Long time readers will remember our Super Cute Creators interview series and we’ve decided to bring them back. We’ll share 1 or 2 interviews each month with some of our favourite kawaii artists, designers and makers.
To start things off, I thought it would be fun to find out more about Amy of Cakes With Faces. SCK readers are sure to be familiar with her cute Japan and pun-inspired clothing and accessories or her YouTube channel of Japan travel tips. Let’s meet her!
Hi, I’m Amy! I’m a designer/graphic artist and my brand’s called Cakes with Faces. It’s just me, it’s my full time job and I love it! I design t-shirts, clothing and accessories with fun designs to brighten up everyday life. I love bright colours, cute characters and puns – like Kawaiija and the Illuminatea!
I don’t usually have much spare time but I love travelling to Japan. I make YouTube videos about the places I’ve been, and to help other people plan their trip to Japan.
Where do you live and what’s it like there?
I live in Coventry in the UK – to me it’s not a very interesting place, but it’s where I live!
What was your first experience with Japan and kawaii culture and how does kawaii inspire your work?
I first discovered Japan through anime – which is funny because I hardly know any anime really (there’s just so many series!). I used to go to anime club where we watched Full Metal Panic Fumoffu and ate Kitkats. My friend showed me Fruits the book and from there I just kept discovering more things I liked: Harajuku fashion, food, cute characters, travel and learning Japanese. I also like aspects of the culture, like all the symbolism and how people value special seasonal and regional things.
Kawaii design’s a huge inspiration for my artwork, especially when I draw characters. I love the colourfulness of kawaii and how it’s so endearing. There’s just so much bad news in the world that I think sometimes you need a distraction – that’s partly why I draw my designs. If they can distract you from everything going on and make you smile for a moment, that’s my mission accomplished!
You’ve visited Japan loads of times! What makes you keep going back and where are your favourite areas/places to visit?
There’s always more to explore! I’m always finding new places to go. I keep a never-ending list of them on Pinterest (it’s really messy but it’s here if you want to see it).
I’ll always love Tokyo the most, because it’s the big, busy, modern side of Japan that’s my favourite. But it’s always the new places that are the highlight, like Miyajima with the beautiful tori gate in the water, and recently the Snow Light Path Festival in Otaru, Hokkaido – so enchanting and magical with lamps made of snow and ice.
Which cute products can you never resist buying for yourself?
My all time favourite is tokidoki – I went a bit crazy when they had a stall at comic con and bought way too much! The figures are my favourite, especially the Cactus Pets and Mermicornos (controversial opinion: Mermicornos are better than Unicornos!).
When I go to Japan I can’t resist all the K-On figures – I have to stop myself buying them so my house doesn’t turn into some sort of creepy K-On shrine. I also love the design of O Shushi Dayo but you don’t see that much merch – I think it should be way more popular.
And hamster gachapon (especially if it involves sweets or desserts, like the Café de Hamu series). I’m obsessed with hamsters – to me they’re just the cutest!
What was the first product you made/designed for sale and how does it compare to what you sell now?
When I first started in 2011 I had just five t-shirt designs, art prints, cards and button badges. Only one of the original range is still going strong – that’s my “I’ll give you pain au chocolat” croissant t-shirt!
My range is more varied now, with dresses, hoodies, leggings, a scarf, pins and a comic book about how to make sushi. I don’t want Cakes with Faces to be just about the t-shirts, so I try to be original and create products that you don’t see everywhere.
I like making everyday things more fun and colourful, and creating original designs as an alternative to all the bland, mainstream clothes you see in the shops. My favourites are the dresses, because they’re the most fun to wear!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just received the third sample of a new dress design – I’m finally happy with it so it’ll be in the shop soon! When I release a new design, it’s always a risk because I have to order stock before I know if anyone will want to buy it.
I’ve also received a sample of something completely new that looks great, but might be too pricey to get made – I try and keep everything affordable in my shop, and getting items produced at a reasonable price while still being good quality is one of the biggest challenges.
I’m also working on a new t-shirt. Some designs are easy and I draw them straight away (like my Catsu Curry t-shirt/hoodie) and others take more work. This one’s the second kind, so I’ve been coming back to it every day with fresh eyes to inch it closer to completion. It’s getting there!
I’m also working on a big secret project (actually two or three!), which is a huge amount of work but I know lots of people will really like.
What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened since you started your business?
I won a TV ad! It was on Sky TV for a week. It was so funny seeing the Alpacalypse on TV, and my shop went crazy. I spent the whole week packing orders all day. But the best part was that so many people heard about Cakes with Faces who would otherwise have never known it existed, including people who wouldn’t usually shop with an indie brand.
I realised how important it was to me to show them how special it is to buy something from the person who designed or made it. It’s so different from when you buy from a huge faceless company. I love seeing photos of people wearing my designs, and reading their comments online; my customers are amazing and I’m well aware that without them, Cakes with Faces wouldn’t be here.
What’s your dream ambition for your business?
I want to design more new things, that are completely custom-designed. Blind box figures would be amazing – when I started Cakes with Faces I was into Kidrobot and designer vinyl toys so it’s always been a dream of mine to see them come to life!
Who are your favourite kawaii designers and makers?
My number one graphic art idol is tokidoki. I just love the look of the characters and colourful patterns with loads going on. It’s cute but with an edge. I met the designer Simone Legno once, completely by surprise, and he said he liked my All the Best Stuff is from Japan t-shirt! Kyaaah!
I also like Yuri Takahashi’s graphic art (there’s a dress-up app called Custom Tiyoko with awesome 90s-looking characters), Yoh’s Monochrome World (the manga from Gothic Lolita Bible), Heidi Kenney (because: food with faces), Chima Group’s adorable vinyl figures, Bryan Lee O’Malley and Mizna Wada’s cute little goth characters.
Where can we find you on the internet?
Thanks Amy! You can also read all our previous Super Cute Creators interviews – and if there’s anyone you’d love to know more about, leave a suggestion in the comments and we might interview them next.