We are huge fans of the diverse characters you have created for children. What inspired you to create this range?
Thank you! The idea started with me trying to find greeting cards for my children when they were much younger. Black and brown children were rarely depicted, my daughter wasn’t really into princesses, and my son was not keen on football. I used to buy cards that featured cartoon characters, illustrated animals or just elaborately decorated numbers to avoid buying cards portraying children who did not look like them or represent their interests.
I have a background in Graphic Design and can illustrate, so I decided to create the cards I wanted to see with characters that looked like my children and their friends. I wanted my children to see themselves represented and celebrated.
Your illustrations are incredible and bring together a diverse set of characters including two with vitiligo. What inspired you to create characters with vitiligo?
I recently extended my range and now have six characters living with vitiligo!
When I started, I originally designed four children in two shades of brown. I then thought about extending my character range to include children with darker and lighter brown skin than the original four – as black and brown people have a variety of skin shades broadly depending on the amount of melanin in their skin. But then I thought, what about people who don’t have any melanin? Or people whose melanin isn’t evenly distributed? I’d not seen any ‘fun’ cards featuring children living with albinism or vitiligo, and the whole point of me creating my cards was for Black and brown children to see themselves, so I decided to be as inclusive as possible across the spectrum.
Having developed my characters with vitiligo, I wanted to make sure that I used the correct language when describing the condition. I don’t have any personal experience with vitiligo, but had come across the Vitiligo Society during my research of the condition, and there was so much helpful information on their website that I decided to reach out to them for guidance. I contacted them via their website and their Charity Director Abbie Hurrell got back to me, and we’ve been in contact ever since!
Two of my characters are actually named after real life people. I posted the illustrations on Instagram and requested that anyone interested, contact me to have a character named after them. Nikayah is @his_workofart and Adalynn is @adalynnmay_hiphiphooray – they are such lovely young ladies.
Tell us a little bit more about the range. What does it include?
I now have eighteen characters (with two more in development) in nine different skin tones, including six characters living with vitiligo and two characters living with albinism. All the characters have a ‘profile’ on my website and are available in four different settings: affirmations, artist, astronaut or starburst. The two characters I’m currently developing are going to be wheelchair users, so I’m in the process of taking advice so that I get the details right.
As well as greeting cards, my product range includes notebooks, bookmarks and posters. I’ve also recently added t-shirts and bags. Since September I’ve been donating 10% of the sale price of my products featuring the six characters with vitiligo, to the Vitiligo Society.
You have been volunteering with the Society and have crated some school resources for parents to share. What was it like putting these together?
It has been a great experience. There are five of us in our group, we meet once a month remotely for about an hour and collectively decide what should be included and how. Sounds very serious, and it is important work, but there is always lots of laughter!
Abbie Hurrell chairs the meeting and keeps us on track with the remit of the pack from the charity perspective. There are parents in the group who are able to clearly specify what would have been useful for them at the outset of their children’s vitiligo journey, especially when dealing with school life. There is also a teacher in the group who can give us a wider understanding of how the pack would realistically be used in school, and I bring my Graphic Design skills!
What message (or messages) do these resources get across?
The resource pack will initially be aimed at primary school children and will explain what vitiligo is and how to talk about it. It will also include profiles on children living with vitiligo and a list of vitiligo story books children could read. The whole project is to educate children (and adults) and dispel myths about the condition, which will hopefully lead to the children living with vitiligo within that school community having a more positive experience.
Where can people find you? Do you have a website/social media?
www.sylviaprince.com is my website address, I’m on Instagram and Facebook @sylviaprincedesigns and twitter @sprincedesigns