If we were to sum up the work of self-confessed “colour enthusiast and pattern lover” Natalie Lea Owen in three words, quirky, original and fun would be the words we’d use. Natalie’s neon-bright illustrations adorn everything from cards to tote bags, sold in her online shop launched in October 2015. We caught up with Natalie to find out how she turned her passion for print into a thriving indie business.
Natalie’s bold signature style comes from an innate sense of creativity. “I’ve always been very creative. I guess it all started with textiles GCSE and art A-level. I went to Camberwell College of Art before moving to Leeds, where I got a first-class degree in Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds College of Art.”
After graduating in 2014, she moved to London and “worked on amazing projects, including a greetings card range for Waitrose for their Graduate Collection and Hallmark Cards” before deciding to branch out on her own. “In 2015 I signed up to The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme. I had to write an 8,000-word business plan and pitch to a Dragon’s Den style panel of Prince’s Trust Executives. I was given funding to get my products made and have had a fantastic first few years.”
Natalie’s illustrations begin in monochrome. “I start off with just pen and paper in black and white. I’m always looking for things I can make into patterns, so I like to draw from buildings and nature and what’s around me.” These detailed sketches are then scanned and edited in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. “I clean the drawings up then add colour, experiment with composition and add in print-making textures to add depth.”
After that, the designs are transformed into beautiful things for her shop. “My stationery and fabrics are all digitally printed in the UK. My textiles GCSE came in handy for sewing my zipped pouches together!”
When she’s not working on the business, Natalie somehow still finds time for new crafty and creative endeavours. “My friend introduced me to weaving and helped me make my own little DIY weaving loom with an old picture frame and some nails. I love making woven wall hangings. I’ve made a few for friends for their birthdays.”
Natalie’s dedication to growing her brand has paid off – her designs will be gracing the shelves in the likes of Fenwicks, Museum of London and The National Archives. “My first trade fair (Top Drawer) went really well last January, and you can now find my products brightening up the shelves of department stores, museum shops and independent gift shops around the UK.”
See more of Natalie’s collection at www.natalieleaowen.co.uk