Illustrator and designer Sophie Joubarne is the founder of the UNIK Printshop which is a screen-printing business dedicated to all-things-artsy and creative. The studio is located in Montreal, Québec. Canada, but Sophie’s creations have become popular all over the world and is gaining special attention in the United States. Sophie recently took part in the famed National Stationery Show (NSS) convention in New York where her designs and artwork were received exceptionally well, and she recently discussed this experience, and more, via an exclusive Interview.

Inspirations for design

Meagan Meehan (MM): What initially inspired you to become an illustrator and designer and how did you form Unik Printshop?

Sophie Joubarne (SJ): I had the chance to do a student exchange during my studies in graphic design. This is how I was first introduced to the screen printing technique, and I immediately feel in love with it. After that, I always looked for places where I could do more and created a bunch of self-made residencies to learn and practice. Before having my studio, I also did tree planting for fourteen years. I would work super hard in the forests all summer, being secluded from the rest of normal life...You need to be so independent to do this kind of job that it is almost an evidence to become self-employed after that.

So, I knew that I wanted to be my own boss and I asked myself what I liked to do and was good at doing... THAT'S how I choose screen printing and illustrations, and that's how UNIK Printshop came to life!

MM: What kinds of things inspire your creative drive?

SJ: This is no surprise now, knowing my tree planting background, that nature and the forest have been a great source of inspiration for me.

My imagery is directly linked to that theme and fits in the pure "Canadiana" style. The material on which I print is also very Nature.... It kind of goes full circle for me, since I planted so many trees and I am now printing on wood!

MM: How did you break into the design industry and where have your products and drawings been sold and/or featured?

SJ: I slowly made my place in the industry over the years. I participated in tons of small to big handmade shows in Canada (from west to east), and I have been selling online (on Etsy and my own boutique) for over seven years now. I am a member of Conseil des métiers d'Arts du Québec since a couple of years and I have seen my work sold in a multitude of Museum and boutiques across Canada and the US.

Art and entrepreneurship

MM: Exactly what kinds of services do you offer through UNIK Printshop? For instance, is your mix-and-match magnetic game for sale and are toys and games of interest to you?

SJ: I am lucky to own a screen printing studio in Montreal, so I create and produce all my products myself.

I also give some screen printing lessons for beginners, and I do a lot of custom printing at the studio. This way, I get to participate in great art pieces by doing the printing, and I get to work with cool clients with international visibility. It's also great because I can customize them easily for large quantities. Everything is printed "in-house", so this allows us great flexibility.

MM: How many unique characters have you created, what are their backstories, and do you have any particular favorites?

SJ: In the last couple of years we have a created a series of mix-and-match magnetic characters. We have two themes so far. We started with the NATURE theme (lumberjack, fisherman, camping girl, bear, wolf, raccoon) and our second theme is the SAFARI (crocodile, zebra, elephant, tiger, giraffe, lion, hippo, monkey and black panther).

We are now working on the FARM them, and we are super excited to launch it in the next few months. The games are all hand screen printed (in four to six colors so it’s a big technical job) with non-toxic inks and varnish. I like my Lumberjack little dude, he reminds me of my life out west, and the colors came out really nice on it.

MM: What are the most rewarding things about being a professional illustrator/designer and running Unik Printshop and what new projects/events are on the horizon?

SJ: It is extremely rewarding for me to have been able to "create" my own job and business and to be my own boss through my art. The fact that I have learned so much "on my own" about printing, art, creation and also and mostly business feels really rewarding as well.

Getting to create for a living is a job filled with freedom and challenges, and I love it. For the rest of the year, we will be focusing on growing the UNIK Printshop's team in Montreal, spreading the brand across the borders, pushing the online sales and getting a few new products out in the market such as our “Farm” themed game. We are super optimistic about the rest of the year as 2017 has been great for us so far.