Interview with British Artist & Designer Anna Jacobs

1 Aug 2018

Anna Jacobs drawing
Anna Jacobs

‘Made in Britain-Created in London’, is the brand tag line of Anna Jacobs. A British artist and designer, she took courses in painting and design at Central St Martins, Camberwell and Chelsea College of Art and after selling her first painting to her 6th form teacher she has never looked back. Selling art and being commissioned across the globe, working on interior design projects, she also teaches Colour Theory and Upcycling at Chelsea College of Arts. Launched in January 2015, her home collection has beautiful art at the core of each and every design and features cushions & lampshades with the most strikingly beautiful prints.

Anna shares her secrets to success with us below...

What is the biggest influence behind your designs and how do you remain inspired?

I’m influenced by all sorts of things – people, culture, design, colour, emotion! The biggest influence behind my designs is the desire to communicate a sense of happiness, clarity, strength and peace all combined in one. To be a bit more precise, I’m influenced by the incredible women I come across every day who manage to juggle so many responsibilities and friendships with so much grace, strength and humour. I’m influenced by a love of colour and the affect it can have on us individually and how it can transform a space. I love the Japanese aesthetic and although I don’t directly reference it I’m certainly subconsciously influenced by it in my painting style. I’m fascinated by all aspects of contemporary design and so references to anything, from a piece of architecture, to a knitted scarf to a ceramic pot could seep into my work.

What is your favourite part of what you do, teaching, designing products or interior designing?

Well I enjoy all three actually, all for different reasons, but if I had to pick one it would probably be product design.

Anna Jacobs light being made
Anna Jacobs

With your product designs can you take us through the process of initial idea to finished design, how long can it take you to create a piece?

All my products begin from one of my original paintings, which I exhibit. The flying birds are all painted in pen and ink on paper and the flowers and plants are generally painted in acrylic and ink on scraped plaster. First of all I choose a painting to develop which I think might translate well into a product and have it scanned by a specialized fine art printer at a very high resolution, so that I can retain all the subtlety and detail of the original brush work. Then I play with scale, colour and orientation on my computer to shape and hone the image for a three dimensional product. Once I’m happy I then go through an extensive print testing process for colour and size with my digital printers, as different fabrics hold and change the original colour in different ways and this will change from batch to batch.

Once the fabric is printed it also has to be washed and at that point it can shrink between 2% and 10% in either direction and this will also vary from batch to batch, so I have to make sure my design will still fit the product in whichever way it shrinks – or doesn’t! That’s why there are sometimes variations from piece to piece in exactly where the image is placed on the product or how deep the colour is. At the moment I’m also printing on 100% natural fabrics – linens, cottons and silks - so there will always be little slubs, dark threads, or variations in the weave here and there, but I love this, because it adds to the character and uniqueness of each piece.

What do you think is currently the biggest threat to the British design industry and how would you fix it?

I really think that the exodus of skills from the UK can make it very difficult for a new designer to get off the blocks. The Far East, and for various types of product other European countries for example, are far cheaper for manufacturing, raw materials and skilled labour, but to make it worth it you have to place huge minimum orders and then the process of prototyping can be incredibly slow as pieces are shipped backwards and forwards, and then communication slows. Then you finally have a product which needs to be shipped vast distances and you have to travel abroad to see the manufacturing hub etc. etc. However, manufacturing in the UK is a joy and can be very fast, as you can communicate and exchange ideas and physical products overnight or even within hours. So if you are a new designer, wanting to create small initial batches of products, UK manufacturing would be far better, as the costs and timings of overseas manufacturing can be prohibitive.

The problem is that it can be much more expensive and we’ve lost so many skilled artisans.  The Government is doing a fantastic re-shoring initiative, which will of course help and there are wonderful organizations such as Make it British, who are gathering support for British manufacturing, but I’m sure we could do more. One project I’d love to get going at some point is training single parents in various craft skills, which they can use at home and flexibly around their childcare responsibilities.

Anna Jacobs cushion and light
Anna Jacobs

How would you describe your own interior style and what is your most prized possession?

I would say my own interior style is ‘Artistic Urban’ – I’m sure that’s not an official category – so, contemporary with a mix of sleek upcycled and craft pieces with lots of art, whether 2 dimensional or 3 dimensional, creating a happy and stimulating home.

My most prized possession – group of possessions actually – is the growing collection of artworks I have, which have been made by friends and colleagues.

If you weren’t a designer and teacher what would you be?

For years I wanted to be a doctor, but quite surprisingly I did much better in my Art O Level than in my science O Levels. So then I wanted to be an actor – I tried, but I was completely rubbish at remembering my lines and always aimed to squeeze out a real tear on stage, which really isn’t the point!

Anna Jacobs light
Anna Jacobs

What three tips would you offer someone looking to quickly revamp their interior space?

1) Identify the object you love most – either something you already have or buy something you’ve been longing for - and then reorganize your interior around that.

2) Create a colour palette of 3 colours that you love and that work beautifully together and then edit down your current pieces to just the things that are in those colours. You can then add as and when you wish – but be disciplined with the colour. A clear cohesive colour palette can transform a space.

3) Simply spring clean and switch all your furniture and art around. It can almost feel like you have a new place without spending any money at all!

What do you think has been the secret to your success?

That’s quite a hard question. Three things actually – I’ve started my design career in my 40s, so I’ve got a load of life experience behind me; I’ve got an incredibly supportive network of family, friends and colleagues; and providing a secure, happy and creative life for my children is a driving imperative. I also think quite simply many people love colour, which I do too!

Anna Jacobs cushion and light
Anna Jacobs

What has been your career highlight so far and why?

Well actually, designing the outside of a 60ft ex-round-the-world racing yacht for an adventure sailing company called Rubicon 3 and waving it off on its first expedition to the Arctic Circle. The design includes a huge detail of my Sipping Nectar print, so they renamed the yacht ‘Hummingbird’ and now it gets spotted all round the world!

Where do you see yourself and your brand in five years’ time?

I hope that I will be exporting beautifully crafted British homewares around the world and that my kids, who would then be 12 and 10, would see my designs in shops and magazines and be proud that they have been part of creating them with their mum.