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Fisk and Fern: An Interview with Laura Fisk

I’m a big fan of whimsical illustrations… and FOOD. So, when I first became introduced to Fisk and Fern, I thought “This is a match made in heaven!”.

Laura Fisk is the very talented illustrator behind the indie company, Fisk and Fern. Her playful designs have found their way onto an adorable line of greeting cards, tea towels, coasters, and prints. I’m honored to have made a new batch of magnets featuring her artwork, and I wanted to seize the opportunity to talk to Laura one-on-one. I think you will enjoy reading about her art – and art business!

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Laura, your illustrations are funny, silly, and heartwarming all at the same time! Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?

Aw thanks so much! All my designs are hand drawn and then cleaned up in the computer. My finished drawings are all drawn with all sorts of drawing pens. A character or food usually starts off as just an idea in my head and then I do a lot of doodling and sketching to work through an idea – and it’s amazing how it always gets better once I actually start drawing it!

I kinda fell upon doing the funny food line, but now it has kinda of taken over and it’s always fun to come up with new foods. I usually do a blitz of foods together, and always have a running list of new ones I want to do.

You wanted to be a cartoonist growing up! What cartoons were your favorites? Do you still find inspiration there?

My real dream was to have a comic strip in the paper, super old school, right? I loved reading the weekend funnies and especially the Archie comics. And I’ve always loved children’s books, and that would be just amazing to do someday. Though watching Sunday cartoons was definitely part of it too – I LOVED, and still love, cartoons growing up (but now I’m fancy and call it animation). My gosh I watched everything, so so much inspired me. Growing up in the 80’s I feel it was the golden age of awesome Sunday morning cartoons. Everything from Gummy Bears, Voltron, even stuff like the trippy Hobbit animated movie really stuck with me.

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Any plans to animate your designs? Perhaps, the Fisk and Fern Sunday cartoon show?

That would be so amazing! I always think of everything as on the page, but to see say bacon monster animated would be crazy fun. I kinda always picture my characters moving when I’m not looking so to see it would be so cool.

If you had to choose one illustration that really represents you and your style, which would it be?

Ooh, this is a hard one. I’m going to say Pancake Monster. He’s the original funny food and my unofficial mascot. He’s just so silly and isn’t a complicated guy really. He loves pancakes, that’s what drives him!

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Pancake Monster / Pick up this awesome print by Fisk and Fern!

If I understand correctly, you do all of your own screenprinting for your lovely line of tea towels. How long have you been dabbling in ink?

I very very happily don’t do all my printing anymore! I still do a good amount, and screenprinting has my heart forever, but I now work with some wonderful printers here in Austin. It still feels like magic to get back a pile of towels that are already printed.

I started out learning about printmaking in, of all places, a rubber stamp store. I worked in one, The Great American Stamp Store in Westport, CT, all through high school and college and loved it! At some point I learned how to carve rubber stamps and was obsessed with the idea of being able to translate my goofy drawings into something I could print over and over again. Then after college when I was working in advertising, I slowly but surely took every printmaking class on the continuing ed roster at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Their printmaking department is awesome and I learned from so many great folks there. After I took a screenprinting class, I fell in love. Everything about the medium I love, the layering of color, the clean lines, the parameters you have to work with, all of it!

While I don’t print as much anymore, it is still a huge part of my creative process and I hope to start doing some crazy fun art prints soon.

It’s not always easy to balance the creative and commercial aspects of an artistic business. Do you have any advice for artists who are trying to promote their work?

Great question! I’ve been asked this a couple times and always say the same thing. Get help with your business, and get it early on, so that it becomes the way you work and you factor your timing and costs into it. I wish I started working with more partners early on – and I think my business would be in a better place now because of it. For example, having my towels printed by local talented screenprinters or contacting a rad company called buttonhead to print my designs, vs doing it all myself. Especially as the number of designs I have has grown and my time has become more limited now having a little one, I’ve fully realized how little time I have to do so much!

I know so many people (myself included!) that when starting our businesses we just wanted to do everything ourselves…something to prove or to validate the art or for whatever reason. I’ve learned along the way that it’s okay not to be good at every aspect of the business and it is more than okay to ask for help or hire or partner with amazing people. No business grows alone, and the more you have to focus on the designs of the business the better off it will probably be!

Where can we find out more about you and your designs?

The best place is at fiskandfern.com or at many small retailers across the country – you can find all those stores on my website as well.

And finally, I have to ask this: Who (or what) is the ‘Fern’ in ‘Fisk & Fern’?

When Fisk and Fern started out, my friend and I started the business together, she is the mystical Fern! However, she decided to not continue with the business for a number of happy reasons, but I love the name so I kept it!

5 thoughts on “Fisk and Fern: An Interview with Laura Fisk

  1. These illustrations are really cool. PANCAKE MONSTER!

  2. LOVE her art and advice. Definitely agree on the hardest one- asking for help. You get into indie business because you want to do it all yourself and have the control but it’s so much easier when you enlist help. I’m slowly getting better at that. Off to check out her site 😀

    1. Yes, exactly, Van! I said the same thing to Laura. As artists and entrepreneurs, I think we are naturally very protective of our work. It’s hard to know what to delegate and when. Like you, I think I’m slowly learning this lesson. At some point, if you want to keep growing, you have to accept help… Great comment. Thank you for posting!

  3. I used to always look forward to reading the comics in the newspaper! I love that she sticks with hand-drawn. I think it makes the work that much more awesome.

  4. Great interview, I love Laura’s style! I can totally relate to growing up in the ’80s and having all of that wonderful inspiration in the form of saturday cartoons and sunday comics. Her business advice is great, too. I’m just starting to learn to ask for help myself.

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