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It's almost 20 years now since I created Humphrey's Corner. Wow...
Where does the time go?!

Over the years I have been asked how did I get Humphrey's Corner off the ground. Here is a snap shot of how this little elephant came to be.

Humphrey, his big sister Lottie and baby brother Jack. are based on my own 3 children when they were aged 5, 3 and 1. Their personalities, toys, bedrooms and the antics they got up to are the inspirations I work from, mixed up with my own memories of my childhood.Although they are a lot bigger now, suffice to say all 3 still have the same essence and characteristics of their little elephant characters.

Lottie (Georgie) was a typical 5 year old, headstrong and bossy in a nutshell! But also sweet, affectionate and my beautiful blue eyed, blonde curls girl.

Humphrey (Ralph) was loving, soft tempered and gentle. Very Humphrey like! He got more rebellious through the years but I had a good 10 years of bliss first!

Baby Jack (Kim) was just the loveliest, happiest, smiling and funny little one year old.

Humphrey's town and house is a combination of where I grew up and where I lived in the early days of creating Humphrey's Corner.My Mum, Dad, brother Rob, niece Emma, Grandma and other memorable people from my childhood all feature in what is essentially one big walk down memory lane for me..!


16 years ago, it was a difficult time, I was a single parent with two children and a new baby, a mountain of debt and no money. But it gave me the incentive I needed to create Humphrey and the perseverance to keep making the journeys back and forth to publishers.

Initially I developed a range of drawings for greeting cards. After several visits and probably being rather annoying with my persistence (!) a major greeting card company said they would like to commission a range based on my designs. It was a huge opportunity, but there was a catch in that they wanted to buy the copyright and own the characters. My drawings and ideas were motivated by the love of my kids and the stories and drawings I created about them. Icouldnít imagine losing control or not having ownership of my work.

I contacted another greeting card company, and called the art director. He said he was too busy to see me and could I please send some images of my work in. I said I would much prefer to see him and  he eventually said he would spare me 10 minutes. I had the good fortune to see him when the directors of the company were having their monthly meeting.

He loved my drawings and interrupted the meeting to show them my work. My 10 minutes became an hour and I came away with an agreement to create my own range, but still retain my rights. I think I floated home rather than drove!




I had 2 months to complete the range, which needed to be finished by the end of December for a launch in FEB 1998. It was going to be a tall order!

I also had to be upfront and explain that I had no cash for paints or board to do the work. They offered to pay me in advance from my sketch ideas and with that I took on a nanny to help look after my 3 month old and 2 older children whilst I worked to complete the range. The final designs were handed over on the last working day of the year at the annual Christmas lunch... Just in time!

In the month of January I wrote and illustrated a rough version of my first book Humphrey's Corner (I said I was motivated!)


The range was successfully launched at a greeting card and gift exhibition in Birmingham. It was a very exciting time for me to be on a stand with a huge Humphrey banner and the range on display. My kids and family all came to say hello and be proud : )

One of the people interested in Humphrey's Corner was a man who owned several greeting card shops. He took some of the samples back home to show his wife, who happened to be the Head of Children's Books at Penguin Publishers. She contacted me to see if I would be interested in illustrating a book which one of their writers would create a story for.


I explained I had already written and illustrated a rough copy of a book, which I posted, and arrived on her desk the next day... I am pleased to say they loved it, had no changes or wanted any words edited and commissioned me go ahead and complete the book, which then went straight off to print!

The day a copy of my very first published book came through the post was a Very very good day..!

Humphrey's popularity grew and branched out into soft toys, clothes, baby furniture, feeding, figurines, calendars etc. Humphrey's Corner began a long term relationship with Mothercare who have been wonderful and we also launched in Australia and the U S.

I will always remember my first visit to New York, where my agent had arranged a lunch for me to meet a range of companies who had decided to licence Humphrey's Corner on their products. I arrived at the hotel and stood in reception, in front of a lift shaking in my heels  as I was so nervous. I rang my Mum for a pep talk before flying up to floor 89 and stepping into a room of white table cloths and silver cutlery, with the most magnificent view over Manhattan and a room full of people to meet me... Very overwhelming! An amazing memory.


So 16 years on and it is just as exciting and rewarding now as ever.

I think the kids are secretly pleased they have been immortalised as elephants and proud of their Mum, so thatís good.

It has been hard work and probably harder than it needs to be as I am something of a perfectionist!

But we work with committed people who are just as passionate and have a small, brilliant team of designers and finance bods here at Humphrey's Corner and around the world with our agents. We love what we do and it is the icing on the cake when I meet the genuine, lovely people who have taken Humphrey into their hearts and the children who I sometimes see walking around with their baggy, well hugged toys.


It makes my heart melt to see them... And I am lucky enough to call this work!


 
Humphrey