Interview with Lou Collins
I'm so happy to share this interview with Lou Collins. Lou is the Commissioning Editor for Simply Lettering Magazine, a Hand Lettering Expert and Craft Demonstrator. I've been lucky enough to work with Lou on my monthly magazine submissions and her lettering is just beautiful, so I couldn't wait to find out more about her.
Please could you tell me about your journey and how you got to where you are today?
My crafting/career journey stared a long time ago, while I was on maternity leave with my now-14 year old daughter. I was ‘nesting’ and came across a small carrier of card scraps left over from when myself and my mum handmade my wedding invitations. There wasn’t much in there, but I thought I would see if I could put together a card for my Aunt who’s birthday was coming up.
I enjoyed this, and so kept an eye out for more materials I could use to make cards. I hadn’t realised the papercraft industry was so huge, and once I saw that there were local craft shops dedicated to this, I was hooked (and had no spare money!)
After a while I submitted my cards, and then scrapbook pages to magazines, and was published, first in Reader’s Letters pages, and Reader’s Galleries, and eventually as a competition winner. This won me a place on a magazine Design Team for 12 months initially, but I worked on commissions for this magazine (a Practical Publishing magazine) for around 5 years.
From this, I was contacted by various companies and groups, with commissions and teaching or demonstrating jobs. One of my jobs was to demonstrate for what was docrafts, in local stores. I was given the opportunity to also demonstrate their products on Create and Craft TV, and now I have been working as a demonstrator on C&C with many different products and brands for over 5 years.
Working in the craft industry is amazing, but I found that if I ever did have 5 minutes to relax, I would end up doing something that was work related. This is why I chose to teach myself lettering. It would be a craft that would be totally separate from work…or so I thought.
Within 4 months or so, Stephanie Weightman, who I had worked with for around 3 years by then, suggested I work on my own range of brush lettering products, to be sold on C&C. I did, and my first day selling my own products was a sell-out! Three collection launches later and I was contacted once again by Practical Publishing to work on the new Simply Lettering magazine with them. Honoured is nowhere near enough to explain how I felt.
My journey into crafting as a career sounds pretty smooth sailing and full of opportunities, but there were many times when I would do work for nothing, have submissions rejected, or hold craft stalls and make a profit of £2.50. However, I know that these harder times all contributed to preparing me for where I am now, and I wouldn’t change a thing!
I would love to know what a “typical” day looks like for you, if there is such a thing!
My days are all so varied, depending on whether I have shows at C&C, have interviews or meetings to attend, am running workshops or visiting the Practical Publishing office. I will take you through a typical day working from home.
So my husband will bring me up a cuppa around 6am as he gets ready for work. This is our ritual, and it means we get 20 mins together to chat before the children and work take over for the day. Then he will go off and I will go to my desk, usually still in my pj’s (sometimes I will simply work on my laptop in bed as its still there from the night before!) I will usually do emails here, as once I am in to crafting or lettering, I hate to be rushed, or distracted. I only have about an hour before I need to do schools runs and such, and then I fit in half an hour of housework until about 9am. After this, I spend the morning working on commissions, editing the magazine, or sending and answering more emails. I have to have a strict to-do list as most of my work is set to deadlines.
Lunchtime, I always take half an hour to refresh away from my desk and eat something. If I skip this break my afternoon is never as productive! I will then head back to my desk and continue until I have to collect my son from school at 3pm. Whilst out I will go to the local post office and supermarket if needed (although local is 8 miles away!) and return home to put dinner on at about half four. We live in a village and nothing is closeby.
While dinner is cooking, I am always doing bits of work at the same time. My desk is close to the kitchen, so I will flit between the two. This is why any video commissions have to be done earlier in the day. There is so much activity in our house in the evening! My husband will come home, we could have between 2 & 5 children home too, and so I finally settle back to work at around 7pm. I am not one to sit and watch TV, so even if I move to the sofa, I will have a notepad or my laptop with me. I will often take these up to bed as my husband can fall asleep in seconds, and simply can not sleep until my day’s to-do list is complete.
What have been your top 3 highlights of the last 12 months?
This is easy! Firstly (in chronological order) having my own product range out on Create and Craft. Secondly being asked to be commissioning Editor for Simply Lettering magazine and the huge success the launch has been, and lastly having a great response to local brush lettering workshops.
Do you have any tips you could share for people looking to start hand lettering?
Yes, and I was guilty of this to start with too. Do not try to copy or compare yourself with any other artist. Just like everyone’s handwriting is different, so will your lettering style, and by trying to copy someone elses, you will find progressing much harder. Social media is a great source of inspiration and support, but it can also be a platform for hiding imperfections and covering up how many times that artist really did erase or redo that amazing piece of work. Work on your basic strokes, and never neglect this part. It will give you good strong foundations to build your lettering style on.
What exciting plans do you have coming up?
We are always working on the magazine months in advance. It is boiling hot outside today being the Summer, and I have already planned through the Christmas issues of Simply Lettering, and I am excited to start looking at wedding and Mother’s Day projects for next year! We have so many huge names and companies looking to be involved with us too, which I am really excited about sharing.
Is there anything you could tell us about yourself that not many people know?
Ooooh, I talk a LOT so there’s very little left to tell! Ummmm, I have a diploma in Interior Design, and I have lots of hidden tattoos, most of which I designed myself.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I love to browse Pinterest and Instagram, but most of my work has come from experimenting with tools and mediums. A lot goes in the bin, but once something works, I will keep playing with it until I can teach or show it as a technique. Colour combinations always fascinate me too, and this can come from absolutely anywhere.
If you had to pick your top 5 art supplies, what would they be?
This is just too hard! I suppose a pencil, my watercolour paints, a no.2 round pointed brush, Karin Markers and good watercolour paper.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
If I actually catch up with my deadlines (haha) I love to still be crafting, but play with mixed media. Maybe do some altered art or stamping techniques. I certainly couldn’t sit and relax without my hands being busy on something crafty. I also love to spring clean and organise my home, one cupboard and drawer at a time!
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
It’s got to be shopping for my home. This often translates into ‘craft storage’ but either way, it always ends up expensive!
I really hope you've enjoyed finding out all about Lou in this interview. I find it so fascinating to learn about how people's creative careers have started and grown. Plus, I could just swoon over Lou's beautiful creations all day.
You can find Lou in the following places:
Stay tuned for more inspirational interviews, from people within the creative and journaling community, coming very soon.