Meet the Designer: Debbie Howard

By AlisonManey, Tue, 2018-05-22 18:44

This feature first appeared in Cross Stitch Crazy's June 2017 magazine, issue 229.


Since he first appeared in 2004, Popcorn the Bear has shown up on cards, in picture books and in the pages of Crazy, enchanting kids and adults alike. We sat down with Popcorn’s creator, Debbie Howard, to chat about Popcorn’s beginnings, Debbie’s previous work and her plans for the future.


What’s special about Popcorn?

While Popcorn may look like a quiet, cuddly bear, he’s actually bursting with imagination and wonder! When the special heart-shaped button in his ear glows, you know that something special is going to happen. He goes on amazing adventures in his imagination with his favourite (and only!) sister Brie and lots of friends – Soufflé the Duck, Biscuit the Dog, Pretzel the Caterpillar and many more. Popcorn also loves reading, is everyone’s friend and is always there to help anyone in need. He often says, ‘Popping popcorn!’


Apart from in cross stitch, where else might we find Popcorn?

There’s a beautiful range of Popcorn greeting cards for most occasions available from Twizler Greeting Cards. They can be found at independent card shops. There will also be a plush toy coming out later this year, and the Popcorn books are available on Amazon. They’re so popular!


How did you get started as an illustrator and designer? 

When I was a little girl, my father taught me to make clothes, and to embroider, so I started crafting from an early age. My mother was an avid knitter and she taught me that skill, as well. Then in 1990 I started out as a Walt Disney licensee creating cross stitch kits using all the Disney characters. I think I always had a cross stitch designer in me, though, and have a knack for imagining how finished products will look on shop shelves. I always have a good feel for how to develop and design different items.


What do you love most about your job as an illustrator?

Creating characters that I have a passion for! All the different animals in the brand have such personality that drawing them and making up stories is great fun. It really doesn’t feel like work at all!


Where did the idea for Popcorn the Bear come from? 

When my daughter was a little girl, I told her stories about a friendly bear and his friends. She asked me to buy the books, which of course I couldn’t do because all the stories were in my head. Then, in 2004, I was at home with the flu and wanted to cuddle up with a bear. I didn’t have one that was ‘cuddleable’, so I got my sketch book out and created Popcorn. He had all the features that I wanted in a bear – a squidgy, appealing face and a heart of gold (he has a special heart in his ear and his paw pads are hearts, too). I still have the first pencil drawing I did of Popcorn!


What are your plans for Popcorn in the future?

I have three Popcorn the Bear picture books out, with a Popcorn the Bear’s ABC book on the way. So, more books and animation, plus products such as stationery, clothing and more, all to be launched in the UK. I also want to expand the Popcorn range abroad, which is already happening. There are now Popcorn products in many other countries outside the UK.


What’s your own experience of cross stitch? What do you enjoy about it?

I started doing cross stitch when I was about eight or nine years old. My father had a tablecloth he inherited from his mother, who had stitched one corner. My father stitched another corner and I stitched the third. My daughter will stitch the fourth. It’s a real family heirloom. Cross stitch is one of the most relaxing hobbies. Whether on aida or linen, the finished effect is just stunning. It’s in my blood and I love doing it!


What is it like to see Popcorn as a cross stitch chart in Crazy?

It’s just wonderful! Vervaco creates the most gorgeous cross stitch kits featuring Popcorn and his friends, but seeing Popcorn in your magazine is fantastic. 


Why do you think so many people love to stitch Popcorn? 

That’s an easy one – Popcorn is so cute that you enter his world of warmth and friendship when you stitch him!


Is there a story behind the design in this issue? 

In this chart (page 42 of Crazy issue 229), Popcorn – who loves balloons – doesn’t realise that holding large balloons while there’s a little breeze in the air actually makes him fly away! Soufflé the Duck thinks this is a great adventure, and secretly wishes it was him floating in the air. 





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