Emma Cowlam

Emma Cowlam Interview

Emma Cowlam Interview with

Radley Collector –

Emma Cowlam

Emma Cowlam is a talented young artist that Radley have collaborated with for their A/W 2013 ranges called Park Life and Red Letter Day. We were lucky enough to chat to Emma at the A/W press day and arrange an interview with her.

Emma has designed two ranges for Radley and there are many products in each collection.

Park Life:

Radley Park Life

Red Letter Day

Radley Red Letter Day

Hello Emma, Thank you for taking the time to chat to Radley Collector today, lets begin…

When did you start as an Artist?

I have always been really interested in art and all areas of design since I was a very young child.  I can remember being particularly fascinated about children’s book illustrations and drawings and would spend far longer looking and analyzing those than I did with bothering to read the books!  I adored story time and looked for hours at each image on every page, discovering something else happening in the illustration that I had not previously noticed.  I adored (and still do) the work of Shirley Hughes and Quentin Blake who I suppose were my first source of inspiration.

What’s your earliest memory of creating art?

I would spend hours and hours doodling and drawing on anything I could find.  I went to boarding school from the age of 8 and we were made to do ‘prep’ for an hour and 15 minutes each night which I often rushed to get through so I could doodle away!  Aged 8 and hour and 15 minutes felt like a lifetime!

My passion for creating things started when I did a cross-stitching of my name for a school project aged 7.  I realised for the first time I could actually make something beautiful with my hands.  Looking back at the cross stitching now it was pretty awful but I felt extremely proud of myself at the time!

How would you describe your art style? and how has it evolved?

Overall my illustration style is quite realistic – I like to capture images on paper that I see in my everyday life.  I like to use my illustrations as a visual memory.  It is my version of a written diary.

Each illustration starts off by being hand stitched in thread onto paper which creates the loose, linear flowing lines.  From here the stitched illustration as inspiration I re-draw it using a fine black pen.  The drawing is then scanned and able to be digitally manipulated to suit the printing processes of the modern age.  This way of working successfully fuses together the traditional and the technological.   Discovering my technique was a real ‘eureka’ moment where I knew I was on to something.  I aim to create unique, timeless and original hand stitched and hand drawn illustrations of the highest quality.

My style was developed when I was on an exchange placement at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan from Chelsea Art School, London.  Here I took an illustration class where I was I truly inspired by my tutor and spent my time whilst in New York concentrating on developing the stitched style I discovered when I was there.  The tutor of my class was wonderful, continually encouraging me to create a beautiful and captivating image.  I feel so fortunate that I am still in contact with her now and she continues to inspire me and have influence on my work.

My style has evolved a lot over the past 3 years especially since I started illustrating full time.  It has become increasingly more defined and detailed.

Emma Cowlam - Printed Illustration with Additional Hand Stitching - 'NY Bike Lovers'


Who is your favourite artist? Tell us about your influences.

I have many favourite artists and all for different reasons.  Some I like for colour and others for the intense level of detail in their work.  I get my influences from numerous areas of design which range from fine art and traditional illustration, to textile print and pattern, to architecture and graphic design and layout.

I adore the figurative, detailed work of Lucien Freud’s etchings as well as the coloured pencil drawings of David Hockney.  I do think though that if I had to pick one artist or illustrator it would have to be children’s book illustrator Shirley Hughes who was my first source of inspiration and influence.  She combines intense narrative, detail and colour within her images whilst at the same time making them appear effortless and spontaneous.

How were you discovered by Radley?

In July 2012 I successfully applied to showcase my work at the trade show New Designers in London.  I was placed in the ‘One Year On’ section which is a specific area for young, freelance designers who are at the beginning of their careers and just starting out in the design industry.  The show is well attended by all areas of the profession who are looking to source new talent either for employment or freelance work and it was there where Radley’s design team spotted my illustrations.

Are you happy with what Radley has done with your artwork?

Yes I am thrilled with the way Radley have translated my illustrations from their original hand stitched form on paper through to the printed version applied to the final product.  I love the way that they have introduced the warm gold and red colours into the prints as it makes the illustration have more impact.

They have got the originals framed in Radley’s London Head Office which is a great honour.

What is your favourite piece Radley and you have created?

I really like them all and it is difficult to choose one!  I do really love the long purse with the bird perched onto of the post box and the Radley dog leaping up.  I also adore the practical canvas tote bag where the Radley dog is jumping up again but this time onto the bench.

radley red letter day

Do you have any other art styles? and how do you choose your subjects?

The hand stitched linear illustration style is my iconic style and this is the one that I concentrate on as it comes so naturally to me.  I choose my subjects in a purely selfish away – anything I like I will capture in an illustration!  I want to create beautiful images and products for other people to cherish and enjoy.

What are your future project plans?

I will continue to complete a wide variety of freelance illustration work for either commercial (such as Radley) or private clients.  Bespoke commissions are very popular which is where I hand stitch an illustration from a provided image (such as a wedding photo).  These can then be framed and displayed as intricate pieces of art.

Recently I taken on 2 separate projects for clients producing bespoke illustrations for their wedding stationery (invites, thank you cards etc).  I am very much enjoying this work hope to expand this venture further.

As well as my freelance work I have also got my illustrated product ranges which span the home, fashion and lifestyle markets.  As I said before it has always been my aim to create beautiful images for function and useful products.  Thus far (over the past 2 years) either independently or in successful collaboration with other companies I have managed to slowly but surely started to achieve this.

These are the following links to the sites where the products can be seen.

www.emmacowlam.com – this is my own website where a full shop section is being created.

www.illustratedpapercompany.com – this is my own stationery website and company which I co-founded with a business partner, Deborah, in January 2012.  As well as having my own illustrated range we also represent a series of other talented creatives.  We sell online and stock in many small independent gift and bookshops throughout the UK and Ireland.  3 of our collections are now stocked with Paperchase and my illustrated Christmas cards have just been ordered for their 2013 range which is very exciting.  We are just about to launch 2 wonderful new ranges by 2 new designers to IPC.  My illustrated collection is stocked widely including Somerset House and Mary Portas’ House of Fraser concessions.

Emma Cowlam - Illustrated Note Card Pack - Fashion (Girls)

www.englisheccentrix.co.uk – this is my illustrated ceramic tableware range which I was approached to develop with English Eccentrix.   I am gaining more and more stockists for my range which has actually developed quite significantly since the images for the website were taken.  I have now got a coloured collection as well as an illustrated dog collection.  These products are stocked in a few retail outlets and hopefully will gain more and more over the coming months.  On this site a web-shop is being set up so that customers can buy online and have the item posted directly to them.

My work with English Eccentrix is shown internationally at trade shows and in March 2013 the collective won a prestigious Homes & Gardens magazine design award which will hopefully add greatly to increase the public’s awareness of my work.

Emma Cowlam - Illustrated Ceramic Tableware - NY Bike Lovers Range

www.graduatecollection.co.uk – home ware (cushions, prints and wallpaper).  This collaboration resulted from being approached by the Graduate Collection after my digital wallpaper prototype featured in The Guardian newspaper.  Since their launch in January the cushions have already featured in the Daily Mail and Times Out magazines.  Illustrated dog cushions and possibly even dog beds are in the pipeline!

I am currently developing my products and working towards launching my latest collections at another industry trade show called Top Drawer in London this September.

I hope that a combination of press coverage and retail stockists will infiltrate my illustrated products into the wider market.

Clearly I am very busy but thoroughly enjoying it all immensely!  Every day in my illustration study at home in my cottage is a joy where something positive and exciting is created and achieved.

Emma Cowlam - Illustrated Cushion - Saturday Morning MarketEmma Cowlam - Illustrated Cushion - Daper Man


Have you any advice for up and coming artists?

Get out and about lots and this way you will discover all sorts of inspiration that you would have never initially looked for.  Keep being creative at all times and just work, never work work…and when you have had enough, work some more!  A mixture of talent, hard work and determination will get you there eventually if you are good enough!

Any Final words for Radley fans?

I really hope that you like my illustrations used in Radleys Autumn/Winter 2013 range and that some of the products might find a place within your treasured and much loved Radley collections.

For all Twitter fans you can find Emma at this handle: @EmmaCowlam

What Radley Collector Says:

Radley Collector would like to thank Emma for taking the time to chat to us. Emma’s work is already getting the fans and collectors excited. The ranges have been greeted in the Radley world with a great response. The unique quirky artwork makes great bags and accessories. We love that Radley supports lesser known and young artists. It gives their career a fantastic stepping stone and as fans we love these designs.

Great work Emma !

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