Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interview - Anna Blandford (Able and Game)

Able and Game's tagline is: 'we make cards'. True. Also true: as I scanned through their Etsy shop deciding which images to use for this interview, I got the giggles at my desk all by myself. In fact, every time I think about the cat card ('ll know it when you see it), I have another fit. Their cards are unique and hilarious - not a cliche to be found. Anna and Gareth, partners in work and in life, have built Able and Game from the ground up, turning it into an amazingly successful business. They can be found at the Rose Street Artists' Market in Melbourne every weekend, as well as select design markets throughout the year. They've had amazing press and a huge list of stockists. Anna Blandford is one half of this card caper and I'm so excited to bring her interview to you today! Welcome, Anna!

Gareth and Anna. (Source)

Tell us a bit about yourself, your work and achievements.

Able and Game consists of me and my boyfriend Gareth. We started the business over 3 years ago and now both work on it full time. I have a background in fine art and Gareth is much more technical and has a computer science background. I figured it would be a good combination for a business where we both had completely different skills.

When did you know you wanted to work creatively (from a young age or did you come to it later?) and what steps did you take to make it happen?

I grew up on a farm which can be quiet isolating. I was creating things from a young age and art was always something I loved. We grew up making our own cards for people, I don’t remember ever buying cards for friends. In high school I choose art as my main subjects in year 11 and 12 with my dream university course being graphic design. I didn’t get accepted, went overseas for a year and somehow ended up at an art secondary school in Belgium, then returned to a three year fine art degree.

Able and Game card available on Etsy

Can you describe the process of creating a new design – from concept through to the final?

We are always coming up with ideas for the cards and if we have a solid plan I will create the drawing for it and it evolves from there. Sometimes I start with a drawing without a concept and come up with something based on how the person looks. I draw with pen and ink or fine liner onto thicker white paper, then scan the image in and colour it digitally. I used to use a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator, but now I mainly use Illustrator to colour in the image.

Able and Game card available on Etsy

Could you describe a typical work day? How do you balance creating new designs and the administration side of your business?

I try and come up with new designs each week, so I break up my day with a mixture of business jobs and creative jobs. Gareth does a lot of the admin work also which gives me more time to create which is good.

Able and Game card available on Etsy

Do you have any routines or rituals you perform before starting a day's work or before you start working on something new? How do you motivate yourself?

It can be hard getting motivated but often we have work to do, orders to go out and things to organise so you don’t really have a choice, you have to do it. We don’t really have any rituals and we are trying to create a routine. After the Christmas rush we shifted office so I’m trying to get things organised within the new space, but we have been really busy since the start of the year with trade shows and Valentine’s Day, so it is slowly coming together.

Able and Game's Craft Hatch Market stall (Source)

What are your favourite tools/materials for creating?

I’ve just started working with a nib and ink and I’m really enjoying the medium. I’m bored of fine liners so using something that is unpredictable is very enjoyable. The nib creates a lovely line and you are never sure how thick it will be or if the ink will blob everywhere. The raised surface, although not important to the design outcome, feels lovely when you run your fingers over the paper.


What do you do when you have a creative block and need to 'refill the well'?

I think the best thing for me is to just draw. It doesn’t matter if it is good; it is just the process of getting ideas and words out and onto the paper that is important. It is such a horrid feeling pushing through the creative block swamp and the internet can be such a distraction. Once you wade through and get to the other side it is always a lovely feeling so I just keep pushing through knowing it will eventually come. I recently went through both a creative block which was coupled with a lack of skill from not creating any new cards over the busy Christmas period. I just had to sit and draw and just focus on that. In the end we came up with some new cards I’m really happy with, but it was a struggle for a while and I felt like I forgot how to make cards


Thanks, Anna! A great insight into the inner workings of Able and Game. I loved hearing about your creative process and how you approach new designs. We love your work!

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Able and Game's Melbourne/Brisbane cards available on Etsy