Suzanne Carpenter is a hugely busy illustrator and designer who I have admired on instagram for some time, so I am so glad she found time to submit work for my upcoming Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, creating a beautiful image inspired by her ongoing love of fish, and her daydreams of turning into a mermaid.
How did you first discover Amelia’s Magazine?
My daughter Holly first introduced me to Amelia’s Magazine when she was an art student and I’ve been a fan ever since. I’m married a to a designer and we’re more than a bit proud to have produced two new designers.Both based in London; Holly specialises in eyewear and Joe does a combination of graphic design and window vinyl. They roll their eyes if I say too much about them as they hate me being boastful. If only it was allowed I’d tell you that they’re both extremely beautiful and very, very talented. If you’re following me on instagram you’ll likely see news of them and their work cropping up from time to time. We often visit exhibitions together or share links to inspiration but they’re both a bit bemused by my enthusiasm for social media.
I believe you began your career as a graphic designer, how did you make the move into illustration?
I trained as a graphic designer but I always had a niggling need to make pictures. Not long after I graduated a friend and I jointly won a Welsh Arts Council competition to illustrate a poetry book and Staedtler employed me to travel around the country drawing with their new range of brush markers. From then on I had regular illustration work but being a butterfly brain I mixed it up with a dollop of teaching, a dabble of writing, a pinch of cushion plumping and staggering amount of staring out of the window.
Why did you settle on the name Illustrator Eye for your brand?
@illustrator_eye seemed like a fitting tag – my life is like an intense game of I Spy – constantly attracted and distracted by patterns around me. My illustrator’s eye effects my every move, from making pictures, prints and patterns to rummaging around in charity shops.
Why did you choose to draw fish for my colouring book?
I have a thing for fish. Not fin flapping, live, swishing fish but paper, wood and fabric fish. Fishes painted on dishes and things. Mid Century ceramic fish filled with abstract pattern provide oceans of decoration inspiration. Our lives, like the tides, are dependent on patterns and so I chose to impose my compulsion for pattern on flamboyant, fancy fish going with flow and teeny tiny fish that swim against the tide. Like us, all so different and yet the same.
Who or what inspired the mermaid?
When I’ve sat too long, run too far or stayed up too late, I visualise myself as a mermaid being towed along through tropical water by beautiful fish. Amazing how it helps the tensions wash away. It’s one of my more relaxing daydreams!
You are ridiculously busy, how do you manage all your different projects and stay sane?
I’m not always this busy but the small amount of sanity I’ve retained can probably be put down to a good dose of pavement pounding. Running is a good antidote to work and keeps me from becoming a moody old witch (most of the time). I did Cardiff Half Marathon earlier this month and swore it would be my last but to be honest I’m already thinking about next years. Leaving the car behind and cycling around the city has it’s blissful moment too – weaving in and out of Cardiff’s parks watching the seasons change pumps a bit more oxygen into the brain!
What is your involvement with Stills?
Stills is a branding and design company set up by my husband Chris and a partner. I’m a director and over the years I’ve been involved in lots of different projects from illustrating to creative writing and social media support for some of our clients. It’s based in a lovely old coach house on the edge of Bute Park but we’ve also set up a small studio at home and next year will be spending much of our time focusing on our own patterned dreams. You’ll soon be able to find us at @patternistas
How did you get involved with Uncle Goose wooden blocks?
Once upon a time on Instagram I posted a paisley pattern that I’d designed. I literally jumped for joy when Pete Bultman at Uncle Goose got in touch to say he’d love to put it on his handmade wooden blocks! That one is still in the pipeline but in the meantime I worked with him on their Hindi language blocks and their Swahili block set which has just been launched. They do a great job of screen printing the designs and are a dream client!
Can you tell us more about the Shed Project?
The Shed Project is the amazingly dedicated and beautifully bonkers mission of Lee John Phillips to draw every item in his late grandfather’s shed. He estimates it will take around 5 years of intensive work as he has to draw in excess of 100,000 items. His story has captured imaginations right across the world and his following is growing by the minute. We initially became friends through instagram when it became apparent that not only were we from the same Welsh Valley but we both had a thing for fish! I’m over the moon that he’s suggested that we collaborate on some images for prints. His tools and bolts and my plant patterns (or planterns as he’s named them). We’re going to do some vector and some line images and we may even put them on coffee pots.
I believe you are working on a big Christmas campaign for a shopping centre in the USA, what kind of work are you creating for them?
It’s all ginger bread, santa houses, snowflakes and sparkles in my world at the moment. I’m working on the Christmas campaign for The Grove and Americana at Brand in LA. The commission came from them seeing my work on Illustration Mundo. They were looking for a very graphic, patterned, vector style and so I happily my work fitted the bill. I’ve got a great long list of images to get done by the end of Oct so I think I’ll be hanging a few baubles from my ears and getting the Christmas albums out to keep me going.
What else are you working on at present?
I’ve just finished a mural in the garden of a local organic cafe – I’d love to do more of that. Through my agents Artist Partners I’ve recently illustrated the cover and sample pages for a book about the wildlife of the rainforest. I’ve just had news that it went down well at Frankfurt Book Fair and so fingers crossed that more of my days will be spent growing leaf patterns and putting legs on insects! Along with Chris I’m working on a series of videos for Interface (sustainability champions and the worlds largest manufacturer of contract carpet tiles) – they’ll be used to help train their sales team. I’ll be doing the scripting and storyboarding and Chris will be videoing my live drawing. I’ve done a couple of prints for the 5th anniversary exhibition of Sho, my favourite local gallery. I’m doing a few days as a visiting lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan Uni this month – helping run a collage/layout project with a lovely group of 1st yr graphic students. I’m developing some ideas for a pattern book which I hope to present to publishers as soon as I can find some extra hours in the day to finish visualising them. I’ve taken part in ‘Out Fox’ a 3D paper project by Proyecto Ensamble who are based in Chile. They supply the fox head template and 13 illustrators from across the world have designed a pattern to feature on them. The set are just launching – see them on instagram @ensamble
Find Suzanne Carpenter and many other talented artists in my upcoming Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, available soon on Kickstarter, the perfect alternative colouring book to gift this Christmas.
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