Humphrey (Ralph) was loving, soft tempered and gentle.
As a toddler he had a lovely affinity with nature, talking to ladybirds and walking up to trees and hugging them..very Humphrey like!
Baby Jack (Kim) was just the cutest, 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..!
21 years ago, it was a difficult time, I was a single parent with two youngsters 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 more than a little 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 they wanted to buy the copyright and own the characters. My drawings and ideas were my children ( albeit in elephant form! ) I couldn’t imagine giving away ownership of my work.
I contacted another greeting card company, and spoke to the Art Director. He informed me that he didn't have the time to meet artists and instructed me to send some images of my work in. After more of my best persuasion he eventually said he would spare me 10 minutes.
The next day I arrived at the publishers. The Art Director loved my drawings. I had the good fortune to see him when the Directors of the company were having their monthly gathering. He interrupted the meeting to show them my work. My 10 minutes became an hour and I came away with an agreement in principle to create my own range, but still retain my rights. I think I floated home rather than drove!
It's 21 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 5, 3 and 1. 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.
This was in the October of 1998. I had 2 months to complete the range, which needed to be finished by the end of December for a launch in February. It was going to be a tall order! The following week I returned with a book of sketches ideas. They looked through, then chose every one! However I then had to swallow my pride and explain that I could not afford to buy the paints, brushes and board to complete the work, where upon I was offered payment in advance. With those funds I was able to pay for help with 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 was very motivated!
The range was successfully launched at the 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 buyers interested in Humphrey's Corner owned several greeting card shops. He took some 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 am pleased to say they loved. No changes at all were made or words edited and I was asked to 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 more books ( around 40 in total ) soft toys, clothes, baby furniture, feeding, figurines, bath time, calendars, gifts etc, not only in the UK and Europe but also the US and Australia.
21 years on and although they don't often say it, I know my children are secretly pleased to have been immortalised as elephants and I feel so blessed to have been able to make a living from my characters.
It is wonderful to hear from or meet the genuine, lovely people who have taken Humphrey into their hearts, or receive photos of little ones with their baggy, well hugged Humphrey toys it makes my heart melt.
And I have been lucky enough to call this work : )