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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with illustrator, textile designer and author Jane Foster

We find out more about multi-tasking Devon based creative Jane Foster, currently involved in multiple projects, including creating handmade items to celebrate Miffy's 60th Birthday!

Written by Greg McIndoe

Jane Foster toucan
Jane Foster is an illustrator, textile designer and author based in Devon. She and her husband run a studio in which she designs, prints and sells a range of products in her distinctive style. On top of all this, she has recently found time to share her talent through a series of craft book and help classic children’s book character Miffy celebrate her 60th birthday. Jane’s success as an illustrator is down to the unique, joyful style of her work. A mix of clean shapes and lines, bold colours and playful, charming characters makes each of her creations something truly special which you can’t help but smile at! With this being such a busy and exciting time for Jane, I couldn’t wait to find out more about her inspiration, process and plans for the future.

Jane Foster owl
Can you tell us a bit about you and your work?
I’m a self taught illustrator who also screen prints, sews and collects fabric. My initial career was in music – I studied the violin at music college for 5 years, followed that by a 1 year PGCE and then taught music for 15 years before changing my career.

Jane Foster mugs
Can you tell us about your creative process? How do you document ideas and then take them forward to end products?
I always carry a note book in my bag and usually sketch and think about future ideas when I’m in a cafe. I’m very good at going to cafes on my own in order to do this, and most of my designs would have been sketched in a cafe somewhere before I then return to my studio to work on a neater version on better paper. I work with fine black line pens and my designs are then scanned into a computer in order to then be transferred onto acetate and then exposed onto a silk screen for screen printing.

Jane Foster teapot
You choose to screen print your products by hand. Is there any reason you choose to produce them this way?
It might not necessarily be the most cost effective way, as owning all your own screens etc. can be very costly, but I love the whole process. I find it very satisfying and therapeutic. I love the way every print can be slightly different, I like the way the ink sits slightly proud on the paper and I like experimenting with short runs for prototypes. Doing all the processes here is very liberating as I can design something in the morning and in theory, have it exposed on to a screen within the same day to then screen print on to fabric or paper in the evening.

Jane Foster lion drawing
Jane Foster lions
You say your work is influenced by Scandanavian design. How did you come across this sort of design and what is it that appeals to you about it?
My parents loved Scandinavian design in the 70s so I think they were a huge influence. My mum loved bold designs in primary colours, even at a time when Laura Ashley flowers might have been the trend. She shopped in Habitat and Heals and had a few Marimekko duvet covers. I like the freshness and simplicity of Scandinavian design – it’s not overly fussy and it’s often geometric.

Jane Foster ABC
What else inspires you? Are there any artists, places or objects from which you draw a lot of inspiration?
Fabric from the 50s and 60s inspire me, especially those designed by Lucienne Day and early Heals designers. I draw inspiration from ceramics, vintage children’s illustrations, like the work of Alain Gree and Dick Bruna, and also from the internet – Pinterest!

Jane Foster miffy bag
What is your studio like?
We now have a studio at home in our garden that we have just spent the past 5 months building. It’s a wonderful light and airy space, white walls and floors and full of colourful fabrics, prints and handmade toys!

Jane Foster cat apple plush
If you could see into the studio of any artist (dead or alive) who would you choose and why?
Probably Henry Mattise – I love his use of colour, especially his huge collages like his famous ‘Snail’. I think he seemed like a wonderful, interesting character and I would love to have a snoop around his studio!

Jane Foster Miffy cushion
You have produced a few products using the classic children’s character Miffy. What appealed to you about this character? And why did you choose to use it in your designs?
I grew up with Miffy books and started to collect them. Over the last ten years, I was lucky enough to source several pairs of Miffy curtains from Holland dating from the 70s. I made some cushions and bags for my daughter and a few friends and more recently, started to sell some of these items on my Etsy shop. I have always loved the simplicity of Dick Bruna’s Miffy books and think he has a real skill at not making his work too complicated. I love his simple use of outline and colour and think he’s a genius to create a character who seems timeless and is still incredibly popular today all over the world. I really enjoy combining Miffy fabric with my own fabric and 70s vintage fabrics to create purses, bags and cushions. I’ve been fortunate to sign a contract with Miffy headquarters to allow me to sell handmade Miffy items. It’s Miffy’s 60th Birthday this year so I shall be making 60 limited edition items to sell in July!

Jane Foster creative craft with kids
You have recently released your second book Creative Craft With Kids. Can you tell us a bit more about it and what inspired you to write it?
I was fortunate enough to sign a 3 book deal and this was my second one. My first book Fun With Fabric was really for adults so I thought it would be great to make my second book dedicated to projects to make with and for kids. My daughter is now 7 so I’ve had plenty of experience being creative with her these past few years so wanted to share some of my enthusiasm and ideas with others.

Jane Foster 123
Finally, what is next for Jane Foster? Any creative projects or future goals you would like to mention?
I’ve the first of my 2 pre-school children’s books out this May which is very exciting. A 123 book and an ABC book. These are published by Templar. My designs are going to be added to kitchen textiles, placemats, coasters, fine bone china mugs and glasses. These are produced by the company Make International. I’m also working on some secret commissions for next Christmas which you will discover towards the end of the year.

Shop Jane Foster products here, and see more on her blog here.

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