I don’t remember the first time I came across Olivia’s work, but I do know that I was enchanted from the very first moment I laid eyes on her shop, restlessthings. It was such a romantic experience — as if stumbling across a secret archive.
The combination of upcycled materials, geometric shapes, and translucent drawings blend together to create a rather exceptional ambiance.
Let’s join Olivia as she journeys into the mysterious unfathomable…
Tell us a wee bit about yourself.
My name is Olivia Jeffries, I live in Norwich in the East of England and I make small, simple drawings on reclaimed paper. These drawings come from combining barely tangible thoughts and feelings with my fascination for used paper and the indelible marks that time leaves on them.
How did you begin your foray into the world of creating art?
I studied fine art for four years, which wasn’t a great experience. After graduation I didn’t make anything creatively for a number of years but the desire to be an artist has always been there. Gradually I started to get back into it and came across Etsy by accident. I’d uncovered this whole online world of creative bloggers who were, in some instances, making a living from what they loved and knew this was something I wanted for myself. restlessthings opened early in 2007 — I’d devoted a lot of time to getting some work together and making my shop appearance memorable.
Thanks to some really great publicity from a range of blogs, my work started selling quite quickly but it was a challenge to keep up with it all. After a career in management for a number of years I became more and more unsettled and knew I needed to give more of my time to my creative self. I have since been able to go part time in my day job and focus on my drawings.
Educate us on your artistic methods; what’s the physical process like and why do you love it?
I work very intuitively and simplicity is a core feel of my work. I like to work on one thing at a time or everything just falls apart. For each day that I work in my studio I aim to complete one drawing. It’s not often that I have ideas in advance and I don’t do much in the way of sketching but prefer to clear my mind, focus on my thoughts and concerns and create in the moment.
My tools are very basic. For the most part I use my two favourite mechanical pencils, three tubes of gouache (white, blue and black), a steel ruler and a compass. There is a range of simple shapes and symbols that I use repeatedly. There’s also repetition in the marks I make on the drawings — I’m a little bit obsessive compulsive and find any kind of repetition compelling and meditative.
My mantra when I work, and for most things at the moment, is “keep it simple.” I don’t like too much colour or too many things to be happening in a drawing. There’s no easy way to describe why I love doing what I do, I just do, It’s part of me.
What inspires you?
Music is a very big part of my life and inspires me no end. Whenever I’m at work I have a steady stream of tunes blaring away to spur me along and I always make time for a little dance around in the studio. Other artists, both the greats and the undiscovered, the detritus of life, thoughts, dreams and questions are all high on the list too.
I love that you describe “barely tangible notions” as an important aspect of your work. Care to elaborate?
For anyone particularly interested in the heavy duty blurb, you can read it in my profile. In short, my work revolves around thoughts, ideas and feelings that are difficult to quantify or are imperceptible — such as the complex and unknowable nature of reality or the impossibility of feeling how someone else feels.
Tell us about your affinity for materials and objects that have been visibly worn over time. Does this translate into your personal style and home also?
New objects don’t particularly appeal to me but are sometimes a necessity. I love things that have some kind of history or aged patina to them and am always fascinated by the history of objects. A dent, a scratch or a scribble could tell us so much if they could speak! Looking around my home, I would say that my love of the old and worn is definitely there too. I have a large amount of furniture and clothing that have been thrifted, found or handed down to me. It’s so much more special than buying something new.
What does an average day in the life of restlessthings entail?
I’m not a great morning person so I usually lay in until 7:45. Then it’s tea and time to get online to check the news, my Etsy shop and and email to see what’s new. Mornings are used to potter around the house and garden and get odd jobs done, then I’m out for a mid-morning power walk for an hour. By late morning I’m home and grab another cuppa to take up to my studio. I deal with any orders that need to be sent out, relist items and generally get administrative work done. I’ll take a short break for lunch and then it’s drawing for the afternoon, punctuated by a run to the post office. I’ll usually work in my studio until 9 or 10 p.m. and then watch a good film in bed.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I have a collection of found children’s drawings that are too perfect in their naiveté for me to work over the top of so I’m getting them framed instead.
Do you have any advice for artists starting out in their career?
- Have patience.
- Don’t be afraid to do what you want to do.
- Do be prepared to work hard and stay focused.
- Hone all of your techniques and boil all of your creative ideas down into a style or product that really represents who you are.
- Remember that even being an artist is about business. Try to find someone business-minded to mentor you through key stages.
- Your work won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. When necessary, accept rejection or negativity and move on.
Name your top 5 Etsy sellers…
rackkandruin: I love to browse this shop and see all of the fabulous salvaged materials put to good use!
showpony: The vintage shoppers are ace, everyone should own one.
roseau: These delicate and otherworldly drawings are made on teabags — thus combining two of my favourite things!
woodroots: I really love the raw and organic nature of the leather and wool bags in this shop — beautiful.
littlepaperbird: The soft shades of Sarah’s hand-bound journals are stunning. Her own hand-printed books look amazing too.
Thanks to Olivia for taking part! You can see some of her beautiful work in the Seller’s Items and her Etsy picks in the Related Items below.