Mollie Makes meets Jacqueline Colley

Jacqueline Colley in her studio

Mollie Makes Handmade Awards Winner Jacqueline tells us what inspires her patterns and shares her top illustration tips…

From tigers to cacti, Jacqueline Colley’s exotic prints haven’t only caught the attention of big brands like Oasis and the V&A, but also bagged her a Mollie Makes Handmade Award.

The Hackney-based illustrator and pattern designer admits she was shocked but thrilled to be awarded Best Illustrator for her lush, intricate patterns. She also reveals that her fondness for “explorable” patterns comes from a childhood love of books with intricate drawings, confessing, “Where’s Wally had a profound effect on me!”

We caught up with Jacqueline in her home studio to find out what winning an award has meant to her, discover where she finds inspiration, and get her advice for budding illustrators…

Jacqueline Colley - Print

Hi Jacqueline! How did it feel to win a Mollie Makes Handmade Award?

It was very surreal as I really wasn’t expecting it, but now it feels like an amazing moment of validation. I work alone most of the time, especially when developing my own range of prints and products, so to have a positive reaction to my designs from a panel of people I look up to is just out of this world!

Mollie Makes Awards 2017 Jacqueline Colley

Part of your prize was mentoring sessions with Jane Foster. How have you found having a mentor?

Jane is amazing; we’ve been having lovely chats! It’s great to be able to connect with someone who is having such a successful career as an illustrator. She’s given me so much sage advice and has been pushing me to pursue things I wouldn’t otherwise have had the confidence to.

Jacqueline Colley - Studio

Describe your workspace and why it works for you?

I used to work in a shared space, but working from home in our spare bedroom has proved to be ideal for me. I always describe myself as a hermit crab as I just love alone time. I have my computer desk with the wall in front covered in bright pictures and inspiration. I have messy, choc-a-bloc shelves where I store all my stock and packaging. Then I have a desk behind me, which I keep completely clear for drawing time and photographing products. I feel very lucky indeed.

What does your average working week look like?

A week usually involves one or two days freelancing, which I love and is my reliable income. The rest of the week is split between emails and admin, chasing work, sending invoices. It’s not all desk work though, as I try to do a creative endeavour too. For example, getting to Print Club in London to do some silk screen printing or developing a new pattern or product from existing work. One of my patterns is available as wrapping paper, and also stickers, cards and patches, which I’ve developed over time!

Jacqueline Colley - Botanical prints

There’s a botanical theme to your work, where do you go to find inspiration?

I’ve always loved botanical gardens and I visit them whenever I get a chance. My cacti pattern came from visiting one in Marrakech back in 2013. I went to Morocco for the tiles, but spent the whole time drawing cacti! The design was really popular and led to licensing and more botanical commissions, which was great. I also love visiting museums, flea markets and antique fairs. I hoard vintage books and ephemera as well as I find them so inspirational.

Jacqueline Colley - Drawing

What’s in your sketchbook at the moment?

I took a trip to Japan at the beginning of the year so my sketchbook is filled with ideas and patterns from Japanese culture. I visited some great temple gardens and hope, at some point, to work on some prints in homage to those perfectly zen places.

Jacqueline Colley - Patches

You’ve collaborated with lots of big name brands; which have been your favourites?

I’ve worked on a lot of collaborations with Oasis, with stunning archives from the V&A and Chelsea Physic Garden. When Oasis collaborated with The Zoological Society of London there was no archive, so they asked me to illustrate and design some prints and I leapt at the chance. I developed the statement jungle prints in the range and I’m very excited to be able to share them and talk about them now. It’s my proudest project to date!

Who would your dream collaboration be with?

Working with a brand like Marimekko would be the dream partnership. I love turning my designs into screen prints and it would be a real dream to turn my patterns into screen printed fabric, working with proper rotary printing to produce rolls of fabric for furnishings or fashion.

Jacqueline Colley - Products

What’s the first thing you ever made?

When I first started to apply my prints to my own products I got a few metres of my cacti design digitally printed on to cotton canvas. I sewed it up into cushions, as well as constructing a few lampshades. The items totally flopped and no one wanted to buy them, but it was the springboard that got me going.

Who are your favourite makers?

I love Josef Frank. His personal story is amazing and his print designs are unparalleled. There was a retrospective of his work at the Fashion and Textile Museum recently, which was amazing and reminded me why I love making patterns. I’m also a big fan of 19th century natural history artists like John Gould and John James Audubon. Their love of documenting nature scientifically, but also beautifully, totally inspires me.

Jacqueline Colley - Work in progress

What are your top three illustration tips?

  1. There’s a quote from Grace Bonney’s In The Company of Women that goes, “You have to be willing to be bad at it in order to get good at it”, which is a piece of advice I’m trying to take at the moment.
  2. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone. Be open to doing something different, as that can really benefit your work.
  3. Keep going! I’ve been working at this since graduating nine years ago and I still have so much to learn, but I also feel really fortunate to be able to have a creative career. I’m not allowing myself to fall into the comparison trap. We all have different journeys and that’s what makes things interesting.

What can’t you live without?

My partner Nathan – he’s my bestie – and our fur baby My Wilson, who’s a tabby cat and a drama queen. Plus, my felt tip pen drawer. It’s a whole drawer dedicated to my favourite tool!

Jacqueline Colley - Miami print

Where are you happiest?

In my studio or in a tropical garden with my camera, sketchbook and felt tip pens!

What does making mean to you?

It means creating something that only you could produce because it’s from your own unique experiences and interests.

To find out more about Jacqueline’s work visit her website or follow her on Instagram and Twitter