Whimsical illustrations – I am completely obsessed with them. I have a massive board on Pinterest filled with gorgeous artworks. But unfortunately for me I am unable to draw. Anja Stoekigt was another wonderful Facebook find. One of her illustrations popped up on my timeline, and I have been following her work ever since!
The perfect present
My Husband is very hard to buy presents for. Even though, he has the most wonderful knack of buy the perfect, thoughtful present. So, after ages of trying figure out what to buy him for an upcoming birthday, I approached Anja to do a custom family portrait. To say I had my socks knocked off by this amazing Lady is an understatement. Even our dog Dallas’s quirky ear found its way into our portrait. Our outfits were recognizable, and even though Anja faces are very simple, we could clearly recognize each facial characteristic. I was thrilled with the end result, and needless to say, my husband was speechless!
Anja was one of the first people I had on my bucket list to interview for my Creative Queen series. She has just been lovely and open, even though we have never met in person.
Anja, despite the way her name sounds, is a born and bred South African. She currently lives in “a sleepy little seaside neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cape Town.” She shares her life with her husband, and their “cutie patootie” golden retriever puppy, Charlie.
She writes so beautifully, I quickly realised I was going to struggle to edit the interview. Her answers just seem to capture her whimsical spirit.
When I asked about her background, and how she came to be the illustrator she is, she had this to say:
“I am a self-taught illustrator with an appreciation for the peculiar and the everyday beautiful. When I was a little person I would constantly linger in the stationery section of any shop and dream of all the different designs I would one day create. Now that I am bigger I get to shake these dreams from my hair and draw beautiful things. I hope you enjoy my work as much as I enjoyed creating it.”
After working with her Husband for a while. He is a chef and she was managing the front of house. She realised for the sake of her sanity, and her marriage, she needed to be more creative. This was the beginning of Paper-Tales, a name her Husband came up with, and Anja fell in love with. Anja does everything herself, not only the illustrating, but also all the printing, and packaging. Although, she does admit to roping in unsuspecting visitors to help fold cards, while she bounces ideas off them.
Opening doors and windows
She says God keeps opening doors and windows for her, through word of mouth and Facebook, because as a creative she isn’t great at marketing herself.
I always find selling myself difficult too. Maybe its because when you are selling something you have made, it feels very personal. I was always scared of people rejecting or criticizing what I had made and was expecting them to pay for. Over the years I have learnt to back up my pricing, and realise the value in what I can offer. This was a hard but valuable lesson to learn.
Keeping the creative tank full
When I asked Anja about what challenges she faces as a creative entrepreneur, it felt like she was singing my song to me.
“For me the biggest challenge was and still is, trying to juggle illustrating for other people and finding enough time to be creative for your own sake. It is really hard finding that balance of turning one’s passion into a business where you make enough money to sustain yourself, without losing your creative self in the process. My advice would be to make sure you take enough time to fuel your own creative soul and keep your creative tank full so that working on other people’s projects doesn’t drain you.
Another big thing I am trying to learn at the moment is to say ‘No’ to customers and to respect myself enough to take some time off and have a weekend every now and again. It is so easy to just work work work all the time, because you are doing something you love it often doesn’t feel like work, but one also needs to learn how to live a balanced life.”
“How many times can you say hello?”
One day while walking through a book store, I picked up a beautiful kids’ book, called “How many ways can you say Hello?”, written by Refiloe Moahloli. I instantly recognized Anja’s illustrations and promptly bought the book as a gift. I asked Anja how this beautiful collaboration happened.
“”How many ways can you say Hello?” started with Refiloe contacting me via e-mail and sending me the story outline. I loved the story and decided to give children’s book illustrating a go. We completed the book in under two months and were about to self-publish when Penguin saw a twitter post about the book and offered to publish us. The book has been a huge success, it has been reprinted numerous times already.”
“Being told by the MD of Penguin books that he loves my illustrations so much that the second children’s book that I am working on will also be branded under the Puffin imprint (which is their most prestigious children’s imprint). That completely made my day and week and month.”
She says another highlight was her grandparent’s reaction, to seeing the illustration Anja drew of them, “just magical”.
She says in the future she would love to illustrate more children’s books, and possibly write some of her own too. I have no doubt this talented lady will be filling our bookshelves with gems in the future. Although she does say she has a love affair with her bed, which keeps her procrastinating.
Let’s hope she can stay out of bed long enough to keep illustrating her gorgeous, magical stories!
You can find Anja’s current catalogue on her website, www.papertales.co.za, or contact her via email for custom portraits.