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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Do What You Love interview: Rachael Taylor

Voted ‘Happiest Person in Britain’, this really is a girl doing what she loves. Rachael Taylor’s bright and fun designs caught my eye some time ago, and I bought an original piece of her work for my studio. As a surface pattern designer and illustrator, Rachel has clients all over the world, and next year she will be bringing out her own line of stationery with US-based Teneues publishing.

(image courtesy of Rachael Taylor)

Rachel graduated in 2005 with a BA (Hons) in Textile in Fashion Design. After working in industry for three years, she set up her own design studio in 2008. Now specialising in surface pattern design and illustration, Rachel works as a freelance designer for clients like WH Smith, Target and Graham and Brown, and runs her own design label, Rachael Taylor Designs. Rachel’s international collaborations include a signature collection with Seascape Lamps USA. I talked to Rachel about loosening up, setting up on her own and getting known.

(image courtesy of Rachael Taylor)

1. For those new to ‘surface pattern design’ can you explain what it involves?
Working as a surface designer is great fun and never dull.  Surface pattern covers so many areas and products in the market, so my work is very varied and every day is a new challenge. I've designed for magazine covers, greeting cards, packaging, fashion and homewares, so it keeps me on my toes.
If I'm working for a client on a freelance commission I tend to work from a direct brief but if I'm designing for my own label, I try not to have a plan. I just let my designs and ideas flow naturally. I also create surface designs and illustration that I license out to companies.  They tend to use them exactly as they are but sometimes I re-colour them to tie in with their collections.

2. How would you describe your signature style and how did it come about?
I'd say my signature style is free, quirky & spontaneous.  It normally involves elements of freehand drawing, bright accent colours, textures and layering. Sometimes I combine all of these things together. I think it stems from my student days. I studied Textile and Fashion design at Leeds but our tutors were really keen on mark-making, drawing, painting and working more freely.
My portfolio was more fine art based rather than your typical design portfolio. It took me ages to loosen up my work, then in my final year whilst creating my screen printed collection something just clicked and it all fell into place. That's when I started to really have fun with it and take risks. I'm never afraid to experiment as quite often my mistakes turn out to be my best pieces.

(image courtesy of Rachael Taylor)
3. You have had great success getting your work out across the country and internationally. Can you talk us through the steps of getting one of your designs into a shop as a product?
I think a few factors helped in getting my own label out. I work as a freelance designer for other companies in the UK, USA & Europe so I think that raised my profile and people were aware of my style already. Being featured in books and magazines and on blogs really helped too, as people became more aware of me. When I first started my own line (launched in Sept 2009) I just started very small. I opened a notonthehighstreet store, and planned to just planned to sell online. Then when I started to see there was interest in it. I decided to approach a few local shops and it just went from there really. I rang up the British Craft Trade Fair about exhibiting at their 2011 show and they said someone had pulled out the 2010 show. There was just one week to go before the show so they offered me discounted space. It was a crazy idea and at first I said no, as I thought I couldn't pull it off. But then something clicked and I just thought “I'm going to take the risk and go for it”. It paid off - this really got me out there and now I have number of stockists in the UK.

4. What made you take the leap from working for someone else to setting up your own design studio?I just decided it would be nice to have a few small things that I could call my own and put my name to. Then from I decided to have a signature range that I'd license out with my name on as a brand. It's really nice having the freelance and my own stuff - I feel very lucky that I have the best of both worlds.  It can be crazy, non-stop juggling sometimes, but that's what I love. I wouldn't have it any other way!

5. What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome in setting it up?
I've found it hard managing the admin side of things - there are just never enough hours in the day. I've had to become quite business-minded so that's been a learning curve too! I find it hard that some days the business things eat away into my creative time.  I've had a fair few time delays with product development too, which has been a bit stressful. More recently I had a designer blatantly copy my work too, so that was an awful situation to deal with.

(image courtesy of Rachael Taylor)
6. What do you wish you had known when you were starting out?
I wish there was a guide to prepare you for setbacks you may have, every day I learn something new! I never knew I'd have to become so business savvy that would have scared me off!

7. How much of a role does technology play in your business? (in terms of actually creating your designs, managing your business, promoting yourself etc)
Technology plays a huge part. I create my designs on my mac using a graphic tablet. I still use traditional methods but everything has to be developed on the computer in the end. I use twitter, my blog, my website, facebook to promote my work on the internet. It really does work – I have had a fair few overseas clients find me via twitter!

8. What makes you ‘the happiest person in Britain’?
That was a bit bizarre receiving that title,but wonderful too! I feel very honoured. I'm just a regular girl who rambles on a bit. I think I'm quite an upbeat and positive person. My tweets (on Twitter) come across that way. I'm just so grateful that people have received my work really well, so I think that shows as it makes me really enjoy what I do even more. Little things keep me happy like my family, great friends, my lovely dog, music… I love music! My work is really influenced by it as pieces are created depending what mood I'm in. My work keeps me happy, I'm extremely passionate about what I do.

9. Where will you take your business next?
I'm hoping to continue expanding my own line and develop further homewares products. I also want to continue freelancing as I think it keeps my work fresh and I love working with new products and challenges. I've also started receiving regular bookings in schools and colleges for workshops and talks. I want to continue with that too as I really love doing it.
 You can see Rachel’s lovely designs on her website and blog, or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.


(image courtesy of Rachael Taylor)


  1. thank you so much rachel + beth for this amazing interview! rachel, your work is just so lovely! i've always been interested in surface pattern design + it's so interesting to hear rachel's story!

    thank you for all of the inspiration!

  2. Great interview.
    Thanks for sharing all this info. with us both Rachel and Beth.

  3. I'm really enjoying these interviews Beth! Great job and thanks so much for sharing them with us! Your very talented Rachel!

    Love, Peace & Christmas blessings,
    xoxo Valerie

  4. Dear Beth, Thanks so much for the wonderful interview! So great to get to know the humble beginnings & with talent and hard work things happen~ Rachel your designs are wonderful, so glad to be introduced to you & your talents.
    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year ~Theresa

  5. Awww, thank you so much for all your lovely comments! I really appreciate them. I'm really touched:)

    Thank you Beth, for featuring me x

    Have a fab Christmas break!!!

  6. Great interview and great work Rachael!
    Happy Holidays!

  7. Wonderful! Thank you both for a lovely interview, great information and sharing this gorgeous work. I just love that Rachael was voted the happiest person in Britain. Merry Christmas to you xxx


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