Howdy! I’m Iain from Bewilderbeest, based in sunny Suffolk, and I’m currently wrestling a six-month-old called Rex (plus slightly furrier children in the form of a dog and a cat).
What gave you the idea of starting your own business?
I literally fell into starting Bewilderbeest. I fell off a ski jump and injured my leg which meant I couldn’t drive for work for a couple of months. During this time I did some drawings of some daft ideas that had been bobbing round my brain for a while. A gallery asked to sell the drawings which nudged me to make some cards to sell at a local agricultural show. Five years on and I now do ‘colouring in’ for a living!
I started like all slightly weird creatives – in the dark depths of my bedroom, drawing by hand under the fickle light of a whale oil lamp. Eventually I emerged, fully formed, from my lair to take over every available flat surface in the house for drawing.
I drew, printed, and packed the cards at home at first. Thankfully, we now get them printed and packed elsewhere, so I now cover only about two thirds of the available flat surfaces in the house.
What challenges do you face?
Our sprog is six months old and was born at our absolute busiest time of year, just before Christmas. I’ve aged about ten years in the past six months trying to look after my wife, our child, meet design deadlines, and run the business all at the same time. However, you can rest assured that I will be encouraging Rex into child labour of stamp licking or similar, as soon as he’s old enough to realise that he can’t just eat all the cards.
How do you get around the challenges?
Maddy, my wife runs the business with me, so we try and share looking after Rex. She takes him while I do some work, then I take him while she does. Being self-employed has meant that there is no such thing as maternity or paternity leave. It’s been a case of trying to get things done while Rex naps, or while he’s taken out of the house on a walk by a helpful aunt.
People often suggest that you nap when the baby naps…I dream of such a luxury!
What are your favourite cards that you’ve designed & why?
There’s something about drawing dog snouts that I can’t get enough of, hence our “We Heard There Was Cake Card”.
I also find that the simpler you can make a picture the better, which is why our “J’adore Mon Pear” card is a Father’s Day hit for us, year after year.
Plus, anthropomorphic animals are always funny to me – “Dad’s Three Words of Wisdom” and “Absolute Dad” are great examples. Who doesn’t want to see a dog in shorts?
Do you have any advice for other Dads thinking of starting their own business?
Manage your expectation on how much you can realistically get done in a day with a baby around. At first I felt frustrated that I got about a quarter as much work done, but once I accepted that it wouldn’t be like that forever, I had a lot more fun making animal noises and dodging rattles.
If you see me ask to hear my pig impression.
Describe your typical work day…
Rex usually sounds the morning alarm at about 5am, at which point my wife and I stumble downstairs. I blearily walk the dog, we feed the beasts (including Rex) and start work as best we can.
The day then consists of dealing with orders, working on new designs if possible, wondering where I put the printer cable, and doing our best to put the baby down for naps.
Another dog walk after lunch, play time with Rex, followed by bathing him and putting him to bed. One of us cooks a quick dinner while the other catches up on some work, possibly a bit more work after dinner while things are (hopefully) quiet, and then a bit of downtime before collapsing in a heap.
I usually find the printer cable again just before bed.
What influences or inspires your Father’s Day designs?
Most of my ideas have a slightly masculine quality to them so Father’s Day cards fit in exactly with what I like to draw anyway. All of my cards are humorous, so combining dad jokes and a slightly masculine tone makes for a winning formula. No doubt my own son won’t find me even remotely funny.
I don’t think I’ve had any designs directly inspired by the new addition just yet, but I’m sure there will be several design in future. What I’m really hoping is that he can come up with the jokes in future to save me the trouble!
See more of Iain’s designs by browsing Bewilderbeest cards!