Annie Sloan has just launched her third Bookazine , The colourist (hard copy, editorial like a magazine, no adverts like a book). Here is the interview I did with in her, in her eclectic studio and headquarters, about her life, passion and rise to fame. Annie Sloan is known for her paint company and in particular her chalk paints. She also produces at least one book a year on different aspects of painting, decorating and up-cycling furniture. Recently she added a limited edition of printed textiles to her products.
JB Did you go to art school originally and if so where and what did you study?
AS I went to Croydon art school to begin with and then I finished at reading University, I was at art school for seven years. Stared off doing a foundation, which I actually did for two years whilst I tried to figure out what I was going to do. I wanted to do everything!! In the end I chose Fine Art because Fine Art seems to be the basis of everything.
JB Annie I met you many moons ago when we were both craft authors. Can you tell us how you made the leap from being an author to running your international paint company?
AS Yes I remember well!! I wrote books and I was also going out and painting for people who had commissioned pieces. I had a young family and I wanted to be able to have something that I was doing and making but that could be sold whilst I was still raising my children. I was looking for something, I got the idea for paint from other paints that were around at the time. People were beginning to think back to traditional paints such as milk paints. From that idea I started to think about what I could make, and one thing led to another.
JB What made you want to produce your own paint and was it difficult to find a manufacturer?
AS Once I became keen to make a paint, I happened to mention it whilst out for dinner in Utrecht. I spoke to a Belgium man who just happened to know someone who owned a paint factory and made paint.
JB You have to create a range of colours and obviously some will sell better than others, was it difficult in the beginning to know which ones would sell best?
AS I wasn’t thinking about selling to be honest, I was thinking about what colours I would want and need. Money doesn’t come first. I was already painting furniture and I was after certain traditional colours that weren’t available. It was important to me that I could mix colours to make other colours, just like an artists paint palette.
JB Can you influence sales of certain colours by presenting a fabulous upcycled project on your web site or blog?
AS We do know that when we get something printed in a popular magazine, we often see an influx in sales of that particular product. I think that’s the same in the shop, if I painted something in Antibes, people would buy more of that colour.
JB You sell abroad do any of your suppliers hold franchises?
If so, how does this work?
AS No we don’t have any franchises at all, the reason being that we are a creative company and I feel to offer someone a franchise is too restrictive. Creative people need to be able have there own style, we just look for wonderful shops to sell the paint, run workshops and be inspiring. We love passionate people to get involved.
JB Are any members of your family involved in running the business and if so what roles do they perform?
AS My husband works with me, he is in charge of the finances. He’s the calm cool one!! My middle son Felix is the Brand Director and has a Graphic Design background, he’s very much like me but also completely different. Felix’s partner Lizzy is also involved in the business, she does the Digital Marketing but at the moment has just had her third baby so she is on maternity leave.
JB What is a typical working day like for you or is there no such thing?
AS No such thing!! Every day is different, tomorrow I am off to Venice, we make some of our woven linens , so I am off to do some colour matching there- it’s important to get these things right! Last week I was at conference in Rotterdam with our European distributors. I was painting yesterday, working on some new products which I am excited about. We are painting furniture for photo shoot in London next week. I am also doing plenty of events this year. (Handmade Fair in London September and I also do The Country Living Fair). Things are very busy!!
JB One of the reasons I am interviewing successful women who are over forty is that they have often had to take a career break, or had to slow down to deal with child care and or aged parents. Have you ever had to deal with either of these of issues and did it impact on your creative life or business?
AS Yes and no, I didn’t really start the business until my children were a little bit older, I was 42 when I started making the paint and running the business. I wanted be a around when the kids were small so I suppose I put it hold for awhile, I always worked but was able to be there when they were ill and look after them.
JB You run creative workshops at many different events and venues. Do you enjoy doing them?
AS Yes I do! I love meeting people, I find people so interesting.
JB You collaborated with Oxfam producing a colour for them how did this come about?
AS Well it was just one of those magical things. Oxfam are based in Oxford, hence the name Oxford and Famine, and they were looking for a paint company to work with. The discovered that we were also in Oxford, it was a marriage made in heaven. They asked us if we were keen to collaborate and I didn’t even think twice about it.
JB What did it involve and did you enjoy the experience? AS It was one of the most excellent experiences of my life, so impactful. I went to Ethiopia and made a colour inspired by my travels. It makes you realise that people are people, for me it confirmed that money is not what it’s about- it’s about other things. The people there are just amazing, they do need things but they are still vibrant and positive.
JB What is the best part of your work and what is the worst part?
AS Collaborating with some amazing people and groups, it’s just so incredibly special to work with some wonderful people and places. It’s open up so many worlds for me, such as Oxfam. Worst part endless days were there are just so many meetings and I can’t get any painting done.
JB Who or what inspires you?
AS The Punk approach to life is absolutely fabulous- anyone can do anything!! You don’t have to be posh, you just have to be interesting. People inspire me, I talk to everybody and want to find out as much as I can about others.
JB How long have you been working as a professional designer?
AS I suppose since 1975, so guess over 40 years…oh gosh!!
JB What advice would you give to any designer starting out today?
AS Don’t give up, practice and keep at it. Trust your gut. It doesn’t happen overnight. Someone once criticized me in Art school and it really had an effect on me, don’t let criticism put you off!!
Many thanks Juliet. Photography by Antonia Attwood RCA
Second Hand September aims to raise awareness of fashion’s environmental impact
Create a twenty first century version of a nineteenth century, Smoking Cap from an up-cycled 1980’s jacket. I made this for my brother who loved wearing smoking caps. Here it is modelled by the beautiful Elsa.
The embroidery on the Jacket was beautiful but the style was somehow lacking. So I chose to turn it into, what used to be called, a Smoking Cap. This is in essence a pill box shaped hat often with a central tassel.
You will need
Old lined jacket
Pen and paper
Optional a tassel
Instructions .We made a pattern with the crown, top of the hat having a 18cm diameter. The brim of the hat is 8cm deep x 59.5 cm long including the seam allowances. Cut a paper pattern and then cut a calico pattern and sew the calico brim onto the calico top. Try it on for size and adjust as needed. It should be a little bigger than the finished hat, as the finished hat as a layer of wadding in it.
Cut the jacket into pieces and then lay the pattern pieces on them so they use up the best parts of the pattern. Pin and cut out the pattern pieces. Remember to add more seam allowance if you need to make a join.
Cut the interfacing so that it is slightly smaller than the pattern pieces. Pin it onto the wrong side of the hat’s crown and brimSew the wadding onto the brim. Pin the crown onto the brim, and sew them together, including the wadding around the crown
Using the jacket lining, make a lining for the hat as you did the one from calico. With wrong sides together, and the bottom edges turned under to neaten, sew the lining into the
outside cap. Sew a tassel into the centre of the cap.
I was lucky enough to attend The Royal Horticultural’s Chelsea Flower show this week. I got there at 8am, opening time and headed for my favourite section The Artisan gardens. I am not going to write about the large corporate sponsored gardens as so much has been written by others about them. Instead I am going to talk ARTISAN
Three gardens particularly stood out, The Finnish Summer Garden that was inspired by the biodiversity of Finnish Meadows and Woodland. The garden was designed by Taina Suonio a Finnish landscape designer, horticulturalist, environmental biologist and researcher in the Fifth Dimension- Green Roofs in Urban Areas research group.
The garden comprises clear Nordic lines and includes a 100 year old weather beaten barn wall made of granite. The cascading water feature reminds visitors to the garden about the relationship the Finns have with their roots in the country and the much-cherished respite by their countless lake-side, riverside and seaside cottages. The garden included many Finnish forest flowers and herbs.
The Donkey Sanctuary Garden celebrated the 50 years of transforming the lives of Donkeys. The designers were Annie Prebensen and Christina Williams.” We have a real fondness and appreciation for these hard The working animals, so were delighted to be asked by The Donkey Sanctury to design an Artisan Garden to explain ‘why donkeys matter’ The garden demonstrates how owning a donkey means access to clean, fresh water for some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world. Set in an arid location a shelter near a well provides some shade. A dripping bucket hangs above the well and colourful planting surrounds it. The planting in the garden includes plants typical of dry regions, including Eryngium bourgatii, Iris germanica and Lavendula angustfolia. The colour palette is claret, purple and silver
The Camfed Campaign for Female Education won the Artisan Garden Gold Medal.
The designer of the garden is Jilayne Rickards
‘ I wanted the garden to reflect CAMFED’s strong commitment to supporting girls in eduction and the vibrancy of rural communities in Zimbabwe. It is a powerful message of how, by educating girls, we can tackle gender inequality and poverty, and break the cycle of poverty for good.’
At the heart of the garden is a classroom which is surrounded by plants and trees and edible fruit, leaves and roots that provide vital nutrition, particularly for mothers and school children.
The crops, which have been developed by scientists backed by UK aid, are also enriched with key vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and iron, to tackle “hidden hunger” in developing countries.
The plants include bio fortified varieties of maize, beans and sweet potatoes and are in a garden which, unusually for Chelsea, evokes a rural Zimbabwean school yard – complete with dusty red earth, a black chalkboard and orange trees.
If like me you are interested in craft and design there are some first class designers showing in the artisan section of the show. There is a Dyers Studio set up by ex RCA student Lola Lely. She uses plants and natural materials to create dyes, pigments and paints.
Ceramic artist Corrie Bain is a British ceramicist based in Barcelona . she studied ceramics at Edinburgh college of Art. Her ceramics are inspired by microscopic imagery of seed pods, pollen and fractals. They are made from hand built porcelain clay.
Botanicla, Applique Artist Natasha Hulse creates handmade fabric artworks for interior products such as bedheads lamps and cushions. She celebrates the beauty and phenomena of Flora found in British Woodlands, English gardens and the effect that nature has on us in our home.
As well as the artisan sections, one of the other visual joys of the show was the Alitex green house styled by Selina Lake. She always designs her spaces to feel like somewhere you want to spend time.
My all time favourite, innovative and very comfortable seats in a variety of designs by Cacoon are on sale. Every season their chief designer Nick McDonald comes up with new designs, so watch this space.
As I finish writing this piece, I must not forget the Chelsea Pensioners who are still very much in evidence in their smart red uniforms.
The show is still on and the weather is good. so if you can get in, do go and visit.
This is the most unusual and beautiful pressed flower book I have ever seen. It is full of amazing compositions that are reminiscent of traditional American Quilts.
Early leafwork (1998) using sycamore leaves and fennel seed heads. 15 x 15cm (6 x 6in)
As the publisher describes it, this is a contemporary twist on a traditional craft. It is a must-have guide to pressing flowers and leaves packed with exciting ideas and practical information for creating beautiful botanical works of art.
Jennie Ashmore, flower artist, breathes new life into traditional flower-pressing techniques with a unique and spectacular kaleidoscope of floral and plant designs, using everything from flower petals and leaves to seaweed and lichen.
Jennie studied painting and printmaking at Exeter College of Art and for many years taught in art schools and worked in environmental education, conservation and gardening. Her work has always concerned the natural world and she has a strong interest in surface texture, pattern and geometry, which are key to her designs. She teaches workshops and sells her work.
The leaf works, guide and inspire through every stage of the process, from working seasonally and selecting the right plants for a vibrant colour, to experimenting with interesting texture and pattern. There are also tips for incorporating watercolour, gouache and other exciting materials into beautiful botanical creations.
The art of pressed flowers and leaves will inspire readers to celebrate the beauty of their local landscape, a favourite walk or garden, or even capture special memories through eternalizing wedding bouquets or plants collected on a holiday.
The art of colourful living by Annie Sloan
I have just spent 2 hours at the hairdressers and rather than reading all the gossip and fashion magazines I decided to take my own copy of the latest edition of the The Colourist. I am so pleased I did.
When they first appeared a few years ago I had my reservations about Bookazines, that cross between a book and a magazine, I suppose it was as much to do with the price as anything.
I had a few questions about this form of publishing, the first being:
If you are going to pay the best part of £10 why not just buy a book?
A book takes much longer to produce and the information you get in a bookazine is bang up to date.
Why are so many bookazines cropping up, as the rest of print journalism is very much on the decline.
I think the answer to this is that there are many journalists and designers who are passionate about their subject whether it be design and interiors such as shown in 91 magazine, Rakes Progress the progressive guide to gardens, plants, flowers and The Colourist – which is a cornucopia of design and colour.
Bookazines have a particular look and feel about them. On the whole the paper is nicer than run of the mill magazines, they feel like something you want to keep and they are not full of adverts.
I am aware that Annie is promoting her chalk paints and ‘The Colourist’ is a great showcase for them. However the bookazine is, like Annie herself, full of practical information, design inspiration and examples of how to use colour.
This issue features two of my favourite designers Anni Albers whose work was shown at the Guggenheim Bilbao before transferring to the Tate Modern late last year. Albers is known mainly for her weaving that was created at the Bauhaus although she worked in many other disciplines too.
The other featured designer is more contemporary, the innovative Dame Zandra Rhodes who not only is a fabulous textile and dress designer but was the instigator of London’s Fashion and Textile Museum.
The magazine covers, what is trending, design classics, inspiration and also homes, including Annie’s own home in France. There are features from abroad plus How-to’s and also includes two stencils that you can use on a project of your choice.
As a bibliophile I am delighted that The Colourist also includes book reviews.
“It all boils down to sharing my passion for style and colour. I want to inspire everyone to get creative!” says Annie
I know you as a textile designer and maker, Can you tell me if you went to art school and if so what did you study?
I was born & bred in Brighton. I studied Textile Design at Winchester School of Art (1994 – BA Hons).
How and when did you become an art consultant?
I have curated my fellow artists’ work since first opening my house for the Brighton Festival in 2002. I discovered that I am skilled at selling other artists work and enjoy talking about the creative process. The next one is every weekend in May starting on the 4th in less than two weeks time . For details of Venues, locations and times look at https://aoh.org.uk/house/may2019/
I became a licensing agent in 2004 when my children were born. Through my work as an agent, I have received many submissions from artists that I have not been able to represent for one reason or another. Being an art consultant means that my services can be offered more widely. I now offer one-to-one consultancy to emerging and established artists internationally.
You contributed a chapter to the very successful book ‘House of Cards’ did you enjoy the writing process and have you ever written a book of your own.
I loved it! I would love to do a book of my own. It’s on my bucket list.
Can you give us a brief history of how you started out.
I first licensed my own designs in 1992 as a student at Winchester School of Art. I worked as a textile designer in Vienna when I graduated. I set up as a freelance designer back in Brighton in 1996 under the name of Cloth of Gold.
I designed for industry (mainly paper products), made one-off embroidered pieces for private clients, and created hand-made items for small batch production sold to galleries and retail outlets nationally.
My designs have sold for textiles, gift-wrap, greeting cards & more. Licensees of my designs include Stewo, Jung Design, Gallery Five, Sanderson Fabrics, Baumann, Penny Black, Collage, Medici, Zoewie, Boots Plc, and The Paper House Group.
My designs have featured on London Underground posters. My retail clients have included Liberty of London, English Heritage, the RSC, and Vienna & Sydney Opera Houses. My one-off embroideries have sold in galleries nationally. I have given many talks about her artwork including at the V & A.
I also had a variety of agents before I set up on my own as an Artists’ Agent. I was always very pro-active, exhibiting at trade fairs and contacting shops/ licensing clients directly.
What is a typical day for you?
Everyday starts with catching up on my Instagram and planning the day’s social media. I will walk down to my workspace at Studio Eleven where I have been for 7 years. I have my own room in a shared studio space of creatives. It’s a great atmosphere and very focused. I currently spend all of my time at a computer although I have started planning a new range of products for my Open House in May. A typical day I would be designing and writing new marketing campaigns, liaising on existing licenses, contacting new clients, and giving creative direction to the artists that I work with.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love being immersed in another artists’ work. I enjoy the wide variety of client responses to artwork and the fun of trying to predict who might like what. Most of all I love combining my love of the visual world with conversations
What do you dislike most about what you do?
Being solely defined and seen as an agent. Being a designer is at the source of everything I do.
What made you want to start your own creative business? I knew it would be the thing I would most regret not doing.
Your business seems to have really grown over the last few years how has this happened?
I have always worked hard. I have never taken time out. More recently, I have spent a lot of time asking myself difficult questions and challenging myself. What is really important to me? I realised that working in an inter-disciplinary manner is hugely important to me. It has guided me to expand my offer. I have been able to promote hard as a result because I am very sure of my vision. This has really helped me to grow my business.
Can you describe your creative process?
It always starts with a response to either pattern, colour, or words. I often need to make associations and connections between things.
What are your biggest challenges?
So much to do, so little time.
I also find it hard to send short emails!
Focusing on the bigger picture when there are so many details pulling me the other way.
Speaking in public – I have lots to say but I get incredibly nervous.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field today?
Work hard. Ask questions, Don’t be scared to put yourself in front of people. Think about your own intent, what is important to you, really important to you? This will be invaluable in guiding your decision-making. Present everything visually and beautifully. Attention to detail.
Compared with when you started, do you think it is easier for designers to set up on their own nowadays or more difficult? Why?
I think it is easier. There are more resources and the creative industries are booming. Even though they are marginalized in schools, they are more recognized by the government (and people at large) as being crucial to the economy. 35% of the UK’s income is from the creative industries. Websites and social media make it much easier to be seen and to connect with clients.
One of the reasons I am interviewing successful women who are over forty is that they have often had to take a career break, or had to slow down to deal with child care and or aged parents. Have you ever had to deal with either of these of issues and if so how did it impact on your creative life or business?
I decided to license work by other artists was when I had my children. I was scared that if I took a seven year break from my designing, to have my two children, that I would lose confidence and be unable to get back into the industry. Having children can be isolating as can be working on your own. Working as an agent meant I still had lots of contact with people even though I was working at home. I worked virtually full time when my children were young in order to develop my business but I decided against having a nanny or an au pair. It is a constant juggle!
Have you exhibited? If so, where?
Yes – all over the country, mainly in group exhibitions but all over 15 years ago.
Liberty of London
Grace Barrand Design Centre
Manchester City Exchange
Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art etc
How do you find clients?
Trade fairs, social media, trade magazines, look at the underneath of products
What are you currently working on?
Planning new products with my designs for my open house
New newsletters for Jehane Ltd
A bespoke licensed range with British Airways i360 and Cressida Bell
Talking to New artists for representation
Planning my open house; getting flyers ready to print
What is next?
An online shop on www.jehane.com
Has social media impacted on your business and if so in what way? Yes, hugely. It has been the launching pad for my new business Jehane Ltd and has been the main reason that I have attracted the new artists I represent and the new clients I am talking to.
Many thanks Juliet