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 Suzanne Carpenter: Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion featured artist.

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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.

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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.

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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.

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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.

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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.

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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!

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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!

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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!

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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.

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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.

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
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

Suzanne Carpenter Illustator Eye
Where can people find you online?
You can find me on instagram at @illustrator_eye, on twitter at @illustrator_eye, on etsy here, at Stills and at Artist Partners.

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.

Categories ,#ameliasccc, ,@illustrator_eye, ,@patternistas, ,Adult Colouring Book, ,Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, ,americana, ,Artist Partners, ,Brand, ,Cardiff Half Marathon, ,Cardiff Metropolitan Uni, ,Colorado State University, ,Coloring, ,Colouring, ,Colouring Book, ,fish, ,Frankfurt Book Fair, ,I Spy, ,illustration, ,Illustration Mundo, ,Illustrator Eye, ,Interface, ,interview, ,Kickstarter, ,Lee John Phillips, ,Mermaid, ,Mid Century, ,Out Fox, ,Proyecto Ensamble, ,Shed Project, ,Sho, ,Staedtler, ,Stills, ,Suzanne Carpenter, ,The Grove, ,Uncle Goose, ,Welsh Arts Council

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