Tell us a bit about yourself.
David and I started Bold & Noble in 2008. David already had an illustration business called Designed By David. The bulk of his work was book covers and he’d become very established in that arena — you couldn’t walk into a bookshop without seeing his designs on the shelf. People would often email David to tell him they loved the cover he designed for such and such book, so we were mildly aware there was this positive vibe about his designs. We’d just had our first child and moved 30 minutes outside London to Hertfordshire. My background was also in graphics, art direction and websites. Although motherhood was a delight, I needed something to keep my creativity going. The thought of commuting back into London and leaving our son Wilf in childcare for 12 hour days wasn’t appealing to us.
We’d also recently struggled to find lovely wall art for our son’s room, so the idea of setting up a business that sold screenprints came to the fore. As designers you have all the right skills to set up a business – you can design a logo and website, shoot the product photography, and create the products.
We were incredibly lucky when Elle Decor, The Times and Livingetc ran features on our work within the first few months of operation. It really helped to get our name out there. Slowly shops and galleries started approaching us about selling our prints. I look back fondly to those first few months were I’d walk down to the post office with my poster tubes propped up on the buggy to dispatch our orders. Nowadays it’s a bigger operation, but I like to think we haven’t lost any personality or quality. If anything we’ve improved and streamlined the process for our customers.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I’m a working mum, so I spend a good chunk of my time trying (and often failing) to be good at that, too. Our second child is due in just over a month, so that’ll be interesting. Thankfully Sarah and Hannah — who we hired to help with packing and office work — are on hand to seamlessly dispatch our prints and keep the place ticking along nicely.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
So Much to Do, So Little Time. I’m naturally optimistic about what can be achieved in a day, but it seems I never learn.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Anything and everything: a news story, the nature around us, other artists, a piece of beautiful typography, a colour, a funny saying or quote. Now that we’re running a fully functioning business with part-time employees and overhead, it can be tricky to switch off the business brain and give ourselves time to be creative. In order to come up with new ideas, you need to have the time to play, and it isn’t easy getting to that place if you’re worrying about your tax return. Thankfully we’ve got lots of new ideas and designs that we’re working on right now, so it feels like a very creative, upbeat time.
What does handmade mean to you?
The human touch. Working with things that are tangible, that you can feel and smell. In this fast, digital age, we are lucky to still have contact with materials and be part of the process of having an idea and making it a reality.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My grandpa was a designer and cartographer in London from the 1940s to 1950s. When I was young we’d paint and draw together, and as I got older he’d show me the portfolio of his posters and advertising. I remember being gobsmacked at the simple beauty of his designs. He was a real craftsman — back then it was all done by hand, and it took time to airbrush and organize the hand-drawn type. Unfortunately, I haven’t inherited much of his patience, but he was certainly the catalyst behind my craft. When he passed away I was given lots of his collected ephemera, like London Underground maps from the 1920s onwards, and I often refer to it for inspiration.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I think we all start off as artists and makers with our early doodles and art projects. Some of us just never grow out of that phase! I’ve always known I loved making things. It’s a joy to have a simple idea in your head that you can turn into something visual or tangible.
How would you describe your creative process?
I’d like to say I have the time to mull and think over ideas, but juggling design and motherhood means that we don’t have the luxury of spare time. I tend to jot an idea down when it crops up, spend the next weeks or months resolving and developing it, before finally finding the time to get something visual on paper.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I’d like to meet Peter Blake — he always seems to be such a humble man and his studio is packed with weird and wonderful collectables. Alan Fletcher was a very witty and succinct designer; I’d like to have talked to him about his work. The sculptor Barbara Hepworth, the ceramicist Lucie Rie, the list goes on… I’d also like to go back in time and talk to my grandpa more about how he worked and what inspired him. I think he’d be proud of what we’re doing.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A 1938 poster that my grandpa designed for a Scout Fair in Harrow. It has a prime spot in our home.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
I’ve been a professional designer for nearly 15 years and there’s really no way to avoid creative ruts; you have to just go at it head first. My motto is “perseverance works” — just keep plugging away and eventually something good will come out of it.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
Where I am now, but a bit older, wiser and slimmer. Maybe I’ll have even ironed out my habit of trying to do too much in too little time by then. I’d like things to chug along as they are, with us still making things and having the time to talk to the people who like our work. We’re very grateful for our customers.