Thelwell, the unofficial artist of the British countryside, has made its cartoons of little girls and their fat, often out-of-control, ponies personalisable using Spreadshirt’s merchandising platform. The instantly recognisable drawings are now available internationally through the Thelwell online shops, Spreadshirt’s marketplaces and via Spreadshirt’s Amazon platform in the UK, France, Germany and the US.
Printing merchandise on-demand and under-license is a key element of Spreadshirt’s marketplace offering to brands. The e-commerce platform enables names like Thelwell to sell ideas across a wide range of merchandise and allow personalisation, whilst keeping within copyright laws and brand guidelines.
“I grew up on a farm riding a fat little black pony, called Damar, I used to think of Thelwell cartoons as a role model,” reveals Philip Rooke, CEO at Spreadshirt. “He has been making people laugh out loud for over 50 years with his satirical cartoons of chaos and fun in the countryside. To people around horses and those that aspire for that country lifestyle Thelwell is still as relevant today; we have just used print-on-demand technology to offer Thelwell merchandise anywhere in the world, and with a personalisable option. So devotees can add a name or a joke alongside the cartoon”.
“Merchandising can be complicated for brands,” he continues. “Staying within design guidelines, organising shipping, co-ordinating payments in different regions. We offer passion brands such as Thelwell an easy route through the process and a way to reach their followers worldwide. We can give them a global footprint, wide range of products, print-on-demand technology and different sales routes. For example, Thelwell designs are already also available via Spreadshirt on Amazon.”
”The decision to expand Thelwell merchandise marks a recent surge in interest in the cartoonist,” notes Karen Addison from Karen Addison Associates the official licensing agent of Thelwell commented. “Four of his books, featuring fishing, sailing, gardening and golf cartoons were re-published towards the end of 2014 and the girls on ponies have never gone out of print.
“Spreadshirt was the only platform which made this process straight-forward for us, whilst offering international reach. Using their services, we can get Thelwell’s brilliant cartoons on to a wide range of merchandise products and out to fans quickly and easily all over the world”.
The range, which launches with pony designs, is available for sale via the Thelwell website and Spreadshirt’s marketplace internationally. The license agreement with Thelwell will also include cartoons of fishermen, hunter and noblemen, which will be added in due course, along with a stream of new pony designs.
Norman Thelwell was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, on 3rd May 1923. His earliest surviving drawing is a pencil self-portrait done at the age of 10, on which his teacher has written in red ink: ‘V. good indeed’. His first cartoon for Punch was published in 1952 and led to a relationship which lasted for 25 years and over 1,500 cartoons, including 60 front covers.
His first pony cartoon was published in 1953 and, by accident, led to a lifetime of association with the image of the little girl and the fat hairy pony. As he said in his autobiography: “I was a sort of unofficial country cartoonist, doing funny drawings that involved birds, cattle, pigs and poultry. One day I did a pony drawing and it was like striking a sensitive nerve. The response was instantaneous. People telephoned the editor and asked for more.
“Suddenly I had fan mail. So the editor told me to do a two-page spread on ponies. I was appalled. I thought I’d already squeezed the subject dry. I looked at the white drawing block and wondered what on earth to do. In the end I dreamed up some more horsey ideas and people went into raptures.’ The ‘Thelwell pony’ was born
Thelwell’s range as a cartoonist has gone far beyond ponies – fishing, gardening, house-hunting, motoring, sailing, dogs, cats, farming, stately homes, children and country pursuits have all been given the treatment.
He was a master of sharp social comment and sheer zany humour, and the foibles of the British at work or at play were his favourite themes. He was also a serious landscape artist, painting in watercolour and oils. His 34 books have sold over 2 million copies in the UK and been translated into languages as diverse as Finnish and Japanese and his drawings have been used on many different kinds of merchandise including stationery, jigsaws, table mats, china, glass, door mats, socks and bedlinen.