Amelia’s Magazine | Louise Wilkinson Illustrations and Ceramics: an interview with the designer

Louise Wilkinson ceramics- Lemon Tree dinner plate lifestyle

I first encountered Louise Wilkinson’s inimitable ceramics designs at Tent London last September, and instantly fell in love. The likes of Liberty discovered her beautiful bone china early on, and she has more recently created bespoke illustrations for panelling in the shop at the V&A. I caught up with her to find out more about her career to date, where her inspiration comes from and how she set about putting her illustrations onto china.

Louise Wilkinson ceramics- jug lifestyle

I absolutely adore your debut Maple Collection, inspired by English gardens, Oriental china and a love of nature. How did you construct the designs and how long did the process take to apply them to so many different shapes?
I like to draw a few pencil sketches first on scraps of paper and then at a later stage I draw my artworks on the computer with a pen. I love to create intricate artworks with witty details, often with a narrative. The designs are then screen printed and hand decorated in Stoke on Trent. It took many months to consider the shapes and designs together and then to fit the artworks correctly.

How do you pick the colour ways for your designs?
For my Maple Collection, I chose to have navy blue as the main colour with bold, playful, pops of colours for highlights. I often kept to two colours per design, for instance I liked the combination of a citrus yellow accent with navy blue or a coral red with navy blue.

Louise Wilkinson ceramics-Trees plate

What was the best bit about growing up in Yorkshire?
I loved growing up in the counrtyside, being able to spend a lot of time outside. We lived opposite a large field with lots of trees, me and my sister would often play and run around! I have lived in London over 10 years now, so it is nice to have the balance of London life and also visiting my family up north!

Louise Wilkinson Logo peacocks

You have already led a varied design career, studying illustration before moving into print and textiles for fashion. It sounds like the ideal career I never had! What was the highlight of those first years out of college?
I had always wanted to study Illustration so I took an Illustration degree at University. It was great to learn about the different aspects of image making, and after graduating my first job was working as an illustrator designing the prints, patterns and characters for children’s clothes, drawing everything by hand. I moved to London and worked in the fashion industry as a print and textiles designer, whilst also working on freelance book and magazine illustrations. I learnt a lot about working in different styles, techniques and applications to fabrics. It was great to get to know more about the commercial world and seasonal trends. Kids clothing is a fun area to work in!

Louise Wilkinson ceramics-Apple Tree dinner plate lifestyle

Why did you decide to create your own range and how did you effect that move?
I have been an illustrator and print and pattern designer for over a decade but I had always wanted to create my own artworks – to have a little more creative freedom and work for myself, creating timeless, playful and beautiful pieces. I launched my first collection in Liberty after attending the Best of British open day and it went from there!

Like me you are an avid fan of the illustrations found in children’s books, an aesthetic which I think comes through in your designs. Any favourites that you keep returning to?
Yes I do love children’s book illustrations, I always admired the painted collage technique used in the classic tale of The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, which is a classic. I also love Alain Gree’s cute illustrations and Russian fairy tales. I’m influenced by the traditional decorative arts, nature, exotic dreamlike places and often by different exhibitions I may visit in London. I love art and illustration, including Japanese and Chinese paintings, Matisse, Henri Rousseau, George Lepape….

Louise Wilkinson ceramics-Trees jug

What are your favourite pieces of homeware to design and why, and what is the hardest thing to design?
I love designing all the pieces, especially the plates and the cups and saucers. I like the flat surface area on a plate, which is like a blank canvas for artwork… and I like the little details you can add to cups and saucers. I’d say teapots can be harder to design for, as they are slightly more spherical.

What could we expect to find if we visited your work studio, can you describe it for us?
I am based in South East London where I have a large wooden desk with a Mac monitor and a pen tablet – it’s nice to have lots of surface area. There are lots of things around such as notebooks and pencil sketches, china samples, boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap, brochures, postcards! I have a lot of research in draws and on the walls. I also have lots of magazines and art books because I love looking in books for research rather than always using the internet. Oh and there is always a cup of tea on my desk, I drink too much!

Louise Wilkinson ceramics-Teacups

Why is it important for you to maintain strong relationships with UK suppliers?
I think its great to manufacture as much in the UK wherever possible to support the industry, and it is nice to meet the lovely team in Stoke on Trent who I work with.

When can we expect a new collection from you, and can you share any hints as to what that will be?
I will be selling my exclusive artworks which were created especially for my recent collaboration on the Christmas shop installation at the V&A. I’m also exhibiting at the Modern Show in Dulwich on March 16th 2014. I love this Mid Century design show, which it is local to where I live. I will also be exhibiting at Tent London again, during London Design Week in September.

Louise Wilkinson ceramics-Coral red plates

Do you have any plans to expand into other areas of design and if so what?
I love creating artworks and illustration and this can be applied to many different surface areas. So hopefully new things soon, I have lots of ideas.

Finally, do you have any exciting plans for 2014 – in either business or life – that you can share with us?
Hopefully a few nice trips away, perhaps to Copenhagen or Finland. I may also be getting married this year, which is exciting!

Categories ,Alain Gree, ,Best of British, ,Bone China, ,Ceramic design, ,ceramics, ,Chinese, ,Designer Maker, ,Dulwich, ,Eric Carle, ,George Lepape, ,Henri Rousseau, ,interview, ,japanese, ,liberty, ,London Design Week, ,Louise Wilkinson, ,Maple Collection, ,matisse, ,Mid Century, ,Modern Show, ,Russian, ,Stoke-on-Trent, ,Tent London, ,The Hungry Caterpillar, ,va

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with illustrator, textile designer and author Jane Foster

Jane Foster toucan
Jane Foster is an illustrator, textile designer and author based in Devon. She and her husband run a studio in which she designs, prints and sells a range of products in her distinctive style. On top of all this, she has recently found time to share her talent through a series of craft book and help classic children’s book character Miffy celebrate her 60th birthday. Jane’s success as an illustrator is down to the unique, joyful style of her work. A mix of clean shapes and lines, bold colours and playful, charming characters makes each of her creations something truly special which you can’t help but smile at! With this being such a busy and exciting time for Jane, I couldn’t wait to find out more about her inspiration, process and plans for the future.

Jane Foster owl
Can you tell us a bit about you and your work?
I’m a self taught illustrator who also screen prints, sews and collects fabric. My initial career was in music – I studied the violin at music college for 5 years, followed that by a 1 year PGCE and then taught music for 15 years before changing my career.

Jane Foster mugs
Can you tell us about your creative process? How do you document ideas and then take them forward to end products?
I always carry a note book in my bag and usually sketch and think about future ideas when I’m in a cafe. I’m very good at going to cafes on my own in order to do this, and most of my designs would have been sketched in a cafe somewhere before I then return to my studio to work on a neater version on better paper. I work with fine black line pens and my designs are then scanned into a computer in order to then be transferred onto acetate and then exposed onto a silk screen for screen printing.

Jane Foster teapot
You choose to screen print your products by hand. Is there any reason you choose to produce them this way?
It might not necessarily be the most cost effective way, as owning all your own screens etc. can be very costly, but I love the whole process. I find it very satisfying and therapeutic. I love the way every print can be slightly different, I like the way the ink sits slightly proud on the paper and I like experimenting with short runs for prototypes. Doing all the processes here is very liberating as I can design something in the morning and in theory, have it exposed on to a screen within the same day to then screen print on to fabric or paper in the evening.

Jane Foster lion drawing
Jane Foster lions
You say your work is influenced by Scandanavian design. How did you come across this sort of design and what is it that appeals to you about it?
My parents loved Scandinavian design in the 70s so I think they were a huge influence. My mum loved bold designs in primary colours, even at a time when Laura Ashley flowers might have been the trend. She shopped in Habitat and Heals and had a few Marimekko duvet covers. I like the freshness and simplicity of Scandinavian design – it’s not overly fussy and it’s often geometric.

Jane Foster ABC
What else inspires you? Are there any artists, places or objects from which you draw a lot of inspiration?
Fabric from the 50s and 60s inspire me, especially those designed by Lucienne Day and early Heals designers. I draw inspiration from ceramics, vintage children’s illustrations, like the work of Alain Gree and Dick Bruna, and also from the internet – Pinterest!

Jane Foster miffy bag
What is your studio like?
We now have a studio at home in our garden that we have just spent the past 5 months building. It’s a wonderful light and airy space, white walls and floors and full of colourful fabrics, prints and handmade toys!

Jane Foster cat apple plush
If you could see into the studio of any artist (dead or alive) who would you choose and why?
Probably Henry Mattise – I love his use of colour, especially his huge collages like his famous ‘Snail’. I think he seemed like a wonderful, interesting character and I would love to have a snoop around his studio!

Jane Foster Miffy cushion
You have produced a few products using the classic children’s character Miffy. What appealed to you about this character? And why did you choose to use it in your designs?
I grew up with Miffy books and started to collect them. Over the last ten years, I was lucky enough to source several pairs of Miffy curtains from Holland dating from the 70s. I made some cushions and bags for my daughter and a few friends and more recently, started to sell some of these items on my Etsy shop. I have always loved the simplicity of Dick Bruna’s Miffy books and think he has a real skill at not making his work too complicated. I love his simple use of outline and colour and think he’s a genius to create a character who seems timeless and is still incredibly popular today all over the world. I really enjoy combining Miffy fabric with my own fabric and 70s vintage fabrics to create purses, bags and cushions. I’ve been fortunate to sign a contract with Miffy headquarters to allow me to sell handmade Miffy items. It’s Miffy’s 60th Birthday this year so I shall be making 60 limited edition items to sell in July!

Jane Foster creative craft with kids
You have recently released your second book Creative Craft With Kids. Can you tell us a bit more about it and what inspired you to write it?
I was fortunate enough to sign a 3 book deal and this was my second one. My first book Fun With Fabric was really for adults so I thought it would be great to make my second book dedicated to projects to make with and for kids. My daughter is now 7 so I’ve had plenty of experience being creative with her these past few years so wanted to share some of my enthusiasm and ideas with others.

Jane Foster 123
Finally, what is next for Jane Foster? Any creative projects or future goals you would like to mention?
I’ve the first of my 2 pre-school children’s books out this May which is very exciting. A 123 book and an ABC book. These are published by Templar. My designs are going to be added to kitchen textiles, placemats, coasters, fine bone china mugs and glasses. These are produced by the company Make International. I’m also working on some secret commissions for next Christmas which you will discover towards the end of the year.

Shop Jane Foster products here, and see more on her blog here.

Categories ,60th Birthday, ,Alain Gree, ,Author, ,Creative Craft With Kids, ,Devon, ,Dick Bruna, ,etsy, ,Fun With Fabric, ,Greg McIndoe, ,Habitat, ,Heals, ,Henry Mattise, ,illustrator, ,Jane Foster, ,laura ashley, ,Lucienne Day, ,Make International, ,Marimekko, ,Miffy, ,Pinterest, ,Scandinavian design, ,Templar, ,Textile Designer

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