At #GOODTHING we regularly introduce you to products and the creative minds behind them that stand for sustainability and a better world. In this issue, we introduce May, the founder and creative soul of the UK-based label Gulligull. May creates beautiful design prints that illustrate childhood virtues, motherhood and the special bond between mother and child. The entire production is sustainable and she uses only eco friendly materials for all of her products.
With Gulligull Prints you can decorate your kids' room without completely ignoring your own style! Each Gulligull character and print tells its own story.
In this interview, May tells us how the ideas get born for the Gulligull prints, what it´s I like to start a label while studying and having a child and how she makes her work as sustainable as possible!
Beautiful Design Prints by Gulligull aka May
Hi May, you are the designer and the founder of Gulligull. Can you tell us something about you, your life and your beautiful project?
I launched Gulligull at the very beginning of this year, after I finally plucked up the courage to share the Gulligull characters with the world, following a lot of encouragement (and some brute force) from my friends and family.
What does Gulligull mean?
As far as I know (but this may not be totally accurate), it's an old-fashioned, colloquial Swedish word meaning something a little bit like "cutie-pie". I didn't want to use my own name when creating the Gulligull identity, but I wanted the name to hold some meaning and relevance to me. My partner and little boy's surnames are "Gull" (which definitely means "cute" in Swedish!) and I have been having an eternal love affair with all things Swedish for as long as I can remember, so I did a little bit of reading, embraced my inner Astrid Lindgren and stuck to it.
May with her very own Gulligull, her son Theodore
What makes Gulligull sustainable? What kind of materials do you use and where do you design and print?
It's important to me to choose the best kinds of materials that I can, for quality the environment. I design wherever I am, whenever I can. I do most of my designing at night when my little one is asleep, using a graphics tablet. The beauty of digital illustration allows me to create draft after draft, without worrying about paper or paint waste.
Most of my prints are created using 100% recycled paper that comes from consumer waste, and personalised Gulligulls are printed on recycled cotton rag paper with rich archival inks. While the production of these types of papers uses a fair amount of water, the cotton used is an otherwise wasted by-product of the textile industry, and the paper is free from resin and acids that can be found in less environmentally conscious card stocks.
When packaging my prints, I use as many recycled materials as I can, and it is always plastic-free. The postal boxes are super handy, and I use so many of them around my house to store documents, print stocks, paper and even some of Theodore's toys. I use twine, string and ribbons which have been salvaged from seconds waste at a local upholstery business and all postcards, flyers and business cards are also printed on recycled or 100% cotton card stocks.
Pssst...May got some new design print ideas!
What are the stories behind your collections and how do you get the ideas for your designs?
When I'm not designing Gulligulls, I'm studying for an MA in Gender & Sexuality, so I spend a huge amount of time reading, writing and researching. I am hugely inspired by the relationship between the really big, huge things like social constructs, human relationships and nature, and the simple, little things in life that we often overlook and take for granted. For me, these concepts and ideas are all totally encompassed in motherhood. Since becoming pregnant, as with all parents, I experienced such a priority shift that being present in motherhood became my ultimate anchor.
I gave birth at the beginning of my final year of my undergraduate Psychology degree, which allowed me to explore the depths and complexities of childhood. Watching Theodore grow was a tremendous joy, and a real journey in discovery, it spurred me on to create the Gulligull family. My first collection was created around the idea of childhood virtues, things that all children have in common and that we hope to nurture in the environments we create around them. My latest collection is inspired by the idea that we borrow the Earth from our children. It celebrates the remarkable bond between mother and child, and the way it can mirror our bond with our environment, our roots, if we take care of the Earth in the same way.
Mays son Theodore is the muse of Gulligulls very first collection
You also offer individual design prints for every customer. Can you share a story behind one of the individual design prints?
I love creating bespoke Gulligull design prints, and I try to capture the authenticity and essence of a little one's character in my designs. I recently created two personal designs for @borrie_n_lex, who creates the most magical spaces for her little boys at home. Shanah was incredible and sent several moodboard images to capture the tones and colours that she likes, and gave me a detailed description of the personality of her boys. Together with gushing over her Instagram feed, and using her meticulous descriptions, the design process for Boris and Lex's Gulligulls was so organic and considered, I really felt like I could tell a little bit of their story through my illustrations.
I love adding tiny details to my bespoke design prints too, for families to discover when they look carefully. It is these things that I hope make Gulligulls something that families want to treasure for years to come.
Besides her own collections May also illustrates individual design prints
What was the most difficult moment while running Gulligull and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge in the initial getting off the ground with Gulligull was getting the print quality right, and finding a printer that matched all of my ethical expectations! I had to test different printing studios which resulted in some potential waste-creation, but I have been able to add these to previous orders as little extras, and I have had some friends who have taken some to hang on their own walls. I am so grateful for Instagram providing a supportive and inspiring community for artists and makers, as I was able to finally find a printing company that could bring my illustration ideas to life, and with a real luxurious, and sustainable quality, too.
How do you combine being a mom and running Gulligull? Do you have any special tips to share with other mompreneurs? Are there any rituals or rules you follow?
It's difficult! But every day brings new challenges, and actually, this keeps me on my toes. I constantly look for new projects, and different things to get stuck into. I thrive when I have lots of creative tasks to do, so as difficult as it can be to juggle being the best and most present mother that I can be to Theodore, having a long to-do-list keeps my productivity levels quite high. Our family unit is incredibly lucky, as my partner works from home 4 times a week, and we live next door to my parents! They both work during the day, but we have lots of help in the evenings if we need to catch a few more baby-free minutes. I normally do most of my work during nap-times, which can often elude us, but as Theodore grows and plays more independently, I can work alongside him too. The best thing has been to let go of the idea of "normal working hours", like 9 to 5, as this just isn't possible when you have so many things to juggle. I'm lucky that, as it's just me running Gulligull, I have no outside pressure to keep to those hours, and if you are working from home, you allow yourself to accept that your working hours are unique to you, and that you shouldn't feel guilty for unsuccessfully trying to stick to 9 to 5. I truly believe it can be transformational.
Finding a way to combine being a mom and running an own business is difficult
What do you especially like about your work and what gives you inspiration and motivation on a daily basis?
I think my favourite part of my work is the process. I love the freedom that digital design gives me to explore my ideas as much, or even as little, as I want. I love to collect inspiration like colours or simple shapes, from all around me. I especially love how objects spontaneously, or accidentally, grouped and placed together can create an unintentionally beautiful colour palette - like a few items thrown onto a white tablecloth, or the toys and found objects Theodore collects. I often find that when I feel stumped for ideas or lacking in motivation, this kind of chance-inspiration is the thing that can set me right back on track. I am somewhat of an optimist, a real slow-living advocate, and so laidback that I frustrate almost everyone around me, so when I am only frustrated and stuck for a short while, as I trust implicitly that inspiration will come eventually. Good things most definitely take time!
What is your dream for Gulligull for the next five years?
It would really be a lie to say that I have any... really! I would like Gulligull to evolve as organically as possible. I am acutely aware that behind the brand of Gulligull is a human (me!) and that we are changeable creatures. I know that my first few pieces I now like a lot less than things I produce now, so I imagine only the same will happen as I create more. I have so many ideas, some fleeting, and some worth clinging onto, that one day I can think of a product, or collaboration that I'd love to design and set in motion, but then the next day I am less keen. The most important thing is that Gulligull has to work, and continue to be nothing-but-enjoyable for me and my family. I have made my passion my job in the past, with photography, and experienced the huge drain of love that came along with it. Because of that, I feel I will be more guarded with Gulligull, and like I say, allow the direction of what I'm doing to grow, evolve and change without any pressures.
Please complete the sentence: “Children are wonderful, because…“
they remind us how much we, as adults, have lost or let go of, like our rich imaginations and infinite creativity, and our innate and unprejudiced, human connection to others. Every day with a child is a learning adventure and experience.
We love the messages behind Gulligulls' design prints!!
Wow - Being a mom, running a business and studying is definitely not easy! It’s so inspiring to see how you balance between these roles. We love how aware you are of sustainability and how you transport it through your work. Such as Orbasics Basics’ your designs are simple, timeless and for girls and boys to share! Thank you so much for the interview May, it’s such a pleasure to work with you!