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Q&A with Claudine Hellmuth

Full-time Illustrator from Washington

I'm a full-time illustrator and I create whimsical cupcake boxes and packaging for baked goods and sweets treats!

In my 14 years as an illustrator, my work has been featured in The New York Times, on The Martha Stewart Show, HGTV, HSN and The DIY Network. My books and gift product designs have been sold in retail stores such as Michael's, Target and TJ Maxx. I’ve been thrilled to illustrate for companies like Smart Car, Capitol Records and publications such as The Saturday Evening Post.

I live in Washington, DC with my husband Paul and our very spoiled pets. When I’m not covered in paper, glue and cupcake sprinkles, I’m walking our dog Maggie, reading a book or enjoying an afternoon nap with our very fat cat, Mabel!

What inspired you to become a designer?

I remember the first time I discovered that paper could be transformed with a just few carefully placed folds. I was 8 years old and my Mom and I were on our weekly shopping trip at the Walden's Book store. In the bottom of a bargain bin, I noticed a Whitman Press Out Book. On it's cover it showed how you could create an entire village simply by punching out the designs, folding and adding a little glue. I couldn't wait to get it home, and try it myself! It seemed like magic that paper could become something adorable and fun to play with too!

Thirty-something years later, working with paper has lost none of its magic. It never ceases to amaze me that I can create something out of flat paper, it can travel the globe and with a fold here and a little tape there, it becomes a cute retro-oven or ice cream truck ready to hold delicious goodies!

What I love most about designing paper boxes and packaging is figuring out how to make my vision a reality.

The challenge of of bringing together design elements and functionality is an exciting, totally absorbing puzzle.

A from-scratch-design can take anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to complete. Each design begins with sketches and line drawings on graph paper. Next, everything gets scanned into the computer and it's time to play with color and pattern (more polka dots please!). After a lot of paper folding, a little experimentation, and a few late nights, a new cupcake box is born!

What design software (or tools) do you use?

I use Photoshop and Illustrator, I also use Adobe Ideas to draw directly in my ipad. I use a Silhouette machine to cut out my designs so I can prototype and test the die cuts before sending them to the manufacturer.

What is your ideal work environment?

I work at home in a small bedroom of our two bedroom apartment. I have been looking at coworking spaces that are popping up here all over DC. I wonder if after 14 years of working alone if I could work and concentrate around other people!

Where does your design inspiration come from?

I am always inspired by retro 1940s and 50's advertisements. I love how over the top the women are depicted getting excited about their washing machines and ovens!  I love polka dots, old cars, fun dresses and the colors red and teal.

Claudine Hellmuth:

Mini cupcake box for a freebie download: