From the moment we discovered illustrator Natalie Lea Owen’s quirky, bright and cheerful designs, we just knew we had to find out more. Here, Natalie tells us about her passion for patterns and bold colours, and why she loves making products that put a smile on people’s faces.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…. I’m a 26-year-old illustrator and textile designer, based in London, creating fun and colourful prints. I design stationery, home textiles and accessories and I specialise in repeating patterns and using a strong use of colour. I launched my own range of greetings cards, notebooks, tea towels and cushions in October 2015, with the support of The Prince’s Trust.
What’s your average day like? As I run my own business, I don’t have a typical day as such. I could be doing anything from packing up wholesale orders or sales from my online shop to updating my website, bookkeeping, social media marketing or creating new designs or products (as well as having my own range of products, I also design for other shops such as Waitrose and Hallmark Cards). Some days I’ll have a market stall – I love to sell at Crafty Fox markets because they’re always such fun.
What inspires you? I really like drawing buildings, so unusual architecture or cute cottages always catch my eye. I also like to sketch my favourite places, such as the beautiful canal filled with willow trees at Camden Lock.
How did you get into illustration and design? I’ve always been arty and loved making things and when I was a little girl – I was obsessed with cutting out paper snowflakes! I studied textiles and art at school, followed by an Art Foundation. I initially wanted to be a costumier, so I moved to Cardiff to study costume construction for screen and stage. I loved it, but felt I wasn’t fulfilling my dream, so I moved to Leeds College Art to study BA (Hons) Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design. It was the best decision I’ve ever made! We studied traditional drawing skills, printmaking techniques, bookbinding, copper plate etching, screen printing, and had plenty of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator workshops. It really meant that I was industry-savvy by the time I graduated.
Your work contains lots of cute and quirky designs. Do you have any favourites? I think out of all my designs, my favourite is the blue floral pattern I created for my new range of zipped pouches – it’s inspired by psychedelic 70s florals and is really bold. I wanted to make something that was really useful, but also really fun and bright so people could enjoy using it. Ultimately, I like to make products that add a bit of fun to someone’s day and can put a smile on your face.
How do you go about creating your original pieces? I start off in black and white, with pen and paper. I create my detailed illustrations with black fine liner and then I digitise them in Photoshop or Illustrator so I can play around with different motifs and experiment with different layouts. I then add colour and texture to the designs and use a graphics tablet to draw in extra details. If I’m designing a long length of fabric or a wallpaper drop I create a technical repeating pattern. Then all my designs are digitally printed onto environmentally-friendly paper, or high quality fabrics.
How do you choose which colours to work with? Colour is an important aspect of my work and, for me, it can be the trickiest yet most fun part of the design process. I have a special book where I put together different colour combinations that I like, as well as pieces torn from magazines or fabric swatches. I also research fashion and interiors colour trends and use a Pantone guide to make sure I pick the nicest shades.
What other crafts do you enjoy? I really got into weaving last year. My friend taught me how to make a loom using a wooden picture frame and some nails, and it’s brilliant! I make my friends little wall hangings for their birthdays, using their favourite colours.
Where can people find your work? You can find my products in the following shops: We Built This City in London’s Carnaby Street, The Prince’s Trust Tomorrow’s Store in Liverpool Street, Makers and Designers Emporium in The Cotswolds and online shops such as Not On The High Street, I am FY, To Dry For and Ethical.Market.
Before you go, what are your top three crafty tips for Homemaker readers? 1. Always plan ahead, but don’t overdo it as this can ruin the fun! 2. Make sure you’ve got lots of nice materials to work with, so you can really be creative and spontaneous. 3. Don’t stress too much if something doesn’t turn out how you imagined – practice makes perfect and it’s all part of the process.
Find out more abour Natalie at natalieleaowen.co.uk. Follow Natalie on Twitter @nat_lea_owen.