Tag: Leanne Creative

Visiting the Motherland

In April, I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks in the picturesque country of Zambia with my sister and cousins. The 18-hour journey to Southern Africa via Doha was definitely worth it, and I’ve returned feeling inspired, accomplished and humbled.

In this blog, I will be sharing some of my memories and experiences but, because we did so much, I have kept it extremely brief. Please do take note of some the inspirational and gorgeous locations I am going to mention and make it your mission to visit this stunning country for yourself…

And We’re Off!

Fifteen hours on a plane (plus a three hour stop-over in Doha) was to be the longest I’ve ever spent travelling and, to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to that part! Thoughts of how uncomfortable the seats or how tasteless the food would be on the plane fluttered through my mind, but when I arrived at Gatwick Airport and saw the girls, that anxiety quickly turned into excitement!

Touch Down

When we got off the plane at Lusaka Airport, we were greeted by a welcome slap of warm air and beaming sun – something I’d been craving for months! The sky was blue with barely any clouds and we made our way to Kuku’s house (Grandma and Grandpa) in Roma.

It had been such a long time since I’d seen them and it felt great to finally be able to visit them (and my uncles) at their home. I learnt of stories how my cousins and step-mum would play in the garden and pools and imagined how different life would have been there compared to the grey bustle of London.

Being surrounded by greenery and open space made such a difference to my mental health and I almost instantly felt myself relax and forget about the work waiting for me on my return. The only thing I missed about being in London was the absence of mosquitos (and any other creepy crawlies) but I guess they come with the territory and was a tiny price to pay for being in such a lovely place!

My Tribal Name

I’m very proud to say, that during my time with Grandma and Grandpa, they gave me my very own tribal name! Zambia has over 70 tribes including Lozi, Tonga, Nkoya and Subiya, with my grandparents being part of the Lozi tribe. Grandpa gave me the name Tabo (with a light ‘b’) which means ‘happiness’ because they were so happy to finally see me in Zambia. I felt so touched and honoured to receive this name and I will use it with pride from now on!

Barefeet Theatre

Barefeet Theatre is an organisation that was set up in 2006 by young Zambian artists, former street children and Irish artists to help empower and protect vulnerable children living in the streets of Lusaka. I had the pleasure of meeting Grace, who told me about their outreach work, workshops, showcases, interventions, festivals and more! They even have a children’s council which gives young activists a voice to articulate their ideas and pass on their knowledge.

Because I have a background in dance and other performing arts, I was particularly drawn to their award-winning performance company, which is an ensemble of some of the most talented creatives in the country. I hope to one day visit again and share what I have learnt during my dance journey, whilst learning different styles and techniques from the children and teachers too.

Please donate to this fantastic cause or even volunteer your services and skills with them if you can.

Livingstone

After a few days in Lusaka, we took the eight hour coach journey to Livingstone – the tourism capital of Zambia. Arriving at the bus station, we were bombarded by people trying to help us with our bags or offering snacks, which was quite overwhelming but I’d been warned about this experience, so I stayed strong!

Along the way, we past fields and farms as well as people selling their crops and items on the roadside. I loved when we passed over train tracks which seemed to appear out of nowhere. Where do they go? I’d love to take a train journey when I go back as they make great inspiration for potential storylines and adventures!

Halfway through the journey, we stopped off at Monze Bus Station for much needed refreshments and another four hours later, we arrived in Livingstone.

We were greeted with a warm smile and hug from my Aunty and when we got to the house, we were even presented with a personalised ‘Welcome Home’ cake with our images on – so sweet (and it tasted great!). My Aunty and Uncle have such a beautiful home with guava, bananas, pomegranate and custard apples growing in the garden and stunning view of the town.

Learning About Zambia

The Livingstone Museum was a great place to start with our day trips as it gave me huge insight into the country. I learnt about the plethora of tribes, Broken Hill Man of Kabwe (the first historically significant human remains found in Africa), the different rights of passage ceremonies and ethnic groups and even how to say “Thank you for visiting” in Tonga: Twalumba kutuswaya. As elephants are my favourite animal (which you will hear a lot about later in this blog), I also found it interesting to know that it was believed that they were composed of different meats (snake, lion, dog, owl etc) and therefore was not eaten by anyone. Although, these majestic animals still aren’t eaten by humans now, it’s an intriguing folktale!

Something special I was in the country in time for, but unfortunately didn’t get to visit or take part in, was The Kuomboka Festival which is a cultural event that draws tourists from all over the world. Kuomboka means ‘coming out of the water’ and takes place in the area of the Liuwa Plain after the rainy season. It’s a three-day celebration that marks the passage of the King of the Lozi people, from Barotse to Limulunga. It includes drumming, canoeing and processions in the King’s black and white barge, which is adorned with a huge elephant statue. I was only able to watch the proceedings on TV, but next time I hope to visit in person!

Wild at Heart

Of course, you can’t visit Africa without making a point of going to see the array of wildlife it has to offer, and we definitely did that!

We visited the croc park, where I held a baby crocodile and was graced by the presence of ‘Man-Eater’ (you can guess why he got his name); the largest crocodile I’ve ever seen! We also went to the Royal Livingstone to watch the sun set over the Zambezi river and were approached by antelope, monkeys and zebras. This was so amazing in such a great location but the absolute highlight for me in terms of wildlife would be the elephants!

We visited The Elephant Cafe, which is a sanctuary and five-star luxury restaurant. Here I got to live out my dream of meeting, petting and feeding elephants, including an 8-year-old 30 tonne ‘baby’ and his humungous 70-year-old father! We learnt about the conservation and how they look after these graceful animals, then had a delicious three-course meal made from locally sourced ingredients with unlimited drinks.

The surroundings were perfect, the staff were knowledgeable and attentive and I couldn’t have asked for better company… I could have stayed there all day!

The Smoke That Thunders

Victoria Falls, also known as ‘mosi o tunya’ (‘the smoke that thunders’ in Lozi), was another great highlight from my trip. Despite getting completely soaked through, I loved every second of it. The power, the sounds and the view was intense and it just made me appreciate the beauty of nature even more. If you visit around this time of year, I recommend that you resign yourself to the fact that you will be drenched and just enjoy the experience – and bring a ziplock bag for your phones!

The ‘spray’ (more like deluge) was relentless but don’t let that put you off from going. The heat will quickly dry you off and you can always take a walk down to the Boiling Pot to pass the time.

The Boiling Pot looks exactly as it sounds; swirling and churning waters at the bottom of the falls. It’s a good 15 minute trek down to the bottom and, depending on how fit you are, a challenging 30 minute walk up! It’s not a walk for the faint hearted, especially in the heat, but if you are able to, definitely give it a go – the view at the bottom is just as stunning as at the top!

Arts and Crafts

As a small business owner myself, I couldn’t leave Zambia without supporting some of the local traders. We visited the Mukuni Park Curio Market, which is home to some of Zambia’s art and crafts. We saw so many unique pieces, so I bought some sculptures, utensils and jewellery.

Siankaba Islands

If you have access to a car, please try to visit the Islands of Siankaba. To avoid getting stuck in the sand (like we did), I suggest hiring a jeep or a high car because you will need to go off road to access the entrance!

It then opens up to the peaceful part of the Zambezi river and you are taken to the islands via boat. It is so calm that you may be lucky enough to see some hippos or the rare African fish eagle which features on the Zambia flag – we were fortunate to see both!

With a pool, private lodges, and delicious food, it is somewhere I would definitely like to visit again and maybe stay over. There is something special about being secluded and surrounded by water.

See For Yourself

If I’m honest, this is blog hardly does the country of Zambia justice! There is so much to say, do and express but I don’t want you to still be reading for the next few weeks, so below is a quick list of some of the places I recommend visiting and some of the words and phrases I learnt whilst there. Please do visit this beautiful country for yourself and feel the warmth of the Motherland.

Where to go…

LUSAKA (CAPITAL CITY)

  • Chicago’s nightclub – If you’re looking for a place to enjoy music, well-priced cocktails and shisha.
  • Capones nightclub – It was busy but great music and it’s VVIP, so dress to impress!
  • Barefeet Theatre – Volunteer and support the children and young people of Lusaka.
  • Manda Hill shopping centre – For all of your essentials; currency exchange, supermarkets, restaurants etc.

LIVINGSTONE

  • Royal Livingstone Hotel – For luxury, great views of the Zambezi river and Victoria Falls, sunset and the chance to see zebras, antelope, monkeys and giraffes.
  • Livingstone Museum – Learn about Zambia and its rich history.
  • Croc Park – Be brave and hold baby crocodiles, tortoises and snakes as well as seeing the larger crocs being fed.
  • Fairmount Hotel club – For eclectic music and a friendly vibe.
  • Victoria Falls – A fantastic experience, especially during rainy season. Don’t forget protection for your phone and a spare set of clothes or raincoat! Descend to the Boiling Pot if you can.
  • Avani Hotel – A good place for a meal and some entertainment.
  • Jollyboys – A hostel with a small pool that is open for use. Nice chilled vibes with drinks and small meals available to order.
  • Mukuni Park Market – For art and crafts but local creatives.
  • The Elephant Cafe – Elephant interaction and luxury food and drink.
  • The Islands of Siankaba – Beautiful lodges and enjoy a sunset cruise on the Zambezi river.
  • Smoke House Restaurant – a lovey rooftop restaurant with live music and a BBQ.

Extras…

  • Nshima – pounded maze usually accompanied by stew or vegetables.
  • Amarula fruit – elephants love it and liquor can be made from it.
  • Kwacha/Ingwe – Zambia currency.
  • Chitenge – fabric similar to a sarong that’s worn around the waist or chest.
  • Kuku – grandma or grandpa (unisex)
  • Robots – also known as traffic lights!
  • Nyami Nyami – the protective Zambezi River God or Zambezi Snake Spirit of the Tonga people.

One Love – Experiencing Bob Marley

On Sunday 20th March, I visited the Bob Marley One Love Experience at the Saatchi Gallery in Sloane Square, London. The interactive exhibition was produced by Terrapin Station Entertainment and the Marley family and is running until 18th April 2022.

The experience can be enjoyed by all generations and we look forward to continuing to spread Daddy’s music and message to the globe

Cedella Marley, CEO of Bob Marley group of companies

As someone with a tattoo of one of Bob Marley’s quotes; “Live the life you love, love the life you live”, I was excited to learn more about this prolific figure through a unique immersive experience and unseen photography and memorabilia.

The man

Bob Marley aka Robert Nesta Marley was a Jamaican singer, musician and songwriter and considered one of the pioneers of the music genre, reggae.

He is best known for songs such as One Love, I Shot the Sheriff and No Woman, No Cry, with popularity amongst all ages, races and cultures.

In 1976, he survived an assassination attempt which lead him to move permanently to London where he recorded the album Exodus (1977).

At the young age of 36, Marley died after battling a type of melanoma. He was given a state funeral in Jamaica, with the Jamaican Prime Minister at the time describing him as having “… a voice [that] was an omnipresent cry in our electronic world.”

For his iconic work in the music industry, he achieved a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and induction into the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame.

The experience

The first thing I noticed was how beautiful the Saatchi Gallery grounds are! It looked very grand and I would love to visit again in the Summer and taking a stroll around the area.

When we entered the gallery, we were greeted by the iconic red, green and gold colours often associated with the reggae genre, Rastafarianism and the artist himself. I loved the quotes on the walls which displayed Bob Marley’s wisdom through his beautifully iconic lyrics from his songs, with one of my favourite’s being…

In the first room, we saw an assortment of vinyls of Marley’s music across the walls. I knew he was a prolific artist, but seeing his work in this way highlighted just how much he had achieved in his short life. As a plaque in this room stated, he was a singer, songwriter and musician, pioneer of Reggae, Ska and Rocksteady, global figure in popular culture and so, so much more!

One of the cabinets in the room contained an original sheet of paper on which Marley had written the lyrics of Turn Your Lights Down Low on. It was humbling to imagine him sitting and writing one of his most famous songs! The artefacts really made me think of the man behind the artist and how he would feel having such an exhibition about him.

Next, we moved into the One Love room. It’s green, smokey and full of plants – you can guess what the theme is! With bean bags on the floor and a swing to sit in, it was all about chilling out and ‘feeling alright’ – a great photo opportunity too!

As we continued through this section, we were given headphones and became fully immersed in the visuals projected on the wall. We imagined ourselves at a live concert with Bob Marley and The Wailers on a warm Jamaican night.

It was great to see footage of him performing live and even hear him speak – his singing voice is so iconic, but I’d never heard him talk before.

After this, we went into a room that displayed his love for football. I had no idea that he was such a football fan, so seeing his actual trainers and photos of him playing the game with his friends accompanied by his music playing from the jukebox at the back of the room, made this famous icon become a bit more ‘ordinary’.

My favourite area, was the One Love Tree. We were encouraged to write what ‘One Love’ meant to us on a piece of card and hang it from the tree. We wrote: One Love means… Love your fellow man and forget inferiority.

Overall, I loved the experience and definitely learnt more about this music legend. I don’t want to give too much away, so I definitely recommend visiting for yourself and celebrate Bob Marley in such an interesting way!

Break the Bias – International Women’s Day 2022

This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) theme is #BreakTheBias.

On 8th March and beyond, this campaign aims to “Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.” I think these points are so important and pride myself in being a female in a male-dominated industry (graphic design), so I often share my journey and achievements on social media to hopefully inspire other women to join this industry.

FMM interview

This year, I was asked to speak to FMM Collective (a Croydon-based marketplace in which my greeting cards are stocked) about my experiences as a female business owner/entrepreneur. We discussed whether I have come across any bias or challenges because of my gender and/or ethnicity.

…as a female, I don’t think we are taken as seriously in entrepreneurial positions as men unfortunately. I’ve had the question “How’s your little business going?” or when I say I design greeting cards and gifts, I’ve had a response of “Awww Bless!” which both come across as really patronising.

Leanne Creative

I think it’s so important to make female professionals visible and love that days like IWD highlight the work we do in a patriarchal society. If young girls can see the success of women, it can inspire them to enter fields that they might have previously viewed as closed off for them. #representationmatters

My advice for other female entrepreneurs would be to, of course take inspiration from others, but focus on your own journey to avoid comparison. 

Leanne Creative

Happy World Book Day!

The 3rd of March is World Book Day and this year it’s celebrating its 25 year anniversary with the theme “You are a reader”. World Book Day is a day recognised in over 100 countries across the world and is a charity sponsored by National Book Tokens which aims to promote reading for pleasure, offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own.

In 2021, 54 thousand books were donated to children by publishers, to support World Book Day with their mission.

worldbookday.com

This year, I was honoured to have been invited to St Luke’s Church of England Primary School in West Norwood to read and discuss the themes of my debut children’s book, My World – Mackilli and Seeva’s Switcheroo! I had the pleasure of sharing my book with Years 2, 3 and 4 and loved the feedback and ideas I received from the children (or ‘learners’ as they are known in this school).

Morning assembly at St Luke’s

The day started with a fantastic assembly where I was introduced to the whole school. It was great to see such diverse faces in both the teaching staff and the pupils as my book touches on themes of differences and people being unique and special in their own way.

Entertainer, MC Grammar

MC Grammar kicked off the day with an energetic song about books and story-telling, followed by Nadia Shireen, who went on to read a short story from her book Welcome to Grimwood. It was encouraging to see these more established creatives present their work and really geared me up to hold my workshops later on.

Author & Illustrator, Nadia Shireen

The children’s (and teacher’s) costumes were fantastic! They were asked to dress up as characters from books they’ve read already or planned to read. I saw a few Rockets (from Look Up!), an Oompa Loompa (from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory) as well as children dressed up as Rosa Parks and Cruella Deville.

My World Workshops

After assembly, I made my way through through the school, starting with Year 2. I began by introducing myself as a children’s book illustrator and author and asked the children what they knew about these professions. I was very impressed by the answers and how enthusiastic they were about drawing, writing and creativity in general.

Before I started reading the book, I asked the learners what they thought the book was about. They observed the cover and the title and Year 3 in particular were very accurate in their response, stating that it could be a story about two aliens who switch places. This was very reassuring as the illustrator/writer!

During the reading, I asked them if they would prefer to live in the colourful and busy world of Stiplop (where Seeva lives) or the quiet and relaxing world of Mimpal (where Mackilli lives). The majority of the learners said they preferred the bright colours and activity of Stiplop but appreciated the need for some time out and peace and quiet in Mimpal.

A teachable moment

Part way through the story, I asked the class what they thought of these unique looking alien characters.

A few of the learners said that they didn’t like Seeva’s grey afro and that it looked weird. Here, we paused and reflected on how it might be hurtful to comment negatively about the way somebody looks.

We looked around the room and discussed how we all have different hair, skin, heights and personalities and that was OK and something to be celebrated!

By the end of the discussion, we were all in agreement that we should respect and appreciate people’s differences. It was lovely progress!

It was important for me to explain that differences are part of what makes them who they are and they should be proud of these things. We all look different and have different skills and abilities but we can still be friends and inspire each other, just like Mackilli and Seeva do in the story.

Thank you!

It was great to see how excited the children were about reading, the fantastic costumes and how much value imagination and creative expression has in their lives!

The fact that the school’s vision is that “every child is a unique gift from God” fits so well with the themes of individuality and loving ones differences found in my book, which made it even more of a rewarding experience for me.

The day was also filmed by World Book Day, which was quite nerve-wracking but I’m so glad I was able to be part of this day. Reading and writing has always been something that’s interested me and has lead me to writing blogs like this as well as poetry and children’s books, so I hope that my visit has inspired the children of St. Luke’s to have a go at writing their own stories in the future.

I’d like to thank Ms Francis (Deputy Headteacher) and Miss Madden (Early Years teacher) in particular, for having me and I look forward to seeing the children’s love for literacy grow!


Future workshops

My time at St Luke’s felt so rewarding and positive, that I would love to continue holding similar workshops in pop ups, schools and community groups.

If you would like me to host a session(s) at your establishment (or virtually), please do get in touch. The workshop (30 mins to 1 hour) would include the following, adjusted for the ages of the children:

  • Reading through parts of My World – Mackilli and Seeva’s Switcheroo!
  • Discussing themes of difference and acceptance
  • Understanding literacy techniques
  • Drawing aliens and giving them a personality (character development)
  • Writing a short poem about the alien the child draws
  • Q&A
  • Opportunity for parents and guardians to purchase a copy of My World and any accompanying merchandise
  • Free signed copy of My World for your organisation, if applicable.

If you’d like to know of any open events I hold in the future, please do sign up to my newsletter here.

Happy New Year!

Here's to a fruitful 2022. Read what my plans are for this year.

Who else can’t believe it’s 2022 already?

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.

2022 goals

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!

Avoid burnout

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?

Leanne Creative meets Sainsbury’s!

Soooo this happened!

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.

Embracing hair loss blog header image

Where to shop!

My You Are A Queen cards can be found in the following large Sainsbury’s stores:

Ashton Moss
Badger Farm
Bamber Bridge
Banbury
Barnstaple
Beckton
Bicester
Bishop Auckland
Blackhall
Bognor Regis
Braehead
Brentwood
Broadcut 
Bybrook
Calcot
Cannock
Cameron Toll
Carlisle
Castle Court
Castlepoint
Cheadle
Chesterfield
Chichester
Cobham
Colne
Crayford
Crystal Palace
Crystal Peaks
Darnley
Darlington
Durham
East Mayne
East Kilbride
Edenthorpe
Edinburgh Longstone
Ellesmere Port
Emersons Grn

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.

Thank you so much in advance!

Celebrating pride

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…

Ashley
Nena
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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 chat…

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. 

same sex couples

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!


Representing love

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!

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone.”

Audre Lorde

Understanding your designer

As Chris Tucker said in Rush Hour… “Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth?” I hope so but as creatives with technical minds, designers are sometimes guilty of throwing in ‘jargon’ (or buzzwords) when we speak to our clients. We don’t mean it – honest – but these words help us gain clarity from a brief and will also help make sure the designs are fit for purpose.

In this blog, I will be breaking down some of the ‘buzzwords’ that often come up when I’m speaking to clients. It should help you understand us better and you can even impress us by throwing in a few words yourself! Feel free to bookmark this page and use it as a ‘glossary of terms’ to refer back to at a later date.

20 design & illustration buzzwords

Knowing these words will help you to communicate your design requirements accurately, resulting in a quicker turnaround and better fulfilled brief. They may also help you understand why we make certain design decisions… so really, it’s a win for both of us!

Animation
A moving drawing or computer generated image. Animation is a method in which figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. An animation if typically created by an animator.

Body copy
Copy‘ is another word for the text used in a document or book. ‘Body copy’ therefore refers to the main chunk of text in said document, so everything other than headings, titles or captions.
Your designer might say: “What font would you like your body copy to be in?

Brand Identity
The visible elements of a brand. This included the colour palette, fonts, shapes and logo design. Each element helps consumers identify your brand and distinguish from others. Have a look at the brand identities I have developed for clients here.

Carousel
In the context of social media, carousels are posts that have multiple images that viewers can swipe through. These are great for conveying multiple ideas or sharing large chunks of information without over-crowding a single image.

Case
Most people know about upper- and lowercases, but there is also sentence case and title case. Sentence case refers to lines of text starting with a capital letter (a grammatically correct sentence) and ending with a full-stop. Title case refers to a formal way of writing a title where each word starts with a capital letter (a part from joining words) for example, The Magical City of Mumbai.

Colour code
The ink or light colour combination required to produce a specific colour. In print, every colour is made up of a certain percentage of 4 primary ink colours known as CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). In web, every colour is made up of 3 light colours known as RGB: Red, Green and Blue (For web, the code may also be called Hex). Knowing the code of your desired colour will ensure consistency across your brand.
Your designer might ask: “What is the colour code for your brand’s dark blue?”

Contrast
How much colours look different from each other. High colour contrasts work best for legibility of text, for example, black text on a white background.
Your designer might say: “Those colours won’t work because there isn’t enough contrast”

Crop marks
Lines in the corners of your page to show the printer where to trim the paper. Also known as trim marks, they are usually required by commercial/professional printers and will not show on the final printed document.
Your designer might ask: “Does your printer require crop marks?”

EPS
A very high quality vector file. An EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) file is considered the best format for high resolution printing of illustrations or logos. It can be resized from a postage stamp size to a billboard size and would not lose quality!

Flat illustration
A minimalistic approach to illustration. “Flat” design focusses on simplicity and tends to feature plenty of open space, crisp edges and bright colours. See more examples of my flat illustrations here.

Flat plan
A diagram used to plan where the illustrations, images or text will go in a multi-page document like a magazine or book. It is useful when working out the page count and how your content will flow across the pages.

Illustration
A static drawing or computer generated image. A visual interpretation of a story, concept or process usually integrated into printed media such as flyers, magazines, books and teaching materials. An illustration is typically created by an illustrator like me!

Open/design files
Files that can be manipulated/edited using professional design programmes such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Having these precious files will allow you to take your designer’s creation and give it to someone else to change, essentially compromising their original work, so they will often come at an additional cost.
Your designer might ask: “Would you like to purchase the open files?”

Resolution
The quality of an image. Resolution is measured in either dpi (dots per inch – for print) or ppi (pixels per inch – for web design). The higher the resolution, the better the quality. Screens typically require a minimum of 72ppi, whereas print requires at least 300dpi, which is why it’s so important to tell your designer what the image or design is to be used for.

Reverse
A white or light coloured illustration or logo designed to be placed on black or dark backgrounds. It would usually be the same as the original, coloured version, but edited in a way that will stand out if having a dark background is unavoidable.
Your designer might ask: “Would you like your logo in reverse as well?”

Stock
Another name for paper. There are many types of paper and card to choose from, so it’s important to choose one fit for purpose. You need to consider its colour, thickness/weight (gsm), finish (silk, matte etc), lamination and more! Your designer and/or printer should be able to advise you on this for different purposes.

Typography
The study or production of different fonts. It can also refer to the manipulation of existing fonts or putting complimentary fonts together in a design.

Self-publishing
When an author writes, produces and sells their own book without the use of a publishing house. This route is typically good if you are a new author, want full control over its distribution and design and/or plan on producing small quantities initially (under 2000 copies).

Orphans
Leaving one word one its own on the last line of a paragraph in printed documents. As designers we try our best to avoid these as it’s seen as bad practice and doesn’t look great.
Your designer might say: “I’ve pushed that word down to the next line to avoid having any orphans.”

White space
Space around an image or group of text on a page (not necessarily white). This is needed to stop the page looking to busy and helps readers digest the information easily.
Your designer might say: “I’ve left some white space to avoid over-crowding”


Helpful?

I hope this glossary of terms helps you on your way to creating a killer brief, engaging in slick communication with you designer and impressing friends and family with your new lingo! Of course, if you have any questions or would like to work together on a self-published illustrated book with interesting typography and plenty of white space but no orphans… just get in touch!

What does a book illustrator ACTUALLY do?

So, here we are in 2021 (sorry for the late start with the blogging – it’s been a crazy year already)! We’ve made it through lockdown and finally things are slowly going back to normal. Shops are opening up, businesses are resuming normal practice and you may be feeling inspired to start a new project like selling your art, learning to swim or… publishing a children’s book (wink wink)!

In this blog, I’ll be talking to budding authors who have finished writing and are now in search of an illustrator to make their stories come to life! It can be a daunting stage of the process as it’s where a lot of time (and money) is spent, so I want to give you a little breakdown of what book illustrators like me DO and DON’T DO. These points should help you prepare for this exciting commissioning stage and make the right decisions for you and your book.


What illustrators DO…

Illustrators are a creative bunch! We take care of the look and feel of your book by using our skills to develop scenes, characters, page layout and more, to attract your audience as they browse the bookshelves. We bring the story to life and ultimately tell your story visually. Click through the slide to find out more…

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What illustrators DON’T DO…

There are some tasks that aren’t for your illustrator, but should rather be completed or initiated by your publisher (if you have one), your proof-reader/editor or yourself. Click through to find out how to delegate certain tasks and what you shouldn’t expect your illustrator to do for you…

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Of course, all freelance illustrators have their own ways of working but these slides contain common practices amongst many. I pride myself in being as transparent and helpful as possible to all of my clients, so if you have any further queries about what I do and don’t do as an illustrator, please get in touch. I work with new authors, as well as experiences ones, on books targeted at early-readers all the way up to early teens.

If you require a book cover for adult/older readers, please take a look at my illustration page to see if my more complex illustration style suits your vision.

A rollercoaster 2020!

The year 2020 has been ‘interesting’, to say the least! A rollercoaster of events and emotions plagued our entry into the new decade, making it one of the toughest years in a very long time!

2020 has been a struggle for so many people, not only financially but also emotionally, mentally and physically. Our lockdowns have wreaked havoc with our businesses and incomes (especially small businesses like mine), social unrest and racist rhetoric has made us question our places in society and the unprecedented effects of the Coronavirus pandemic has left us feeling more fragile than ever…what a year! But to avoid complete despair, I’ve made sure to focus on the positive things that have happened in-between the craziness!


2020 Round-up

This blog is a breakdown of all the positives I can take away from this year and the events I am most proud of. I sincerely pray that 2021 has more of this positivity for me, you and everyone who’s been struggling to stay afloat!

January

BBC Radio London interview
The year started with an amazing opportunity which sparked my desire to hop, skip and jump my way out of my comfort-zone. On my birthday, 13th January, I was invited to speak about my business on BBC Radio London’s The Scene with comedian, Aurie Styla. I was so nervous but it helped me find the confidence to speak to my audiences directly and I then went on to creating a YouTube channel!

February

Leanne Creative joins Jamii
Jamii is an online discovery platform, that makes buying from black-owned business easier. There are over 50 different brands and I was proud to join this platform this year. Shoppers with a Jamii discount card also get 10% off my greeting cards and coaster designs! So why not sign up?

March

Representation Matters campaign (part 2)
It was great to find even more people who felt represented by my greeting cards and gift illustrations – it’s why I do what I do! Thank you to everyone who sent in photos of themselves.

April

Healthcare greeting card release
With the pandemic in full swing, I decided to create an illustration to say thank you to the healthcare workers who are working so hard to keep us safe and as well as possible. I designed this purely for an Instagram post but the response was so great that I decided to turn it into a greeting card!

May

1k Instagram followers
I hit my target of 1,000 followers sooner than I had thought! Thank you so much for your interest in my products, services and tips. I’ve enjoyed engaging with my followers and meeting many inspirational people along the way and I am now at over 2.5k followers! Follow me here.

June

LGBTQ+ greeting card design launch
June is the month of many Pride celebrations for the LGBTQ+ community in the UK. I was approached by ParliREACH and ParliOUT to help them promote their initiative of better representation and equality, so they asked me to design greeting cards that had illustrations of same-sex couples.

Response has been very positive and I’m pleased to have been able to create greeting cards that Black gay and lesbian couples can relate to. Shop here.

July

Charity fundraising
My mum wanted to do something special for charity this year – two years after her diagnosis of Leukaemia and losing a lot of muscle strength. She challenged herself to do a 26 second headstand to raise money for The Sunshine Foundation for Children with Special Needs and the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT) and she smashed it, raising over £2000!

Thank you to everyone who donated and please continue to support these great charities.

August

Black Pound Day
I was very pleased to be able to meet the founder of Black Pound Day himself! Swiss is so dedicated and passionate about his initiative to promote and shop from black-owned businesses like mine, so it was amazing to hear him speak about it and his plans for the future.

This event, at BOXPARK Wembly, was the most successful event for my greeting card and gift sales, so a huge thank you to Carib and Co Brunch for organising it. When we all pull together to support each other, great things can happen!

September

World Afro Day
Founded by Michelle De Leon, World Afro Day is a day to celebrate afro textured hair. Our hair is unique and beautiful but often faces judgement and discrimination in workplaces and in the media, so this day aims to combat these problems. I celebrated by sharing my original illustration of a black woman rocking her ‘fro with confidence and style!

October

Debut book release
I was so excited to release my very own children’s book! MY WORLD – Mackilli & Seeva’s Switcheroo is a fantasy story with real-world themes of self-love, teaching children to love their differences and the unique features of others. I wrote and illustrated this magical book during lockdown and I am very proud of it. The support has been amazing so far and I hope to grow this series of books next year!

November

Ebony Her collaboration
I teamed up with Ebony Her – a holistic digital marketing agency with a focus of unlocking brand validity – to offer those who sign up to the marketing packages FREE bookmarks that I have designed (while stock lasts). I understand the importance of great marketing strategy, so wanted to partner with a great company like this!

December

Stylist Magazine Feature
I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited to see that my classic bauble Christmas card design had be listed as Stylist Magazine‘s Best for Subtle Sparkle! To have my work recognised and awarded felt amazing after such an uncertain year. Were you able to grab a copy (Issue 533) and buy this card?


Roll on 2021!
With so much happening this year, we have to count our blessings to still be here in the first place, so I am very grateful to be healthy, working and thriving amongst the chaos. What have you been grateful for?

Please stay posted, for my 2021 blogs, new items and books by signing up to my newsletter and I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and a Happy New Year!