Katy Dynes (aka Kitty Dinners) chats to Marisa Straccia (aka Madame Bogg).
Kitty Dinners (Katy): Hi Marisa! How are you?
Marisa: I’m great! It’s Sunday and it’s a rainy day.
Katy: I’m so pleased, that we’ve finally managed to ‘grab’ a few minutes with you- you’re such a busy lady!
Marisa: That’s true! I’m very busy; it stops me from getting bored! I get grumpy if I’m bored.
Katy: Can I ask-what are you working on at the moment? Or is it a secret?
Marisa: During the day I’m always working on birthday cards for the amazing Doodle Press. This week I have modern–style cutes for ages 9-10 years to do. I’ll be using lots of bold colours, fat inky lines and a bit of collage…I have some cute outer space themed embroidery to do for Bunnycup Embroidery and there is the design for The Bedford Clanger to do at the end of each month which fills up a few evenings.
Katy : You’ve got such a fabulous illustrative style- how did you develop this?
Marisa: Wow! Thanks Katy! But I’m not sure I do… I’m always comparing myself to other illustrators. I always I feel like I have to and can do better. I’m trying to improve myself all the time; I’m not the type to rest on their laurels. I keep trying.
Katy: Your characters have got such strong personalities- how do you ‘capture’ these? Do you draw from ‘life’ or do they come straight from your imagination?
Marisa: I don’t know! I think it’s my inner geek. I used to spend a lot of time drawing and watching the muppets and playing A LOT of computer games, being obsessed with ewoks. I find excitement in funny creatures, they way they move, the weird things they say. It all spills into my work, I suppose. Unworldly critters are more fun and they’re sort of my friends!
But If I get stuck I need to get out and start looking. Real people and animals can be quirky too.
Katy: How much of your work is digital and how much do you produce by hand?
Marisa: My entire greeting cards work is digital. I sketch and paint with a Wacom tablet. Use brushes in Photoshop and Painter to get a soft watercolour style. The embroidery designs I sketch in pencil and scan into Illustrator so I can get crisp vector lines. They’re for machine embroidery projects so it’s easy for the sewing machine to pick out a smooth line. I work on the screen for many hours, so I like to relax away from the computer with my personal development work using more tactile media.
Katy: I LOVE LOVE LOVE your fantastic hand embroidered artworks- how long do these take to do on average? And have you always done these or is it something you’ve recently undertaken, being inspired by the patterns that you produce for your clients?
Marisa: Aww. Thank you! They take flippin’ ages! Many hours, er depends on the amount of detail! I just like doing things! I started last winter, Bunnycup inspired me, but I wanted a hand-crafted look away from machines. Hand embroidery is slow going and relaxing and I can do it on the sofa without needing to rush whilst watching bbc4 documentaries and Newsnight!
Katy: And……you make amazing soft toys too (a girl after my own heart!). I first came across your soft toy work and your blog, when the lovely Kristian Purcell, recommended your work to me. Do you make toys for sale? Have you ever considered working in the toy industry?
Marisa: I loved making crafty critters! I was selling them on Etsy and doing okay, even got to do a craft market once… But it got too big! Each character is hand made, each is one of a kind, so they take ages to construct and I couldn’t keep up.
Technically, they’re not toys, but little soft textile sculptures, but they ‘look’ like toys so when some new legislation came in about handmade toys and health & safety it confused me, and scared me. I decided to concentrate more on the hand embroidery, but I continue to make critters as gifts for friends and family.
Katy: Marisa- I understand you’re also heavily involved in a very popular Bedfordshire paper- The Clanger! It’s a brilliant read, jam packed full of fab informative articles, events/gig guides and beautifully laid out artwork: how did you become involved?
Marisa: The Clanger is so positive and it always shows the best of Bedfordshire! I volunteered to do some design work for Erica and Kayte at the We Are Bedford Castle Quays Weekender last year. I just whipped up a few posters. Erica must have thought “Oooh, someone who knows a thing or two about Indesign… That’ll be handy!” To be honest I had to learn on the job, but within the year we’ve gone from 8 to 16 pages, so I must be doing something right!
I’d like to see more illustrated editorial from the Circus in there! David has contributed every month with his lovely Great Bedfordian illustrations, but it’ll be good to keep it fresh with other styles too. The piece Scarlett did this month is superb!
Katy:Have you any words of advice/wisdom for any new designers out there, who are just starting out?
Marisa: Keep looking and keep drawing. Keep scrapbooks, keep a little diary, and be interested in the world. Hmm. I should follow my own advice.
Katy: Outside of work, what do you like to do with your ‘free’ (hohoho) time: a little bird told me that you have a variety of interesting hobbies…….
Marisa: I make my own country wine. My most successful to date is the elderflower. I have one bottle left that I’m saving for our COI Spotlight exhibition opening night! I also have a lot of scrummy flavours that will be ready at Christmas. Oh, and I have an allotment and I play the piano… not very well, I’m nestled somewhere between grade 3 and 4, but I’m working on it!
Katy: Who would you invite round to your next dinner party -people either living or dead?
Marisa: Er… My boyfriend, Jack and some close friends… I’d like dinner with Kurt Vonnegut, Matt Groening, Frank Skinner, Jim Henson and Mary Beard too but I’d be too scared to talk to them. I’d invite Vali Meyers as well, but having Foxy there might be unhygienic.
Katy: Tell me something that may surprise us about you…………
Marisa: I know how to play Dungeons and Dragons.
Katy: And finally, which do you prefer: Chips or ice cream?
Marisa: My dad is Italian: Gelato.