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Be inspired every day with Living North
Meet the Maker: Rhianne Sian Designs
November 2021
Reading time 4 Minutes

Having always known she wanted a career within art and design

Rhianne Johnson set up her own illustration and surface pattern design business taking inspiration from the architecture, wildlife and landscapes around her.

Tell us about yourself.

I have been obsessed with art and design from a very young age. I studied textiles throughout school, college and university and knew that I wanted a career in a creative field. I’ve always loved illustration and once I discovered surface pattern and the simple concept that any of my drawings could be stylised into a design and made into an actual product, the possibilities became endless and my career became clear.

How did Rhianne Sian Designs come about?

I graduated in 2017 with a First Class Honors Degree in Textiles and Surface Design at the Northern College of Art. I spent some time interning in Kent and London, as well as exhibiting my final major project at New Designers Graduate Show. Although I was open to various creative opportunities, I knew my passion was to own my own design business. I received a huge amount of encouragement from family and friends and decided to put anxiety behind me and just go for it!

I initially launched my business in December 2018 whilst still working part time. I started small, creating designs from the large archive of artwork that I had collected over the years, and spent hours researching product and printing manufacturers in the UK. I then started sending off sample requests to find the perfect manufacturers for my brand. As my business grew bigger it naturally demanded more and more of my time so I decided to take the risk and go full time in 2019. I knew to grow the business further I needed to get my designs and products out to as many people as I could, so I spent almost every weekend that year trading at retail events, pop-up shops and exhibitions. I also created my own website and started to sell my products at wholesale, as well as juggling commission and bespoke designs.

What is the vision for the business?

My vision for the future is always changing. I have lots of ideas of how I would like my brand to grow, but I would love nothing more than to have a shop and an open studio filled to the brim with inspiration for customers and other creatives. I would also love to explore interior design including luxury wallpaper and homeware whilst working closely with other businesses. Every element of my business is considered carefully, whether it’s the creative process, the product design, exhibition displays, or the selling experience – the whole journey is important and I want to continue that in the future.

What inspires your work?

Whilst studying I was always encouraged to build a strong concept behind my artwork and I have always enjoyed this part of the design process as I think it gives each product meaning. I’m massively inspired by architecture, which was the vision behind my Durham, Newcastle and York designs – I love creating these and try not to feel pressure into putting the obvious structure into my design, but instead include a personal aspect of how that city is visually represented in my eyes. I’m also very inspired by wildlife and country landscapes, as I love animals who have huge amounts of character – they’re so fun to draw.

Talk us through the process of creating a design.

I start my process with an initial idea and build a brief concept around it. For me, this makes the research more fun and ideas come a lot more easily when I have a story or theme to build upon. I then find some visual research by looking through magazines or on Pinterest, and I often go out visiting museums or simply go for a walk to get some ideas.

I will then begin the drawing stage, sketching and creating backgrounds and textures which can be used in the design, but I often get distracted with other projects so this part usually takes the longest. Once I have my initial drawings or paintings I photograph and clean them up on Photoshop. Using my Wacom tablet, I like to develop my illustrations by adding more detail, texture and collaging lots of layers to find the best composition. The finished piece is now a digital format and ready for print or product placement.

Do you have a favourite product?

It’s hard for me to pinpoint one product because I love them all. They’ve all taken so long to develop and perfect and it’s not only about the products themselves but the small details such as packaging and finishing touches too. What always seems to get the biggest reaction from my customers is my hand-finished prints and canvases.

What’s the best thing about what you do?

I love having the freedom to be myself and express my own style through design, and the fact that people want my designs in their homes means the absolute world to me!

Are you bringing anything new to Living North’s Christmas Fair?

I have some exciting new products including beautiful tote bags, luxury stationery and kitchen textiles. I also have a handful of new designs which I have been working on this year and I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks!

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