Designing and producing her own artisan products, Su Owen has been hand printing a wide range of artworks from homeware to clutch bags since 2012. Involving herself in all aspects of the creation process, Su’s unique designs are both charming and timeless. She chats to The LuxPad about her career so far and talks us through her creative process…
Has surface pattern designing always been a career aspiration?
From about the age of 17 (I’m now 45), yes it has. I went to Art College straight after leaving school and quickly realised textile design was what I wanted to do. I was especially interested in print design because of the many possible directions that could take.
What made your decision to move away from teaching and how did it feel to launch your own collection?
I’ve always been interested in starting my own business, even when I was teaching I carried on drawing and making. I quit teaching as I wanted to take on a new challenge before I lost the will and motivation! I’ve also always felt compelled to design and make my own products. I launched my first collection of ‘Illustrated Textiles’ at Top Drawer last autumn. Mainly designs on silk for cushions, scarves and purses.
A lot of your designs feature fictional characters and floral prints, what do you draw your inspiration from?
I love drawing flowers, I have always enjoyed drawing in a detailed way and then stylizing the drawings to create interesting patterns. The characters in the last collection started life as a collection of paper cuts that I had worked on based around a circus theme. I drew them at a time when I was going to a lot of cabaret and burlesque events.
Have your inspirations changed since making the move from Bolton to Norfolk?
I moved away from Bolton many years ago when I first went to Art College in Dewsbury, Yorkshire. I’ve lived in Norfolk for about 25 years now! I still go back up north to visit family as often as I can though! Norfolk has been an inspiration, the countryside, seaside and Norwich in particular. Norwich is a very arty place, there’s always a lot going on in terms of arts events (such as the cabaret I mentioned earlier!) exhibitions and other artists and designers to be inspired by.
Do you have a favorite design from your collection?
My personal favorite is the ‘Alice’ design, obviously inspired by Alice in Wonderland. That design also started life as a large paper cut design. At the moment I really love green!
You are heavily involved in the creation process, can you talk us through how an idea becomes reality?
I sketch and scribble a lot of ideas in sketchbooks. I draw inspiration from many sources and use Pinterest as a way as gathering inspiring resources for colour and composition. All of my designs start as hand drawn or painted images which I scan in to my Mac and play around with on Photoshop. It can take as little as a couple of hours to 2 or 3 weeks until I am happy with a final idea. Often I have a few ideas on the go. The final design is digitally printed on silk by specialist silk printers in the UK. I hand make most of my final products but I am looking more to outsourcing so that I can focus more on the designs.
Do your products reflect your own interior styling?
Yes and no! My own house is usually very messy as I have 2 out of my 3 kids still at home! My perfect home would be an eclectic mix of furniture, dark walls with bright splashes of colour and texture. I love very textured fabrics and detail such as embroidery and pleats! I really like designers such as Missoni, Klaus Haapaniemi, Abigail Borg and Niki Jones.
When you have a break from creating, what do you like to do?
I feel fortunate that my job is also my hobby but when I am not drawing or making I like reading, gardening and playing computer games. I also like knitting or crochet – very simple stuff though!
What is the most important piece of advice you have been given?
The most important piece of advice I have been given is to ‘stick at it’. It can be very difficult at times to maintain motivation and confidence levels, especially in a very competitive market place when there is so much amazing stuff out there! Not knowing what is around the corner can be both daunting and exciting.
You experiment a lot with colors and design, where do you see your pieces heading to in the future?
I am working on a new collection at the moment where color and pattern is definitely a focus. I would like this collection to be a bit more ‘grown up’ so I am moving away from characters. Florals will be the main feature but much more detailed and painterly than my previous designs. I’ve found over the last few months that I really love the possibilities for printed scarves. I have quite a collection of vintage scarves myself. I’d like to expand more into fashion and so adding to my existing scarf designs seems like a good place to start.
Shop Su Owen designs now available at Amara.