Featured Designing Mom: Jill McDonald of Tada

by Cat on December 13, 2011

If you have a little one, chances are you own something designed or illustrated by the ever talented Jill McDonald. Her designs have graced bedding, rugs, books (just to name a few) at all the favorite baby and kid shops: Land of Nod, Pottery Barn Kids, Babies R Us and Scholastic. And now she’s launched TADA, an etsy shop where you can  directly purchase her terrific illos. How did she get to such an exciting place as a designer? Samantha had a chance to ask her these questions about her dual mommy and designer role…

What prompted you to combine your illustrative talents with your passion for children into a product you could sell, and moreover, construct a blog from?

I started my blog in 2008. That was the time that I started to think about creating products. Up to that point I sold or licensed my designs to companies and they would make their own products. But after the birth of my son Luca four years ago I decided it was time to do my own array of products. It took some time to get my own brand “Jill McDonald Baby” in the marketplace. But in March 2011 two crib bedding and nursery decor collections started to be sold in Babies R Us. Then we expanded the brand to “Jill McDonald Baby and Kids” to create  stationery, puzzles, chunky books and finger puppets. This will be available in January 2012.  These two project were possible thanks to great companies that believed in my vision and helped us with what I don’t have experience doing. Production and Distribution.

But after working on the previous two projects I felt that I still wanted to create products that were 100% me. That is the reason I opened the Etsy store. I wanted to have total control of the products that I would sell and the only way to do that was to produce them and sell them myself. Each product on my store has been a labor of love. Each product is a little piece of myself.

above: this print is available at Jill’s Tada Etsy Shop

Your blog has an impressive following! As both a mom and an illustrator, what tricks have you employed to maintain a steady work schedule?

For years Antonio, my husband, had exhibited our collection at Hemtextile, Printsource, Surtex & a few other trade shows.  This always helped generate business.  Previously we had sold my work outright.  Now that we license my art only we will be exhibiting at Surtex & the Licensing show only.  I’m currently building a body of new art for those shows.  Beside the trade shows I have a steady flow of clients that I work with on a regular basis. And I now have a literary rep, Folio Jr. who I’m super excited to be working with.  My goal here is to increase my presence in the Children’s book market.  We are always up to something around here!

How do you handle childcare?

Antonio and I decided that when we would become pregnant we will make our baby part of our daily work routine. We moved our studio two blocks from our house and basically have two nurseries. Luca came with us to work every day. It wasn’t easy but it was interesting. Then, when Luca turned two he started attending Montessori school three days a week, two hours each day. We were worried that he wasn’t having enough contact with children his age staying at the studio all day. Now Luca is four and he started attending full day at the Montessori. Now it seems so quiet in the studio!

Do you mainly work from home?

We own a second house that we use as my studio. We got very lucky that this second house is just two blocks away from our primary residence. For me this helps with the work/ life balance.

Perhaps you could detail a day in the glamorous life of Jill?

I usually get up around 5:30 to go to the gym. I’ll be back to the house around 6:30. By then Luca and Antonio will be up getting the espresso machine fired up. Breakfast is a fun family event. At 7:55 am I walk to the studio where at 8:00 we start the working day. I start each day going over with Liz what we want to get done that day. Then we begin.  Antonio picks up Luca at 3:15 & they usually stop by to brief me on his day. I end my day at 5 pm & then it’s back home for dinner time.

How do you come up with new ideas to produce designs from? What is your inspiration?

I love learning new things & special details. I try to make art that people can discover fun little things they didn’t notice the first time.  I LOVE color & this has always been a huge inspiration to me.  I love bright bold happy color.  An educational component to my art is important to me.  If it can be fun, bright & educational then I feel like I’ve done my job!

What is your favorite time of day to be creative?

I do my best work in the morning. I’ve never been someone who can pull an all-nighter.  In fact I get teary & a little panicked if I’m up past 3 am.  I’m pretty regimented with my scheduling & this has always helped me to not find myself up against the clock.  So far so good!


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