On this blog I’m going to be introducing a monthly designer spotlight post. This is an opportunity for me to share with you a designer in the interior design field who I greatly admire, for their creativity, passion and flair with colour. Their products will be mouth-wateringly gorgeous enough for me to use in my own projects, so I think you might like them too. It’s going to also be a chance to highlight some smaller businesses, and celebrate entrepreneurship in this industry, which is another thing I’m passionate about. Independent designers are what keep our business interesting and our interiors unique.
So first up in long term pattern crush, Anna Jacobs, Anna is a well established name now, having cemented her reputation with a fabulous long standing ‘pop up shop’ next door to Heals on London’s interiors Mecca, Tottenham court Rd. She has just launched a collection for the Heal’s Festival of Light in London – (also available on Anna Jacobs) a collection of peacocks, violet backed starlings, black swans and violet trees and, whch is all very on trend. I’ve always recognised Anna as a fellow colour colour and her designs are exquisite, and a have a spirit to lift a scheme. Indeed my Mum absolutely fell in love with Anna’s work, and her lamps were a starting point for my Mum’s redesign of her annex. She was inspired by the exquisite artistry of Anna’s hand drawn designs and the Breaking Dawn lamps take pride of place in her bedroom, setting the colour scheme for the rest of the room. So I was thrilled to catch up with Anna and dig a little deeper into her creative process and business growth.
• So how did you get into this bussiness, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Well, after Bristol University I actually started off in a girl band called The Shrinking Violets, supporting Robson & Jerome. Then I moved into theatre – producing and marketing for a theatre of science for children and then Clean Break, which is an incredible theatre company and drama school for women prisoners and ex-offenders. After a spell of charity fundraising, I then ended up being asked to set up and Head the new Marketing and Business Development Department for a big City law firm. I only intended to stay for a year, but ended up staying for 8 years!
• So how did your brand take shape and how did your career take off?
All during the time I was doing those other jobs, what I really wanted to do was create art. I dabbled at painting on and off, but nothing ever quite came together. Then when I was pregnant with my second child I just couldn’t wait any longer – I left the law firm and was determined to find a new creative path, so took some short courses in painting, surface pattern design and interior design at Chelsea College of Arts and Central St Martin’s art school. However, shortly afterwards I lost everything (long story!) and unexpectedly found myself at the age of 41 as a single parent of a 9 month old baby and a toddler with no money, nowhere to live and no career. So, the moment my toddler started school about a year later I put out some feelers to get some sort of creative work. In those first two weeks of September I was incredibly lucky to be offered my first solo show of paintings at a local art gallery, a teaching job at Chelsea College of Arts and my first interior design job. The show sold really well and the gallery owner, who also had a lovely homewares shop above the gallery, said to me that if I made my Welsh Reflection painting into a lampshade she’d sell it in her shop. It then took me two years to work out how to make a lampshade! But once I’d done it – and designed a few more from my paintings, as well as some cushions – I tested them in the gallery shop and at the Dulwich Artists’ Open House show – and the show sold out. That was in May 2014. From there I was selected for the New talent section at Top Drawer, a big homewares trade show at Olympia and I got my first 15 stockists in the UK from that show. It’s really just grown from there.
• Your products are really like works of art. Where do you find your inspiration?
Having been through a really rough time, I got a bit obsessed with gardening and became fascinated by watching the life cycle of the plants. When they ‘died’ I was often reluctant to cut them down because they looked so beautiful, so through my paintings I started exploring the idea that beauty doesn’t always have to be young and perfect. The greatest beauty can actually come through ageing and imperfection. Come to think of it, I might start exploring that again post haste, as I’m turning 50 next year!
• Can you describe your design process?
It all starts with my original paintings. I’ll have an idea for a bird or another image that makes me feel happy and inspired and then study the form with lots of pencil sketches, before creating the final painting in pen and ink on watercolour paper – often playing with the original colour. If I think the painting lends itself to product design, I then have it scanned by a specialist art printer and I start manipulating the painting into fabric design. When I’m in the midst of intense designing I sometimes start losing perspective about what is actually working and what isn’t, so I use my family a lot as a barometer. I’ll send them screenshots of the designs first to test initial reactions. Once I’ve crossed that hurdle I get the first test print done, which is always a bit nerve wracking because the colour can print on fabric completely differently from how it looks on my screen and at this stage I can see that sometimes some designs just aren’t going translate on to fabric, so I leave them. I then try the fabric of the more successful ones in all sorts of settings, draped across various sofas and lampshades, so that I can see how they actually work in a domestic setting and in different lights. I might then make some alterations and will usually go through two more print tests for scale, placement and colour, before reaching the final artwork.
• Take me through a typical day.
I typically get up at about 5.30 am and start working straight away with an apple and a large mug of coffee at the desk in my bedroom, so that I can get a good couple of hours in before the kids wake up. Then the morning is usually emails, general running of the business, ordering stock etc, interweaved with putting on a wash of dirty school clothes.
Then I’ll often have art prints to pick up, sign and ship to customers from my specialist art printer who is local. I might also get some sketching or designing done and I’ll inevitably have a lot more to respond to on the business side. By 3.20 most days I’m off to pick up the kids from school and they’re pretty happy to play while I carry on working for another couple of hours. We always try to have a family dinner with the three of us; then once they’re in bed, I’ll do another hour or two of work, before collapsing in bed myself.
• What’s next
I’ll be starting to develop new product lines – ceramics and …. Well you’ll just have to keep up on Instagram and spot the new things coming through. You can find me on https://www.instagram.com/annalysejacobs/
Thanks to Anna for giving her time to interview and I’m personally really looking forward to seeing that new ceramics collection. You can visit Anna’s shop in London to see the full range at 196 Tottenham Court Road (Between Heal’s and Habitat), London, W1T 7LQ, UK.
Next month I hold my designer Spot light with surface and textile designer Molly Mahon.