Favorite Pun: This is actually from a Laffy Taffy joke: What do you get when you have a cat that eats lemons? A sour puss! BAHA!
tell us about yourself and the kind of work you create.
Hi! My name is Allison Black and I’ve been living in Columbus, Ohio for almost three years now. I’m originally from Rochester, New York and I grew up in a home with fifteen pets (my dad is a vet) before attending Syracuse University as an illustration major. I headed out to Los Angeles to work for a baby bedding company right after graduation and I spent my nights salsa dancing! After a couple of years, I took a job as a designer for the Seasonal team at Target Corporation, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I lived there for five years, designing cute and happy creations for Target, freezing my tushy off and eventually meeting my husband.
Working for Target has given me the chance to develop art and product in all sorts of categories, including clothing, stationery, back-to-school, Bullseye’s Playground (The Dollar Spot), and as I mentioned before, in Seasonal categories as well (Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc). Over the past few years, I’ve spent more and more time developing cards and working on children’s books and I absolutely love it! The art I like to make is colorful, kid-friendly, and generally features animals and hand-drawn lettering.
what is your typical day like? are there any challenges that you face on a consistent basis?
I actually have three types of ‘typical days’ in every week. The first are days that my son goes to daycare. On those days I try to be as focused and productive as possible. I always have multiple projects going on so I usually try and tackle the biggest or most challenging one first. But if I’m having a tough morning, I might try and pound out some of the smaller tasks first to boost my confidence! I usually leave emails for the end of the day, after Quinn is back at the house and napping. That way, if I get interrupted it’s not such a big deal…that’s also why I can be pretty slow to respond if it’s not a work-related email!
The second type of day I have is on weekdays when my son is at home with me! Those days are highly unproductive – at least for getting art done. We go for walks, run errands, play around the house, read books, go swimming, etc. Before Quinn was born, I didn’t have days where I stepped away from my work and the computer. Even though it can be a little stressful to have these days when there’s a big deadline coming up, I think it’s healthier to take a break, get out of the house and live life!
The last type of day I have are on the weekends. Because I work multiple jobs and have a family, there’s usually work to be done on the weekends, so I come up with a few tasks that I really need to get done before the week is over and make sure to pound those out at some point around whatever activities, house projects, or travel that we already have planned. Sometimes that means I do my work at night after Quinn is in bed, sometimes I can fit it in during the day, but it’s definitely a necessity for me to do some work on the weekends so I don’t fall behind. As you can probably tell, my biggest challenge is the amount of time I have to get work done (or lack of time I should say!) and the amount of interruptions I get while working. It takes a lot of practice to be able to just sit down and focus immediately, then stop suddenly when I have to!
you run a business called hip-hip and it’s so charming! how did you decide a business in stationery was the right choice for you?
When I was little, I used to draw cards for family members, so I’ve been interested in the stationery business for a while! The first stationery business I started was called Hooray Today and it was developed with my co-worker at the time, Alyssa Nassner. We were tired of all the restrictions we were being given at work and we thought it would be fun to do something just for us in our free time! We made a line together and it gave me a chance to see how much I enjoyed the business side of things, too. After Alyssa moved to NYC and I moved to Columbus, we shut down Hooray Today and I started Hip-Hip, since I missed developing cards. The nice thing about having a stationery business is that it’s relatively cheap to get started and it gives you a chance to develop and share a lot of art, too! There’s still a lot for me to learn about having an online business, developing a long-lasting brand, marketing, etc but it’s been really fun and I’m super excited about all the new concepts I’m working on for next year!
does your mentality when creating personal illustrations change from when you create illustrations for corporations?
Definitely. Honestly, it’s easier for me to create illustrations for pay than to make personal work. People who want me to work with them always come with a problem that needs to be solved and we work together to get to the right end goal, so the art comes naturally from all of that. When I make work for myself, there are no restrictions so I just want to make something amazing…which is a pretty lofty goal to start with! Plus, I don’t usually have a ton of time for personal exploration, so I know it’s a treat and I want to make the most of it. At the same time, once I get started on my personal work, I’m always SO happy doing it!
do you use your business to explore imagery and ideas you couldn’t explore for previous clients?
I used to make personal work because of the restrictions I was given at my regular job. I would get frustrated and want to make something that I was truly proud of. I also wanted to prove that if you give creatives the freedom to find a solution, that it will ultimately be better than if you keep them on a short leash. Interestingly enough, the work that I was doing for my own business started getting popular and then people started asking me for that style at my regular job! Now that I’m better established in the industry I don’t have to fight for the freedom to make the art I think is right, so I use my business to explore new things that I’m excited about. It’s a chance to push myself in a new category, try a different palette, explore an interesting layout, and see how it all shakes out in the end!
you use a lot of hand-lettering and extremely adorable animals in your work. it matches your bubbly personality so perfectly! what was the process of developing your own personal style and brand like?
I started working as an in-house designer right out of school. For years I was asked to make all different styles, none of which felt cohesive or even true to my personal brand. I took it as a chance to explore and I often look back on all that time as my own little grad school. I always did personal work on the side but for about four years I didn’t really know who I was artistically. At a time when I was particularly unhappy at my job, I realized I needed to prepare my portfolio in order to have more options in the future. I took a week off of work and I organized the hundreds of pieces of art I had made over the years only to realize that I couldn’t use any of it. None of it was cohesive and none of it felt like the right direction.
I had a small meltdown, then after eating about a pound of gummies I just started making a few personal pieces that finally felt true to me. One of those projects was the Space Bunny series, which is still one of my favorite collections to this day! There’s still a lot of trial and error that I do when making art, and I’m always searching for new inspiration to push my style to the next level, but I ultimately know I can trust myself to get to a final piece that I’m happy with.
you’ve done projects ranging from children’s books to product design. is there any project or area you really wish you had time to explore that you haven’t gotten a chance to yet?
I would really love to write my own children’s books. My agent is also an editor so she said she can help me do it! My biggest goal this year is to write one book!
what is the prettiest picture you’ve made recently?
This is probably not the prettiest picture I’ve made, but after I left Target I gave myself a little time to make a new card design, since I haven’t had the time to do that in about six months. This crazy King Kong is what I came up with and I had THE BEST time working on him!