When a dear, longstanding client contacted me to create a special keepsake baby name - featuring little lions - in celebration of the arrival of her grandson, I was super excited! Little did I know that it would take more than a year for this special gift to finally make it home...
Yup. This hand-painted illustration sat in my cupboard, prepped and packaged, waiting for the opportunity to finally fly home to Germany for months on end. Along with a plethora of other Covid-related challenges, the logistics of sending parcels abroad was a biggie. Even under normal circumstances ('normal' - can you remember what that was like???), shipping internationally from South Africa is a sensitive matter: It's either shockingly expensive or unreliable... Add to that international bans on incoming mail and an extreme limit on flights, and you've got a big problem!
Hours of queuing, multiple phone calls to multiple services, quotes that made my jaw drop and various disappointments, all spread over about eight months of waiting... Germany's borders were closed to South Africa. Nothing going in or out. Including baby Karl's special gift.
When the news reached me that the restrictions had been lifted, I didn't even do a little happy dance. After all the back-and-forth-madness, I didn't dare celebrate! That would have to wait until the parcel made it safely to Düsseldorf.
In November, I was finally able to entrust the precious parcel to the Post Office, as I have done with so many in the past. Even though I have never had an issue (touch wood!), I was more than a little worried about the journey that lay ahead and certainly not excited about more waiting... And oh boy, did we wait!
The initial journey across the water seemed to go pretty well. The parcel reached Germany quite swiftly and without incident, but then the parcel got held up in customs in Düsseldorf. For a month!!!
Try as I may, I couldn't get a clear answer from the service in SA or Germany - it seemed like the parcel was MIA. I had finally made peace with the fact that I would have to repaint the illustration and then go through this painful shipping experience all over again...
And then -- the light at the end of the very, very long tunnel: Karl's gift had finally reached him. A year later... But it arrived! And just in time for Christmas, no less!
Thankfully, my client remained open-minded, understanding and optimistic throughout this entire process. I don't know what I would have done without her calm, warm responses, every time I checked in with yet more disappointing news.
Apart from the sweet relief, this experience also brought an awakening: It's time to figure out a better solution to make the lives of my international clients easier. Not to mention prolonging my own life by cutting out all this stressful madness...!
With that said, I'm in the process of testing a new, cost-effective, reliable international shipping solution, along with implementing updates to my website that will make it more user-friendly for those paying with foreign currencies. Watch this space for more!
For now, enjoy the process of Karl's baby name - in contrast with its journey home, it was a wonderful, fun, relaxing time spent doing what I love most!
Absolute baby stages -- you can just make out the pencil outline of the illustration. Watercolour next!
The scenery supporting the little lions is now basically complete. Almost there!
This fellow looks like a little ghost! This is simply a light blue wash to help define the shadows. Remember - watercolour is transparent! So this will affect the layers that go over it.
DONE!!! Thrilled with the outcome!
A one-of-a-kind, original illustration like this one can only be ordered by contacting me directly. I only accept a limited amount of commissions each year, so contact me early to avoid disappointment!