The spirograph was first invented in the 1800s to draw spirals with. It was later turned into a toy in the 1960s, and is still popular today. While many of us have likely dabbled with the tool here and there as kids, few of us can say it’s an integral part of our everyday lives. Artist Rachel Evans — affectionately known by the internet as Spirograph Girl — is a part of these few, establishing herself as an artist by using the spirograph as her main tool.
The Toy Insider got to chat with Spirograph Girl about the inspiration behind her spirograph art, her journey as an artist, and the future of her artwork.
TI: How did you first get into Spirographing?
Rachel Evans: I think, like most people, I played with it when I was a kid. I must have received it as a birthday present because I remember I got a brand-new set, which was very exciting! My parents had used it when they were young, so they taught me how to use the junior cyclex, the traditional spirograph gears, and cogs. I’ve since purchased the vintage Super Spirograph set a few times so I can use multiple rails to make even bigger spirals!
TI: When did you realize that the designs you were making with the spirograph could become part of a bigger project?
RE: I played with it as much as your average kid, but then at about 14 I started to cut them out and stick them together. I remember my father saying “Oh that’s good, Rach!” and then of course I completely forgot about the piece until I was 22 years old! I was then living in Germany as an au pair being paid very little, so I decided to finish a bunch of my artwork — one of which was that piece from when I was 14, which ended up being called “Childhood Dreams.” It’s now one of my best-selling pieces on Redbubble.
TI: A lot of your TikTok videos allude to “making art with a children’s toy.” Have there been any challenges you’ve had to deal with in using an unconventional method to create your art? How have you overcome these obstacles?
RE: I mainly use that phrase as a marketing hook! People are often more surprised than put off by the fact that I’ve made something from a toy they used as kids. A few people on TikTok comment that I’m “cheating” because I’m using a “stencil” as they call it, but to me that seems like someone saying an author is not really writing a novel unless it’s with a pen and paper. Who’s to say what art really is? People use all sorts of mediums, and a lot of my buyers or followers love that I’ve taken something from their childhood and made it into a big piece of art.
TI: What type of mediums do you use to create your artwork? Is it a ballpoint pen or do you use paints and other materials?
RE: The majority of the time I use my spirographs with thin nibbed liner pens, then color them in with alcohol pens, such as promarkers. Then I cut them out and stick them on. I don’t like to limit myself though! I also make digital pieces by tracing over pictures on Procreate, and I’ve also painted straight to canvas and embroidered pieces. I’d really like to do a wood burned piece one day.
TI: Which art piece of yours is your favorite?
RE: I love all of them, so it’s difficult to say! I think my Spirograph World Map was my favorite for a long time because it’s the one that got me the most recognition, but I also created a piece called “Loraine” in memory of my mum. It actually faded quite a bit so it was lovely to go back a few years after she’d passed and metaphorically spend some time with mum restoring it. I think that I like “Spyro” the most though because I made him breathe fire in his little video!
TI: Do you have a certain vision of what you want the shapes in your artwork to look like or is it spontaneous?
RE: About three out of four are thought through. I’ll normally do a sketch on a canvas then create the spirographs around that concept, which is the most time-consuming part. Every now and again I start to miss making spirographs that are the colors I love, so I normally make a more abstract piece that is very much improvised.
TI: Where do you draw inspiration for your pieces from?
RE: I get it from everywhere. My maps are normally inspired from my travels, but at the moment I’m working on some animal pieces due to being out in nature with my dogs, Poppy and Molly. Sometimes it’s the spirographs that get me: I once made one that looked like a daisy and created two complete pieces around the concept!
TI: What types of artwork can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
RE: I’m starting to play with bigger, differently shaped spirographs using the vintage Super Spirograph set. I’ve deliberately bought a few sets so I can make them even bigger! I’m also trying a bunch of different inks and technologies such as invisible ink and 3D worlds to try and give my work even more depth.
TI: How has social media influenced the reach of your artwork?
RE: My YouTube was the reason a lot of people found my work originally, but the last year or so I’ve been focusing on TikTok. It’s such a fun and easy way to show off my work, and it’s amazing to see more and more followers coming in. Redbubble has also been a huge part of my art journey, with my shop being live there since I started and that continues to attract more followers.
TI: What is something you’ve always wanted to design, but haven’t gotten the chance to yet?
RE: I’d really like to make a human face out of spirographs — the problem is choosing who to represent!
TI: What advice would you give to young artists?
RE: Making artwork doesn’t have to be a career choice, it can just be for fun or to relax you. Also, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect at everything straight away: Life’s too short. Try anything and everything, and above all, have fun!