Barker & Stonehouse Button Badge Commission

I previously wrote about the five miniature wallabies I was commissioned to paint by Villa Gaeity.  This was part of the Wild in Art app incentives that sponsors are encouraged to provide. Happily it was not the only trail where I was commissioned to create some of these incentives.

The Brief

My Great North Elmer was sponsored by Barker and Stonehouse, and the prominent furniture store put in a special request for their sculpture to be placed outside their store. This gave them a unique stand point to easily hand out their Elmer’s unlock incentives from their store. They chose to commission a small token that they could distribute in high volume. Taking inspiration from my current range of button badges I was asked to create a range of designs for the Great North Elmer trail.

The Inspiration

 I took inspiration from the colourful characters on my Elmer. From experience I knew they would work well in a badge design. I just needed to keep it colourful, bold and simple in design. I designed 5 badges in total. Each took colour and character cues from the Elmer. 

I enjoy designing badges and they are popular items. They are small and my designs often appeal to my littlest fans. They come with a price tag to suit little budgets too. I have a surprisingly diverse customer base and am proud to have done fab mini fans.

The biggest challenge in badge design is creating something that will stand out as a tiny wearable design. Contrast needs to be good, lines need to be clean and simple. The badges I created for Barker and Stonehouse were just that. I hope that they found lots of happy homes during the trail and they get worn often.

If you have managed to pick up a badge please remember to share your photos with me! 

Kitty Barn Portrait Commission

It’s been a while ago now since I undertook this commission. This blog has been popping with all sorts of announcements instead. I mean, there’s still announcements but let’s take a break from those and look at some commissioned work. 

Kitty barn Sheffield

The Kitty Barn is a new cat cafe that has recently opened on Chapel Walk in Sheffield. Just a couple of doors down from one of my stockists, Birds Yard. The owner of the cafe is a keen supporter of local art. She set about to showcase some Sheffield talent on the cafe walls. The cafe is home to 10 cats all rescued from Millhouses Animal Sanctuary.

I was commissioned to produce a painting of one of the cats, Kit. His distinctive markings and beautiful eyes made painting him in a surreal style irresistible. It was brilliant to be given the artistic freedom. This really shows with the breadth of art produced for the cafe. It’s great to have a local business feel passionate about supporting local artists and offer a platform to them.

Recently I reached out to the Kitty Barn Owner Sophie Petford to ask her why she has such a focus on supporting local art.

“I wanted to work with local artists because I always think handmade products have a lot more heart put in to their production.

I also believe that our consumable products are the same – they have been lovingly made and what sells them isn’t a big, corporate name, it’s the quality and fantastic taste, so we know we will be providing a good service stocking them in the café.

A lot of our artists are quite young as well or are just at the start of their journey, so purchasing and displaying their pieces helps support them both mentally and financially”

You can find more info on the cafe, including deals and how to book on their website


Ceramic Commission Case Study: Punnydukes

I previously announced (very excitedly!)that the magical Adventureland of Punnydukes was to become one of my new stockists. As well as stocking my prints,patches, badges and stickers, the store also commissioned some new bespoke pieces from me too.

We partnered to create some mini ceramic Punnys. Punny is the mascot of Punnydukes. A teal wizard cat created by Katie Abey. In Katie’s distinctive style, he’s cute and witchy and everything Punnydukes. It was an honour to be asked and a brand new challenge, I’d never done a ceramic commission before.

It’s a risky job to take. Ceramics is unpredictable at the best of times. It’s a slow medium to create with as items need to dry before they can start multiple firing. As I work in a community studio there is often a bit of a kiln queue too. Being able to create pieces within a lead time that is comfortable for someone wanting to commission you, whilst also building in time for testers is tough. I decided to build an ambitious but doable lead time and set to work on the commission straight away.

The heat is on

My lead time banked on my pieces working without testers. I created a series of possible products I could create at a range of wholesale price points depending on size, detail, functionality and complexity. The product sketches ranged from figurines to jars. I like to be creative and give a range of options for clients to choose from. I ensured that the designs featured underglazes and glazes that I have used previously and am reasonably confident in how they would come out.

Famous last words?

Unfortunately yes. The glazes I were so confident in unfortunately did not come out how they previously had. The beauty and the curse of the art form. It appears that the glazes I had successfully used before had been suffering from being overused without being stirred. This leads to the ratio of the contents being skewered and so the effect of the glaze differed. It’s a science as well as an art afterall. The cherry blossom pink glaze I had chosen had come out much paler and more watery than I had planned. I just was t happy that it was up to my standard and so Iwas going to have to start again.

Bum bum bummmmmmm

Damn right it was suspenseful music time! I’d built myself enough lead time to potentially deal with an issue like this, but it would be really tight. There was every chance the order could end up late, and I have never sent out a late order before! Should I risk trying to get the order in on time or be honest about the challenge right now, that there’s a chance they might be late?

Of course, I chose the latter!

I’m just that kinda guy. I emailed, apologised, said the pieces might still be on time but there was a chance they could be late and I’ll throw in an extra figure for free by way of an apology. My very gracious clients told me not to worry. Being honest is ALWAYS the way to go.

I was back at the drawing the board. However, my brain is something of a Catherine wheel, and I never have an idea that has just one way to do it. I studied the first batch of Punnys, made notes on what to amend and cracked on it again. Second batch in the kiln and all fingers crossed. It’s a bit like Christmas waiting for your pieces to come out of the kiln, and a pleasant surprise they were when they did. The second batch was a success. Packaged up and hand delivered just a day or two after the original due date and with an extra Punny in tow to make up for the lost time.

The Punnys are now on sale in the beautiful, magical Punnydukes store. The clients were really pleased with their execution and I was really pleased with the effect of the glazes. Perhaps my favourite part happened just after I dropped the Punny’s off in person. I went to grab lunch and returned about an hour later to show some friends the shop. In that time they had already put them out for sale and sold one! The best compliment of all is a sale of course, and so my first ceramic commission seemed a real success to me.