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Designer Talks: Jane Foster

A completely self-taught illustrator, designer and screen printer, Jane Foster started her career around 10 years ago. While living in Brighton in the UK, she stumbled upon a screen printing studio, completed a six-week course program, and was hooked! At 36 years old, she was a full-time music specialist teaching in several schools. Two years later after leaving her teaching career, she taught herself how to sew, screen print fabric, design, print, and make toys, cushions, bags, etc. Her partner Jim became an expert at exposing her illustrations onto silk screens, which is how her home gradually turned into a small business. She now mostly spends her time illustrating children's books and working on designs for products such as mugs, glasses, place-mats, coasters and kitchen textiles.

Do you have a greatest career moment? If so, what was it?

Seeing one of my prints in Ikea was pretty amazing, along with the first time my posters were sold in a shop called Habitat in the UK. I also loved seeing my ceramics in the London store, John Lewis.

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What was your most challenging career moment?

It was around four years ago when I was asked to write the first of my three craft books called 'Fun With Fabric'. It was so incredibly exciting but also so daunting that I couldn't get to sleep for weeks!

What is the basis of your design strategy?

I like to keep my work relatively simple and fun. I always start my designs in black and white, by hand, using a fine black marker pen. If the design doesn't work pared back in this form, it usually doesn't work when color is added.

What do you consider to be your design expertise?

I think I'm pretty good at designing in one or two colors, it's practically my trademark. My style is fun, playful, and appeals to all.

Where do you seek inspiration to kick-start your creative process?

I love vintage children's books, ceramics from the 60s, fabric, Scandinavian style, and Pinterest.

How do you know when to stick it out and when to let go of an idea?

I usually trust my instinct - if it feels like too much hard work and that I'm forcing a design, it isn't going to work! Designs should flow with ease. I also love the mirror trick - if the design looks ok in the mirror then I usually like it. Sometimes I put designs in drawers and leave them for a few months, only to then re-discover them.

Is it difficult to strike a balance between your creativity and the objective for commercial success?

Yes, very hard! It's often easier for me to work on designs for my own portfolio first so I then have a body of work to show prospective clients. It's sometimes very hard to guess at what someone wants and much easier if you can give them a choice!

Is there one design or collection that changed everything for you? What was it? And what do you think of it today?

My first set of animal head designs are quite special (cat, fox and panda) as those were used on the first set of mugs and glasses for the company, MAKE International. These have since sold in many stores all over the world.

Do you have any rules regarding design?

I always draw free hand - not ever using a ruler or a computer! I like the slight imperfections.

I always draw free hand - not ever using a ruler or a computer! I like the slight imperfections.

If you were not a designer, is there another career path that intrigues you?

I would have also loved to have been an architect or a jewelry designer.

Is there one person who you admire or consider to be your greatest mentor or design inspiration?

I think Orla Kiely is amazing - she has such a good eye for pattern, color, and simplicity in everything she does

What advice would you give to young designers who are just starting out in a commercial marketplace?

Keep following your passion everyday! When you do this over days, months, and years, your own unique style will emerge. Avoid comparing yourself to others, stay patient, positive, and start with small achievable goals. Spend time on social media - Instagram in particular. Having a good website (that needn't be pricey) and Instagram is your window to the world.

Any other thoughts you would like to share?

It's also a dream of mine to design fabric and wallpaper!