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Design duo return from US

Last Lemon’s Ralph and Lisa launch Vimrod and Oddbod having landed in London

 

Licensing outfit Last Lemon is shaking the dust of California off as it’s back in London ready for the Harold’s Planet creator to dive back into the greeting card market.

Founders Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar have moved home after 12 years in the US and are already planning to launch their new designs at PG Live 2024.

Above: Oddbod and Vimrod will launch Last Lemon’s new card collections
Above: Oddbod and Vimrod will launch Last Lemon’s new card collections

Ralph and Lisa set up Last Lemon in 1999, starting in animation and book publishing, and began licensing in-house properties to cards, stationery, giftware and digital media – the first was Harold’s Planet which Clare Maddicott Publications took in 2001, and it stayed with the company when Abacus Cards took it over in 2008, and Ralph said: “It’s gone from strength to strength with them, to this day.”

In 2010 the creative duo relocated to the hills of Marin County just above San Francisco, because, Ralph added: “We always wanted to have a go at the US market and we felt the best way to do it was to move there.

Above & top: Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar have returned to London
Above & top: Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar have returned to London

“We soon learned the card market in the US is different – big US publishers generally aren’t looking for character-based properties per se, they’re looking for individual standout designs so we had to re-tool our approach to cards, and not build them around character-driven projects.

“The model now works well for us, and we have an ongoing great relationship with Recycled Paper Greetings, which is owned by UK Greetings’ parent company American Greetings.”

While in the US, Last Lemon significantly expanded its narrative-based IP to work with Chronicle Books in San Francisco, Andrews McMeel Universal in Missouri, and Scholastic in New York on a string of successful gift books and middle-school fiction and, with millions of books sold across multiple properties, they will be using some of that content for their new UK venture.

Above: Happiness Is… has seven titles which sold over a million copies
Above: Happiness Is… has seven titles which sold over a million copies

Lisa has also built a worldwide collector base of her Glass Cathedral dioramas while Ralph documents current affairs, and captured the full Trump era through his political art.

“We moved back to the UK last year for family reasons,” said Lisa, “and thought, with all this IP developed in-house, why not give publishing a go?”

The company will be launching with Vimrod, which was published by Paperlink from 2004 for several years, as well as Oddbod, a property developed during Covid, and will be adding new ranges developed in America, including Me Without You, a range based on the eponymous book which has sold almost 750,000 copies.

They will also use Happiness Is…, an online project the pair launched from Sayulita in Mexico in 2014, that gained three million Facebook followers in its first year – the seven titles have sold over a million copies across 24 languages.

Above: Ralph at work on one of his political art pieces and Lisa with her Glass Cathedral dioramas
Above: Ralph at work on one of his political art pieces and Lisa with her Glass Cathedral dioramas

The design approach is purely collaborative, with each taking on different roles depending on the property. “All the creative work is done ourselves, we don’t outsource anything” explained Lisa.

And Ralph added: “PG Live 2024 is where we will be showcasing Last Lemon’s return. The show is pure quality; great venue, great buzz, the best of the industry – and, now that we’re back in London, it’s just down the road.”

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