How I became an illustrator for Paperchase and set up my own brand

Aless Baylis, 36, is an illustrator and surface pattern designer. She recently launched her business Pim Pam.

Illustrator and designer Aless, founder of Pim Pam
Aless Baylis, Illustrator & Surface Pattern Designer.

I relocated to Brighton three years ago after living in London for many years. I’ve been illustrating and making print designs for nearly 15 years.

In June 2020 I launched my own brand of reusable nappies and accessories, Pim Pam, using my own illustrations and prints.

How I became an illustrator

I actually have a degree in fashion studies from the Arts Institute at Bournemouth but I was always more interested in fashion illustrations and the prints for the clothing rather than actually designing and making clothes.

So I quickly realised fashion wasn’t for me but it was a great experience and I learned a lot from the course. I still can’t sew though.

After university, I worked in-house for Fat Face and realised fashion design really wasn’t for me. I then looked into what kind of jobs I could do where I could illustrate which led me to a job working in house at a print design studio called Peagreen.

This is where I really started my illustration career.

At Peagreen we worked with many different clients from all over the world. It was here that I worked on projects with Nike, H&M and Billabong to name a few.

After working at Peagreen for about three years I wanted to relocate to London. I moved to London after I got a job as an in-house designer at Paperchase. I saw my work all over the store which was amazing, from cards to wrapping paper to lunch boxes.

After Paperchase I worked as a print designer for baby clothes at Debenhams before working for myself full time in 2014.

As a freelancer, I have worked mainly on kids and baby illustrations. I’ve had clients such as Roxy Kids, Zalando, John Lewis and have illustrated lots of children’s books.

Seeing my designs on big-name brands

It’s very exciting. Sometimes companies will send samples and it’s so nice getting the actual product rather than just seeing it online.

My mum has a whole collection of all of my products from all over the world, which is really cute. Seeing my prints on products is what inspired me to start my own brand.

I’d say as I work mainly on kids and baby illustrations, my work is mainly character-based. It’s cute and colourful. I keep my illustrations simple but sometimes I incorporate hand-drawn and hand-painted elements.

Starting Pim Pam

After having my daughter Lola it was the first time since university I wasn’t working. This gave me time to think about what the next step in my career would be. I’d always wanted to produce my own products but didn’t know what that product would be.

I started off by looking into producing baby and kids bedding but it didn’t feel right. At the same time I was looking into using reusable nappies for Lola but I found it hard to find prints that I liked that were already on the market. That’s when I realised this was the product I wanted to produce, a truly useful product that was at the same sustainable and would help reduce plastic waste. There was also a gap in the market for a brand selling simpler, Scandi minimalist prints.

Children illustrator

My first children’s book started when I set myself an Instagram project. I was learning Spanish as it’s my partner’s first language.

I started a Spanish ABC where I drew a character with the name in Spanish. From Instagram, it got picked up by Quarto Publishing in the US and was made into a book.

Since then I have illustrated a few baby books and most recently I’ve worked on the Furfins series for Bloomsbury Publishers.

If you want to be an illustrator…

I’d say to study illustration or printed textile design at university and get as much experience as possible in the industry.

I think if I’d worked for myself any earlier I don’t think it would have worked out so well as working in the industry gives you great experience and good contacts. Nearly all of my freelance work came through people I’d met through previous jobs.

Just to never give up and work hard. I always believe if you put in the effort and hard work for what you want in your career you’ll get it

At times I struggled to work in the corporate environment. On paper, they were my dream jobs but in reality, the environment didn’t suit me and I really did struggle at times.

I got some great experience from these roles though and they gave me a lot of skills, for example, working with a range of people at different levels, managing projects with tight deadlines, working with suppliers. These are all skills I now use when working on my own brand so I’m glad I overcame these hard times because without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.

To find out more about Pim Pam, visit: pimpamshop.co.uk

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