With thanks to Nicola Tree for use of this image.
I didn’t need to stumble far to meet my next maker. Anja Jane lives across the road from me! She probably can see me bent over my sewing machine on winter nights when I haven’t yet drawn the curtains. She just happens to be an awesome fabric designer and illustrator and I have bought and recommended several of her projects. (Not only are her tea towels fabulously witty and clever, but they stand up to really hot washes!) I popped across the road and asked Anja if she’d let us into the fascinating details of life as a fabric designer.
Anja, you may or may not be aware that a great fabric print is heaven to most of my readers! Would you mind telling us a little about how you got into this line of work?
I studied printed textile design at university. It was obvious that I was a pattern maker on my art foundation course and it was suggested by my tutor that I took this route. I then received an offer of an internship in New York at London Fashion week.
Are there any key elements that make a fabric print really fantastic? Details we should look out for?
Colour and craftmanship. I find British designers have all of these. I love the artists at St Judes, they offer quality fabric and design and all their designs are timeless.
I know you’re not only a fabric designer. How did you come to explore new commercial fields such as posters, tea towels, cushions – even iPhone cases?
Having an obsession with print and colour, I like all my objects to have this type of detailing. Giant Sparrows are a great new emerging British company so I approached them as I thought my designs would work on their phone covers.
May I ask about your creative process? I’m fascinated about how you produce your illustrations. Are they wood cuts?
My limited edition prints are all screen printed. This is a much more lengthy process then digital and creates a beautiful handmade feeling. The overlay of colour is much more interesting and I like that each piece is individual.
You’re living the dream that many of my readers fantasise about – running your own business. Could you give us a few tips for making self-employment work for creatives.
Self employment is a freer life option if you find it difficult being told what to do or enjoy having control over your life. I work in a space with motivated and inspiring creatives. My studio at Stour Space in Hackney Wick is great for this. Having a clearly defined work space is really important. It stops procrastination and allows focus. There are lots of resources to help self employed designers, such as The Design Trust. I have also joined a creative network which is an EU funded project helping small creative enterprises become more profitable. It has been key in helping me progress my business giving me fresh ideas and confidence to try new things.
Finally, I’m a great believer in exercise and meditation for when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
I’m curious to know what you need from your creative space. What do you just have to have around you?
My creative space has lots of light. I’m in the roof of a warehouse so we have light streaming through the ceiling. I share my space with a children’s book illustrator and next door is an origami artist and a painter. I also need good coffee and the counter cafe in Stour Space do a great flat white!
One last question – about your mum! (Anja’s mum quilts, readers, and taught me to make this cushion.) How did she inspire you to follow your chosen path in life?
My mum inspires me through her proactivity, creativity energy combined with practicality. Having grown up with her making everything around us, clothes, curtains, cushions I even remember her sewing the fabric for our deck chairs! This must have rubbed off on me and given me an interest in fabric from an early age.
Thanks so much, Anja! I’d never even heard of St Judes. What do you think, readers? Would you love the life of a freelance designer and illustrator, living across the road from Didyoumakethat Towers?!