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An interview with illustrator Katie Putt

Illustrator and designer Katie Putt is exhibiting her work in Design-Nation Picks show at The National Centre for Craft & Design until 5 January 2020. Katie is one of the two winners of the One Year In Development Award at New Designers. Design-Nation managed to catch up with Katie and ask her a few questions about her practice, inspiration and much more.

Design-Nation asked:  Please tell us about your practice and how your business began.

Katie Putt answered: I’m foremost a watercolour illustrator, but the avenues that are open for illustration seem to be never ending -which is particularly exciting for me. I have loved art and crafting from a young age and enjoy experimenting with different mediums. After having drawn using pen and ink for several years I stumbled into watercolour 4 years ago and have enjoyed using it so much that I can’t imagine working with anything else. My business began with private commissions and art prints, and has grown into my own products, commissions, licensed illustrations for products and publishing.

D-N: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?

There have been several influential people around me relating to my artwork and life. However, I would have to say that my most influential mentor would be my partner (and soon to be husband). He is not only my sounding board, but is also the person that is pushing me with a stick whilst at the same time enticing me with a carrot. He is a great mentor in terms of seeing the potential of my business and dreaming big when looking at the bigger picture. He provides invaluable business advice and encouragement behind the scenes.

D-N: What inspires you?

K.P: I’m inspired by the great explorers and their journeys of discovery. There is something so magical about a time where there were vast ‘unknown’ worlds full of mystical plants and creatures that were beyond our imaginations. Although there is still so much unknown about the natural world, I feel that the public’s general interest in discovering more in the world today is significantly less. The passion and determination that these people had to uncover new lands whilst in potentially dangerous situations is very inspiring to me. The fact that these findings would then be drawn by hand, potentially etched and then painted using watercolour in order to share them with the rest of the world, is a beautiful forgotten process.

D-N: Please tell us a bit about your design process.

K.P: When it comes to my design process, I can be a little all over the place, but that’s something that I wouldn’t change. Sometimes a project will come to me and I have to just jump in and start painting!  More often I spend a lot more time researching the subject and sketching out ideas, positions and layouts before I even begin to draw. This is a much bigger stage of the process and something that I really

enjoy. I love being able to learn something new, and painting what I learn helps it sit firmly in my brain. I tend to be swayed to painting subjects that I have a particular interest in learning about at the time. After sketching, I add fine details and textures using fine liners. Once this stage is complete I add several light washes of watercolour, slowly building the intensity of the colour.

D-N: What is the best thing to have happened in your business to date?

K.P: I’m very early on in my business (in fact I’m only 18 months in!), but the previous year has been particularly exciting for me! I have taken part in some great group shows and this summer I was lucky enough to win the New Designers One Year In award which has already opened up several doors for me for 2020. I’m now in the early stages of working on my first book! The best thing that has happened to date, is being able to spend so much of my time painting.

D-N: What is your workspace like?

K.P: My workspaces have changed quite a lot the past few years which I think comes with living and renting in London. I currently share a studio space with my partner which understandably has its pros and cons! I really enjoy this balance of working from home but not being completely isolated.

D-N: Do you work hard on your PR or do others help you to market your business?

K.P: A question that I hate being asked and a subject I always shy away from talking about – I feel most other creatives likely do the same. PR & Marketing is something that is always on my to do list, and is forever working its way down to the bottom (or maybe it’s being pushed and kicked to the bottom!). I’m aware more than ever that PR is one of the most important parts of my business and is something that I plan to focus on in January when I plan my marketing efforts for the year ahead. I’m hoping that with the help of Design -Nation and my business mentor Patricia van den Akker (of the Design Trust) 2020 will be a very productive year for me when it comes to marketing.

D-N: What are the main challenges in your practice?

K.P: Watercolour is a very unforgiving medium so it is therefore its own biggest challenge. It is very hard to cover mistakes with watercolour which can be excruciating. I enjoy painting an entire piece rather than manipulating the illustrations later on photoshop which adds to the pressure. The best part of watercolour to me is that it cannot be rushed and that it forces patience.

D-N: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?

K.P: I’m certain that within the next 10 years my practice will have grown and expanded greatly. I plan to continue illustrating the natural world and imparting information unknowingly through interior decor, as well as through illustrated educational activities. In addition to this and where I plan to be focusing most of my energy, is in creating a community of people who want to learn about the natural world and traditional crafts (such as foraging, the preservation/ pinning of insects, woodcrafts etc..). I hope to create a space where all of these traditional practices can be taught and where people’s appreciation for the natural world will grow.

D-N: If you could collaborate with someone new who would that be?

K.P: There are several designers and organisations that I would love to collaborate with in the near future. However, if I were to pick one it would have to be the Horniman Museum. The Horniman Museum can be found in south London and has an interesting history of collecting artefacts, along with a huge collection of taxidermied animals. They also have beautiful grounds, including a fascinating medicinal garden (a perfect spot to sketch!).

D-N: If you weren’t a designer what would you like to do?

K.P: If I weren’t a designer I would find myself in another roll that allowed me to see a project from its raw materials at the start to the finished product! I could imagine myself being a baker, a furniture maker or maybe a potter. So I guess, in a roll which includes a form of design and creativity (it would be hard to get away from!). I really enjoy being able to see each stage of a process as well as being able to research and learn more about the topic.

D-N: Why did you join Design-Nation? What is helpful about being a member?

K.P: Being a designer/maker it is very easy to become isolated and out of touch. Design Nation is already proving to be incredibly useful and has helped me make some great connections with local designers offering support and advice already.

D-N: Do you have you any exhibitions, commissions or events coming up that we should know about?

K.P: I will be displaying at Handmade in Britain (Chelsea) this November. I can also be found at Top Drawer for the first time, within the ‘Spotted’ section, in January 2020 which I’m very excited about! Until then I’m working on a collaboration with a British crafting company which will be released in the new year.


Pattern & Sequence

DN Picks

The National Centre for Craft & Design, Sleaford

Until 5 January


Handmade Chelsea

King’s Road, London

8 and 9 November


Topdrawer 2020


12-14 January

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Posted by

Laura Jacometti



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