Doris Chang of Little Sister Co. is an Adelaide-based illustrator, designer and writer. She shares her inspiration, creative process and tips for emerging makers and designers.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your business (we’re guessing you’re the little sister…)?
I am, yes! As a child I was known as a bit of a dreamer; very observant about some things but often (to this day) not exactly aware of my surroundings in a typical sense. ‘Little Sister Co.’ is a bit of a nod to all of the slightly feckless smallest siblings out there who are forging their own paths.
In addition to creating my own line of greeting cards, printed artwork and other illustrated products under the Little Sister Co. label, I also freelance – children’s books and other projects – and teach workshops in lettering and watercolour painting.
Describe a day in the life of Doris Chang…
Every day is different and I’m very rarely in the studio painting all day; I might be out teaching workshops all weekend, dropping stock off to a local stockist or staying up late packing new products. A few common denominators no matter the day: tending to the growing jungle of houseplants in the studio, checking my emails in my pyjamas and scoping out suitable coffee-offices (thanks to all my local baristas who have put up with me staying in their establishment for much longer than a single flat white really called for).
Where do you get inspiration for your work?
Books, design, nature, science, weird things that we say to each other… anything and everything! I write all of the copy featured on my greeting cards and hand-lettered work, so most of my ideas start from a literary/written rather than illustrative mindset. I keep two notebooks – one for sketching and one for writing – and just try to make a note of any stray thought no matter how big or small. Sometimes these are long, rambling paragraphs and sometimes just a short, very silly, pun about pineapples. (Needless to say a lot of these notes never make it to print.)
You’ve contributed illustrations to a number of children’s books. How did you find this process? Did it differ to your normal creative practice?
From a technical standpoint, absolutely – compared to my other illustrative work, there’s a bit more of a process in terms of building character and designing storyboards in order to get the final result to work not just across a single spread but also together as a whole, however the bones of it is about the same thing: storytelling. To me the best picture books offer two parallel narratives – written and visual – for the reader to interpret, and I like to think of myself as a storyteller first and foremost rather than an illustrator or painter. I love having the opportunity to work with written material and portray narrative in a different format – to spend a little more time on research and character development, as well as add hidden references and inside jokes into spreads.
We noticed that you shared a “Survival Guide for New Graduates” on your blog. Care to share some of your tips for new and emerging designers/makers?
It sounds cheesy but I think the most important thing is to spend time getting to know yourself and your creative voice (niche, perspective, point of difference, whatever you want to call it). Little Sister Co. is in many ways the foundation of my creative practice; it’s a body of work that I can stand on, that I can say that I built, and it’s the reason I’ve been lucky enough to work on other freelance projects that cater to my strengths. When it comes to the really good products/projects/jobs, people are really paying for the way that you think, not just the way that your work looks.
What can people expect to find at your Bowerbird stall this May?
I’ll have printed artwork and greeting cards as well as one or two children’s books and some new written pieces; 2018 saw some amazing lettering and copy writing projects come to light and I’m excited to lean into more written work this year. See you at the Showgrounds! x
Photo: Rosina Possingham