In this monthly Meet the Maker blog series we meet award-winning artist Claudine O’Sullivan, designer of our Children’s Tales range. Her distinctive nature-inspired hand-drawn illustrations have attracted industry attention and resulted in collaborations with established brands such as Twitter, MTV, Island Records, WeTransfer, Tiger Beer and Derwent Pencils.
We commissioned Claudine to refresh and revamp the children’s range in our shop ahead of the Marvellous and Mischievous exhibition. Her brief was to illustrate a repeat pattern inspired by children’s stories that stand the test of time. Her illustrations, using recognisable imagery from children’s stories, were applied to a range of products including notebooks, jigsaw puzzles and cushions. Look closely and you will spot a frog prince, the crocodile from Peter Pan, the tiger (Who Came to Tea) and many more.
She says: ‘This was my first project after maternity leave. It was really well-timed as I’d been immersed in children’s books. It’s been so special to do the puzzles with my daughter and she has the cushions in her room. This range is like a time capsule for my family.’
Claudine creates bold, colourful nature-inspired prints, all designed using coloured pencil. Her graphic designer at the University of Arts, London advised her to forget about trying to follow a particular style – instead Claudine picks up a pencil with no real plan and just sketches what she feels.
'My process is purely observational drawing and I am obsessed with the natural world. My most recent design is a river heron I spotted during lockdown on my daily walk with my daughter.'
Claudine and her husband both work from home and juggle parenting and work. As well as a never-ending list of personal projects and print ideas Claudine has recently worked on an exciting collaboration with John Lewis and Derwent Pencils encouraging people to design their own wrapping paper.
Charlotte Wainwright, British Library Shop Buyer, added: 'We loved Claudine’s illustrations so much we added a memory game and an extra cushion to the range. Her designs also inspired the other products in our children’s range such as books, Little Red Riding Hood dominoes and even a plush elephant.'
Children's Tales tote bag
In addition to brand partnerships, Claudine also sells prints directly via her website. Her advice for makers and designers starting out with their own small business is to stick with it: 'I built my business whilst working full time, it's exhausting and nerve wracking but save, save, save and when you have a cushion of savings – go for it full time.'