2020 and 2021 both seemed to go by quickly and slowly at the same time and now we are in 2022, still feeling a little confused about what the future holds in terms of the dreaded virus, work and lifestyles! Despite this, I am determined to make as many plans as I can and stay positive, so my first post of the year is my way of putting my goals and plans into the universe and working towards making them happen.
Develop new and personalised products
I was fortunate enough to get a Cricut Explore 3 for Christmas! It’s something I’ve wanted for a very long time and I know that it will open up my possibilities of creating personalised items and expanding my range of products in general.
I can’t wait to start using it and if you have any suggestions of what you’d like to see in my collection, please get in touch.
Collaborate with more brands
Building connections, relationships and friendships are great ways to learn, achieve and grow as an entrepreneur and business owner. I hope to meet more and more like-minded people and build innovative ways to expand together.
Create more videos
I’d like to build on my YouTube videos and become more active on TikTok, so it’s time to get out my ring light and regain my confidence in front of the camera. I’ll be producing fun and entertaining videos and finding ways to incorporate my love of dance into them. Who knows, I might end up being a TikTok sensation!
Review my service prices
As a graphic designer and illustrator, I’m constantly learning new skills, developing existing skills and updating my tools in order to produce relevant, high-quality and impressive work.
Over the past few months, my skills and efficiency has improved after training, practicing and purchasing tools to allow for more styles of illustration for example, so this will be reflected in my new rates. I still promise a friendly and professional service but with more detail and features! Exciting!
Sometimes we need to say “no” in order to make time for recovery. Last year, I often worked until 2am and started up again early in the morning, so I want to make sure that I factor in some down-time and not take on too much, in both my personal and professional life.
Now it’s in the universe, here’s to a successful, fun, inspirational, educational and love-filled year ahead! What are your goals for 2022?
In August, I entered a Greeting Card Association (GCA), Ohh Deer and Sainsbury’s design competition on Instagram. The GCA teamed up with Sainsbury’s to provide a very exciting opportunity for designers like myself to have our greeting cards stocked in 107 stores across the UK throughout the month of October in celebration of Black History Month.
The GCA said that they had 999 entries and could only choose 26 designs, and I am very proud to say that one of my submitted designs was selected!
My winning design
I entered several designs for this competition. Each design celebrated the diversity of people from African diaspora and were taken from my existing Royalty Collection.
My designs use bright colouring, unique portrait illustration and empowering messaging, which I believe are perfect ways to celebrate not only Black History Month, but every occasion.
The winning design features the wording ‘You Are a Queen‘ and a stunning portrait of a joyful black woman with short hair. With no specific occasion, it can be sent to your recipient on their birthday, wedding day or during any special time during which they need a positive affirmation. You could even keep it for yourself and frame it!
The story behind the design
This design originates from my Crown & Story collection. I first created it to celebrate women with short hair after my mum lost her hair to chemotherapy over 2 years ago. I hope it helps women with short hair (by choice or circumstance) feel beautiful and represented as it’s rare to see on greeting cards and in general media.
Halifax Hamilton Hampden Park Hankridge Farm Harrogate Hayes Haywards Heath Hazel Grove Heaton Newcastle Heaton Park Hempstead Valley Heyford Hill High Wycombe Irvine Kempshott Kidderminster Kiln Lane Kings Lynn Hardwick Leamington Leicester North Leigh Lincoln Livingston London Colney Longbridge Longwater Low Hall Mansfield Milton Keynes Monks Cross Newbury Newport North Cheam Oldham Osmaston Park
Penzance Pepper Hill Pound Lane Preston Prestwick Purley Way Romford Rugby Rustington Salford Scarborough Sedgefield Sevenoaks Shorehead Springfield Sprucefield Stanway Stirling St Clares Sunderland Sunderland North Swadlincote Sydenham Tamworth Thetford Upton Wakefield Marsh Way Wandsworth Warren Heath Washington Watchmoor Park Wednesfield Weedon Rd West Belfast White Rose Wigan
So, please visit the store, buy a card and take photos! You can tag me on Instagram (@leanne_creative), Twitter (@leannecreative), Facebook (@leannecreative) and TikTok (@leannecreative). Buying a card (and hopefully selling out) may lead to more orders from major stores such as Sainsbury’s and would be a huge achievement for me as a small business and us as a nation in celebrating and representing diversity.
Losing my dad at the beginning of 2021 was the hardest loss I’ve ever faced.
During a time of turmoil for the entire world, many people were losing loved ones to the pandemic and as much as I knew it was very serious, no one can prepare you for the day you lose someone… and I lost a parent. Although my dad passed from other complications, it was still a huge shock to us all but from that shock and grief I wanted to produce something special in his honour… so I did.
Crown & Story
If you’ve not read my previous blogs, I created the Crown & Story category to talk about black and brown people’s experiences and how I use them as inspiration for my designs. In this blog, I will be honouring my dad, what he means to me and the importance black dads or father-figures which lead to me designing a special greeting card.
This is the card I designed to celebrate black kings, whether that be fathers, brothers, uncles or father-figures, past or present. I wanted to create a design that would help people let a king know that they are celebrated and valued on any occasion – birthdays, anniversaries and particularly, Father’s Day.
As a special link to my dad (other than creating an illustration that resembles him), I’ve decided to donate £1 from each sale of this card to Unique Football Academy because my dad was huge football enthusiast – Manchester United in particular. Unique Football Academy provides elite training at grassroots level for children and young people in London and beyond. The money raised will go towards supporting the academy and providing free training to those from underprivileged backgrounds.
Although my parents aren’t together, my dad was present and very supportive of my goals; he would always say “You’re going to be a star!” and I know he was proud of me. I am very blessed to have had this relationship with my dad (and to gain a beautiful step-mum, brother and sister too), so I want to make sure that people who also have this positive relationship have something to show their love this Father’s Day (20th June 2021).
The above cards are available to order from my shop now, so I hope you feel connected to one and can give one to a special person. Unfortunately, many of the fathers I have spoken to recently feel that Father’s Day isn’t celebrated enough and it’s sad to hear when great fathers feel this way. Society celebrates Mother’s Day far more, but I think dads should get just as much recognition for the love and support they also give their children. You don’t have to give a physical gift or card, but an acknowledgement of his presence will always go a long way because black fathers in particular, are unfortunately tarred with a stereotype of not being in their children’s lives but there are plenty of examples that show otherwise!
I love seeing organisations like Dope Black Dads and Stand Up Black Dads who are ‘inspiring, educating, healing and celebrating black fathers’ and aim to ‘educate, empower and transform the stereotypes of the black dads’ and will do my best to promote these positive narratives.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reached out to me during this difficult time – I appreciate you all greatly! It’s definitely not the easiest to talk about (especially as someone with introverted tendencies), which is why I decided to write about it.
My way of dealing with grief tends to be keeping busy and expressing my emotions creatively, and I hope these outlets help people who may have also gone through a similar loss. Losing a parent is so hard, especially when it’s sudden and I’m by no means an expert on how to deal with loss but my humble advice would be to do what works best for you! Everyone deals with it differently and there is no right or wrong way, but try to do it in a healthy way.
Wishing all the fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day – we appreciate you. We celebrate you on the day and every day!
We should all be proud of who we are, right? But sometimes, straight people take the fact that we can celebrate who we are and who we love freely for granted. For the LGBTQ+ community, it isn’t always that easy with some places in the world still deeming homosexuality and being transgender illegal! Even in the UK, we rarely see this community represented in art and design (specifically the greeting card/stationary industry) in an open and loving way.
In this blog, I will be talking to two people from the LGBTQ+ community about the way they feel they are represented (or not) in creative industries, as well sharing my greeting card deigns that celebrate Black Pride with you all.
Meet the speakers
I’m really excited to be interviewing Nena, a therapeutic counsellor and founder of Crown Mi Ltd from South London and Ashley Conrad, a broadcaster also from South London for this blog. Swipe across to get to know them a bit better…
Nena: “I’m a qualified therapeutic counsellor and am passionate about the wellbeing of those who are often ostracised in society. I’m the founder of the Mental Health initiative Crown Mi Ltd. Crown Mi Ltd is dedicated to creating platforms geared toward the empowerment of Queer Black Womxn who require support with their Mental Health in a safe space free from the stigmatic gaze.”
Ashley: “I am a broadcaster and typically specialise in light entertainment. I host a radio show for Gaydio; one of the UK’s biggest LGBT platforms and am on London radio station, Maritime Radio. I also work as an online reporter and presenter. I create entertainment news bulletins for an an online platform and, before the world broke, I attended many events as a video reporter.”
Let’s get to know Nena and Ashley’s thoughts on the representation of the LGBTQ+ community. They’ve had different experiences growing up which shows that there has been some progress but there is still work to do…
What have been your experiences within the black or asian community surrounding your sexuality?
Nena: I came out quite late in the game. I spent a large part of my dating life as a heterosexual woman but not from fear of what people would say; I genuinely was only interested in men and wasn’t exposed to Queer relationships. I started to work on loving myself which allowed me to love someone’s energy regardless of gender (and haven’t looked back btw).
The older I get, the more I find that acceptance isn’t alway a given. Family/friends from my (Black) community whom I thought saw past my sexuality, showed their true colours. Their acceptance comes with heteronormative beliefs, therefore, it’s important for me to surround myself with humans that love who I am in front of me and behind my back without restrictions.
Ashley: When I was younger, before I was in the media, my sexuality was quietly accepted… maybe even ignored. No one said anything openly negative or nasty to my face. Later, when I started working in media or attending fashion shows for work, I think it was almost encouraged. Everyone loves and needs positive representation in whatever form that comes in.
Which industries do you feel represent the LGBTQ+ the most/least and why?
Nena: If I had to choose I would say the community has had a huge impact on the Fashion industry. However, I find that true or genuine ally-ship is questionable nowadays as Pride and “Queerness” have quickly become pawns for capitalist exploitation in the mainstream.
Ashley: The most – definitely fashion and music and for the least; sport – the stereotypical industries!
Have you seen your sexuality and/or skin tone represented on greeting cards before? If so, in what way?
Nena: There was a black-owned business in Catford that used to sell many black greeting cards (sadly they have closed down during the pandemic), which I spent many times purchasing greeting cards and bookmarks – anything Black really. However, seeing black cards that celebrate same sex couples or celebrate my love is a very new thing and greatly appreciated.
Ashley: Growing up, definitely. When we would go shopping in certain areas as a child, I’d see black people on greetings cards and it was always something of amazement and it felt incredibly special to receive one.
What do you think of the Pride cards designed by Leanne Creative?
Nena: I think the Pride Cards designed by Leanne Creative are amazing. It was lovely receiving the ‘My Queen’ card as a Valentine’s card from my fiancée last year. I felt like our love was important and celebrated.
Ashley: I adore them! It’s about time. Looking at LGBT media, it’s still very very white ,so seeing a card that represents me is amazing. I feel included.
Is there any imagery/wording you’d like to see more on greeting cards?
Nena: Would love to see wording around fiancé/fiancée birthday/Christmas/anniversary. Congratulations to the happy couple wedding cards.
Have you supported or heard of UK Black Pride UK and Stonewall UK?
Nena: Yes, I’ve heard of both UK Black Pride and Stonewall UK. I’ve had the pleasure of attending many events that have been delivered by both organisations.
Ashley: Yes to both!
Tell us about your proudest moment!
Nena: There have been many, but to name a couple, I will say when I arrived at a place of complete acceptance around being gay and letting my mum know was one of them. Also, sharing a written piece at a Queer event regarding my personal experience with Mental Health and having others identify is another.
Ashley: I don’t believe that has come yet; there’s still so much more I want to do!
Last year, I released two greeting cards featuring illustrated portraits of same-sex couples. It was an initiative inspired by ParliREACH and ParliOUT. ParliREACH is a Workplace Equality Network (WEN) established to increase awareness and appreciation of race, ethnicity and cultural heritage issues in Parliament. It aims to provide a platform where under-represented groups can find support and where equality objectives can be progressed. ParliOUT is another WEN in support of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people in Parliament, with the goal of making LGBT role models more visible and accessible.
£1 from the sale of each of these cards goes to the UK Black Pride charity – Europe’s largest celebration for LGBTQI+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle Eastern-descent. UK Black Pride is a safe space to celebrate diverse sexualities, gender identities, cultures, gender expressions and backgrounds and they foster, represent and celebrate Black LGBTQI+ and QTIPOC culture through education, the arts, cultural events and advocacy.
A further 50p from each sale goes to Stonewall UK – a charity aims to let all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, in the UK and abroad, know they’re not alone. Stonewall UK believes we’re stronger united, so partner with organisations that help create change for the better.
As a designer who prides myself with creating representative greeting cards and gifts, I am committed to expanding my range and shedding light on representation issues. As it’s Pride month coming up (June), please share this post, buy some cards, follow my guest’s Instagram pages and let’s make it the most prideful month ever!
If you’re familiar with the mission behind my greeting cards and gifts, you will know that positive and diverse representation is something I’m very passionate about. And what better way to represent and celebrate a friend or loved one, than a personalised illustration.
As well as my Royalty collection of items, I offer a bespoke service to those who want an extra special portrait illustration. I can create these illustrations using one of two different styles – a poly-vector technique or a flat vector technique.
How it works…
Send me the photo of the person you’d like illustrated as well as any wording you’d like featured and any colour preferences you have for the background.
Please send an image that is as high quality as possible.
I will then illustrate the image in your chosen style and send you the high-quality image for you to print on anything you’d like! (Or, I can send off to print for you at an extra cost).
This style of illustration takes the longest to complete, so please allow up to 5 working days before you need it (longer if you require it to be sent to print).
This technique is best suited for completely front-facing or side-facing close up portraits.
It gives quite a realistic finished product and is my product’s signature style! Watch a video about this style here.
Although my cards and gifts feature a wide range of hairstyles, ages and skin tones, I will probably never build a collection that represents every single beautiful person in the African diaspora (but I’m trying!), so bespoke illustrations are a great option to get that illustration looking just like the recipient!
PLEASE NOTE: As every illustration is unique and won’t be used anywhere else, prices are more expensive than my existing collection of cards (from £35).
Some say the greeting card is obsolete or they prefer to send a text or meme, but as an illustrator and designer of greeting cards and gifts, I have a love for traditional greeting cards and here’s why…
For me, physical greeting cards are a more personal way to stay in touch and there’s something about being tactile in a digital world that makes it feel that little bit more special. Selecting, spending money (especially with an independent company) and writing a bespoke message in a card really shows the recipient that you have put thought into how you’d like them to spend and remember their special day. Cards can also be a great way to express how you feel about someone if you’re too shy to tell them in person, helping you to break the ice and connect with them on an emotional level – who need emojis and sliding into the DMs?!
A piece of art with a story… and made with love
My cards in particular, are created with great attention to detail and I pride myself in creating not only something to be given on a special occasion but kept for years to come; some of my customers even frame them.
The majority of my card designs start off as intricate portraits on vivid colourful backgrounds, each adorned with headdresses or hairstyles which give them their own identity and I sometimes even imagine their back story! The colours, diversity and detail really brings them to life and I find that many customers connect with each card more like art than an accompaniment to a gift.
I then hand-finish each card with gems and package them individually, making each one slightly different. They are really made with love and I am genuinely humbled by the fact that I am able to share them world-wide with people on their special days. They really aren’t just card for me; they are an dream, a story, a passion, a talent and a creative piece of art.
I have recently written a blog for JAMMI called Addressing the Balance. This piece is about the need for more diversity in our gift shops (and beyond) and highlights the fact that cards are powerful in helping people feel celebrated and loved and what better way to feel celebrated than with a card that features artwork that looks like you. The representation of minorities and a variety of ethnic backgrounds really does matter and my cards are a small but valid way to help people feel empowered and uplifted, one card at a time. Read the full article here.
Small but mighty
As an small business owner, I am always encouraging people to buy greeting cards and gifts from independent shops. Campaigns like Just a Card encourages people to value and buy from designers that aren’t on the high street because there are real people behind these items who have worked hard to produce them which means that every sale (no matter how small you may think it is) means a great deal to us. It’s not just a card, it’s supporting a dream, vision and a lifestyle and there are benefits to you as a consumer too…
You tend to get a more personal, memorable and ‘hands-on’ service
You have access to more diversity and exclusive items
It creates a sense of community
And you will definitely feel good after pressing ‘purchase’ and knowing that a real person does a happy dance once they receive your order!
In February 2020, The Guardian released an article on how greeting cards are indeed surviving the ‘smartphone era’ which is great news for us card designers. The British in particular have been sending cards since the Victorian times and we send more per head than any other nation! There has been an drop in Valentine’s Day card sales but new born baby, Father’s Day, Easter, empowerment and rude cards are on the up!
According to the Greeting Card Association’s 2019 market report, the British public spent £1.7bn on cards with Generation Z (18 to 24 year olds) buying more than any other age group. The thinking behind this is that Millenials are wanting to empower more and mental health awareness is increasing so cards that make us feel good are becoming more popular.
This is great news so let’s keep spreading love in creative and expressive ways. Visit my online shop to find the perfect card here.
This is my first post and one that is very important to me…
After my mum was diagnosed with leukaemia and lost her hair to chemotherapy, it dawned on me that all of the women I’d illustrated on my greeting cards had long hair or large billowing afros. My cards are all about beauty, celebration, empowerment and representation, but I had left out a group of women who may not have this typical feminine standard of beautiful long locks… and this bothered me.
For 2020, in celebration of my mum’s recovery as well as the diversity of women’s hair, I’ve launched two new cards featuring women with short hair as part of my Crown & Story collection. As my mum had lost her hair due to leukaemia treatment, I’ve also decided to donate £1 from every sale of a card to the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT).
Below is an interview with my mum, Yvonne, on her journey of hair loss and I hope it inspires you to see beauty in her crown and story...
What was your relationship with your hair?
I had a positive relationship with my hair; I took pride in it. I’d had my locs for 25 years which began as a political stance because there is so much beauty and cultural politics tied up in hair, particularly for women. I had initially shaved off my curly perm in rebellion against the expectation that black women needed to chemicalise their hair in order for it to be beautiful and manageable. I wanted to prove that natural was beautiful and eventually decided to grow locs.
There is so much beauty and cultural politics tied up in hair, particularly for women.
At the time having locs wasn’t something many of my friends and family approved of, however, after seeing how well I looked after them, I would often receive compliments. Having locs for so long meant that they were a visible part of my identity, however, they did not define me and as time went by they became less about politics and more a style choice. I would style them, colour them and trim them, enjoying their increasing versatility as locs became more popular and more specialist salons sprang up.
How did it feel when you lost your hair?
I had reconciled myself to the inevitability of hair loss pretty much as soon as I was told that I would have to have aggressive chemotherapy treatment. On the day when the first clumps started to come away in my fingers and the reality began to kick in however, it was still a bit of a shock. On the day of cutting of my locs I was a bit tearful; firstly because it was symbolic of the gravity of my illness and secondly, much as I was ok with the prospect of not having any hair, the fact that I had no choice in the matter was difficult. After that initial sadness, I was fine.
On the day when the first clumps of hair started to come away in my fingers, the reality began to kick in.
How long did it take you to embrace the change?
I had decided that I would shave my head at the first sign of it falling out as I didn’t want to have to deal with the strange ‘patchy’ look. Unfortunately, I was unable to do this as quickly as I would have liked as my platelets were low but once they were healthy enough my daughter cut off the locs and a few days later my brother shaved off what was left.
I embraced the bald head immediately. It couldn’t have been a better time to have a bald head as a woman. Increasing numbers of black women were shaving their hair off out of choice, so other than the fact that my scalp was completely clean and shiny and my eyebrows were a bit thinned, there was nothing particularly remarkable about my look. For this reason, I chose not to cover my head and wore my bald head with a sense of pride – unless I needed to keep out the cold with a hat!
I chose not to cover my head and wore my bald head with a sense of pride
I suppose for those who were used to knowing me with a full head of locs, it took them some time to get used to my new look but most said that it actually suited me – apparently I have a good shaped head! The Film Black Panther that had not long been released was also instrumental in promoting female shaven heads and empowered many a black woman to adopt this look, so this helped a lot – WAKANDA FOREVER!
Are you now fully accepting of this change?
Yes, and have actually chosen to keep it short for the time being. I’ve trimmed it several times since and am experimenting with different colours. I’m still receiving compliments about my hair so it’s all good and just the other day a work colleague told me that this is my best look.
What advice would you give to women going through this journey?
Each woman’s experience is different and there is a lot of emotion connected with hair. My advice would be that although it is initially upsetting, the consoling fact is that it is only temporary – it will grow back. Your hair does not define you or your beauty. You may look different but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Embrace this time and use the opportunity to try different styles, head wraps, hats, bold make up etc.
Your hair does not define you or your beauty.
Did it affect your self esteem?
Nope – in fact I felt/feel quite empowered. It is the visual of my story of overcoming adversity. A constant reminder of my blessings, that I am still here.
Do you still think about your hair before?
Yes, at times I have to admit to finding myself looking admiringly at people with beautiful locs and reminiscing about the days of my own.
Do you feel different now that you have short hair?
I feel liberated! Swimming in the sea on my Caribbean holiday was a whole new, joyous experience as I didn’t have to concern worry about my hair getting wet and ruining a style!
What you do you think of Leanne’s new cards?
I am so pleased that Leanne has included these images to her collection. It’s lovely to see black women with short hair represented and myself reflected – I don’t think I have come across this before. I love that her range depicts black women in their varied splendour, including different skin tones and hair styles. Well done and thank you Leanne, you are sending a powerful, positive message not only to black women but to wider society about black women’s diverse beauty. I look forward to seeing what comes next!
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