UP CLOSE with Teddington illustrator Suki Hubbard

By Ellie Brown - Local Democracy Reporter

19th Jan 2022 | Local News

SUKI Hubbard is a Teddington-based illustrator and graphic designer with a breath-taking range of talents which she has transformed into a brilliant and local successful business.

Her imaginative work is best demonstrated by her latest trend for creating dioramas of Richmond borough landmarks housed inside the miniature frame of recycled tins. The ring pull is used as a hanging device at the back so nothing is wasted.

Top sellers in her tin selection are The Fallow Deer, The Octagon Room, Teddington Cheese and Bushy Park Gates. She has just introduced the Teddington Hut, based at the Lock, which was the location for Monty Python's famous Fish Slapping Dance and more are in the pipeline!

Suki is married with 3 grown up children and has lived in Teddington for 22 years. She says: "The architecture here is so rich and varied, I never have to go very far for a new idea."

Here at Teddington Nub News, in the latest in a series of in depth interviews aimed at supporting local businesses, we get UP CLOSE with SUKI HUBBARD

So Suki, Let's start with the easy ones! Tell us how you came to move to Teddington and what you love about living and working here?

SUKI: I moved here from Hammersmith when I was pregnant with my first child. Initially I rented the house from a friend but bought it a couple of years later. As we know, it's a great place to bring up children with good schools and green spaces. When I first moved to Teddington, I was still working in London so the commute was convenient too.

Your range of work is astonishing. It seems there is something for everyone! Tell us a bit more about how you got started.

SUKI: I have a degree in Graphic Design and when I left Art School, that is what I set out to do. In 1990, I moved to London. I looked at various opportunities but was offered work in Covent Garden for an animation studio. I loved that. They made advertisements for TV including Listerine (the dragon) and all their productions were hand drawn. I learnt the ropes and was able to get involved in art working the films too.

I continued to freelance in animation for a few years on productions including the Beatrix Potter series, with some of the team who created The Snowman and on other well known adverts such as Tetley Tea, Smarties and Frosties with Tony the Tiger.

You were also part of the production team for Bob's Birthday, a short animated film which won an Oscar in 1995. Do you get a share of the trophy for a certain time of the year?

SUKI: Unfortunately not! I was house sitting for David and Alison (Snowden Fine) when they went to the States for the Oscar ceremony, so I embraced the statue when they came back but they are now working in Canada.

You have worked with lots of big brands and big projects. Tell us about the ones you enjoyed most and gave you most satisfaction.

SUKI: After working on 'Bob's Birthday', which was obviously the pinnacle of my animation career (!) I got a job with Discovery Channel as Assistant Editor on their subscribers' monthly magazine. Because we were a small team, I got involved with all aspects of the publication including research, page layouts and picture editing. I enjoyed the TV world. We worked under the umbrella of United Artists with other cable channels such as Bravo TV. Unfortunately the printed magazine was closed down and distributed online from the US office so I was made redundant.

As the internet culture reared, I decided to move with the times. I was offered a job with the publisher CondeNast as part of their inaugural web design team. We were all learning the technology, so it was not a daunting position to be in.

We designed and built the first websites for their flagship publications including Vogue, GQ and Tatler. It was an amazing experience and very exciting to be involved at that level. I carried on in this field for a few years as a contractor and worked with a number of high profile brands but CondeNast was the biggest break for me overall.

You're a very busy person with three children, how do you fit your family around your work and was that part of your decision to become a freelance?

SUKI: I became freelance in 2004. I missed the kids. With a number of contacts from 14yrs of full-time work, the transition to freelance was fairly seamless. My youngest is 17 and the other two have left home so it's easier to balance working life now.

Do you miss the big, busy office buzz and atmosphere and all that goes with it?

I enjoy the flexibility I have here. I am self-disciplined and motivated. During a working day, I have the luxury of switching projects to tweak a diorama by way of a break! I made some great friends office working and learnt a lot but I don't miss the politics.

Out of all the things you have done and the various commissions you have had as a freelance, what have you enjoyed doing the most?

SUKI: That's difficult to answer! I get something different out of every project I do. I love the variety of work that I have and some of that is because I struggle to say no! I offer time to charities (regularly JDRF and The National Brain Appeal) They often throw me 'out-of-the-box' projects which is both rewarding and refreshing. I'm an ideas person so I do like a challenge.

If pushed for a choice, I would say that personal commissions give me the most pleasure. If someone has taken the time to contact me, they get what I do, so there's an instant connection and often a sweet back story. I really enjoy bringing their ideas to life.

NUB NEWS: Do you have to eat a lot of sardines and anchovies to source the tins for your works?

SUKI: My husband ploughs through tins of the stuff so he offers me a steady stream of sardine and tuna tins however since the craze has kicked off, 'superfans' save tins for me and occasionally they'll leave bags of them at my front door which makes me laugh. My neighbour went one better the other day and dropped off a vintage Fortnum's biscuit tin which he was about to throw out. I have a tentative commission to create a miniature of Brighton Pavilion so that could be a good one for that.

Are there are any retail outlets which stock your pieces of your work, either locally or further afield?

SUKI: Yes I supply The People Hive in Twickenham. It is a gallery shop who stock artwork by Richmond Upon Thames creatives. A percentage of our sales goes towards their charity which supports adults with learning disabilities - find out more at www.thepeoplehive.org

I also supply Octagon Room tins and greetings cards to the gift shop at Orleans House in Twickenham. Otherwise I sell online at www.sukidesign.bigcartel.com. I'm on Twitter and Instagram (@sukihubbard) and more updates are on Facebook fb.com/ideas.magnet

Do you find the local community, especially in Teddington is supportive to smaller, entrepreneurial businesses like your own?

SUKI: This area is amazing for support. I do run social media sites for clients elsewhere in the UK but there just isn't the same connection!

Do you have any longer term ambitions for the business, for instance, could you envisage opening your own shop locally?

SUKI: As long as I feel inspired, I'm set up to keep going as I am. I have only scratched the surface of creative opportunities locally and I will continue to develop quirky artwork on the side because it keeps life interesting and makes people smile!

See more of Suki's range of work at www.suki-design.com

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