, breeds and Heinz 57 varieties  and all come in  different shapes and sizes.

For rugby it was  easy for Scruffy to put his squad together  and we can see from one of the card designs where he's placed them on the field. The heavier and bigger dogs are the forwards and the little faster  ones are the backs.  

 

For football there is  less information available and little understanding of tactical positions, but we gather the team  are  made up of more expensive dogs and ones who are a little more precious.

 

Anyhow the long and short of it is there is a team in the making  . So Scruffy as their star player, coach and manager wants to get them all playing in their first World cup. 

So we thought we'd ask all our customers for some ideas and maybe we could form some new teams in different team colours and nationalities and bring them all together  for a world cup match. What we need are some more types of dogs, breeds and non breeds to make it more fun.  We could even have the 'odd' cat in there to show inclusion and diversity in these changing times. 

 

We'd need to know the animals abilities, their form and if  they can chase  the ball and catch it, dribble, pass , tackle , bark, (meow, if necessary), scratch, wag tails, pant and generally work together. 

 

We'll ask Lucy to look into it and put something out on social media and see if our customers might send in some pictures of their lovely pets with their balls and then we can base some more illustrations on the favourites and hand out a few Scruffy dog notebooks or cards  to the owners of the  teams that gets picked.

It'll be  the first ever Pup World Cup!

 

     


Rap, wrap, rap and lots more wrap December 15 2016

"Ground floor; Perfumery, stationary and leather goods, wigs and haberdashery, kitchenware and food." 
"Going up…"

 

"First floor; Telephones, gents ready  made suits, shirts, suits, ties, hats, underwear, and shoes." 
"Going up…"

 

Are you ‘young' enough to remember the 1970’s?
The famous  and brilliant theme tune for "Are you being served?" was one of the first examples that introduced us, as a British population to rap music. 
What an amazing bit of trivia!

 

Rap uses  spoken word, or chanted rhyming lyrics in time to a simple beat; or rap.
All the elements performed in the 1970’s are indistinguishable from modern day rap music as we now  know it.  
And rap music although we think its modern, dates back with school yard chants, clapping games and skipping rope rhymes and actually finds its roots back  in the 16th Century.

 

"Second floor; Carpets, travel goods, and bedding, materials, soft furnishings, restaurants, and ties." 
"Going down…"

 

Wrap; or gift wrapping paper by contrast, was first used in ancient China where paper was invented in the 2nd century BC. It first became really popular to ‘wrap ‘  presents in 1917 when a pair of brothers running a stationary store  in Kansas City ran out of their standard inventory of tissue paper. 
Needing a quick replacement, they found in their supplies a stack of ‘fancy French paper’. The paper was not meant for display, but for lining envelopes.
The paper sold out immediately.  The brothers, Joyce and Rollie Hall became known as Hallmark.

 

"First floor; Telephones, gents ready  made suits, shirts, suits, ties, hats, underwear, and shoes." 
"Going down…"

 

Do I have a point to this story?  
Er… no, not really. 
Its just another bit of trivia.
But its a way of connecting you with our new line of wrapping paper. 

 

So I thought I’d just combine a few words and sentences together on two topics which are totally unrelated. Except they have the same phonetically sounding word.
Maybe I should  take the rap now and write my own rap song? 
A monotonous shaggy dog story with a simple beat, that has little, or no point?
Oh… of course, I've written the story already!

 

 
Are you still reading this? 
He’s gone mad. He’s lost it completely this time, I can almost  hear you say.  
And with that there  should be  a loud ‘rap’  at the door and the men in the white coats will come to take me away. 

 

"Ground floor; Perfumery, stationary and leather goods, wigs and haberdashery, kitchenware and food." 
"Going up…"

 

Please hold the door!  
I want to get off.
Its the ground floor and the stationary department and lots of new Sophie Morrell wrapping paper to look at and a rap song to write... 

 

"I'm getting in a flap with my little rhyme of rap,
trying to bridge the generation gap,
I let my hands clap and my feet tap,
trying out a song to put Sophie Morrell on the map"

 

Oh well at least I tried....
I think I'll stick to designing Wrap.

 

---------------------------------------------------
With acknowledgement and courtesy to:
BBC : Are you being Served?
Writers: David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd
Theme music composer: Ronnie Hazelhurst
---------------------------------------------------
 
 
  

Employee of the Month November 24 2016

The other day I was really  taken aback. Those pesky little animals had answered back. While I was out the back , they had all got together for a little chat. 

I actually know the ring leader is a little blue duck called Jack. Because he kept saying it's all water off a ducks back. Well it might be now, but when I  look back, I can see that he liked to quack, quack, quack.

He's as sharp as a tack that little Jack and he's apparently been keeping track, studying our sales figures which are now well and truly in the black. So instead of just sitting back, little Jack was on the inside track and acted off his own back. He could see he was very popular and his picture was selling stacks and stacks and stacks. And that  little duck  liked to quack, quack quack.

So he decided to change tack and banded together all the other animals so they could have their very own little card packs.

He went behind my back did that naughty little Jack and he phoned our printers for a bit of a yack. I must admit that he had the knack for seeing our customers might like to buy our new and cute card packs.

He put a handkerchief over the telephone and spoke in a muffled tone impersonating me, so there wouldn't be any come back. Our printers went ahead and produced stacks and stacks and stacks of our new card packs. 

A stab in the back from this little quack?

I was so cross, I blew my stack. I thought, I know...  I'll  hire a mafia hitman to give him a 'whack'.  

Calming down I then thought there'd be some 'come back' and plenty of flack if the poor little duck received a sudden attack .

Instead I wouldn't hold back, I would  hand him his P45, show him the door and give him the sack! 

But he's a tough nut to crack that sharp little Jack, he'd know his own employee rights and that would be my draw back.

About this time  the card packs arrived, right on track. I looked at  the animal packs piled high in a stack and thought I've been a bit hard on poor little Jack. He's  very entrepreneurial  as a matter of fact!

If he entered 'The Apprentice'  he'd give it a crack , but Alan Sugar would surely fire him, for answering back.

Instead we've now honoured bold little Jack and written his name on a special plaque, To Jack our very special 'Employee of the Month'

....this bit doesn't rhyme,  as by now I've completely  lost track. 

There are 26 different  card packs to choose from. We have shown a sample of them here. 

Would you like roast duck for Christmas Lunch? I'm giving one away, but he doesn't know it yet!

He'd make a nice snack, would cute little Jack. 

 

 

 

 


Half and half again October 31 2016

Half term has just ended and its back to normal for a while, until the next school holiday. What to do with the little ones  to keep them entertained has always been a tricky one. Sophie and I found a solution.

I'm quite good at making paper aeroplanes. A grown up (love that word) showed me when I was very young and I've never forgotten. My planes look like Concorde in shape and do actually fly like a dart, doing a loop the loop, with a bit of skill of course. Sophie is very good at getting them to fly over the sitting room beams and then make them land on the beams and we can't get them down, except with a long broom handle.  

So we thought we'd go a step further and bend a few bits of paper in half and give our animal card characters  another dimension. I always thought Origami (the ancient Japanese art of paper folding) was too hard, or tedious to try. But its actually really good fun, at least at our basic level.

All you need is a piece of paper cut to a square. Its easy for us, as all our cards are square. The easiest thing is get some A4 printer paper and either guillotine, or cut it down into a square.  We then found some very easy to follow instructions  on the web and hey presto we were in business with some little creature creations.

When you have made the basic shape of your creatures all you have to do is draw in the facial features of the  animal you've made. Admittedly we went for the really easy ones, but you have to start somewhere. So we can now make a dog, a cat, a rabbit and a pig. The pig is actually the same as the dog, but you have to draw it in and  make it look like a pig.

Do I have your attention so far? And are you sitting comfortably... then I'll begin. I am  just going to show you how to make a dog today. We have modelled the dog on one our cards, Scruffy the dog.

I am only going to show you how to make  the dog, because if I make  the cat and the rabbit, it might be a little long  and you'll probably fall asleep. If you like how we make  the dog, please let  me know and I'll do another blog with the rabbit and the cat. They are all pretty easy really and just variations on a theme.

First take your square piece of paper. Angle it so there's a bottom point and a top point, see below.

Fold the bottom to the top in half and crease. You have a triangle.

Fold in half again, the left side to the right side . You have another triangle.

 

Open the piece of paper out again and flip it around through 180 deg,so the long piece is at the top and pointy bit at the bottom.

 

Now to make the dogs ears bend the paper down at an angle on the left side slightly away from the halfway crease. Do the same on the right side. You should have two floppy dogs ears.

Then  bend the front pointy bit at the bottom upwards and flat to create the mouth.Bend the tip of the triangle back again behind to create the top of the nose. Nearly done. Now bend backwards  at the halfway crease to create the overall shape of the dog,  

Lastly, start filling in your dogs features. Scruffy here always has a wet nose and his tongue out trying to catch his ball.

And that's it you're done. Here are some wacky creations we've done. Along with a few of the other animals. I hope you can guess what they are... we are still beginners!

It's really good and simple fun and  you won't forget how to make these paper animals as they are very easy. You can also pass it on as a 'grown up'  and score a few  brownie points with some little ones you know at the next half term.  

 

 


Scents, seasons and somewhere called home. September 01 2016

 

Do you ever get those sweet smells and special scents of summer that remind us of home?

And do you ever notice when the seasons are ever so slightly changing?

When its winter and dark and Christmas and we're unwrapping presents, its hard to remember summer, unless you get a special smell that reminds you and then you can picture it instantly.

But then its spring and things change again with all the tulips and skipping lambs . And then everything bursts into life in May and June and life is rich in colour.

 I hope I don't get into trouble by quoting from Evelyn Waugh, but he had such an amazing way of describing England in the summer. 

________________

" I have been here before" I said. I had been there before, first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June when the ditches were creamy with meadow sweet and the air heavy with all the scents of summer...

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

________________ 

And that's it isn't it? It really doesn't matter where you are in the world, there's no place quite like home and England, (for me anyway) in the summer.

We sat out in the garden at a family gathering one fine evening in August and my brother commented on the rich smells at dusk.

It had been a dry sunny day with a soft warm wind and it pushed in the dusty scent of the  wheat harvest that had just begun. That smell was coupled with hay from  the meadow in front of our house that had just been cut the day before and was just like the scent you get before  sipping a camomile tea. It was also ever so slightly damp and you could smell the wet earth, as the dew was starting to rise  in the late evening air. 

Once when I was traveling up the west coast of America, I stayed in a Bed and Breakfast, miles from anywhere in the middle of winter, in some small logging town in Oregon. The owner offered me a cup of camomile tea at bedtime and all those rich and hazy scents of an English summer came rushing back. I felt homesick.

So you see wherever you are in the world and it doesn't just have to be England, I only quote it as I know it so well, there's a rich smell and a reminder of home somewhere, for all of us.

It's the first day of  September today and I've noticed the nights are slowly drawing in. The earth smells different again. The fields are getting ploughed up and there's that rich smell of the soil being turned upside down and it all smells fresh again. Its also a sign that the seasons are on the turn. Not quite yet, we are still holding on to summer but  there's a change in the air. How long before we get the smell of wood smoke and leaves slowly drifting in the damp evening air? A few more weeks yet. We'll then turn our minds to autumn and winter and being cuddled up indoors by the fire and looking forward to Christmas.

So on that note I've broken up my  self indulgent little essay and thought I'd introduce some of our new ranges that are heading your way very soon.  We've introduced lots of the quirky animal characters  onto products like oven gloves, tea towels, aprons, cushion covers, trays, etc.

Its kept us very busy producing and designing all these new products, so we can get them out and into the shops for September. So much so that this  year, (like all the Snuggly sheep) has just skipped by.

Sometimes you just have to stand still, like we did that night in August and breathe in slowly through your nose and take note of all the beauty that is around you, wherever you are in the world..... and wherever you call home.

 

Here are a few images of our new Snuggly Sheep range that will be skipping your way very soon. They might even get bought up as presents for Christmas.

 

 


Our animals are flying the flag. With of course... flying reindeer! July 23 2016

We've just launched a collection of new products this year.

So we thought now is  a good time to fly the flag and shout about it. Here are some of the animals that wanted to be included in our little press release.

There are special ranges with the sheep and hens on them. Scruffy the dog, the foxes, the hedgehogs, the rabbits, the ducks, the bees, the penguins, the cows, the sheep.

I don't think I've missed anyone out?

 

 

Well its taken a lot of work and lots of time planning the new designs and how they are going to sit alongside our existing card and picture ranges.

We are also working with some new suppliers who have been very supportive and brilliant to work alongside and offer their extensive insight.

The best bit of it is, all our new and 'existing' products are made here in the UK.

 

 

That's something I've been told I don't make enough of, when chatting to our customers.

So I am now and I am very proud to tell all our customers that everything is designed and  Made in Britain.  We always wanted to do this right from the start, as we feel it's very important to have British made products.

It's a short read this time around, but just to let everyone know that we have brought out new ranges of aprons, oven gloves, cushion covers, tea towels, bags, coasters, placemats, chopping boards, trays and notebooks... is that it? 

Yes I think that's about the extent of it, oh yes I know I did forget there will be sheets of wrapping paper in time for Christmas with the reindeer on.... of course!

I  mean who could forget Wayne Dear. He is famous, or he likes to think he is.

So keep a look out on the website as we will be updating  the new product ranges soon. We are already selling them directly to retail at our shows and are introducing them to our trade customers next week to appear in their shops very soon.

So that's it for this blog. There will be more on our individual ranges soon and we'll be sure to let you know what's flying out of the door, it will be sure to include one very 'famous' flying reindeer who, will also be flying the flag! 

 

 

 


Its a long road without a turning February 17 2016

By the very nature of creativity, artists, photographers, painters, or anyone involved with imagery know what its like to look at their work objectively, while trying to see their end goal.
There are always going to be hurdles along the road, up and downs for anyone. I think that we as creatives find it particularly hard to always keep the determination going.

Its a long road without a turning.

There's never been  a truer saying.

But thats exactly what you must do. 

Keep going down that road and never give up.

Its so important to always maintain a positive outlook; a sense of purpose, a self believe and a focus with what you are doing. So that one day it will all come out right. At the same time keep a sense of humour and laugh at yourself.
Despite the odds sometimes stacked against you, always keep going as whatever you are good at, you will eventually get there.
If you lack creativity or inspiration, start again by noticing  the small details that are all around you every day. If you just open your eyes wide enough your imagination  will find its own course.
Even mundane tasks around the house or traveling to work by car is a great way to do just that. To let your mind calmly wander while doing a fairly robotic task, can actually help your creativity and self belief.
By contrast to my life now, but as an example, I used to have a very special journey to work  each day.

Twenty years ago I was lucky enough  to live in California.  I moved back to England in the mid nineties.
California was the start of my life as a creative artist. I still have those pictures as clear as day in my mind. I still see the day breaking from so many different angles and casting its light onto shapes all around me.
4.30 am is about the time I used to get up for work and then leave at 5 am to beat the rush hour for my drive into Los Angeles.
A long and winding road, without a turning.
But the very nature of it was something quite extraordinary.
It was a drive that took an hour and a half, but it was worth every minute of it, just  to live by the ocean. Chasing the dawn, I'd see one picture, slowly turning into another with vast differences in landscape and shadows on that 90 mile drive.

I’d leave a beautiful Santa Barbara with a  cool sea mist rising. Not a soul on the road and I'd follow Highway 101 along  the pacific ocean. 
As the sun was just creeping out of bed, i'd watch the flickering of a dawn cast its red tentacles out over the ocean and silhouette the oil rigs and nodding donkeys.
I'd  head east at Ventura on the 126 and drive through fields upon fields of orange groves, lit like glowing tea lights with the rising sun.
At Castaic Junction I’d hit Interstate 5 and immediately head south and see the outline of Six Flags magic mountain, a  grotesque  theme park rising out of the desert like a huge rattlesnake.
Then I would suddenly be in a wilderness of arid mountain rock . Huge slabs of stone that ran almost perpendicular , meeting other rocks at right angles; surging out of the earth and completely at odds with the landscape.
The rocks were covered in a warm yellow glow as the sun angled in at 30 degrees.

It was the San Andreas fault. 

By this time  traffic had started to build with gargantuan semi trailer oil trucks grunting and spluttering exhaust fumes. You could hear them as they braked to slow on the downhill grade, air brakes hissing and wheezing.  I’d usually get stuck behind one of these  aluminium monsters and be blinded by it as the  easterly sun now in full view was reflected in the sides of the truck.
 All I could do was slow down to well below the 55 mph speed limit and take in what was all around me.
To my left was the Newhall interchange , a huge elevated freeway intersection, not dissimilar to Six Flags a few miles back. Only this was a real rollercoaster ride , a real road that linked and split the Interstate 5 and the state route 14 highway.
The rest of my  journey felt the morning heat rise over the San Fernando valley.
I’d watch the smog completely blanket the horizon, as i nudged my way into the sprawling city. All this gave me ideas and thoughts about a city, but I couldn’t quite formulate it. 
I'd watch these freeways overladen with cars, pickup trucks and vans all slowly  heading somewhere on that long road.
Eventually  I would get to Pasadena just in time for a morning coffee , before turning in for work at the photographic studio.
I had already been living in the States for 3 years and had worked as a photographic assistant, having graduated with a B.A degree. So getting work around the studios of L.A was easy . I had also  honed a personal interest in  the  art deco architecture that littered Los Angeles. Watching too many pop culture films  like Blade Runner and reading Raymond Chandler crime novels probably didn't  help.
I would photograph these fabulous buildings, some in a state of decay and left over from the golden age of Hollywood.
As a side line to a humdrum assistants job, this helped me get my own  photographic career off the ground and I picked up my first clients. My clients liked  the look and style  of my portfolio and hired me to shoot their products.
Their  company supplied  background props to the movie industry and they wanted me to document their inventory of hundreds of 1940's household electrical items.
If you've ever watched LA confidential, China town, or any famous 1940’s/50’s period movie;  you’d probably have glimpsed a toaster, a blender, or an old vacumn cleaner lurking momentarily  in the background. Their Machine Age props set the tone and styling for a period film.
In those days documenting a product shot meant shooting it on black and white kodak tri-x film. I processed it myself and then scanned the film  very slowly into some of the earliest apple macs at my work place. 
Computers were very slow back then with not much memory or speed. 
Through my work I had got hooked on the first versions of Adobe photoshop. I taught myself  how to use it and eagerly embraced this fledgling technology.
I could see it had great potential.
I also started to look at my product shots in a different way. I was looking at each blender, mixer, vacumn cleaner and toaster as though it was a science fiction vehicle, or a building.
I would then reshoot it from a low angle and these products suddenly took on a totally different form.
I started playing around with them on the computer and manipulating them in this early version of photoshop.
In those days there was no such thing as layers where you can place one image on top of another, like tracing paper pages in a book. There were no multiple undos.
So I had to be very exacting and precise with each image.
Saving multiple images in varying states of completion.
It was like slowly making a painting. 
Gradually I built all these household objects into a vast cityscape. It was the idea that I'd being thinking about on my long morning drives , but couldn't quite place it.
Now it was slowly formulating into a vast and complicated image.
I came up with a name and called the city 'Appliance'. it was a nod and a wink to Gotham city, or  the science fiction cityscape in Blade Runner. 
It was different, original and somehow it all worked.
 
There was  just  one thing missing. 
How could I define the roads and freeways of a big sprawling metropolis?
The 5/14 interchange of course. 
I drove past it everyday.

So I went back to it one weekend and stood directly underneath its huge monolithic curves. A road with no end; that weaved and curled into the distance.
I photographed it, scanned it and added it to my Appliance city.

 
The following week I was just about to reach for the alarm clock it was getting up time, about  4.30 am  and work was calling. The clock suddenly bounced erratically off the bedside table before I could turn it off. There was a massive noise which threw me out of bed , jolting and jarring up and down like a jack hammer.
The room was shaking, the ceiling fan swaying, pictures fell off the wall. 
I struggled out into the corridor, only to watch the wooden floor in the sitting room rise and fall like a huge ocean wave.
I reached the front door and staggered out into  the garden where there were no heavy objects or masonry immediately overhead. Dawn was just breaking, but I could make out the electric poles dipping, swaying and arcing in the dim light.
It was 17th January 1994 and I’d just experienced my first earthquake. 
And it was a pretty significant one.
So big it had caused the whole interchange I had stood beneath a week previously, to completely collapse. 
 
It also stopped me driving to work for quite a while after that as the freeways had to be repaired. So I spent more time with my cityscapes on a friends computer and slowly developed these strange images into a whole series. 
Eventually they were entered into a design competition in New York, which they won. That resulted into being signed to what was to become one of the major stock picture  libraries. Following that exposure, I was picked up by advertising agencies in London and New York, who liked my style.
So the moral (or Morrell) of this story is keep going, keep thinking.
As you don't know what's around the next corner, or where that turning is going to be.

 
My work to this day, even though now completely different in its structure , still derives its ideas, thought processes  and  concepts from my formative work.
Drawing, sketching, photography, computer manipulation, whatever process is necessary to complete the task.

It is really all about taking a single thought, a glimpse of something that is all  around us, everyday. In my case that might be an animal, or an object and watching it change in the light and then drawing or photographing it.
Having fun with it, not taking it too seriously, but at the same time recreating it with lots and lots of detail into something quite extraordinary. 

And then that simple thought or object will have taken on an entirely different persona as light and shade find it.
That road for me has been a very long one, with ups and downs, twists and turns and a near miss. Its a journey we all take, one way or another, whether we like it or not. 

The important thing is to never give up on your dreams  and to stay focused, keeping a good sense of humour.
Even if you are not sure what you have as an idea in your head, hang on to it and let it evolve into something special.
Keep your eyes  wide open and calmly let your mind wander. 

Keep going along the road. For one day that road will have a turning and it will grant you unimaginable opportunities.

 
All images by Richard Morrell, courtesy of Corbis Images.

Cheeky Monkeys February 10 2016

My little daughter has a monkey called Leo and another one called More Leo.
It’s a bit of a long story, but here is the abridged version.

A long time ago in a jungle many miles away, there lived a little monkey.
He was a cheeky little monkey and was always getting into mischief and forever getting lost.
Cheeky monkey was also not very loved. So one day he answered an advert in
the Jungle Times  for employment to  become a  companion to a little girl .
He spoke to one of his elephant friends and made a trunk call to England and
amazingly he got offered the job. 

 
He  packed his suitcase full of bananas, said good bye to all the other monkeys and bought
a ticket on the banana boat.
Pretty soon he had beaten all the other teddy bears and soft toy bunnies to the top job.
He was companion Number One.
And boy was he happy. He went everywhere.
 
One summers day while we were all having a picnic in the forest, he got lost.
We asked the park rangers to find him and nobody could.
So as a very concerned parent I raced off and bought a little lion soft toy which was the nearest equivalent to Cheeky monkey. (some imagination is required here)
Well the Lion became known as Leo, but strangely enough he disappeared after a week in a shopping mall. ( I think possibly he couldn’t take the pressure of the job and conveniently disappeared)
About this time, Cheeky monkey suddenly reappeared!
He had fallen asleep in the picnic basket and not heard anyone calling him.

ARE YOU STILL AWAKE READING THIS?

So Cheeky monkey was actually renamed as ‘Leo' from that day onwards. 
The lion obviously  took on further employment at the shopping mall, as we never saw him again. He was a lazy lion.
 
As a preventative measure, I then found another Cheeky monkey  who got the job as Leo’s stunt double. Just in case 'Leo' (the renamed monkey) happened to go AWOL again. This one was named 'More Leo'.
Well at first there was a bit of rivalry a bit like Woody and Buzz in Toy Story.
But when things settled down, Leo and More Leo got on famously. They both liked  being hurled around the room together, used as weapons of mass destruction and going through the washing machine together.
All the things cheeky monkeys  do. 
Its actually a tough job and requires a degree of physical fitness, unmatched by any of the other soft toys.  Occasionally More Leo would get left behind or vice versa and each one of them would take a well earned rest. 
WAKE UP….PLEASE!  I’m nearly there. Yes, its a shaggy (monkey) dog story, with not much point. 
As you might already know, this is the Year of the Monkey 2016.
So we’ve decided to make a monkey range of cards. 
The Cheeky Monkees range  is coming very soon. 
And guess what... Leo has gone missing again!
He might be heading off to China this time, to join in the celebrations, or back to the jungle for more bananas. He might have been Monkey-napped and we’ll receive a ransom note soon. 
More Leo, of course is very upset without his companion and so is one little girl.
The truth is, we lost him from the shopping trolley in Sainsbury's.
If anyone does see Leo on their travels… please be sure to let us know.
  

Top Drawer January 24 2016

Last week we exhibited for the first time at Top Drawer, so I thought I’d write a few lines about it.
Top Drawer is actually quite a fitting name for our new visual retail display here  at Sophie Morrell.
As some of our regular customers know, we use old potato boxes at our shows. These carry 
the old family farm name of Morrell & Sons for storing seed potatoes. Something I grew up with 
working on the farm.
 
Moving on a generation, I thought they looked so good as props at shows, I’d try and develop our own wooden crates. I wanted them to hold the animal cards  so they could have a practical purpose and look good for selling. So alongside our new supplier, we developed a crate that could hold 8 separate designs of cards.
 
We made them so that they could sit horizontally or vertically, with a little ledge of wood at the bottom to prevent anything from falling out. All our crates are drilled so it makes hanging them up easy with a couple of screws. The beauty of it is they make a very organised and creative display on the wall; with infinite possibilities for presentation.
The crates are dipped and stained to make them look old like our original family crates and have
SOPHIE MORRELL  written in the same style of font stencil along the sides. 
We even recreated our logo on the back of a few of the crates.
They have been so popular at Top Drawer that customers asked to buy them as an add on; to tie in their selected ranges.
 
 
Of course not forgetting the animals, well they all loved the crates... and why wouldn’t they?
All creative great and small.
They certainly felt like the stars at Top Drawer. 
The animals were all arranged by season and specific ranges.
 
 
You can guess who wanted to be up there first and try and get in the ‘best' position. 
Yes Wayne of course!
So all the reindeer got together and pushed the Ice Cube penguins into second place and then came the cats and dogs, barking and meowing and then the hedgehogs and ducks and so on.
Occasionally Buzz Bumble ended up with Scruffy the dog and Wayne managed to find himself chatting with Sly Stallone, the fox.
And Sly tried his best to eat the chickens, but didn’t!
Every morning we had a little pep talk right before the show opened. 
All the animals, both great and small were told to put on their best smiles and comb their fur and see who could make the most sales to the customers.
It all worked very well indeed and we had some super sales from all around the UK and Europe.
 
The animals all had their own little individual spaces, or drawers, which were framed by wooden crates on all sides. So much so from a distance they looked like they were sitting in one big wardrobe, with its own set of drawers.
Naturally the animals were competing for the 'best' sales each day  and Wayne and Sly started acting out the scene from Top Gun.
Wayne said “I’m not wondering who the best is… I am the best!"
Sly turned to Wayne and said, “That’s pretty arrogant, considering the company you are in”
But those two  weren’t starring in Top Gun, no it was about all the animals, great and small.
All great company and  all competing  to be the stars and be their own little...
…. Top Drawer. 
 

It's drawing near...for Wayne Dear October 01 2015

Well Christmas isn't quite that near, yet.

But 'drawing' I certainly have been doing this year and hopefully staying in the clear.

Wayne and his friends have been busy recreating some excellent poses for the newly launched cards. We have got six new cards added to the range and some 'new' looks to old Christmas tree themes.

First of all there's 'Re-engineer' with the reindeer adding their own fairy lights. Like our 'Chandelier' picture last year, this involved even more planning and set up time. The reindeer managed to get themselves completely tangled up from the word go. Not surprising really with Wayne in charge. His organisation wasn't the best and before long the pictures got even more complicated so we called the next one  'Persevere'.

While maintaining 11 reindeer in a very wobbly position, we quickly managed to disentangle the fairy lights from the picture. And I quickly hid them in some trees and tried to distract Wayne.

We then placed some presents at the top with Loraine holding them. Getting the presents up to Loraine wasn't the easiest. It involved lots of hooves, antlers and wet noses.

 

About this time Wayne seemed to 'disappear' and then suddenly 'reappear' in the trees. I noted his actions as he was quite funny. I know he was looking for the fairy lights again. He then tripped over the lights and fell antlers first into the snow. For the last picture I drew Wayne, Loraine and Dwayne as they precariously managed to decorate one of the Christmas trees with yet more fairy lights and we called that 'High Gear'.

In all that time my fear for the Deer  had been  looking out for their well being. Constantly thinking they were ether going to be electrocuted from snow and a dodgy electric cable, or the balancing act  would calapse with lots of fallings out and short tempers between the reindeer and a few of them being jabbed by antlers.

So this year I really had to play it by ear with Wayne Dear. 

But hopefully my drawing is... somewhere near?


Fast Food September 11 2015

Lamb chops, Fried chicken, the Peeking ducklings, Buzz Bumble and the Bee Squadron, the Fast Food bunnies, Bacon roll, the Semi Skimmed cows and of course all the cast of Dogs Dinners and not forgetting the Cat Food bunch.

These are the names of some our cards as  our regular followers well know and for all those not in the know, we are coming your way next week.

All the rabble of animals are lining up and piling into the van, crated up and heading on down to the big smoke for the day.

Yes, its the Barnes Food Fair on Saturday 19th September... and I guess as we are indirectly food related, the animals have all been invited along!
We’ve briefed the animals that there will be lots of nice people there who will indulge them by spending  money on them and then taking them into their homes, before mailing them out to all distant parts of the world.
Naturally we couldn’t leave out the reindeer, Wayne and Loraine and the rest of the mob and all the cheeky little  penguins. So they will be pushing themselves forward on our stand to be snapped up early in time for Christmas.
So please come and join us next week if you can, as it promises to be a great foodie day out.
Here is an extract, courtesy of  the Barnes food fair website:
'The Barnes Food Fair is a hidden gem.
A lovely one day food fair featuring great producers in a grand marquee, and an outdoor street- food and picnic area with live music all day, plus fantastic events featuring some of Britain’s top chefs.
This year we have a pop up restaurant run by 2 Michelin starred Phil Howard and our Cookery Theatre features a demonstration by Brett Graham whose two Michelin star restaurant The Ledbury is ranked in the World’s Top 20.
And if all this wasn’t enough the Fair is held in the gloriously bucolic surroundings of Barnes- on the village green next to the duck pond.'

If a picture is worth a thousand words July 19 2015

If a picture is worth a thousand words, is a picture with a few special words,
worth a bit more?
It depends on how you look at it I suppose.
For certain, it won't cost anymore, but it might mean an extra special present for a loved one.
That said, we’ve decided to offer a few personalised print options.

And we've decided to let a few of our animals do the talking.
We had a little meeting the other day with the animals all sat around. 
There was a show of paws ,wings and hooves of who would like to take part.

I think  a few extra food treats and the chance of fame might have helped swing the vote as well.
We set up a photo shoot and the animals groomed themselves. 
We couldn’t afford to pay for hair and make up this time.
Mostly we put the animals together in pairs.  
It's sometimes nicer with a couple of names on a picture.

The cats had particular attention to detail, cleaning and combing their fur, as did the foxes and the ducks. 
The two rabbits were just so much in love, they were in their own little world and didn’t even notice their picture being taken.
Betty, Bertie and the rest of the sheep were cooperative to a point.  
They are a little scatterbrained and had to be herded into position by Scruffy the little terrier.
The reindeer; Wayne and Lorraine, got tangled up in the lighting equipment, yet again.
The hedgehogs, were nearly as bad as the rabbits for snogging and staring into each others eyes. 
We had to separate them, with heavy duty gardening gloves and shout ‘Cheese’ to them. They had very little attention span, bless them.

Percy and Pheobe the two penguins' arrived late from the South Pole.
There had been a few flight delays, or so they said.
Judging by the size of their bags, I would say it was more likely they were stuck in customs with more John west tinned tuna than is safe to travel with.

Finally we got it all done and the animals were happy with the result.
They agreed to let our customers decorate their pictures with their
own choice of words, names, dates and occasions at no extra cost.

So maybe a picture and a few choice words, are worth thousands....

to the right person.

 
 

Scales from One to Ten May 26 2015

There’s not much happening in Antartica this time of year. For penguins, its likely to be fishing and maybe more fishing. It's winter down there, very dark and Christmas is still a long way off.

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The Hedge Job May 01 2015

Hedgehog Awareness Week 3rd–9th May. At Sophie Morrell we'd like to raise money for the hedgehogs.

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Spring has arrived! March 29 2015

All of a sudden everything around me is coming to life again.
It started very gradually with the first snowdrops in January and bit by bit, it got busier

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A sneak preview October 31 2014

Here is a sneak preview from our new reindeer range.
All the characters will arrive just in time for Christmas.

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1001 thoughts to draw 1 dalmatian, 101 different ways October 03 2014

By far the hardest animals to draw so far and get right, are definitely dogs.
Unlike cats where I can use a little bit of artistic license, you have to clearly define dogs by their breed.

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