How I fell in love with creating

The headline is actually a trick question – I have always loved creating! I don't remember a time before that, because I was too young to remember anything. As a child I enjoyed making things. Empty weet-bix boxes were an endless source of inspiration, I made many creations of that cardboard, it was the perfect weight to create with. As time went by they started to print on the inside of the box which I wasn't too impressed with.

My mother is very crafty, and when I was a child I learned how to knit, sew, spin and weave. She also taught me how to crochet, but I didn't pick that up so easily. As an adult I had to ask her to teach me again! My school's annual field day was the highlight of the year. When the schedule came out, I would go through it seeing what categories there were, and deciding what to make for each one. My classmates' enthusiasm for handcrafts didn't quite match mine, so it wasn't uncommon for me to be the sole entrant in a category! I also had a (very) little side hustle going on while I was at school, which you can read about here.

My prize haul from one year's field day. The two embroideries were made at school.
As I got older I focussed more on art, and studied it throughout high school. Due to attending a small country school I had to do 6th and 7th form art by correspondence which I wasn't well suited to. A month after finishing a painting you would get the feedback from your teacher in Wellington. You can't replace having a teacher behind you as you're working, giving you feedback you can implement straight away.

Half of my fifth form art folio – the year I did have an onsite teacher to guide me.
Upon leaving school I studied graphic design and spent a few years working in the art department of a screen printing company. Around that time I decided to start making candles again, a hobby I'd started in high school. I made quite a few and wondered what I was going to do with them, so set up a  stall at Craft World. This was cut short when I left to go to London for a year.

Mt first efforts at putting my candles out in the world.
After my return from London, I wanted to get in touch with my creative side again, so joined a local painting class. I learned lots of watercolour techniques during this time, and participated in several group exhibitions. I was also quite keen to get back into some craft again, so rekindled my candle business, took up knitting again and properly learned to crochet. Conveniently there was a resurgence in craft, it was a lot cooler than it had been in my youth. I went to some local markets, joined Felt and made some new friends!

'Mists of Maruia'
The painting on the left of Lyttelton Harbour is mine
Five years ago when my son was a baby I wasn't sure what direction to go in next, and then along came StickyTiki! The first job I'd had at the screen printing company had some digital printing machines which I used to operate. One of them could print and cut, and was an earlier (and much lower quality) model of the one we use to print StickyTiki decals. I'd always quite fancied it, so couldn't turn down the chance to own a much better one! I was also thinking it would be a good chance use and grow my art skills.


I had to dig quite deep into the archives for some of the photos to illustrate this post. My aunt gave me a camera when I was 8, which means I have a good photographic record of my childhood. It was a film camera with a little cartridge you put in that had the film in it. It was pretty foolproof!

Where do you put your decals?

There are lots of different ways to use our decals! Obviously they go well on painted walls, but there are lots of other places you can put them. I'm hoping to take more photos of the decals in different places, to give you an idea about how they'll work for you. Some places I'm thinking of photographing our decals on are the door of the fridge, on a laptop and maybe even the car.

So tell me where you put yours! If you don't have one yet, where where are you planning to put it? Just comment below, or even better send me a photo of your decal in it's special place! I love seeing where our decals end up. If you want to share it on social media, use the hashtag #mystickytiki so we can check out how good they are looking!

If you're looking for inspiration, here are some ideas for different places to put your decals.

Coming soon: StickyTiki removable wallpaper!

I have lots of ideas for new products for StickyTiki, and there is one I've been doing some work on behind the scenes for some time now. The product we use was designed to be used for large scale wallcoverings, and that is something I've wanted to add for some time now. You hear lots of stories about the grim task of stripping old wallpaper when people are renovating their homes. How great would it be if you could just peel it off, as easily as a StickyTiki wall decal?

With that in mind, and all the possibilities that brings with it, I needed some fabulous repeating patterns that I could use to print onto wallpaper. Because if you've got a product as special as StickyTiki, you need some pretty special designs, right?

Luckily for me I know some very talented illustrators, one of whom had developed quite a penchant for designing patterns. Katherine Quinn who created the artwork for a range of decals for us also has a great range of patterns. Last year I had the opportunity to create a trade booth for an insulation company, so I recommended using a wallpaper to give the stand more interest. This was a good chance to try out my idea, and it worked really well.

The next step was to create a background to photoshop the wallpaper into. I photograph each and every one of my decals, but this isn't so practical for wallpaper! I wanted to avoid using stock imagery if I could, so I spoke to the lovely Kiri at Junk & Disorderly, and she arranged it so I could come in and photograph some of their gorgeous furniture against a blank wall, so I could use that for a background.

The next step will be to setup the mockups for the different designs, work out all the finer details and then launch them! Hopefully I will get that done over the next few months and then you will be able to buy your very own StickyTiki wallpaper.

Making our packaging more sustainable

Plastic bags – something the world does not need any more of!

You'd think that with all this talk about using less plastic in our lives, there would be lots of great alternatives out there. In lots of cases there are of course (think how ubiquitous reusable coffee cups have become), but sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult to find. Recently I was coming close to the end of my supply of small, plastic prepaid courier satchels. The company I was using already had a larger size available in a nice sturdy cardboard envelope. This was great, as not only was it more environmentally friendly – it could be easily recycled, and was made from recycled paper – but it worked better for my decals as it was more sturdy.

I had seen the smaller size in a cardboard envelope from another company, and thought that it wouldn't be difficult to find a suitable replacement. This turned out to be a very optimistic outlook. The current company didn't have any plans to add the size I required to the cardboard range. The other company wasn't even aware that they had made them, as they were no longer available. At this point, the notion of buying a prepaid cardboard satchel in this size was dashed.

Another option that had been suggested to me was buying cardboard envelopes and printing my own courier labels. This also turned out to be easier said than done, as it involved buying a special printer and wasn't really aimed at smaller businesses like mine. Then I had another company recommended to me that could do everything I needed, and I could print the labels on my existing printer. So I was finally able to remove the last plastic packaging option I had for posting, and move entirely to cardboard! I am quite a fan of cardboard, so this made me very happy. Not only is it recyclable, it is such a versatile product.

The new. entirely cardboard range of packing options for sending out your decals

Now I just need to find a biodegradable alternative to the plastic sleeves I use for the medium and large decals. I use biodegradable cellophane bags for the tiny and small decals, but they don't make them in the larger sizes as well. I am still looking, and rest assured when I do find a suitable alternative I will make the switch.

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The first stage of creating a new decal design

To begin with, the decals start out with an idea. Some of those ideas have been swirling around for a long time. I still have ideas from when I was planning to buy StickyTiki that haven't come to fruition yet! So it is very exciting each time I do get to sit down and start work on a new idea. 

Firstly I sketch out some roughs to get a feel for how the work might look. Usually this will start with some pencil sketches from reference images, and then some rough paintings to try out different techniques until I get the desired effect. In this case I practiced the letter forms with my brush pen before using watercolour and a brush.

Once I'm happy with that, I sketch the outline. If it's something geometric, I literally go old school and use my compass and other tech drawing equipment I used at school. I'd like to add that computers were around then, they just weren't quite as sophisticated as they are now. The internet was still a novelty, not a way of life!

Then comes the fun bit where I get out the paint and create the finished painting. Often I'm happy with the first one, but sometimes I have to try again to get it to a stage that I'm happy with. If my high school art teacher is reading this, I have moved on from my perfectionist tendencies from fifth form. When I saw her at a recent school reunion, she wasn't convinced that was possible. It might be because she hadn't met my second art teacher, Maree from Art and Company who taught me to be more loose and go with the flow.

Once that is done, I scan the original artwork to my computer, make any necessary adjustments in photoshop (usually just to the brightness or colour balance), then I add the cutlines and arrange them on a sheet ready to be printed.

I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look at how I create the artwork for the decals. If you click on they photos, they link through to the finish product, so you can see how they turned out.

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52 weeks of blogging

This blog has been rather neglected in recent years, so I've decided to give it a dust off and see if I can keep up a regular posting schedule. The idea of thinking what to write each week was a bit daunting to start with, but then I remembered I used to write quite regularly on my other blog, Rose in Thorns, and Kim used to write on this blog very regularly in the early days. So I know it can be done!

My sunny spot for creating art – my grandmother's old singer sewing machine table

What will I write about? How about a little about me to begin with! (If you want to read more, check out the introductory post I wrote a couple of years ago.) I've always been creative which isn't that surprising, with a mother that is a very talented craftswoman, and my grandmothers were also quite handy with crafts and both enjoyed painting. As a girl I enjoyed drawing and painting and making creations out of cardboard boxes. The latter is a talent my son seems to have inherited! This led to a career as a graphic designer, and eventually to becoming the owner of StickyTiki.

Creating art! The first in my range of NZ bird watercolour designs

One of the reasons I purchased StickyTiki was that I wanted to incorporate more drawing and painting back into my life. After almost five years, I have to say that's still a lot easier said than done, but I am getting better at making time to create. I have started on a range of New Zealand birds in watercolour which has been really run to see a style evolve. I had no idea what they would look like when I started, and I still don't know what the next one is going to look like when I start it.

So in the coming weeks I'll be posting some behind the scenes updates, interviews with the talented artists I collaborate with (here are some profiles I've already done on Drawer Full of Giants, Angelique Monaghan and Shireen Myers), stockist profiles and updates on where you can find me.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this journey takes me, and I hope you'll come along for the ride!

10 years of StickyTiki

When her children were little, Kim Hands would paint large murals on their walls. As an artist, this came to her naturally. It got her wondering how people who weren't artists decorated their kids' rooms. She set about researching how she could make artwork that other people could put on their walls. This led to finding a material that could be printed, cut to shape and stuck to walls, which could also be removed and repositioned. She also found a printer that could print high quality artwork and cut individual shapes. Kim acquired both, and thus StickyTiki was born!

Being the first business in New Zealand (and one of the first in the world) to create wall decals from this reusable fabric, Kim enjoyed worldwide success selling her bright, bold designs on Etsy. A strong New Zealand theme made her designs popular among locals and proud kiwis expats around the world.

Four years ago Kim decided it was time for a change and sold the business to me. Since then I have collaborated with several New Zealand artists and introduced some of my own designs. I am very proud to have continued the amazing business that Kim set up and to have reached to milestone of 10 years of creating unique, reusable artwork for your walls.

To celebrate StickyTiki's 10th birthday we are launching a new design on 10th October at 10am. To be the first to find out about the new design, sign up to our newsletter, then keep an eye on your inbox on Wednesday morning!
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