Why did you set up Gillian Arnold Design?
I did a degree and an MA in Textiles and I have always wanted to do my own design work but I was always a bit scared. I started doing printing, mosaic and sculpture workshops in London and would go around inner-city schools doing loads of different projects with kids. It was lovely but it was very hard work. My husband could see that I was really frustrated and he said, ‘I married an artist – why aren’t you doing your own work?’ I felt that it was now or never. I was six months pregnant with our first baby, but because I had been bursting to do it for so long, I came up with a ridiculous amount of work between then and giving birth. And that work is still selling – I did a lot of art prints and monoprint-style pieces.
How do you make your work?
My husband and I work on the business together from our house. He’s involved in the technical side of things, running the large format printers and he is very good with the social media too. We use industrial equipment, which is all in our house. We take up three bedrooms for the business. Inside one are the large format printers for doing the reproduction prints. I’ve got my studio in another room, which is also our photography studio where we do our own product and model shots. We also have a little room for printing the mugs.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get all my inspiration from the different plants I find, which are often very over-looked plant life. I add colour to them and they act as a resist against my painterly backgrounds. A lot of people say the work looks like batik and it does – in batik the wax is the resist but in my work the plants are the resist. It gives a sharp, photographic look. I print directly with the plants, which is why there is so much detail and an almost 3D effect. I absolutely love cow parsley and Queen Anne’s lace, which is a plant that usually grows on the side of the road with cow parsley and has a lovely delicate look to it. A lot of my new designs feature astrantia, which look like little flowers. I like pretty plants but they have to be quite obscure-looking as well.
What are your most popular products?
The cusp bracelets and the stacking mugs are the two bestsellers. The stacking mugs are great because they can be a statement piece in somebody’s kitchen. A lot of people love the glass coasters too because they are so saturated with colour and, with being glass, they are also really durable.
What is the best part about what you do?
I really appreciate the opportunity to express the designs, colour and compositions going around in my head and get them down as designs and then see them produced. I don’t take that lightly at all. I love the process of coming up with art prints and if I could get away with it, that’s what I would do all day, every day. I feel that, as a designer, I am always scratching the surface and never getting to the bottom of what I am aiming for. I am constantly learning.
Is there such a thing as an average working day?
An average working day is pretty crazy. I get very little time to design – everything is about manufacturing and marketing the products and delegating jobs to our three staff. They are trainees doing NVQs, which is fantastic – there is quite a lot of incentive now for businesses, even small ones, to take people on and train them up in design.
In five years what would you like to be doing?
I would love to be more financially established so that I can work on more products. I want to develop a fashion range – I am working on skirts and a baby range at the minute – and I would love to launch other homeware products too, like wallpaper. But it’s all about being more established so that I can have the freedom to concentrate on design and help others with what they want to do.
Gillian Arnold 0800 625 0625
www.gillianarnold.co.uk Stockists regionwide