Sarah Dietz, aka Mademoiselle Kiki, has been drawing for most of her life, with her designs generally focused on nature and wildlife. Less than a year ago, she decided to take her talents to the Spreadshirt marketplace, and she’s already seen a whole lot of success.
Sarah earned one of the top prizes in a recent design contest, and her offerings have proven to be very popular with customers. Due to her rapid rise, we decided to make her September’s Designer of the Month. Below, you can see our full interview with Mademoiselle Kiki, including insight into her inspirations, some useful tips, and her future plans…
Occupation: Student, Freelance Illustrator
Software: Photoshop, Illustrator
Hardware: MacBook, brush, pencil, pen, colored pencil, and much more
With Spreadshirt Since: September of 2017
Your designs tend to revolve around animals and sea creatures. Why did you decide to roll with this theme, and do you have a specific connection to these topics?
I love animals. I used to scribble all types of animal species, referring to picture books to paint my own versions. That passion has stayed with me.
I also have great enthusiasm for everything that has to do with water. Whether it be seas, lakes, rivers – I love the tranquility that comes from it, and it makes me feel comfortable and inspired. I could spend hours looking out at the water. There’s something mysterious and magical about it.
Your animal designs are usually very symmetrical and “mathematically” accurate due to the many clean-cut lines. Have you always drawn using this style, and how has that style evolved over the years?
It’s funny, as this is different than my usual drawing style. I tend to prefer scribbling, where sometimes I’ll willingly draw a line that goes beyond the edge… I have no patience for drawing each hair individually.
However, my current designs are more accurate due to my experience with my own fashion label. If I want everything to look perfect when screen-printing the designs onto shirts, the motifs must be laid out perfectly.
In a more general sense, lines and patterns have always fascinated me. I could draw these for hours and hours.
What’s your typical path from idea to finished sketch?
My mind is full of thousands of ideas. I practically have my own little world in my head with so many different elements. I can think of so many different design ideas that I sometimes just can’t decide.
For example, this is how the process was for my “Seebären”-design: I’m sitting in the sand overlooking the Baltic Sea. I see a sailboat and have my little sketchbook with me, so I sketch the environment. Then I think about what I would like to see on paper. I connect these elements like the bear, the maritime outfit, the waves, some typographic. A picture then pops up in my head, which I usually implement 1:1 as I imagine it. My imagination is thus my source of ideas.
I get inspiration from my whole life. Whether it be beautiful landscapes or cozy scenes, great paintings or childhood memories…it’s limitless for me.
You’ve also produced some colorful children’s designs. Is that another stylistic go-to for you?
I love children illustrations. In fact, I still enjoy reading children’s books and watching children’s movies. There’s still a lot more I can do with these designs. The pictures are already planned in my head and are waiting for implementation, which is often the most difficult step.
I’ve actually already written a story for my first book. Eventually, I’d love to experience the joy that comes with selling your own children’s book in a shop… it must be beautiful. I would not say ‘no’ if an author asked me to illustrate their own book.
In April’s “Vintage” design contest in Europe, you took second place. Did this end up influencing your success as a designer?
I think so, as it helped guide customers to my profile. As a result, more sales came in, which is obviously great.
How did you motivate friends, fans, and followers to vote for your design once it earned a place in the top-10?
When I knew my design was in the top-10, I sent the voting link to all my friends. I then posted it on Instagram and Facebook.
How difficult was it for you to submit a design that revolved around that specific topic?
It wasn’t difficult at all. I immediately had an idea in my head. As a communication designer, I have to work according to specifications. I actually enjoy it when I’m assigned a thematic specification, because I’ll sometimes have too many ideas and can’t really decide. I work well when given some specificity.
What three tips would you give to a new Spreadshirt designer?
1) Trust yourself. Design what you find to be beautiful, what you think may be missing from the marketplace, and what you’d like to buy yourself. Dare to publish anything… you have nothing to lose.
2) Have patience. It should be pretty clear that the first thousand sales will not happen overnight. I was ecstatic when those first sales started trickling in after a few weeks. It can be very rewarding when those sales increase; you just need to be patient. The work proves to be worthwhile.
3) Embrace social media. I think it helps to maintain at least one social media account. You can find inspiration, interact with other artists, and show your work off to the public. Although few people will initially see these designs, there is no reason to give up. If you stand firmly behind your designs (while enjoying the entire process), then something will surely come of it.
Thank you for participating in the interview, Sarah. For more of Mademoiselle Kiki’s designs, you can visit her Instagram.