Monday, 12 January 2015

Artist Feature: The Wonderful work of Chloe Rafferty (Days In Design)


Based in Wales, artist Chloe Rafferty creates beautiful appliqué and embroidered textile artworks and jewellery. Chloe incorporates lovely fabrics and patterns into her work, using them as a base for her free-motion embroidery.

The name 'Days In Design' came about because sewing was originally something Chloe did when she was poorly or when the weather was too bad to go outside. Now that her new business 'Days In Design' has taken off, Chloe often works when it's nice outside too! 



1. How did your business come about (and when did you start)?

I've been a graphic designer for many years and I have worked in publishing and illustration. I have no formal training in textiles but my mum taught me to sew and use a to sewing machine when I was very young so I guess it was only a matter of time before I combined them.

Days In Design started life just one year ago (Christmas 2013), when on holiday in Cornwall. I would normally have been out running with my two dogs, mountain biking or swimming in the sea but I was feeling rather poorly with a cold. I hadn't sewn for ages but I bought myself a craft magazine to keep me entertained indoors, which came with a free felt sewing kit. I ignored the instructions for christmas tree decorations and began to create my own little hand sewn designs.

After that I just couldn't stop! After doing a lots of hand embroidery I brought myself a sewing machine and began to teach myself free-motion embroidery. I'd seen a few examples on Pinterest and thought that it looked like a technique that would really suit me: being able to combine my skills in design and illustration with my love of sewing and fabrics!




After creating a few more pictures I began to sell a few originals to friends and then decided to scan some and try to sell the prints. Days In Design has just grown from there! It was more of an 'evolution' of a new passion, rather than a 'business plan'!


2. Can you give a quick insight into your working method? (ideas, techniques, etc.)

My inspiration for images comes from many things – travel, photographs I've taken, stories I’ve read, the area where I live and simply things that I love. Sometimes I sketch out ideas before I start, especially if they are big or complicated pictures, however the final textile version never ends up looking the same - the design always evolves as I work and come up with new ideas!

My appliqué and embroidered textile artworks and jewellery are made by cutting and layering carefully chosen fabrics on a base fabric, usually calico. I secure the fabric in place using Bondaweb (iron on glue) and then by stitching over the top using free-motion machine embroidery, effectively ‘drawing’ with the machine, adding lines, details and textures, sometimes using different coloured threads and adding some hand embroidery or beading to finish. I don’t currently use any fabric printing or painting in my illustrations, all the visual elements are found within existing fabric designs. I don't use any computer programmed embroidery either, it is all completely free hand.




3. What has been the hardest single obstacle to your life in design (apart from a shortage of time, which seems to be universal amongst creatives!)?

I find self promotion really difficult. I am very fortunate to have the ability to design my own branding and packaging etc which really helps to make it all look professional, but I do struggle with constantly having to push myself out there to make sales. I would much rather just create my images than spend time trying to sell them! Opening a shop on Etsy and getting some of my work into local galleries has helped. I've had my share of rejects from websites and galleries too but you just have to remember that it's only usually one persons opinion and there are plenty more opportunities out there if you keep looking!

Some months can be great for sales and it feels like you've really cracked it but the next can be slow again for no obvious reason which can be very disheartening. It can be hard not to take it personally, after all, you put your heart and soul into your art, but it's really important to learn not to let it get to you. I've had to find ways to turn the worry into determination! 


4. How do you stay motivated? What inspires you?

My motivation comes from the great comments and feedback I receive. I love taking my work to craft fairs and listening to what people have to say about it. I have often had people coming to find me because they follow me on Facebook, love my work and and wanted to see it for real. That always amazes me and really inspires me to carry on.

It's so important to me to only make pictures that I know I will enjoy. I made the mistake a few of times early on of agreeing to make images that I wasn't inspired by and even some that were not even in my style! I didn't enjoy making these at all and really didn't like them when they were finished. I felt like I had 'sold out' and I didn't even want look at my sewing machine for a good while after! I now only make pictures in my own way that I know I will love working on and that won't shift me too far out of my comfort zone and stress me out! 

All my design work, sewing and constant self promotion is very time consuming and hard work but I try to make sure I give myself plenty of time to get out and do other things that I enjoy and get away from my work for a while. If I don't, I find I quickly loose motivation and then have to take a much longer break before I feel I am ready to start again! Luckily I am my own boss so I can structure my day and my work around anything else I want to do, e.g. I can go out and play all day and work all night if I want to, which works rather well for me as I am a bit of a night owl! 


5. What has been the icing on the cake for you as a artist/designer?

The icing on the cake for me is every compliment I receive about my work and every sale that I make! I have now sent my work all over the world but I still find it hard to imagine that people love my pictures and brooches and want to buy them to put on their walls, or to wear! I am so excited every time I sell something, no matter how small! I have a few lovely regular customers so I must be doing something right?…

I really love running my workshops. I did my first one as part of an exhibition I had last year but enjoyed it so much I have organised them regularly since and have lots more planned for this year. It's fabulous meeting new people with a common interest and being able to share the skills I've learn so recently myself. 



6. Who do you admire (other artists/designers; other people generally) and what/who are your biggest influences, past or present?

My Mum and Dad have had a big influence on my creativity. They are both great artists (although my Mum won't admit it!) and have encouraged and inspired me in my art since I was tiny. They always made beautiful gifts for me at Christmas and spent a lot of time doing creative things with me as I grew up. They have been so supportive in my choice of career: photography, then design and now textiles.

My partner Jonny is also incredibly encouraging, supportive and helpful, making me amazing display stands for fairs and letting me take over his 'Man Cave' when I started running workshops (although occasionally I do find a motorbike in there!!). He believes in me!

There are so many amazing artist and designers that I admire that I can't list them all here. I have made many new friends over the last year, through Facebook and attending Fairs, each if whom face the same ups and down as me in running their small business, and are really understanding when you need a sounding board. I really admire anyone who takes the plunge and gives up their day job to start their own business. It's a really scary thing to do. 


7. Describe your creative space

Organised chaos! I am lucky to live in the most gorgeous place - a tiny village nestled into a little valley on the North Wales coast with the sea on one side and the mountains of Snowdonia on the other. I love 'the great outdoors' and the views of the mountain side from my studio window are amazing.

I have two desks, one for my computer and design work and one for my fabric and sewing. In reality they are both usually covered in paper and fabric (and other stuff), as is the floor! I have photos, pictures, postcards and cuttings pinned up to inspire me, as well as a huge map of Snowdonia to remind me of all the places I need to go outside and enjoy! 


8. What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Believe in yourself and do what makes you happy. 

I also often think of Mr Micawber (from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens) and his faith that 'Something will turn up'. When you've been freelance as long as I have you thankfully find that it usually does! 


You can keep up to date with Chloe's work here...


(all above images are © Chloe Rafferty)