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Chat With Greece’s Talented Illustrator Little Miss Grumpy

Greek illustrator Maria Pagkalou, otherwise known as Little Miss Grumpy, has created an instantly recognisable style with her unique aesthetics and whimsical characters. 

Her work has been featured in numerous kids’ books and her client list is as impressive as her creations – including Italian brand Moleskine, the Iris Apfel x H&M collection, plus Politeia bookstore.  

Based in the centre of Athens, Little Miss Grumpy has built a huge following thanks to her colourful characters and cool quotes designed to inspire and evoke emotions.  

Having achieved national recognition, Little Miss Grumpy’s beautiful creations, including illustrations of Fredy Mercury and Maria Callas, adorn walls of homes not only in Greece but around the world.

From limited edition prints and witty bookmarks to amusing cards and chic notebooks, Pagkalou’s designs are trending as some of the coolest gifts in town – that can be found online as well as in her gorgeous flagship store in Athens’ Kolonaki neighbourhood. 

“I feel so much joy and satisfaction when a person hangs one of my pieces in their home and I hope that every time they look at it, they feel something and that something inspires them,” says Maria.  

We sat and chatted with Little Miss Grumpy in her bright and inviting store about her captivating illustrations, what inspires her designs, and more. 

When did your passion for illustrations begin?

My passion for this kind of art started from a very young age. It was always my outlet and a hobby that I loved. I studied acting but at the age of 28, I decided to make my hobby a profession. 

What’s the design process like? 

Firstly, I create the character in my mind and then on paper. I combine my research and knowledge and then wait to see each character develop over time. When I watch movies and TV series, I can see a character grow, then I form them in my mind before my version of that character comes to life on paper.  

How would you describe your work? 

I constantly meet new people who ask me what I do for a living and when I say I’m an illustrator they stare at me wondering what that means. I understand that some may think it’s not a normal job, or that it’s more of a hobby. I don’t think it’s something you can describe, it’s a form of art and my creations speak for themselves. 

What do you love most about what you do? 

I get a lot of satisfaction from creating a design that I like, and then seeing other people like it and appreciate it too.

What do you want people to feel when they see your creations?

Everything we look at leaves a mark on us. It stays inside and is externalised at a later stage. I think it’s important to look at creations and images that fill us with joy and beautiful emotions.

What does an average day look like for you?

There is no typical day, there is no routine, and there is no schedule. Luckily, I have my mum and my sister who try to put a list in place to help me with the business. I wake up late because I sleep late, and after I get up, I’ll walk my dog, and make something to eat, then I start planning my day and responding to emails and calls. Later on, I walk around the city until I find myself out with friends at night. 


Tell us about some of your career highlights.

The first collaboration I ever did was with the Moleskine company from Milan. We designed limited-edition notebooks together, which was very special to me.  

Another unforgettable moment in my career was a collaboration with H&M x Iris Apfel, which was amazing.

Each of my collaborations excites me – from the smallest to the largest, but one of my all-time favourites is with Athens’ famous bookstore Politeia. I took it upon myself to create 30 bookmarks (it’s now reached 100) featuring famous authors to be given away for free with every book purchase. I feel that I’ve managed to enter so many homes and I’m happy people have embraced them. I feel they have connected my work to something as beautiful as reading a book.

Do you find it easy to switch off from work?

I can never entirely disconnect from work. I have never been able to do it even on vacation and I don’t listen when people tell me to stop working for a while; I just can’t. Fortunately, I always have my mother and my sister by my side. They help me significantly, as they support me and help solve any issues that arise.

How do you spend your weekends? 

I’m very fortunate that I spend every day like it’s the weekend! I don’t work specific hours, so I walk around the centre of Athens every day like it’s a small celebration, which ends with a late-night drink at a bar. However, my ideal Saturday would be to get home from the shop, paint, and then arrange a gathering with friends on my balcony late in the afternoon, to drink, eat, play Monopoly and laugh!

And on a Sunday?

Sundays are for sleeping, snuggling and dreaming. 

One of your favourite spots in Athens to grab a drink with friends?

I must say I am a homebody, as I love the feeling of warmth and I like to drink for hours on the terrace and talk until the early hours of the morning. But now that I moved from Kifissia to the centre of Athens, I also enjoy being out. Most of the evenings you will find me at the Sousourada cocktail bar on Mavromichali in Exarcheia. And of course, the most entertaining evenings full of fun and dancing are spent at Agios Bar on Didotou and Ippokratous.  

Any new restaurant you’ve recently tried and want to go back to again?

I would choose Sousourada again and again – mainly for the delicious sea bass!

Have you booked your summer holiday yet? 

Of course, not – I am always last minute. So much so that I often can’t find accommodation and end up staying with friends. I spend most of my summers with family in Karystos, on the island of Evia and this year I also hope to get to the Amalfi. 

Finally, can you share any exciting new projects you are working on?

I’ve undertaken a project with Brainfood Publications about women in mythology and ancient tragedy. I found it challenging because mythological characters like Electra and Medea are not imprinted as people in our minds but as ideas and meanings. I tried to spread my fantasy and integrate my knowledge from my theatre studies to create a wonderful and inspirational journey for them.

I’m also excited to start my collaboration with well-known Greek songwriter Pan Pan. We both aim to create a visual expression of his top hit song of the year “Anisopedi Disco”. I’m thrilled with this as I always need to work with people who have a passion for what they do. My wish is to always surround myself with people who inspire me and fill my soul.

Shop: Ιppokratous 40, Kolonaki 

Featured Image by Yanis Angel | @yanisangelaph



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