When you sit down to play a card game with your average deck of cards, you may not pay attention to the artwork that’s printed upon each piece. After all, such images are probably familiar to you by now. Then again, you may be concentrating on the game itself, on your opponents, on having a great time with friends.
With artist Kimberly Hall‘s creations, it’s almost impossible for one to focus on anything other than her illustrated deck. Each of her 52 cards are not filled with your typical kings, queens, and iconic symbols. Instead, Hall has given each work of playing card art its own unique personality. Every card tells a story, one that makes a card game as creative as it is fun. Essentially, the artist’s playing cards are both pretty and practical. You definitely won’t want to put them away in a drawer after you’re done using them because they 152% belong on a mantlepiece.
To get to know the woman behind these expressive cards, we had the opportunity to interview Kimberly about her inspirations, her daily drawing practice, and about the Norwegian history behind her studio name…
HelloGiggles (HG): Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Kimberly Hall (KH): Well, I’m an artist and illustrator and I run a print and pattern design studio called Nottene with my partner Justin Hardison. I have had a circuitous path through many artistic and design disciplines to get here, from photography, graphic design, crafts, textiles, accessory and fashion design. I love to make things and I like to draw. It took me a long time to realize that my drawing was valid, though. I always thought it was a way to get to some other final product, but now I have decided it’s the thing that means the most to me. We’re based in Philadelphia where we have an old row house that I love to paint and wallpaper!
HG: What does “Nottene” mean and why did you choose this name for your studio?
KH: Nottene is a Norwegian word that means nuts. My mother’s family emigrated from Norway in the early 20th century, so I thought it would be fun to honor that side of my family. I chose it when I started my first blog way back in 2002, when I didn’t have a real purpose other than exploring the internet. And it has stuck since then!
HG: Your playing cards are just plain awesome. What made you want to design an entire deck?
KH: Aw, thanks!! I’d always wanted to design a deck of cards, but it seemed so overwhelming! A friend of mine mentioned she wanted to learn more card games and was going to blog about one every week for a whole year, so she would learn 52 games, and I realized that 52 weeks is just the right number to design all 52 cards in a deck, so ta da! I drew a card each week for the whole year, last year. Once they were finished, I really wanted to produce them so we did a Kickstarter to raise the money, and in the process got to know a whole bunch of new people. The support and love in doing a Kickstarter was just amazing.
HG: Who or what inspires you?
KH: I usually list a Maira Kalman quote about how a painting is actually truer than a photograph and it’s one of my big inspirations, but I also find myself inspired by the change of seasons and the way things keep on rolling by… The passage of time is so fascinating.
HG: Since you maintain a daily drawing practice, how do you stay motivated?
KH: I try not to take it too seriously!! But really, I try to let it find its own way… Sometimes it’s doodles in my notebook, sometimes it’s sitting down to do paid illustration work, and sometimes it’s just coloring with my kids. I’ve found that if I’m having a hard day and I don’t really want to do anything, I always feel a bit better if I draw.
HG: What is your creative process like?
KH: I’m kind of a mess actually. My partner in crime keeps me in line. Ha! I tend to be all over the place and can get lost in the process of making. I like to say ‘yes’ too much. So I try to give myself boundaries. I try not to work alone too much. I try to make myself go to bed on time!
HG: For those who want to pursue a similar artistic path in life, what advice would you give them?
KH: To follow your path, you have to pay attention to it. You have to stop looking at what everyone else is doing and pay attention to what you’re doing. And it’s a really hard thing to do, because we all need to be a part of society and our communities, but we also have to find a way to remember not to compare ourselves to others. My other piece of advice would be to take chances sometimes. You gotta be able to take a chance on yourself to follow an artistic path!
HG: What is your favorite playing card you’ve created? Why?
KH: I’m really partial to the Clubs, and most of the face cards are people I know, so those are definitely my favorites. Actually, I give away the 2 of Hearts card more than any other! The bra must be my favorite!
HG: What are you currently working on?
KH: As the holidays approach, I always find myself doing lots of custom illustrations. I like to draw stuff, and custom work is a fun way to think of new things to draw. Our studio is also getting ready for winter and spring trade shows. We sell print and pattern designs to fashion companies twice a year, so that keeps us really busy. We’re planning on launching a new product in the spring too (wallpaper!!) at ICFF and the logistics of that are definitely keeping me and my partner hopping!
HG: And just for fun, what is your favorite color?
KH: I’m really into that sort of golden brown you are starting to see pop up, but most of all I’m into color combinations… golden brown, pink, and gray are my favorite trio these days… oh and green, too. Yeah, it’s hard to choose!!