Nicola Rowlands makes us chuckle

Hi Magpies, this week I have had the privilege of interviewing Nicola Rowlands, designer, illustrator and purveyor of (amongst many other delights) Pocket Manfriends; I am the proud owner of one of these hunky chaps – Eric, if you must know. Nicola lives and works in Manchester, otherwise known as ‘the cosmopolitan, London-esque, metropolis of the North’ (I made that phrase up but you get the idea). Nicola’s drawings can be politely referred to as ‘wacky’ though in many instances are downright mad – in a good way.

Read on for an interview with the lovely (and bonkers) Nicola and a fantastic offer on her cards, exclusive to JM readers!

Have you always been a draw-er?
I think so! As a little girl I mostly drew fairies with really long arms and castles. Since then I have branched out to cats and sharks. I’ve certainly always been a do-er. I used to organise all sorts of entreupenerial schemes as a kid, from mud pie sales to dance shows, and later on Dr Marten trades and summer camps – I loved organising things and running things and generally bossing people around.

Did you study illustration?
I studied Design & Art Direction – it was a mix of marketing, graphic design, editorial publishing/magazine design, typography, styling, photography and advertising. A delicious pic-n-mix of useful and not useful skills.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
When I was younger I wanted to be a hairdresser or a dance coordinator. It’s probably best I’m not doing either of those things seeing as I’m 5’11 with really long arms and legs and thick, unruly hair.

What’s good about Manchester?
My brother lives here, but he is moving away soon; I will miss him a lot. He writes a pretty funny blog and his girlfriend cooks amazing cakes in the shape of cat’s heads. Maybe when he moves away I will lose the ability to draw guinea pigs and revert back to the dance coordinator idea.

Your Manfriends are strange and good all at once. Are they intended as a substitute for real life boyfriends?
They are indeed! See, they don’t leave their pants on the bathroom floor or tell you to stop watching Friends episodes on repeat. Unfortunately, they can’t hug you when you feel sad, cook you dinner or collect you from the bus station when you’ve spent 12 hours in the cheap seats.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to run a creative business but doesn’t know where to begin?
In no particular order: make lists and cross things out, exercise, know when things aren’t worth your time, listen to your heart, be nice to people, don’t copy, read books and go places. Also, check out Business Link for more practical, tangible help.

What about collaborations?
Oh I could bore you to death in this department – so I’ll keep it short. Don’t be precious with your work, and a collaboration can be a wonderful thing.

Who’s your favourite artist?
Grayson Perry, Alasdair Gray, I also love most of the work that comes out of Arthouse Meath – I am going to buy some as soon as I can choose which is my favourite.


Your cards are quite cheeky, and have the kinds of sentiments we’d really like to share, such as the totally reasonable ‘I’ll say sorry if you say sorry’ card and the mildly mental ‘Sorry your hair looks like a crepe slug’ card. How do you go about designing your cards- what’s the process?
The design process usually involves writing sentences in my sketchbook; laughing to myself; drawing very questionable fish; laughing some more to myself; getting bored very quickly of what I’m doing; and choosing the best combinations of terrible puns and diseased – looking animals to lay out onto cards and send to the printer before moving onto another activity. It’s all very haphazard and not at all as funny as I probably think it is. It’s nice that people buy the cards otherwise my Grandma might worry about me.

What’s with the weirdness?
So you’re saying a drawing of a guy holding a carp and saying ‘here I didn’t wrap it’ is weird? Or not?

Do you own a particular thing that continually inspires you?
I own a (real life) bearded man who provides me with photos of dogs, loads of support and freshly ground coffee beans. He’s my best possession.

What’s your favourite film?
I just saw Tyrannosaur which was directed by Paddy Considine. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time.

We sense you like cats. Do you own one (or more)? What’s their name?
I like cats! In my secret, crazy dreamworld I own a white cat. In real life I own zero cats. But for my last birthday my brother’s girlfriend baked me a cake in the shape of a white cat’s face, complete with one blue eye and one green eye. It was probably the best thing anyone has ever made for me.

What new ideas do you have up your sleeve?
I am currently doing some illustrations for a children’s television show – which is pretty exciting.

What’s your dream commission?
I’d like to maybe do a mural sometime but as I’ve never done one I need a little practice (do you have a wall you want me to make a huge mess of? If so, get in touch!)

OMG we love the sound of your Year of Cards subscription service. Tell us more.
Well basically with this purchase from my Etsy shop, you get a hand-picked selection of cards four times throughout the year. It’s just nice to have cards at hand, for when you need them. I think it makes you more inclined to send one, and thus brighten someone’s day. (Special code for Jackie Magpie readers, if you use the code MAGPIE you can get 10% off)

Thanks Nicola! It’s been mega (if a touch mental).

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