Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up?
Well, I just turned 50, so I’ve officially broken through to the other side. It’s not so bad after all. I’ve three kids who are amazing and a hubby who’s a keeper. I grew up in suburban Sydney with nine older siblings so with five big brothers I naturally became the resident bowler. After 21 years of living the dream in Bondi Beach we bought a little shack in Wollongong. It’s been a lovely change, and we’ve enjoyed meeting the locals and discovering quiet beaches.
When did you start work as an illustrator/designer?
Around 2003, after I had completed a Diploma in Costume and Set Design at Enmore Design School I started making and selling wedding dresses, a range of soft furnishings and bags. This ultimately led me to up skill in textile design, as I wanted to create my own fabric for my products. I studied two online courses, The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design and Lilla Rogers’ Make Art That Sells. My portfolio started to take shape. I became a print a designer for a fashion label and continued developing my personal work.
Tell us about your design style. Have you always had this style or has it evolved/changed over time?
I used to draw with a black Artline and scan into Illustrator. This resulted in a fairly clean folky style with flat planes of colour. My style has naturally grown over the years. I now like to paint instead. I like the natural and lively qualities paint can bring to a design. It allows me to be a little more expressive and gives me more freedom to make a mess. I like to paint Australian flora and fauna and often try to create a sense of place.
Talk us through your creative process.
I look for inspiration in nature, in books and online. I like to spend time researching topics of interest, visiting my local library and reading about people, history and art. I also enjoy researching colour palettes. I might look at a Ken Done painting or photograph colour combinations I spot while I’m out and about. I’m a bit sentimental at heart, so I like to find connections for my designs and I think that’s what drives me. I use pencil first, then paint with gouache then scan and colour in Photoshop. If I start a design early in the morning it usually takes until mid afternoon for things to take shape, more complex designs can take days to complete.
Have you always been involved in this industry? What did you do in another life?
When I finished school I went and studied Visual Arts majoring in photography. That degree set the foundations for what I do today. I went on to teach art in high schools in the western suburbs of Sydney while studying Special Education. It was a baptism of fire. I lived in Japan and taught English, which was fantastic. I worked for a few years as a Special Education teacher in an Islamic school, which I enjoyed so much. After my third child I started a home tutoring business for children struggling with learning.
When and how did you meet Nerida Hansen?
I read an article about Nerida on the Print and Pattern blog about four years ago and built up the courage to email her. I was wanting to show my work to an Australian art agent and she sounded perfect. I was overjoyed when she agreed to get my designs out to the world. Nerida has taken my portfolio to Frankfurt, New York and has secured contracts with Spotlight over the last couple of years. It’s funny to think after all our collaborations I’m yet to meet this tenacious woman.
Talk us through your typical day.
Most of my days are unpredictable, completely disorderly and challenging as I work full time in a special school. Working with these students is brilliant. It does make it a little harder to do my design work on a daily basis, however I’ve organised my days and weeks carefully so that I can design during the evenings and on weekends. Thankfully I have the school holidays to focus solely on design.
Who inspires you and why?
I’m inspired by William Morris for his intricate and symmetrical interpretations of nature. Ken Done and Jenny Key for their incredible use of colour. I love the art of Margaret Preston for her strong composition. David Hockney for his electric landscapes and the Dutch masters for their use of light.
What would be your dream project?
I’ve always thought having a fabric collection with Liberty would be pretty cool.
What is in the pipeline for you?
Nerida and I are in cahoots again so keep your eyes peeled around summer. I also have another fabric collection coming out with Spotlight which is exciting.
What advice would you offer to those that are starting out as designers/illustrators?
There is so much to love about being a designer/illustrator. It’s definitely good for the soul. Find your voice, be true to yourself, and chip away. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different mediums and have fun. Study the great artists,
and just go for it.