What is your greatest achievement so far, and what are you particularly proud?
Getting through to the interview stage of Liberty’s Best of British Open Call at the beginning of the year was pretty exciting. I got to show my products to managing director Ed Burstell himself and the head homewares buyer! They were very impressed by the quality of my work but said the colours were perhaps a little too subtle for Liberty.
It has also felt like a big achievement just to have produced lots of new designs and products in the past year. I’ve made a big effort to somewhat re-brand Sky Siouki over the last year with my launch of the Flight collection and new ranges of cards, tea towels, mugs, notebooks and zip pouches more recently. It has been a real success so I feel very proud of myself for using what I’d learnt in the early years of running my business to my advantage and pushing things forward without giving up when the going got tough.
How would you describe your work?
My work is very hand-rendered and nature inspired – I’d say those are the two key elements. Nature has always been my biggest inspiration since I just love animals and the countryside. I’m also very inspired by Shilo Engelbrecht and Jessica Zoob’s textiles for Romo plus painters like Cy Twombly and Madeline Denaro. Although I trained as a printed textile designer I have since evolved into more of an illustrator than anything else but I will always hold a place in my heart for texture and fabric. I just use pencil to draw my illustrations. I’m an awful perfectionist so each bird or animal tends to take me days as I insist on doing it all by eye but the result always feels so worth it.
I also paint all the abstract artworks placed behind my illustrations which involve a whole range of media including oil and acrylic paint, gold leaf, collaged papers, charcoal, pastel and graphite. I love this part because it’s such a contrast to the highly detailed drawings do, in both appearance and process. It’s a much more expressive and free process which can feel really therapeutic. I do try to stick to a colour palette since this was deemed very important during my degree in textile design. I feel like my designs wouldn’t hold together as a collection without at least a rough set of hues to guide me. I love using pops of rich, vibrant colour amongst more earthy subdued tones.
Describe your work space?
My dining table! I work from home which is great for flexibility although it can mean I’m not very good at stopping work for the day sometimes. I have a couple of large shelves either side of the table where I keep most of my files, materials and stock. I am beginning to outgrow the space so a studio may be on the cards soon.
When do you work best, are you up with the lark or a night owl?
Somewhere in the middle. I make sure to get up fairly early every weekday and start my day at the gym as it makes me feel more energised for the day. Because I work from home I make the most of the time that I have the place to myself whilst my boyfriend is at his job during the weekdays and then usually try to wrap things up by dinner time so I have some relaxing time in the evenings. That kind of goes out the window at busy times like Christmas but I do my best to keep up a routine as it helps me stay disciplined.
How do you overcome designers block?
To be honest it’s not something I tend to experience very much. I certainly have off days when I just seem to be a bit slow or the work I produce isn’t my best but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. I always put on my favourite music and burning incense also often helps me to get immersed in what I’m doing. Good daylight helps too, I find it hard to focus working on dark dreary days.
Where did your love for design originally develop from, what or who, have been your influences?
My mum is a fine artist and my dad used to be a graphic designer so I’ve certainly been influenced by growing up in a creative environment. My mum has always encouraged me to come to life drawing classes and visit galleries with her. I’ve always loved the work of a lot of 20th century painters like Monet, Klimt and Schiele but my interest in design has probably evolved as I’ve gotten older and become more interested in having my own home. I’m such a sucker for homewares… just can’t resist a pretty little bowl or a vibrantly printed tea towel. I’m always drawn in by the colour and the feel of a product.
Your home is on fire, what is the one thing you save from the blaze?
So I hate to be cliched, but it’d have to be my childhood teddy bear. He’s called Guardian Bear and I’ve had him since I was born. He looks a little worse for wear these days but I’m scared he wouldn’t survive the washing machine.
In terms of procrastination, what are you doing, when you should be doing something else?
Haha, well… all the obvious ones I guess! Pinning on Pinterest, scrolling through Instagram, online shopping, or googling some random question that’s sprung to mind. I pass a few charity shops on the short walk to the Post Office so that can often be a distraction, and if none of the above I’ll probably just be leering at the contents of my fridge or nibbling on cheese – not sure if easy access to cheese is a pro or a con of working from home.
Food & drink: We like our food!
It’s been a long week, what’s in your glass (or mug) on a Friday night.
Depends how I feel. Most weeks I’m quite content with a mug of Pukka tea, really love the Turmeric Gold they do. I don’t drink an awful lot these days but if I do, it has to be gin. My favourites are Martin Millers or 6 O’Clock Gin with a tasty tonic.
You have clients coming round, do you bake or buy in the treats to go with your tea/coffee, what are they and why?
I love to bake so I’d have to bake the treats myself, nothing beats homemade! I’d probably go for my banana carrot muffins as they’re oaty and wholesome so not overly sweet if it’s still a bit early in the day for cake.
Music: What’s on your Studio Play list:
Physical Track: Sexual Healing – Hot 8 Brass Band. I’ve just got tickets to see them in May and cannot wait! I do also love the Marvin Gaye original.
Inheritance Track: Saint of Me – The Rolling Stones. My dad’s a big stones fan which I’ve definitely inherited from him. For some reason this is the song I always remember singing along to when I was little.
Emotional Track: Cat People (Putting Out Fire) – David Bowie. Such a powerful song, always makes me feel good.
Album: Alt-J – This Is All Yours
Advice: A few pearls of wisdom here.
What is the best advice, you’ve ever been given, business, creative or both and who gave it to you.
My dad has given me all of the best advice. He has a wonderful positive outlook on life and always says ‘life is what happens while you make plans’. He always reminds me that you just have to take life as it comes because not everything is in your control and you can only ever try your best.
If you were starting out again now, what advice would you give your younger self?
Test the waters first. I’d had so much positive feedback on my work during my degree show and New Designers that I hadn’t imagined making sales would be so challenging. I invested quite a lot into making stock at the start and have now learnt it’s much smarter to start with a very small batch and see how popular a product is before producing larger quantities. Sounds so obvious now!
We like to hear about new and up and coming designer and artists, can you recommend someone new that we should know about, and why do you like their work?
A friend I studied textiles with at uni called Emma Jennings has recently started out with her own printed textiles brand and her designs are gorgeous! Her collection is jungle inspired with lots of lemurs and elephants on cushions, fabrics and wallpaper. I’d love to see her do well as she definitely deserves it!
What is it that draws you to work with fabric and what benefits to your process does Digital Printing bring?
I just love the feel of a high quality, natural fabric and the designs take on a whole new quality when printed onto BeFab’s gorgeous Fife linen. The soft texture and delicate weave highlights the intricacies in my drawings wonderfully and creates very subtle blends of colour. Other fabric printers I sampled with before choosing BeFab have made the colour look very garish and the details too harsh so it makes a real difference to have such good printers like Solii and Zoe.
Digital printing suits my design style really well because there is so much detail and colour variation in my work. If I had to colour separate my designs to be screen-printed they would most likely loose a lot of all those subtle variations that I spend so much time on creating. I have also always championed digital print because compared with screen-printing there is a lot less water and dye wastage involved making it a more ethical process which is an integral value to my brand.
And lastly, whose words inspire you, a quote to live life by?
Something a yoga teacher recounted at the end of a class once.
‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.’
I’m not sure where it’s originally from but it’s very relevant to the intention of practicing yoga and mediation which is something I try to live by. It’s very easy to get stressed when running your own business and so finding yoga has helped me a lot with staying positive.