In the last of our One Year On interviews we spoke to screenprinter and textile designer Katy Welsh, jeweller Margaux Clavel (WAAN1) and illustrator Laura Robinson.
Tell us the story behind you and your business. How did you become interested in design?
Katy: I was always interested in art; it was pretty much the only thing I enjoyed at school. It was only as I got older and started thinking about “career paths” when the idea of being a designer occurred to me, I love the idea of art with a purpose, and for me designing print is a perfect way of doing that.
Margaux: I have always loved jewelry and I have always loved making things. When I was a child I attended all of the creative workshops run in my primary school and I loved it: mosaic, ceramics, drawing. Being able to make things myself, to combine shapes and colors, and to improve my technical skills was really satisfying.
Laura: I loved art when I was younger. I ended up working in one of the UK’s best Media Agencies where I stayed for over 6 years. I created my own role as their first Creative Lead and won a number of creative awards including a Young Cannes Lion and D&AD Pencil. But I got bored one Sunday afternoon and missed drawing. I did a beginner’s InDesign course at work and thought I would put my new skills to practice at home. I started to design minimalist icons for all the places I had visited and before I knew it, I had designed a small collection. Two years later and I’ve launched my first London product range.
Where did you study and what was the most useful thing you learnt from / best things about your course?
Katy: I studied Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds College of Art. Practically speaking, the best thing I learnt was how to PRINT! I absolutely love getting into the print room, mixing colours and making things. I also loved how at college the tutors really wanted us to find our individual style, and allowed this to flourish, rather than teaching us all the same thing and producing 70 identical designers as a result.
Margaux: I studied on a jewellery course at the BJOP school in Paris. After two years I moved to Lyon, where I passed a BA in jewellery making and design. In Lyon I started approaching jewellery in a more conceptual way. This is where I learned how to “think” the jewellery piece, how to link conceptual thoughts to what I was making. Then I came to London to study at the RCA. At the RCA my work evolved and changed scale. I really focused on materials and started making bigger pieces, it was a tough and amazing experience.
Laura: I studied at the University of Newcastle but in all honesty the most useful thing I did was work part time in a local Advertising Agency during term time and getting internships during the holidays! Nothing prepares you more than real life experience.
What inspired you to start your business?
Katy: I think my experience at New Designers last year was the catalyst for me to develop my practice under my own brand. I was shocked by how positive the response to my work was. Before last summer all I had wanted was to get a job designing for a studio, but speaking to people from the industry gave me the confidence in what i was doing to go it alone. I work part time for a design studio now which is great, but having the freedom to develop my own ideas too is so fulfilling! I love the variety of juggling all the different aspects of working for yourself.
Margaux: I have been making and selling jewellery to family, friends, and strangers for a long time. I started selling the pieces I was making when I was in high-school. In early 2015, I decided to finally build a proper business and try to make a living with my own work. My brand is called WWAN(1). It stands for We Will Always Need and you can pronounce it ONE.
Laura: I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial; however the real trigger for quitting my job and starting my own business was the fear of having regrets. When I was working full time I was also running my design business Laura Alice, creating a product range and trying to build a name for myself. After 6 months I came up with the idea for myicionstory.com and began speaking to web developers. When I told people my idea, the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive and I just had a real gut feeling that I should pursue it seriously.
Give us an insight into your thought process to design your work – where does your inspiration come from?
Katy: I am often driven by narrative; I like my collections to evoke a mood of a certain time or place, sometimes real, sometimes imagined. My new collection is based on the ancient Roman civilization, re envisioning motifs of classical art from a contemporary standpoint. I start by collecting lots of inspiring imagery to help me think about the style I want to pursue. I also like to start with a palette in mind too, I’m very driven by colour so having an idea of the shades I want to use often shapes my design process from a very early stage.
Margaux: I prefer to write my ideas rather than drawing them. I also have boxes full of materials, old samples and semi-precious stones. I almost always directly make what will be the final piece or a sample that I will adjust. I work a lot with wax, carving tiny faceted elements and building volume with them. Once I am happy with the shape and the design I cast them in metal. My style is not really minimal. I usually make things bigger and busier than simpler. I also often make different versions of one piece. I have many inspirations: roman jewellery, Victorian cut steel jewellery, Art Deco shapes and tribal adornments, baroque ornaments, sacred architecture…. I like weighty, textured and present pieces.
Laura: My inspiration is often very sporadic and a lot of my ideas happen when I speak to different people. People and their stories are the greatest source of inspiration and I love bouncing my thoughts around with others. It’s way more fun and it’s also how the best collaborations happen!
What materials, methods and tools do you use to make your products? / What one technique, material or tool could you not live without?
Katy: I like to play with techniques. For this project I have been experimenting with different printing methods, like lino and mono printing, but I am always drawn to collage as a means of getting my ideas onto paper. I couldn’t live without screen printing, it’s so satisfying to lay down your design one colour after another and I love how creative the process can be.
Margaux: I use the tools most goldsmiths use: different types of wax and files, a piercing saw, a wooden hammer and a triblet, calipers, all sorts of pliers, sanding sticks and a magnetic tumbler. I carve most of my pieces in wax before casting them in metal. I have also used wax to make objects and installations when I was studying at the RCA. In a way, wax and metal are quite similar materials; you can melt them, file them or add to them. I think they are the two materials I could not live without.
Laura: All of my graphic designs are created on InDesign – a lot of people question why I don’t use Illustrator but in all honesty, I fell into InDesign by chance and it just works for me. BUT the one thing I could not live without is a notebook and pen – I go everywhere with one because when I’m out and about that’s when an idea will come to my head and putting pen to paper helps me organise my thoughts.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? / What piece of advice would you give to this year’s graduates?
Katy: I think the best piece of advice I have been given is to push myself, it’s so easy to get complacent and that’s when things can get boring. My best advice to this year’s graduates is to put the kind of work in your portfolio that you would like to be paid to make, not what you think will sell.Don’t feel you have to fit into an obvious trend or do what other people are doing. Often the people who get the most attention for their work get it because they stand out.
Margaux: One of the best pieces of advice I have been given since I launched my brand is ‘If you try to please everyone, you please no one”. That is taken from a podcast series I was listening to a few months ago. As independent designers we should really try to offer inspiring designs and stand out from the crowd. It can be easy to forget when you are trying to make a living with your work, you want to make products that sell and can end up making things that aren’t really different. Finding the clients that will buy from you for your style and the story you tell takes time.
: I come across as a confident person but inside I have lots of self-doubt and get really nervous. I recently went to a speaker event and met this truly inspirational business woman. She said this: “If you don’t think you’re fabulous, then why should anyone else” So in her words, walk into a room or situation believing you are BADASS. Try it, you’ll definitely walk differently.
What have you designed that you’re most proud of? / What project are you most excited about at the moment?
Katy: I’m still really proud of one of my first print projects from Uni, I feel it was a time when I really cracked the style i wanted to work in and it was also a project that pushed me to develop my printing skills. At the moment I am really excited about developing my first collection out of college, it’s still fresh and new to be in charge of my own projects and I feel excited to be turning my design aspirations into a reality!
Margaux: Each piece I have designed and made leads in a way or another to the ones I make and will make. I am proud to see how my work is evolving, how I am improving my techniques, and enriching and sharpening my visual DNA. I am currently really excited about the new pieces I am working on and their potential development. My latest collection was mostly metal based. I have always loved gemstones and I am planning on using gemstones in some one-off variations on the pieces I am currently designing.
Laura: My new design-your-own print platform myiconstory.com. I first had the idea over 2 years ago whilst I was still working full time and it’s taken nearly a year to design and build. Building My Icon Story into a consumer friendly platform and business has been one of the biggest and most exciting personal projects I’ve ever worked on and it has been such a rewarding learning curve. I can now say that I have first-hand experience of designing and building a website, User Experience design (or UX as the cool people say), product development and project management and most importantly starting and running my own business.
Where do you want to be One Year On from now?
Katy: I want to build on what I’ve been up too this year, it would be great to be working on more independent projects in collaboration with exciting brands. I would love to see my work used in more contexts, especially fashion.
Margaux: Same place but better! More clients, more visibility, more stockists, more exciting collaborations. I want to keep designing and making pieces I love, and seeing people wearing them and cherishing them. I would also love to launch a capsule collection of non-wearable objects. I would start with candlesticks.
Laura: I want myiconstory.com to be an international success, disrupting the personalised gift market and working with fulfilment and distribution partners in local markets including the likes of New York, Dubai, Tokyo and Sydney.
Margaux – https://wwan1.com/
Laura – www.lauraaliceprints.com/