Lisa Maltby
"I love making ordinary things into desirable objects."

Lisa Maltby is a freelance Illustrator, Lettering Artist and Graphic Designer.

What kind of a kid were you?

I was always really curious and loved making things from a young age. My dad is both practical and inventive so he was a big influence – I was always following him around, helping him fix things and do odd jobs. We didn’t have a tv when I was younger so I got used to using my imagination – I would make up stories and games and I was always drawing and writing.

What was your first experience with design? What first inspired you?

I loved looking at illustrated sleeves of the records my dad owned, like Genesis and Yes. Some were really quirky and other-worldly so they fascinated me. We also had a lot of books with illustrated covers and hand drawn lettering, so it’s always made sense that design and illustration work hand in hand. I’ve always been drawn to visual work that serves a purpose as well as looks beautiful – I love making ordinary things into desirable objects.

What was your first experience with the internet?

To be honest I can’t remember as it was quite a gradual thing. I remember my dad telling me one dinner time that we would soon be able to access all the world’s information in seconds through computers. I was in awe of it but found it frustrating that I didn’t really understand it – like some sort of sci-fi magic! I remember our first computer was on dual up and it definitely took more than a few seconds to access information!

“I love making ordinary things into desirable objects.”

What did you do before your freelance career?

I worked in various graphic design jobs – my last being at a design agency where I worked for several years and was able to work with some great clients. Before those I worked at a supermarket, a nursery, a cafe and a fish and chip shop!

What was the first job you did for money and how did it go?

It’s hard to say because I had started to build up freelance work in my spare time and I initially started promoting my own work by selling prints. I think my first significant commercial commission when I had gone freelance full time was for Delicious magazine, which was an illustration of fast food over a double page spread. It went really well and it was an amazing feeling to walk into WHSmith and flick through a magazine with my work in it.

“it was an amazing feeling to walk into WHSmith and flick through a magazine with my work in it.”

What was the worst job you took on?

I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve not had too many bad ones – I’ve had lots of bad enquiries but thankfully I’ve been able to turn them down before they turned sour! I guess one early job that proved quite difficult was doing some pitch work for an advertising job. We discussed costs for just the pitch work and then further usage, so we were very clear from the start. However, when they wanted to use my initial work across a national advertising campaign – on bus shelters, packaging, tote bags etc. – they refused to pay me any more than half a day’s work. The director rang me up and said “no offence, but if you’re going to charge extra then we may as well just take a photo.” They had the cheek to ring me up a few months later and ask if they could put another of my designs on one of their tote bags for free.

What appeals to you about freelancing?

I love the flexibility of freelancing and being able to work in ways that are more productive for me. I also really value being able to schedule in time for creative events, mentoring, personal work and learning new skills. I’ve always felt those things were conducive for getting more work so I find it odd that a lot of nine-to-five jobs don’t allow for those things. For me, they have been crucial in getting a good reputation for what I do as well as making my job more interesting and a bit less insular.

What is your routine when working from home?

I rent a shared studio space so it makes it easier to separate work from home. It also helps that I have children who get me up in a morning! Mornings are pretty hectic, getting everyone sorted, then once I’ve done school and nursery drop offs I head to the studio. I make a cuppa and get working on deadlines in order of priority. It’s nice to have other creatives around which means we can give one another feedback and advice. Sometimes if I have meetings or I’m doing work on location this changes where I am. I need to be flexible as I obviously have to juggle family life so sometimes I need to work evenings and weekends.

How do you market yourself?

I market myself in different ways – I usually send a couple of mailers out, email newsletters every quarter and then I do a lot of social media – generally just making good connections. I’ve built up a great network of people and it works well for passing work around. If you have a good work ethic and get along with people well I think that people are drawn to that.

What is the project you’re most proud of?

It’s hard to say but I suppose I’m most proud of projects that have a good story behind them. I created a children’s book last year called ‘The Glorious Book of Curious Cocktails’ which was inspired by my eldest son laughing at some of the cocktail menu illustrations I was working on at the time. He found it funny that I was drawing limes and lemons in drinks (because that’s weird to a five year old!) and so I asked him what he would put in a drink instead. The following hour was spent inventing our own recipes, drawing hilariously disgusting ingredients and writing them out. We used a lot of literacy skills in the process and so I thought it would make a great learning resource for kids – especially kids who don’t get on with traditional methods of learning about english language. I launched the project on Kickstarter and thankfully got enough funding to produce the book. Since then I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from children and parents who have bought the book so it’s been really rewarding.

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