Welcome to the magical world of Tulipop, an original children’s range unlike any other. Created by celebrated Icelandic illustrator, Signy and brought to market with her best friend Helga, Tulipop was launched in Iceland in 2010. The ladies had a joint dream to create something unique for children… both cuddly and gothic and strongly inspired by forms and colours in nature, the Tulipop world features intriguing characters such as Bubble, a shy and dreamy mushroom boy and Gloomy, an adventurous mushroom girl, who loves surprises and cheeky little pranks.
Here we meet Signy and Helga to find out more about this delightful brand and how it came about…
Could you tell us a little about each of your backgrounds, and how it has led to a career working together designing and producing the Tulipop children’s range?
We became friends in high school. After high school we went down quite different paths. Helga completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science and began a career in marketing in the software industry, while I went to art school and graduated with a BA degree as a product designer. I didn’t have the patience to be a product designer, so I started to draw and publish some of my work on postcards, notebooks and such.
A few years down the line, Helga had completed an MBA in London and I had been getting a great response to my illustrations and the characters I had began creating. We therefore agreed that there was an opportunity to create an original Icelandic character goods brand that could become loved by kids of all ages around the world. That was the beginning of Tulipop!
Who were your design inspirations growing up, and have they changed at all as your careers have developed?
Disney, Hello Kitty…everything that Sanrio has ever made, Barbapapa, The Moomins, Brothers Grimm, Care Bears, nature, travels, animals, growing up abroad…..my mother.
Where does the brand name Tulipop come from and what does it mean?
We wanted a cute, unique and quirky name that would fit my illustrations. After days of brainstorming and playing with words, we came up with the completely made-up name Tulipop. Tulipop doesn’t really mean anything in any language – it is as much of a fairytale as the Tulipop world itself – so it is just perfect!
Can you tell us a little more about each of the brands characters?
Mr. Tree is the oldest and wisest of the Tulipoppers, he lives with his best friend Skully the skull on Skull Rock. He’s a magic tree and can turn tears into gemstones. Each stone has a story. His only weakness however is his stones, he doesn’t really like people touching them or moving them. The thought of it makes him feel a bit funny.
The driving force behind the adventures on Tulipop, Gloomy is a nosy, brave, fun-loving mushroom girl who lives on top of Toadstool Hill where she dutifully keeps an eye on her friends on Tulipop! Some might call this spying but not Gloomy, she insists she’s just looking out for them.
In addition to spying, Gloomy’s favourite pastime is developing her wizard-like qualities with her book of potions, or book of trouble as her brother Bubble likes to call it. Her potions very rarely work and you’re more likely to find her turning her pet bat Ozzy pink than making him the fastest bat in the universe!
Gloomy’s hobbies include catching fireflies, telling ghost stories and writing very secret secrets in her diary. Her two favourite possessions are her book of potions and her cloak.
The daydreamer of the group and Gloomy’s brother, mushroom boy Bubble who lives in Buttercup sands on the east coast of Tulipop. He would much rather spend his days eating blueberry pancakes, gardening and taking a nap in his hammock than galavanting across the island on adventures with his friends. One of the reasons Bubble loves to garden is because he is blessed with the ability to communicate with plants and animals. They are often the key to solving the mysteries on Tulipop so Bubble can be incredibly useful.
The most important thing you need to know about Miss Maddy is that she loves pink. Her home – Cherry Berry Fields – is pink , her clothes are pink and her biggest wish is that she herself could be pink. Miss Maddy is super talented, she is particularly good at making the most stunning show stopping cakes and her singing voice is so beautiful it is known to have a hypnotizing effect on certain creatures.
Fred, his full name is Fredmund which he hates, Gloomy knows this and more often than not will call him it. He doesn’t have a house, he lives in a makeshift cave with all of his belongings scattered around the place deep in the Forgotten Forrest. He is the smelliest, most cuddly and least threatening monster on Tulipop. He tries his hardest to be scary and tough but unfortunately for Fred, he likes knitting, and is about as brave as a chicken.
Legend has it that he is part reindeer hence his magnificent glow-in-the-dark horns. Fred also boasts an incredible sense of smell which often comes in handy, although his friends do often wonder why he can’t smell how smelly he is!
What is the design process behind designing each of the Tulipop characters?
I don’t know how to describe it but it is somewhat like giving birth with your mind. They are my “brain” children.
I somewhat get to decide what they will look like but often in the midst of the procedure (“birth”) it takes diffrent directions. I never know what it will be in the end.
When I illustrated the characters I hadn’t thought about what gender or what kind of character they should become. It just happened somehow. – It’s magic.
What do you enjoy most about creating the characters?
When I create I’m happy. I can’t be fully creative when I’m restrained by rules. Limitation is the adversary of creation. Design should be limitless and freeflowing.
I aspire to reach this state of limitless creativity and when I succeed im fulfilled and my work is enjoyable. When designing my characters I try to be completley limitless.
Could you each describe a typical day at work for you?
On a typical day I’m at the office around 9:00. Good coffee and our beloved espresso machine is an important part of the office and I usually drink a cup of coffee when I arrive and catch up with the team. Our workplace is really diverse and always a lot going on. Most days I’m focusing on designing new items for our collection and working on developing new products and designs for the Tulipop world.
Do you have any advice for women looking to start a business?
You’ll need alot of patience and alot of confidence in what you’re doing or making. If you don’t believe in it no one else will either….and this goes for everyone, women and men.
With a range that covers, eco tableware, jigsaw puzzles, backpacks, stationary and homewares – what can we expect next? Can you give us any sneak peeks into any new pieces being added to the range in the future?
Yes indeed! One of the projects I’m most excited about is the Tulipop plush and vinyl figurines which are being developed by brilliant US speciality toy company Toynami, and will be launched at Comic Con in San Diego this summer. I’m really excited about that! Can’t wait to visit the Comic Con myself this summer which I believe is an absolute blast.
Thank you so much to Signy and Helga for taking the time to speak with us. We’re sure you’ll agree that the Tulipop characters all sound fascinating and so magical. Don’t miss our next post on their great collections and a wonderful GIVEAWAY coming soon.