If you scroll through your Instagram timeline as much as we think you do, then you’ve most likely seen some of Thami Zikalala’s work as the Founder & Director of Misstpink Illustrations. With her talent, creativity and endless hours of hard work, Thami is able to transform images of clients into beautiful illustrations which she then prints onto functional items such as cellphone covers, mugs, key rings and even puzzles! A first of its kind in South Africa, Thami speaks to us below on what drives her create process, the importance of perseverance and her future aspirations…
Full Name: Thami Zikalala
Current Title/Company: Mid-level Designer At Digital Planet (Full time) & Director of Misstpink Illustrations
Educational Background: BA Multimedia Degree (Graphic Design & Animation) & recently completed my Honours in Graphic Design.
Current City: Johannesburg
Thami, you are currently the founder and creative director of Misstpink Illustrations – a business focused on providing products such as cellphone covers, mugs and other functional items and accessories with personalized, illustrated images of customers. Misstpink Illustration has soured popularity and your items are flaunted by happy customers all over social media! Take us through the journey to founding MisstPink Illustrations?
I started illustrating in 2014 as a hobby, then started taking the hobby seriously when I saw a high demand for customized illustrations when I joined Instagram. I would see other designers turn their artwork from a canvas to something as functional as a cellphone! The concept of making art functional blew my mind and I started asking myself questions: “Where can this be done locally?” and since no-one/company came to mind I told myself “I can do this”. I also have background knowledge of Graphic design & Fine Art; it took perseverance, motivation and patience to teach myself Illustrator (design software), it took over a year to enhance my skills – even till today I continue to practice.
The one battle that I struggled with was finding suppliers that print personalized covers, sourcing different suppliers for 6 months and determining the durability and end results. Once I found two reliable printers, I started illustrating friends and celebrities, produced samples, and then started the business. I took my time.
What makes Misstpink Illustrations so exceptional is the fact that you have taken images of clients and their loved ones and transformed them into vibrant illustrations! It must take you a considerable amount of time to create each illustration! Briefly take us through your design process?
Yes it is a long process that takes a duration of 4-5 hours to illustrate a portrait. I use a design software called Illustrator – most designers use Photoshop which is mostly used for photo manipulation, text, textures and more, but Illustrator is the main software to use (Graphic designers will understand!). I begin with a high-resolution image and begin to draw outlines over the image (layers) then fill out the facial features, add the skin tones, add the clothes details, either add a pattern or the clients name and the illustration is complete. I constantly look back and forth at the original and the illustration to make sure it looks similar. A great amount of detail goes into it – #1 I’m a perfectionist and #2 a client is paying me for my skill!
Your products have been paraded by many proud customers and celebrities alike! What do you believe has been the main contributing factor to your success?
I believe that people (locally) haven’t seen anything like this. They may have seen it on international celebrities’ social media platforms but not locally. I decided to see what is new, cool and unique in graphic design, which is customized illustration. When celebrities see a fan art and post on their social media I feel they appreciate the artist’s work and want the world to see who the artist is. When they share the artwork I feel that they care because the artist took time to create a marvelous art piece of them. South African celebrities such as Thando Thabethe, Amanda Du Pont, Tumi Voster, Thickleeyonce, Mbali Mlotshwa and Black Coffee and many more have contributed to my success.
Aside from growing your business from strength to strength – how else do you plan on expanding Misstpink Illustrations?
I see my business growing into retail, such as Typo, Mr Price Home etc. I would love to see my products sold to the nation knowing that the product is proudly South African.
Take us through what a typical work day looks like for you?
I get up at 7am, head to work at 8am (I work full time and study part time in the evenings). I would leave work at 16:30, get home by 17:00, get comfortable, set up my work area at home, and begin illustrating from 18:00-22:00. If I don’t have stamina in me I manage my time to work on clients illustrations over the weekend.
As a creative and entrepreneur, what have been your biggest challenges and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is to source a supplier that can provide covers for other cellphone brands. Right now I predominantly cater for iPhone & Samsung users. Alternately, clients can have a customized mug, canvas, key ring, puzzle & more. I want a range of products for clients to choose from.
How do you keep yourself inspired?
I keep myself inspired by seeing what is trending on Instagram; I illustrate on a regular basis to keep trending and inspiring the followers and potential clients. I also illustrate different themes such as portraits, celebrities, fashion illustrations, motivational graphic quotes (once in a while). I like to also challenge myself when clients want an illustration that I thought I can’t do. When I complete the challenge the client is happy with the end result and so am I.
Morning or night? Night shift
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
I would like to meet Kopano Matlwa (author of Coconut), a writer, a doctor, a mother and superwoman. I would like to know what book she is writing next and possibly illustrate for her. I would order a slice of cake with a cappuccino.
I wish I knew how to… overcome my fears of heights (will never bungee jump)
South Africa is… emerging of new talents, from photographers, to designers, to writers and so much more.
Worst money mistake… when I “purchased” a MacBook (April 2016) online and never received it I got scammed, one of the toughest moments. Learnt that if it’s too good to be true (low price) it probably is, and that if the company has no social media platform and no one has heard of it before, the company is a scam.
Best investment… I’ve saved up for a trip to Amsterdam. Having had a tough year and a half in completing my honours, running a business and working full-time, this will be my big break, and a well-deserved break at that!
Motivation in 3 words… Creativity is endless
Purchase a customized item:
FB: Misstpink Illustrations
All images in this post provided by Thami Zikalala