Featured Artist: Gretel Girl

FK chats with Tracy Chaplin, the lovely lady behind Adelaide based label Gretel Girl.

Tell us about your label and where the name Gretel Girl came from?
The name ‘Gretel Girl’ just seemed to fall into my head one day & it felt like the ‘right fit’. But I recently discovered that the name Gretel means ‘pearl’….natural pearls are formed randomly and they are like accidents of nature with a precious result. Gretel Girl is not so different for me, it seemed to emerge from my simple sketches, building itself one layer at a time. Today the Gretel Girl label includes wall art, home-wares and jewellery but it’s foundations lie in my illustrations.

What is your background and how did you get to where you are today?
I have always loved to draw and I have a constant craving to create, which eventually led me to major in Sculpture while studying a Bachelor of Visual Art and Design. But, these days, casting bronze sculptures isn’t really affordable or achievable with 2 small children at home, so I turned back to drawing in an effort to find a creative outlet. I needed a voice and it seemed a blog featuring my little drawings & thoughts was the perfect avenue… who would have thought something so simple could grow into a business.

Where do you find inspiration for your illustrations?
It most likely sounds corny, but life and relationships are the inspiration for my illustrations. In fact, the majority of my drawings hold a story which could be simply inspired by watching a child freely skipping through a playground, or the pain associated with a broken friendship, or perhaps the weight of my domestic duties. There is always a greater story hidden behind the picture you see. Personally, I think my creative process needs the ‘story’, I want to feel like it all carries some meaning.

What are some of the items you’ll be selling at the FK Melbourne Market?
It would be impossible to leave home without my illustrated hoops. Printed on vintage and recycled fabrics, these pieces will take centre stage at my stall. But I will also have illustrated cushions on vintage fabrics, hand-illustrated vintage ceramic plates, jewellery (including my new Geo Brooches) as well as some brand new reclaimed wood wall hangings.

What are some of your favourite websites and blogs for inspiration?
My whole day could be swallowed up just answering this question. There are so many sites I could list but instead I will tell you the one today I enjoyed The Design Files Daily.

What are your preferred mediums to work with?
I am most comfortable with a pencil or pen in my hand, but I also love textiles and will always incorporate sewing into my work. In fact, on occasions when I have painted & printed onto wood, I ended up drilling holes in order to add stitching to the finished work. My new Geo Brooches, created from polymer clay, also were begging for some stitching & sewing!

How would you describe the style of your work and what is your working process?
After creating a drawing on paper, I scan the image & add the finishing touches in Adobe Illustrator. This allows me to change the scale & colour of the image to fit best with the selected fabrics. I love searching through all my vintage materials to find the perfect marriage of illustration & fabric. I am often printing onto vintage curtains, or a recycled jacket or dress…I feel like the history of the fabric only adds to the depth of the story that they illustration already holds. I love to sew and no illustrated hoop would be complete without the addition of some sewing detail. The print is then stretched and fixed inside a natural wood embroidery hoop.

Any advice for illustrators starting out?
When people originally started showing interest in my work I felt the need to be bigger and better. I was so aware and inspired by other amazing illustrators around me that I began trying to adapt to someone else’s style. It only left me feeling frustrated. It is so important to be yourself, to draw the things you love, to draw in your own style, or just keep drawing until a style emerges. Draw unashamedly. Don’t fear failure. Some of my greatest successes have come from failures. I feel like I am still ‘starting out’ and I love the fact that this journey could take me anywhere.



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