Tag Archives: Interview

Q & A with Illustrator Hello Angel

Angelea Van Dam aka ‘Hello Angel’ is a self professed creative explorer, dabbling in a number of creative pursuits but always returning to her true passion with ink and color.

Working from her home in New Zealand, with the support of her partner, daughter and troublesome studio pets. Angelea spends her days creating by hand intricate and intriguing illustrations and boldly colored masterpieces packed full of flowers, animals, patterns, doodles and layers of details.

In anticipation of the release of her newest books Majestic Animals, Big Blossoms, and Mindfulness, we sat down with Angelea and chatted about her life as an illustrator.


1. Tell us a little bit about you and how you got started.

I’m a creative explorer. I’ve tried a little of everything – sewing, painting, clay modelling, rock painting, jewellery making and all sorts of other things but I’ve always come back to drawing and colouring. It’s my thing. I used to work as a graphic designer, I did that for 12 years. I don’t have any other hobbies or play any sports, just draw, shop and dream about colouring supplies. I dream about them a lot because I’m a kiwi from the bottom of the world. In New Zealand we don’t enjoy half the cool colouring supplies that the top of the world is lucky enough to play with! My daughter grounds me, she’s 7 and is beautiful, funny, naughty and loving and why I work so hard to show her achieving your dream is possible. I used to draw to have something to colour, now I draw so many others have pictures to colour. It’s my dream.

2. What is your earliest creative memory from your childhood? 

I was the only child in our family for a long time before I got siblings and cousins to play with so found all sorts of creative things to keep myself occupied from digging cave homes in the back yard for my small toys (not sure my Dad was ever pleased with that one) to drawing and colouring on everything, even murals on bedroom walls. My family has always been very supportive, we’re quite a creative bunch – signwriters, airbrush artists, muralists, illustrators & sculptures.

3. What inspires your illustrations? 

Nothing and everything at the same time. I create a lot of abstract doodles, shapes filled with shapes that fill up the page, these are very organic and natural for me and need no inspiration. My illustartions that are recognisable as animals, flowers etc I draw mostly from my imagination more than from anything real. I do find that I study things more closely these days to find new patterns and shapes that I can then explore and expand on in my drawings and doodles. I’m a night owl, my best ideas tend to come when I’m just about to drift off to sleep and once they come I have to get up and make a start at getting them down on paper. I’ve been told to keep a sketch pad by my bed but it just doesn’t work for me.

Foxy Illustration by Hello Angel

4. What is your favorite subject to draw?

The more I draw the more I find I can draw, but my favourite things would be flowers, mandalas, organic doodles, birds and animals.

5. Do you have a favorite pencil, marker or pens that you like to use?

Yes, I have my favourites that I always use for drawing. For colouring I like to try new products when I can but generally use alcohol markers, they’re so versatile. I’m a bit of a supply hoarder, I never have enough!

Favorite Art Supplies

6. What are your favorite drawing and coloring materials to use?

I use a Staedtler Mars Micro mechanical pencil for all my sketches and layout lines. It always has a nice point and I don’t need to sharpen it. My favourite pen for drawing is a Staedtler Mars Matic with a .25 nib, it’s super fine but I like that the lines nearly disappear when the image is fully coloured. In 2010 I brought 4 Copic Caio markers and I’ve loved them ever since. I have a couple of 100 markers now! Not all Copic, as I said previously I am a supply hoarder and I’ve found various other markers that I like too. I also love using liquid water colours and acrylic inks and recently coloured pencils. My colour works are full of little details that I add after I’ve put down what I call a ‘base coat’ with markers and inks, I use fine liners, gel & paint pens for these. I can’t call a piece finished till it has it’s embellishments.

7. Do you draw every day?

Yes. I’ve been known to draw all night too!

Hello Angel

8. How long on average does it take you to complete a book? 

It really depends on the theme, type and size of book I’m working on. If the theme is something I’m familiar with like flowers, owls or mandalas, they just about flow straight out of my pen so don’t take a lot of planning, probably around 4-6 weeks. If the book has a story through it and I need to work in special elements like a hide and seek book I do a lot of planning and it could take up to 12 weeks.

9. Do you ever get “writer’s block”?

Yes, sometimes my brain puts up the “out to lunch” sign for longer than I’d like. When it happens I find staring a white page willing something to comes just makes it worse. So this is when I usually get the housework done or go for a swim or walk. Any activity that makes me stop thinking about it, then something usually just pops up. Thankfully when I’m really busy it doesn’t strike me so much as it does when I’ve got time on my hands.


10. How has drawing changed your life?

I’ve been incredibly blessed. My drawing has allowed me to give up my 9-5 office job and work from home with my own hours and spend more time with my family doing the things we love.

11. What advice can you offer to aspiring artists?

Just keep doing what you do the way you do it. Believe in yourself and share, share, share. If I had kept all my doodlings to myself inside my sketchbook I would never have had the wonderful opportunities I’m having.

Hello Angel

12. What’s next for you?

Lots more drawing, colouring and books!

Etsy Shop Spotlight: The Merriweather Council

Merriweather Council

We are constantly inspired by the creative community of Etsy sellers who fuel the handmade movement. It is an honor to provide the tools necessary for entrepreneurs across the country to sell their unique creations. This month we are starting a new series featuring interviews with successful Etsy sellers, sharing their tips on starting an Etsy shop and some of their favorite Michaels products. Let’s get started the with lovely and talented Merriweather Council!

Hi Danielle! Please tell us a little bit about your Etsy shop and your embroidered creations.

My name is Danielle Spurge-Swavely and I am a 25 year old artist and maker. I specialize in custom hand embroidery with an emphasis on stitched text and letter forms.

When did you decide to start selling your embroidery on Etsy?

I first started selling my work on Etsy after I graduated from college in 2010. I had planned to further my studies in studio art in a masters program but my plan fell through at the last minute and while this was a “plan b” I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit.

What are some of your favorite products from Michaels that helped you set up your Etsy shop?

Michaels has always been a go-to for some staple items such as embroidery floss, adhesives, and scissors. I have found quite a few items from “other” departments that have contributed in one way or another to my business, from frames, displays, tissue paper, ribbon, scrapbook materials and props.

What products to you use for your everyday business needs? Thread? Shipping materials?

My projects require very few materials actually! I use hoops, fabrics, and threads primarily. In an average week I probably use a yard or two of fabric, a handful of hoops, and at least 30 different color threads. Shipping materials are my least favorite but of course I need them and use them quite a bit!







Do you have any advice for fellow creatives feeling inspired to start their own Etsy shop this year?

Whenever people ask me for advice, I tell them to just go for it. A clearer idea of how it all works and what each person can do with the platform can only arise through trying it out. I have personally been amazed at the opportunities being on Etsy has brought me and my shop! I think people feel intimidated at first, but sticking with it and riding out the first few awkward steps are critical and it will all make sense over time.

Thank you so much for sharing your advice, Danielle!

Visit The Merriweather Council around the internet for more of Danielle’s Etsy adventures and embroidery inspiration!


(images courtesy of The Merriweather Council)

An Interview with Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro

Have you heard the news? Cake Boss™ Cakeware is now available in our stores! Yep, THAT Cake Boss. Maybe you’ve seen his show on TLC? A baker myself, I have been jumping for joy patiently waiting for this product to hit the stores. I mean … a Spoonula?? My kitchen needs one of those.

Recently, I got the chance to catch up with Buddy Valastro himself to chat about his new line and love for baking:

At what age did you make your first cake?
I started working at the bakery when I was 11-years-old. I always helped my dad bake cakes, but I had to learn the ropes before I could start making my own. I was a few years older, about 13, when I really started baking and decorating cakes of all sizes.

Cake Boss Decorating

About how many cakes have you baked in your lifetime?
Wow, so many I’ve lost count. Thousands for sure.

What is your favorite part about running Carlo’s Bakery?
My favorite part would be that I am able to keep advancing my father’s dream of making the bakery a household name. As long as I’m doing that, I’m doing my job.

Cake Boss Cookie Scoop

What is the best part of your job?
Being able to grow the business in new and fun ways. There’s the bakery itself, our national shipping, our cake decorating and baking classes. Outside of that I have my TV shows, books, tour and new bakeware line. I’m never bored!

And the worst part?
These days I don’t get as much time as I’d like to sit down and decorate cakes. It’s like therapy for me.

We’ve all had a cake fail or two … Can you describe your worst cake disaster?
We made a beautiful carousel cake for Atlantic City’s Steel Pier last year and on the way to deliver the cake, it completely fell apart in the truck. I mean … really fell apart. There was no way I could fix it and I can always fix my cakes. I’ve never run into that situation and it just felt horrible. I let my customer down and that’s the worst thing you can do.

Cake Boss Frosting

Any cake decorating words of wisdom for our novice baking readers?
Cake decorating is harder than it looks, but having the right tools makes it a lot easier. Don’t let yourself get frustrated if you don’t get it right away. The more you practice with your tools, the better control you’ll have when decorating. Keep practicing over and over. It will be worth it!

What about the experts?
Challenge yourself. If you can already pipe like a pro, go bigger, try a technique or a design you haven’t worked with much before. The more new things you try, the more skills you’ll have and that makes you a better cake decorator.

Hypothetical conundrum: I need to decorate a cake in a crunch. I’m willing to cheat with boxed cake mix (shhhhh), but there’s no way I’m using that store-bought, oozy, frosting-in-a-can. How can I pull off a semi-homemade masterpiece in a pinch?
All you need for a basic buttercream are egg whites, sugar, water, butter and vanilla extract for flavoring. Most of these things you already have in your kitchen, so it’s easy to whip up a batch while your cake is baking and cooling.

What makes Cake Boss™ Cakeware different?
I wanted these items to be tools I would want to work with at home, so I knew they had to be great. I tested each tool myself and made changes where needed and I’m confident this line of products will make baking a fun experience at home for the whole famiglia.

And finally: If you were stranded on an island and you had to decorate a cake (hypothetically, of course) – what is the one cake decorating tool you couldn’t live without?
A good turntable, hands down. It’s the one tool that will really elevate the way you cake decorate.

Head to your local U.S. Michaels Saturday, September 28th from 10am to 12pm, to spin the Cake Roulette Wheel, discover your reason to bake and receive a recipe and decorating ideas. Learn what it takes to make cakes like The Cake Boss!


Cake Boss™ Cakeware Collection is now available in all U.S. Stores.