Meet the Maker: Illustrator Suzanne Carpenter

Meet the Maker: Illustrator Suzanne Carpenter

You will have noticed a bit of a buzzy theme with us lately, many of you have already entered our Colouring Competition, and now its time to meet the creative mind behind our wonderful summer window.

Suzanne Carpenter is a Cardiff based illustrator and pattern designer who grew up with a passion for paper collages using bits colour and texture from old magazines and transforming them into new pictures to illustrate brochures and books. The Pritt-stick and paper were then swapped for a laptop and she now focuses on creating digital images which draw heavily on her paper cutting techniques. She also collects beetles from Yasmin Everley’s Entomology collection!


Tell me about your inspiration: Your work references fairytale worlds of animals and imagination. In what ways does childhood? Is there a particular story you find inspiring?


Although I was given plenty of books I don’t remember being read to much as a child. My time was spent either sitting at the table with a pad and a pack of pens; daydreaming and doodling or stomping around the countryside with a pack of friends; dreaming up fantastical games and building dens. I haven’t changed much. I think most illustrators have kept their inner child alive. Mine needs a daily dose of daydreaming to survive. It’s been proven that spending time close to nature is good for our wellbeing and happily that’s where I find much of my inspiration. Mother nature is an expert pattern designer and stylised natural forms, birds and animals appear again and again in my work.

Suzanne Carpenters artwork. Image courtesy of Suzanne Carpenter

Your colour pallet seems to be the signature look to your work. Have you always been a fan of the bold and bright or how did this develop?


When I was nine my family moved to Zambia and it was quite an eye opener for a child from the S Wales valleys. Women were swathed in fantastic coloured fabrics and their hair was braided into mind boggling patterns. There were eye popping plants and dazzling sunshine and I think that all made an imprint on my brain.


Where did you learn your collage and later digital techniques?


When I was eleven my mother gave me craft kit to make a jewelled peacock picture. I loved it so much I became hooked on the idea of collage and collected all sorts of odds and ends that I thought may be useful. I even had a box of sweepings from an engineering factory floor. Tiny curls of golden coloured metal that got glued into a number of my pictures. I did a degree in Graphic Design and left collage behind for many years but long before Pinterest was invented I used to keep scrapbooks of inspiring things I found in magazines. Then one day instead of cutting out the pictures I started tearing up bits of printed colour and texture and making new images out of them. I showed them to a local publisher and they seemed impressed. It was the start of a long list of commissions and I worked in that style for years before succumbing to the lure of digital drawing. I used to be one  of the directors of a branding design agency. My husband and a partner ran it on a day to day basis and I worked on  the projects that required illustrative elements. Spending time in the studio meant that I always had access to a great group of very patient designers who kindly encouraged and oversaw my transition to digital illustration and put up with my endless questions and short term memory issues.

Suzanne Carpenter busily at work in her studio.

Is there a particular illustrator or artist that inspires you (contemporary or historical)?


I love visiting art galleries both real and online and I’m constantly feeding my mind with inspiration. There are so many artists and illustrators to love that the list is endless. Currently I’m really looking forward to seeing the Georgia O’Keeffe at the Tate but of all the wonderful museums and galleries in London my favourite has got to the V&A.


Where is your favourite place in London?


London is such an exciting place. Every area has it’s own interesting personality and atmosphere but if I had to choose one then maybe I’d say Peckham as my kids live there . . . or maybe Little Venice. . . or the toll path along the Grand Union Canal . . . or the Southbank . . . .or Bricklane. . . . . . . or Carnaby or Kew. . . . . I love it all to be fair


Working as an independent designer, do you think that social media is integral to reaching out to new people?


I think social media can be an effective way of connecting with people and accessing news and inspiration. I’m an Instagram addict and it’s helped me get some great commissions and meet some amazing creatives whose work I love. Twitter is a great platform for promoting work and events and joining conversations. Of course there is a small problem with social media - and that’s knowing when to put your phone down and walk away!


What has been your best moment or achievement as designer to date?


Setting up Patternistas (a surface pattern studio) with my husband Chris has been really exciting. We sold our shares in the branding agency in January and launched our first range of contract furniture fabric at Clerkenwell Design Week in May. We’ve had a great response so far and are looking forward to lots more patterned collaborations and commissions. We’ve loved your shop for such a long time and so it's very exciting to see our flowery bee designs featuring on your window this summer. We hope your customers are enjoying them.

Above images courtesy of @oceedesign

If you want to see some of Suzanne Carpenter's work for yourself, we have her bee illustrations brightening our shop on 7, Newburgh Street until September! And be sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram @illustrator_eye and @patternistas



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