First up in our ‘5 Minutes with…’ series for 2017, we interview graphic artists Cass and Amy Cassidy, the creative duo behind the recently launched Lucky 5.
Hi Cass and Amy, thanks for speaking with us. Can you tell our readers how you first got started in the industry, and what your backgrounds are?
Well… we met at Natcoll (now ACG Yoobee School of Design) in 2004, when Amy was in my Graphic Design class and I was her teacher. Back in the day, I knew more than her but now… Well, I’m just tagging along behind!
Before that I (Cass) dabbled in art at school and was always passionate about it. It was a hobby at first, as I had aspirations to be a musician, but when I left New Zealand to go adventuring in London, I decided to pursue art more seriously and taught myself graphic design. I worked for Warner Brothers in London, from 1993-1997 as Warner Bros Artist for Europe (consumer products). I moved to Essex in 1997, and became the head of the Art Department at Chandos Records, where I was in charge of a small team producing CD designs, packaging and marketing materials. I returned to NZ for 3 years and taught graphic design at Natcoll, married Amy in 2005, and Chandos asked me to come back, so we took off on another adventure, this time with our own company. We continue to work for Chandos, producing all their CD artwork every month, and also take on a few other graphic design clients, but in the past few years we have put a lot of our energy into launching our own art business to reflect our love of creativity, design, art and, for me, a chance to stretch my illustration skills beyond any limits I thought possible!
Amy has a degree in Communication Studies from AIT, majoring in television and had dreams of becoming a TV/Film writer, but drifted away from that and endured a few non-creative jobs before deciding that she had to change direction and learn graphic design at the age of 30. She runs our graphic design company, Cap & Anchor Design Co., manages 3 kids, 2 dogs and me, has just completed her first novel and works as the Creative Director for Lucky 5. Which basically means she tells me what to do and I do it! She’s not an artist, and readily admits she cannot draw, but she’s got some mad layout skills and a very sharp eye for detail, and together we forge a pretty good designer. She loves InDesign, I love Photoshop. Match made in design heaven!
You’ve recently launched Lucky 5. Can you tell our readers what it is, and what inspired you to start it.
Lucky 5 is inspired by our family, really. We have three kids, so there’s five of us, and five has always been our favourite number. We’re both born in the 5th month, have lived at various number 5’s and, amazingly, when we returned to NZ in 2014 and built a house, the plot we purchased was number 5. Meant to be!
The company itself sells original artwork designed and illustrated and printed by us. We lived in the UK for 9 years together and I (Cass) lived there for 10 years before that. We saw a bit of Europe, and Amy had a Swedish grandmother, so we have a real interest in art and interior style from around the world, but especially Europe and perhaps even more so, Scandinavia. We really enjoy American art too, and both our Wild and The Wilders ranges are influenced by our interest in American nature.
We are inspired by the idea of living life instead of just being alive, so this is us putting ourselves out there and not leaving anything on the table. It’s about showing our three kids that you should go after your dreams and be adventurous and make stuff happen. By trying, and persevering, and being yourself. We are a seriously creative bunch and we hope to inspire them by our actions, rather than just nagging them to death!
What are some of your favourite products currently available at Lucky 5?
Oooh, hard question. We have just framed a couple of our posters actually to put in our house. Amy has the Adventure print from our GOALS range and we framed our Buffalo illustration from our WILD range. We also have the Stars print from our WHIMSY range framed and are about to frame up The Wilders illustration and a big A from our Lettered Square range for our sons’ room.
Who does what with the business?
Cass is the Illustrator and Chief. He also does design and Photoshop work on each design/ illustration as well. He runs the ship on a day to day basis. He made our website, so I guess that makes him the Web Guru too. He’s the public face and voice of the company. And also the Printer and Postman! Amy is the Creative Director and designs all the range concepts, which we both finesse together. Amy is the Copywriter and Social Media Manager. She’s also the Typography guru.
Tell us about your latest illustrations and how they came into being.
Cass: I’m working on butterflies at the moment, well trying to, in between discovering how to create Facebook ads, Email newsletters, and figure out a way to understand Google analytics! But butterflies is our latest thing, and basically the process we go through sounds like this;
“Cass, can you draw some butterflies?” ‘
“Sure, OK.” And then we discuss size and technique.
I’m trying to explore using the same technique I employed with my Wild illustrations, to see if I can make it work across all sorts of creatures. It’s a continual learning curve and I’m figuring it out as I go much of the time, which makes it a real buzz. It’s quite exciting to think that you’re surprising yourself all the time!
What are some of the best bits about working for yourself and also some of the challenges?
We have worked for ourselves for 11 years now, and we love it. We are homebodies, so it really works for us to be at home and avoid the dreaded commute and work wardrobe! We can wear our comfy pants all day long!
It’s challenging to be married and working together 24/7 but I think that after 11 years, we seem to be coping OK with that. But it is hard to draw a line between work and home. That line is forever blurry. We are entering 7 weeks of school holidays (at the time of writing) and our working environment is about to become loud and demanding, which is always our most challenging time of the year, especially as our kids are 6, 7 and 9 now. When they were younger, they were more easily amused by playing, but now it’s a constant quest for i-Pads and electronics, and we hear a lot of “I’ve got nothing to do…” so that can be tricky. We are lucky in that they are a creative crew, so we can generally shove some pens in front of them and set them to designing their own cartoons for a while!
Being able to be flexible and manage your own time is a great benefit to working for yourself. We can fit our work around our life, so our days can be our own, but the downside of that is that we can end up working well into the early hours of the morning, just because our work is right in front of us. To work for yourself, and especially to work at home, you need a lot of discipline. It’s very hard to stop yourself walking to the fridge 200 times a day!
How do you balance all of this with a young family as well?
Well, it’s not easy but they are very used to seeing us at our desks after 9 years! They understand what we are doing and they try to respect it, as much as they can. We also try to fit in some fun outings. We’ve never had childcare, apart from kindy and school, so we’re very used to juggling kids and work. When they were babies, they were on Amy’s knee while she designed. And then on the floor behind her on the playmat. She can operate much better than I can with kids and work on the go at the same time. I find that I need to be alone when I’m concentrating on illustrating, and that’s when I am grateful for being able to shut the door!
What other creative endeavours are you a part of? (Other work? Freelance jobs?)
We have our graphic design company called Cap & Anchor Design Co. where we primarily make CD artwork but we often make logos and other marketing materials for clients that get referred to us.
What project, personal or professional are you most proud of and why?
Cass: this last year has been an eye opener for me because I’ve been able to do things with a pen I didn’t know I was capable of, so for me, my illustrative work has been a real achievement. The large animals I illustrated in our Wild range were incredibly labour intensive, and took a long time, and it was such a relief to end up with a finished product, rather than just a half finished maybe. It all started with Barnaby T. Bear but it was the Buffalo from our Wild range that really tested my application to my art!
Amy: I’m so proud of us getting our Lucky 5 business out there. It’s been such a year; a juggling masterclass. But to end the year with a fab website and a really full serving of designs, illustrations and art, that feels amazing. Also, I wrote a book and that is the coolest thing I’ve ever done!
Where do go to you find inspiration? (Places, websites, resources?)
Amy: Elle Decoration and Living Etc are two of my favourite magazines. I used to buy them religiously in the UK but since we’ve been back in NZ, I’ve been more into Pinterest really to seek inspiration. I’ve been mad busy on Pinterest, trying to grow our following there — I think I’ve pinned over 12,000 things! It’s easy to be inspired there. Mostly though, our inspiration comes from our own home and our ideas for life. I look at a blank space and think what I’d like to put there. I’m not big on trends. I like quirky, interesting, classic, mid century, retro, and most of all Scandi. For our kids collections, I’m just mad for colour and fun. There is not enough colour and fun in kids rooms, and certainly not enough art on their walls.
Cass: We’re inspired by where we’ve been and where we want to go. We’re inspired by the idea of living a positive life and showing that to our kids. So, having an adventurous spirit, seeing the world as a place of endless possibilities. So many people get trapped in the lie that life always has to be a certain way, or that you have to stick at a job or never try to do that thing you’re really good at but it’s a bit scary. So we’re inspired by our own dreams and desires for adventure. That and Pinterest!
And finally, where to next for Cass and Amy? What does 2017 hold?
Well, ideally we set off on our next adventure! Our goal is to eventually become Vikings… travelling for 6 months of the year and nesting for the other 6. We want to see so much more of the world and on our Travel To Do list is: Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Disneyland, Yosemite, and a New England road trip. But of course we’ll need to sell a few prints first!!!
Lucky 5 wise, we have 6 new ranges on the go, which we are already working on and will look to release those throughout the year. It’s about trying to learn how to be business people now, as well as designers and artists. And juggling it all at the same time. But hey, we’re getting pretty good at juggling things!!!