I am so excited to announce my first range of Smile & Make products all raising funds for The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund are now live in my Etsy shop. The whole range is inspired by my Michael, the most tip top guy you’d ever meet. I’ll warn you this is a long post as I wanted to explain about the inspiration behind each of the products, and share some of Michael’s original drawings and makes which many of the designs are based on. So grab a cuppa and settle in!
There were a few important motivations behind my designs for this range, which I hope you can see demonstrated in the end products:
- I wanted it to feel like a collaboration between me and Michael, which is something we had always planned to do (another story for another day). So he is my inspiration for everything I’ve created, and I’ve focused on details he found important, like bright colours, bold graphics, retro style and fun packaging.
- I’ve tried to create lots of different products in a range of colours hopefully with a wide appeal, so that anyone who knew Michael might be able to find something they can choose featuring his designs and sayings.
- I’ve also tried to create products which associate well with fundraising for The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund as at least £1 from the sale of each product, and in most cases much more than this, will be donated to the fund.
On to the products!
Tip Top Like Soda Pop!
The heart of the range is based around Michael’s favourite saying “Tip Top Like Soda Pop”, which from speaking to friends we all think must have been his own original quirky saying! It’s the perfect inspiration as it sums up everything that made Michael who he was – fun, positivity, retro style – and everything I hope The Michael Barry Fund will be in his honour. I want to use the products I’m making to spread a little bit of Michael’s fun and positivity and bring a smile to every customer.
I also hoped to use some of Michael’s original drawings and designs, and he had been working on a sketch of a soda pop bottle which he wanted to turn into a lino print using a kit he had recently bought. He was still working on his drawings and they were just rough sketches, but I went through his many notebooks and sketchbooks to find all of the elements he had drawn and pieced them together. I decided to use the design to create an enamel pin. As well as being an obvious charity fundraising product and the current trend amongst indie designer makers, pins are also something Michael collected. He always had a pin or badge on his cardigan, hoodie or satchel, and so it seemed fitting. The pin is the product I am most excited about, and I will be donating 100% of the profits from every pin sold to The Michael Barry Fund.
I’ve also created a t-shirt campaign on Mercht where you can order a Tip Top t-shirt, which will launch tomorrow using this link. I decided to use Mercht as it gives you the option to choose the colour and size of t-shirt you would like, and I couldn’t really justify the expense of buying t-shirts up front without knowing if they would sell. So, if you’d like to order a t-shirt you’ll need to do it directly with Mercht, but everything else I’ve made is available through my Etsy shop. Hopefully it doesn’t make things too confusing!
The next design is based on an “On Air” light box used in radio stations. When we were on holiday in Cornwall last year, we saw one in a vintage shop and Michael loved it but it was rather expensive! So when we got home, he started working on a sketch inspired by it. I decided to use the sketch to create a bold graphic tote bag.
In the summer of 2012 we went on holiday in Lincolnshire to a vintage caravan and filled our car up with crafty supplies so we could escape to the country and have fun making things and cooking on the campfire for a few days. Michael had an idea of making felt flags inspired by vintage sports pennants, with motivational phrases and fun designs. He sketched out his ideas and cut out all of the felt pieces, but didn’t get any further. He decided to finish them off a few months later when he was recovering from his first round of surgery, feeling fed up at not being able to do much and wanting to keep busy. I remember feeling so incredibly proud of him as I sat watching him hand sewing his pennants together, with just a little bit of guidance from me, only weeks after having brain surgery. Here are the pennants he made, being proudly displayed on our mantle piece at the time:
He made lots of other designs but I decided to start with recreating this one, partly because of the motivational message and also because it used his favourite colours of yellow and blue as a lifelong Oxford United fan. I’ve created two sets of fabric pennants inspired by the design:
Make a List
Michael was a prolific list maker, and he always liked to start each list with “Make a List” which he would immediately cross out, as there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of crossing something off your to do list so why not start there?! Here’s an example I found in one of his notebooks. Apparently we were buying a lot of paint that day…
I decided to create a pocket sized notebook for making lists, doodling or jotting down ideas using this as inspiration. I read back through all of Michael’s tweets and Instagram posts for his tips on how to make the everyday a little bit more special and came up with a list, which turned into this design:
Synths and Drum Machines
As most of you will know, Michael was a big lego fan, and he loved music. Like most boys he loved Lego as a kid, and his passion reignited when he was poorly after getting a few lego inspired gifts for Christmas. It was a huge therapy and distraction for him, and I firmly believe it was part of what kept him strong for so long. As well as normal Lego he loved nano blocks and made a synthesiser using a kit we bought, and then freestyled a few extras in his own design. I decided to turn his designs into a cross stitch, adding “Let’s Dance” since Michael was ALWAYS dancing and was a Bowie fan, so it seemed especially poignant.
He also liked making things out of Hama beads, I think because the process is not dissimilar to building lego as it requires carefully planning out ordered designs in pixel form. He made some coasters inspired by the iconic 808 drum machine and Juno synth, and again I thought these would translate well as cross stitches, so I stitched them both up and framed them in mini hoops:
As well as “Tip Top Like Soda Pop”, there were a whole host of other sayings Michael used on a daily basis. He was the kind of guy who was always saying something in a fun way to make you smile, and these are the things that stay with me the clearest and help me hear his voice in my head and make me smile countless times a day. Again, I thought these would make fun wall pennants:
Clockwise from top:
- Does Yogi Bear Like Picnics? – his answer when you asked him a question where the answer was obviously yes, like do you want a burger for lunch (he loved burgers!).
- Have a Tip Top Day! – A twist on Tip Top Like Soda Pop, and something he often wrote in birthday cards.
- D’ya Wanna Cwoffee You Schmuck? – after we went to New York on our honeymoon, Michael adopted a New York accent and said this every day as he made his morning coffee. I have no idea if this design will appeal to anyone as it’s a bit out there, but I just wanted to make it!!
- You & Me Are Perfect Together Like Tea & Cake – this is something he wrote in an anniversary card to me. He was the cutest.
- Let’s Go To The Seaside Real Soon? – Michael wrote this in a birthday card to me the first summer after we got married. The seaside was always special to us as we loved retro seaside holidays, and Michael proposed on the beach in Broadstairs.
- Ice Cream is Gonna Save the Day! – this is a lyric from a song which reminds me of when we first got together. I really wanted to do something with ice creams on as for my birthday last year Michael themed all of my presents and basically bought me anything cute he found with ice creams on, and continued to do this for months after – I even found a mug not long ago which he had stashed away. So now I can’t resist anything with an ice cream print!
I couldn’t design a range of products without including sunflowers now could I?? So to tie in with the sunflower challenge, I created a button badge:
Because sometimes we all need to create our own sunshine.
Well, that’s all for now folks! Congratulations if you’ve made it to the end of this mammoth post! I hope you like the goodies I’ve made, I’ve been working really hard on them all and it’s been hard keeping everything under wraps!