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Olivia Annabelle with Hattie Matthews

How did you start working with Olivia Annabelle? 

I started working with Olivia Annabelle after I left university, we went to school together and were the only two studying Art for A Levels, so we were always in a creative mindset when together and always bounced ideas off each other. We were and still are different in our artistic styles so it works well to get another view point. It was a natural progression for us to start working together again after university. I wanted to learn more about the fashion industry and print design, so we started to work together and begin planning the patterns for the new season, ‘the witching hour’.

What is it like to work alongside your best friend? 

It’s great because we can be totally honest with each other. We have been working alongside each other creatively for some time and I’ve always been able to show her my work and know I will get an honest response, which I think is one of the most important things for me. It’s a good job we get on so well because we spend so long together planning new prints or designs, I don’t think we could do it if we weren’t best friends, so it works perfectly.

When planning the next collection for OA, where and how do you look for inspiration? 

Olivia is the main driving force behind the themes for the new seasons, she is super interested in different with historical periods and costume so a lot of inspiration comes from her various fascinations. When we get together and have a meeting we come up with so many different ideas of what we want to do so we have a long long list of ideas to draw from and we try to come to an agreement on what to do next. There are so many different things that inspire us and spark new ideas, exhibitions at the V&A or films, musical productions, really anything that gets us excited to design.

What has been your favourite project with OA so far? 

Definitely the witching hour, it was the first project where we properly worked together to create something. It was a large collection for a small company, so a lot of research went into creating the clothing and also the prints, especially the toile. We both love to research so we just let ourselves have fun, Liv is really trusting and lets me come up with various wacky ideas before we settle on the print appropriate for the collection! Also, some of the new projects we are working on are super exciting, we are a new brand, so I think every new project we do gets more and more exciting.

Olivia annabelle studio

What advice would you give to friends wanting to go into business together? 

I think be brave and have the confidence to take that first step, I will always admire Liv for that. Trust each other and be practical but also be kind, the creative industry is tough, especially fashion, so have each other’s backs. Reach out to as many people as possible to collaborate so there are always fresh ideas coming in. Also don’t let it all become about work, you are friends at the end of the day, and you don’t want to lose that, so find a balance. Also, have fun with it! When else would you have the opportunity to work with your best friend? Use each other’s motivation, sometimes it’s really tough and it’s so nice to have someone else in the same boat as you, struggling through the designs or what the next business step should be.

Do you have any upcoming designs for OA? 

Yes, I am working on a few prints at the moment specifically for Olivia Annabelle, it’s a constant process really because we have so many ideas. We have an idea of where we want the brand to go in the next year, we don’t want to be dictated by the norms of the fashion calendar or typical trends. So all the ideas are really exciting and unique. I’m also trying to be constantly working on new ideas for patterns so I can constantly have new ideas coming and so I can look back at them.

What led you to become an Illustrator? 

I have always been drawing since I was a kid and then I enrolled in the foundation course at Falmouth School of Art. It was there that kind of directed me to be an Illustrator, my style of drawing or painting was always telling a story, so I went along with it! Since leaving university behind I’ve also left the idea of being an ‘Illustrator’ behind, once you leave the defined classrooms behind of ‘Illustrator’, ‘Graphic Designer’ or ‘Fine Artist’ the lines get a lot more blurred. Doing print design for Olivia Annabelle was the first step, but still I love to tell a story in my work, whatever that may be so I will always be an illustrator in my heart.

What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to be an illustrator? 

Business wise and something that always stuck with me was something that one of my Illustration tutor’s told me:

There are three things that are required to become a successful Illustrator: Talent, Personality and Time keeping, if you have two of these three qualities, in any combination, you will succeed. 

But personally since leaving uni I would say the most important thing is to be confident in your own artistic voice, block out the voice in your head that says the other work you see on instagram or wherever is better then yours, keep your eyes on your own vision and don’t be scared to change things up and experiment.

olivia annabelle designer studio

How would you describe your illustrating style? 

That’s a tough one, I guess in regards to the work I do for Olivia Annabelle it’s pretty loose as it changes with the different seasons and themes. It’s completely dependent on the research I do and say what style of pattern Liv wants. I leave it open, as a pretty fluid way of designing, otherwise would hit a creative block in designing prints.

 I have always struggled with the idea of having a distinct ‘style’, because I change my mind all the time as to what I want it to be, there are too many beautiful ways to create art I find I don’t want to pigeon hole myself too much. Print design gives me the freedom to change things up, experiment and try different styles without the pressure of an inconsistent portfolio.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given throughout your career? (and why)

I can’t say that there has been a single piece of advice that has massively influenced my career in the Arts. I feel like my career has only just begun so if you have any that would be very helpful, but the advice I would give to other people, and what I have to give to myself regularly. Is to be confident in your abilities and don’t be swayed by others or trends, much easier said than done I know. If you have confidence in your artistic vision then other people will share that confidence and enjoy your work, it’s like a ripple effect, but it has to start with you. 

How do you stay motivated/inspired? 

Travel, Photography, music, going to exhibitions, the list goes on and on. I try to travel as much as possible as I am in the early stages of my career and so I want to find as much inspiration as I can to keep new ideas coming. I am currently travelling and working around Italy which is a massive source of inspiration which is filtering directly into my creative practice. 

I also always keep sketchbooks and a notebook with me, in my notebook I write words, sentences, paragraphs that inspire me. They can be conversations I overheard, lines from poems, books, films, lyrics, anything really, writing is something I always fall back on to find inspiration out of a creative block. Flicking through my notebook always sparks a new idea.   

Friends from university and Liv of course, are a massive source of inspiration and motivation, we help each other out of creative blocks and mentor each other on our work. Without them it would be almost impossible for me to be an Artist.

Who would you love to collaborate with in the future?

So many people! But I think the next few steps I would like to take are to design prints for interiors, collaboration with a small interior design company would be amazing. The brands/people I would love to collaborate with are, Paloma Wool, Maison C Wallpaper. I would love more than anything to collaborate more with the people around me and my friends in the industry, I think we could create some really special Art together.

How do you think social media has affected illustration?

Massively. I think similar too many other areas of art it has opened it up, I know so many Artists that have ‘succeeded’ largely in part to Instagram, having Art so readily available at a moment’s notice is amazing. It really opens up your audience as an artist. Having said that, for me there is also a negative side, I of course, fall into the trap of scrolling and wasting time that could be spent painting or drawing, under the pretence of doing ‘research’. It’s such an overwhelming platform, in terms of Art, it’s full of amazing colours, brilliant concepts, and original ideas, that after perhaps a day may no longer be original. It is what you take it to be, it can be used as an amazing tool but also can be a massive distraction.

olivia annabelle studio room