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Helena Covell – The story behind my custom caps

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We often see designs that bring a smile to our faces pass through Awesome HQ and Illustrator Helena Covell’s embroidered caps are definitely one of them!

We reached out to Helena to discover the inspiration behind her successful custom headwear and get her tips for recent graduates and creatives wanting to follow in her footsteps and turn their designs into wearable merch.

For those who don’t know you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m an illustrator currently living in Yorkshire (UK). I’m a graduate of Illustration from The University of Edinburgh; fellow of the Pictoplasma Character Design Fellowship; published with Nobrow/ Flying Eye; currently freelance! I make a lot of character and narrative based work, and try to be as honest and playful with it as I can.

When/why did you decide to put your designs onto merch?

It was really recently. I had a solo exhibition at Colours May Vary in Leeds, and I wanted something fun to sell alongside my prints that went beyond a 2D print. so Bad Egg cap was born. After that, and being super excited about seeing my designs wearable, I experimented and designed the Soft Worm cap, selling that as something alternative on my stall. I think it came from the excitement of a new way to show/sell my work, and a lot of my characters were wearing caps- why not one of them on one?

We love your worm caps, where did the inspiration for this piece of merch come from?

With the Soft Worm cap (my latest) I’d been doing a lot of work about mental health and being honest in my work. One point I tried to push was how powerful it was to be vulnerable/soft- something that is typically thought of or made out to be negative. I’d been drawing this little worm accompanying that phrase for a while and thought it’d work well 3D.

ÏP.S. I didn’t think about the innuendos until it was too late, but I love him more for that.

Have you been surprised at the response to your merch?

Very! My cap designs were such simple ideas, that also looked very different to my sketches because of the embroidery, and I wasn’t sure they would take off!

What’s been the best bit about producing your own merch?

I’m really fascinated/ excited seeing people wear what I’ve designed- to me that was the next step. People have been sending me pictures of themselves wearing the caps, or their nans or dogs wearing them. I’m just so humbled that people actually wear them. It makes my day.

What tips would you give for any illustrators or artists who are thinking of making the leap into merch?

I’d say to really nail down a design idea, and see what the response is online. If it’s positive, take a risk and get a short run printed. Let people know what your work looks like on that medium (it’s hard to imagine sometimes). Gauge the success of each design, if it’s not great then keep designing new ones, if it is, then take preorders!

Do you plan on expanding your merch range?

I’ve had a lot of requests for new caps so I think so… and also socks and t-shirts. I have lots of creepy characters to work with, so keep watching

Feeling inspired to make your own merch? We’ve got over 600 products for you to choose from!

Click here for more. merch inspiration 

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