Artist Rachel Taylor’s flights of fancy decorate many a child’s wall. She is known for her colorful collages and her signature element is her delightful birds—mostly, but not always, wise old owls. Her work is so bird-inspired that she even works in a studio in an old Bird’s Custard Factory in Birmingham, UK. (More on that later.) We asked her a few questions recently about her process, inspiration and, of course, those beautiful birds!
Oopsy daisy: Do you have formal art training?
Rachel Taylor: Yes, I did a Foundation course in Art and Design at Blackburn College of Art. On this year-long course I studied all areas such as Fine Art, Graphics, Textiles, Fashion, Photography etc. From here I went on to receive a B.A. Honors Degree in Textile Design at West Surrey College of Art and Design, in the UK.
OD: Your degree in Textile Design is evident in all your patterned backgrounds. Do you create those?
RT: Some of my patterns are origami papers or vintage fabrics which I scan and alter colors or shapes. But yes, I do create a lot of my own patterns digitally. I love pattern color and I worked as a textile designer for many years. I used to design furnishing, bedding, upholstery fabrics and wallpapers, so I understand the whole design process from repeats to layouts.
OD: So some of your art, the backgrounds, is created digitally. What other mediums do you work in?
RT: I have a variety of artistic handwriting in which I work, such as hand-drawn illustration, watercolor painting and collage. I’d say that collage is my most common medium and the one that I am most renowned for. It is all very hands on—all scissors and glue stick.
OD: Tell us about those wonderful birds and owls that show up in so much of your work.
RT: I create them from cutout, patterned papers. They all have names. I first started to create these characters about 6 years ago and they are still as popular as ever!
OD: Let’s hear some of the names!
RT: I just think up owl-related cute names like Hootie, Barney. For birds, maybe Tweetie and Birdy. Different ones every time.
OD: How does it make you feel to know that your Hootie and Barney, and so many other characters in pieces of your canvas wall art, decorate the walls of kids’ rooms?
RT: It’s really great! My art is really colorful and fun. The characters I create are friendly and cute and I hope my work is an inspiration to the kids who have my art on their bedroom walls. Or maybe the characters just become their friends!
OD: Speaking of artistic inspiration, what inspired you as a kid?
RT: I was taken to art galleries when I was a kid by my Dad. Art is for everyone and everyone should experience it, in whatever format.
OD: Now that you are an artist, what’s the best part about it?
RT: Doing what I love and do best!! Seeing my designs out there in the shops and on products and in books makes it all worthwhile. Just knowing that somebody loves what I’ve created gives me a real buzz!
OD: Are you a full-time artist?
RT: Yes, I have always been a full-time freelance artist. I was also a partner in my own design company, Lov Li Design for a number of years. Now I also work part time as an external advisor and mentor on a Fashion and Textiles course at Worcester College of Technology.
OD: What is a typical workday like for you?
RT: I start with inspiration. This can be cutting images from magazines, Internet browsing or creating a mood-board of ideas. I then sketch ideas out roughly in pencil. Then I get creative! My desk gets messy with patterned papers and I get my scissors out and literally start cutting and pasting. People always think it looks a lot of fun—a bit like being at school!!
OD: And all this creating happens in a Bird building?
RT: Yes! I have my own studio in an old Bird’s Custard Factory in Birmingham, UK. The Custard Factory is Birmingham’s revolutionary arts and media center. The factory was built 100 years ago by Sir Alfred Bird, the inventor of custard. It is now a hub of offices and studios where I work alongside many other artists, designers and creatives, which is fab.
OD: A couple more questions, if you don’t mind. Do you prefer rainy days or sunny days?
RT: Sunny days defo [that’s “definitely,” for all us Yankees! –ed]. I love picnics in the sun. It’s raining today. Saying that, it is quite cozy in my studio hearing the rain pouring down outside.
OD: We think we know the answer to this one, but we’ll ask anyhow: If you couldn’t be you, what animal would you want to be?
RT: Why, an owl of course! [laughs] I’d be a very super cute owl though. Like one of my own characters!
Have a look at Oopsy daisy’s great selection of Rachel’s art.