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Its 13 years now since I created Humphrey's Corner.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 different 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 (Humphrey's name sake is now studying fashion, with dyed green hair and a lip piercing!..) Suffice to say all 3 still have the essence and characteristics of the 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 extra loving, soft tempered and gentle. Very Humphrey like! He got more rebellious through the years but I had a good 6 years of bliss first!
Baby Jack (Kim) was just the loveliest, happiest, smiling and funny little one year old.
Humphreys town and house is a combination of were I grew up and where I now live. My Mum and 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..!

13 years ago, it was a difficult time, 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 images for greeting cards. After several visits and probably being rather annoying, by calling up every other day (!) 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 of the characters. It was something I couldn't bring myself to do, having based my kids on them ( albeit as elephants!)

I hassled (poor chap) an art director of another company, who eventually said he would spare me 10 minutes to see me. 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 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 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. 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 book, which arrived on her desk the next day... I am pleased to say they loved it and it went pretty much 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 to meet a whole range of companies who had decided to work with Humphrey's Corner. I arrived at the hotel... then rang my Mum from the reception, for a pep talk as I was shaking in my heels!.. went into a lift and up to floor 89 or some other crazy height (!), and stepped 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 13 years on and it is just as exciting and rewarding now as ever.

I think the kids are overall secretly pleased they have been immortalised as elephants... It seems to be pretty cool, so that's ok!

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 are 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!

The very first drawings of Humphrey and his family





 
Humphrey