Meet the Maker: Jane Crick
Jane Crick has a very distinctive style – you know a Jane Crick illustration when you see it. She honed her skills over two decades working as a professional graphic designer, but since launching her own range of cards, prints and gift wrap, she has been able to really explore her love of nature – particularly the shapes created by petals, foliage and shadows in her garden and allotment. Zanna and Mecki Allen from Zan + Me talk to Jane to learn more about her graphic style and the inspiration behind her designs.
For a very limited time, Jane Crick is offering 20% off all her cards, gift wrap and prints.
Just use the code MTM17 when you check out. Click here to visit Jane Crick’s shop
If you put a lot of love and effort into your work – I’m talking a period of years, designing, making and refining – it will show and people will truly appreciate it.
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do?
My name is Jane, but all my friends call me Janey. I’m a designer and illustrator, creating colourful cards, gift wrap and art prints of flowers, plants, animals and the Suffolk coast. I also work as a gardener, as front of house in The Lion House Gallery in Lavenham and I co-own and manage The Handmade Shop & Gallery in Bury St Edmunds, which is a group of talented East Anglian artists who jointly stock and run the gallery on a day-to-day basis. It’s kind of like a ‘bricks and mortar’ style Folksy!
I find the shapes created by petals, foliage and shadows fascinating and I try to capture that by layering in my designs.
We’d love to know how you’ve developed your different product lines and which one or ones are your personal favourite(s)?
My Allium and Floral ranges are where I started and they are my favourites because of my love of flowers. I find the shapes created by petals, foliage and shadows fascinating and I try to capture that by layering in my designs. The Farmyard Friends range was born out of my love of the Suffolk farming landscape. I was brought up on a small holding surrounded by goats, cows, rabbits, chickens and donkeys. I used to love to spend all my spare time with them. I have always loved the East Anglian coastline too, so it was essential for me to pick some fantastic locations for my British Seaside range. And as for my Christmas range, I’ve always had immaculately wrapped Christmas parcels! My friends would comment on it and keep my wrappings from year to year. I guess designing your own gift wrap is the ultimate in obsessive gift-wrapping behaviour?
I’ve always had immaculately wrapped Christmas parcels! I guess designing your own gift wrap is the ultimate in obsessive gift-wrapping behaviour?
Your work has a very distinctive style. How did you develop your artistic talent and your graphic design skills in particular?
I trained as a graphic designer straight from school at 16 – not something you can do these days! I first studied at Ipswich Art College where I took a BTEC National Diploma in graphic design and then a further two years at Croydon College, where I gained the Higher National Diploma. I worked as a graphic designer for over 20 years for various local agencies, working on a range of projects for small local companies right up to larger organisations such as Wisdom Toothbrushes, Winsor & Newton and Crayola.
After having my two children I found that my focus had changed and I went through a very difficult time at work. I eventually left with very low confidence and self-belief. But I was encouraged by friends and family to use the illustration skills I had learned at work to produce a few greetings cards and prints for a local art sale and I never looked back. My style has just developed from there… I always loved silk screen printing and Adobe Illustrator allows me to produce illustrations very much in that style.
My designs are very big, bright, bold and colourful. I have pretty much stuck to the same style throughout the few years that I have now been self employed. It took a while, but happily, I now seem to have a strong and loyal customer base who love it.
After having my two children I went through a very difficult time at work. I eventually left with very low confidence and self-belief. But I was encouraged by friends and family to use the illustration skills I had learned to produce a few greetings cards and prints
Could you outline your creative process from concept to finished product?
My work is vector artwork created on a MacBook Pro using Adobe Illustrator. I work in a variety of ways. I can either produce a pencil rough or use a photograph as reference (I always have my camera with me to snap that perfect bloom) or simply just draw straight into the programme. Some people use a tablet with a stylus, but I prefer to use my mouse. Sometimes I then use the final illustration to produce plates which I use for silk screen printing but I mainly print digitally directly from the vector image file.
I don’t place a time limit on myself, I just keep drawing and layering until I get it just right. Somehow the image tells me when I should stop.
A large commercial image for a tea towel design can take at least up to 25 hours or more to create. A simple flower design for a greetings card might be less – it’s difficult to say. I don’t place a time limit on myself, I just keep drawing and layering until I get it just right. Somehow the image tells me when I should stop. I try to break the image down into areas of simple flat shape, but still retain the essence of the image. It’s a fine line to get that balance just right.
Everything is printed in the UK to a professional quality by The Lavenham Press, where my partner Adrian works. The paper used is from well-managed and sustainable sources, and the card used in my greetings cards is FSC accredited. The Lavenham Press work to high environmental standards, using traditional litho printing methods for my gift wrap and digital print for my cards and tags. I do all the hand finishing myself at home – cutting, punching, folding, threading, packing…
I research trending colours, looking at fashion trends about two to four seasons in advance. These usually then filter down into stationery trends a season or two later.
Looking at the items listed in your Folksy shop, we’re struck by your sensitive use of colours. We’d love to know how you approach working with colour?
I have always loved colour. As a graphic designer one of my favourite things was choosing colours from the huge Pantone Colour Chart, which contains a swatch of every colour you could possibly imagine! I am very careful about my colour palette when I work – this is usually the first thing I create when I start drawing a new design.
I research trending colours, looking at fashion trends about two to four seasons in advance. These usually then filter down into stationery trends a season or two later. If I think they will work in a design I use them. Colours do change subtly from year to year – it’s good to keep on top of trends but I don’t let it rule my work.
My ‘studio’ as such is our dining room, which I have now almost completely taken over. It’s a lovely bright, open space that over looks my own garden.
Could you give us a glimpse into your creative environment and workspace?
I can work wherever my MacBook is. And I do tend to take it everywhere with me. But my ‘studio’ as such is our dining room, which I have now almost completely taken over. It’s a lovely bright, open space that over looks my own garden. We’re lucky to have a bank of mature trees at the end of our plot, so it’s pretty much enclosed all around by green – which I adore.
You mention on your website that you create bespoke giftware. How does that work and who are your typical clients?
I produce illustrations for clients who want to have an image of their tourist attraction or site of interest on giftware items. I usually work from photographic images supplied by the client, but I’m happy to do site visits too. Once the illustration is done, it can then be applied to just about anything. I mostly work for larger organisations, but I am happy to work with companies or individual retail shops of any size.
A National Trust Buyer saw my Wading Seagull image, and commissioned me to make a design for Carrick-a-Rede
We’ve heard that you have collaborated with big names like the National Trust. Could you tell us a little about that experience?
It was actually the National Trust who found me! The National Trust Buyer from that region saw my stand at a trade show, in particular my Wading Seagull image, and commissioned me to make a design for Carrick-a-Rede. It was my first commercial commission and I learned an awful lot from going through the process. There is a tonne of paperwork to be completed to enable you to work with such a large organisation and you also have to be very careful to adhere to their Brand Identity guidelines, but that’s something I was used to doing from my graphic design days.
The Farmyard Friends range was born out of my love of the Suffolk farming landscape. I was brought up on a small holding surrounded by goats, cows, rabbits, chickens and donkeys.
Would it be right to say that you’re a bit of a regular exhibitor at the BCTF in Harrogate?
This is the third year I’ve attended BCTF in Harrogate – my first visit was back in 2013. It’s a fantastic trade show to take part in, especially if you’ve never done one before. The organisers are amazingly helpful and really do guide you through the process. The other designer-makers who attend are a delight to spend the week with. I’ve made many great friends who I’m still in contact with five years on. The buyers are very relaxed and happy. It’s a relatively chilled atmosphere, with genuine handmade items from the UK only and I think that’s one of the reasons they like attending this event. I would recommend it as a first trade event to anybody thinking of dipping their toe in the water.
I thought it would be fun if I could actually wear one of my gift wrap designs at this year’s BCTF show, and it did turn out to be quite a talking point!
Browsing through your Facebook page, we spotted a picture of you wearing a scarf and skirt combo, the pattern of which looks very much like one of your designs. Can we expect more of a transition from paper to fabric?
Ha ha! Yes, I’ve been trialling digitally printed fabric using a number of UK suppliers. I thought it would be fun if I could actually wear one of my gift wrap designs at this year’s BCTF, and it did turn out to be quite a talking point!
Digitally printing on fabric is quite expensive and I’ve found the quality varies considerably. I’m now happy with a supplier I’ve found for tea towels, and also another for heavier-weight furnishing fabrics. I’ve made some lampshades and tea towels that sell well in The Handmade Shop & Gallery. Maybe I will get around to listing them. Watch this space…
What are your plans for the future and how will you set out to achieve them?
I don’t set out plans on paper, only in my head! My immediate plans are for The Handmade Shop & Gallery to extend our lease and keep it running for as long as possible. I would also like to go back to BCTF next Spring. In design terms I’d like to expand my Seaside range further this year and possibly start a ‘Garden Birds’ range following my popular The Strawberry Thief design, which was inspired by the famous William Morris pattern. I also try to get at least one new Christmas gift wrap design out each year. I would also like to get all my giclee prints listing and on sale.
It’s difficult to actually achieve all these things being as busy as I am with the shop, gallery, gardening, allotment and family commitments. I just take each day as it comes and try not to be too hard on myself if I don’t meet my own deadlines. It’s a constant juggling process!
Considering all the inspiration around you, do you ever switch off and what do you do then?
I don’t really ever switch off! Even when I’m down on my allotment fighting the never-ending battle against the weeds, there’s always a pretty flower or something that takes my eye. I’m constantly designing gift wrap in my head. It sounds crazy but I do! I do love to read crime fiction or watch a good Scandi-style drama – I’m loving Cardinal at the moment. I’m also a member of a local pub quiz team and I have been known to ‘tread the boards’ in the local Am-Dram productions.
What advice would you give to aspiring designer makers who want to turn their creativity into a career?
Never give up! Don’t listen to too much advice – do what’s in your heart and stick to it. Work hard and keep creating. If you put a lot of love and effort into your work – I’m talking a period of years, designing, making and refining – it will show and people will truly appreciate it. As my very good friend often tells me: “It’s not easy – otherwise everybody would be doing it!” Be realistic. I know I’m never going to be Orla Kiely, but nor would I want to be. You have really got to love it but it’s very rewarding. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing!
To celebrate being our featured maker Jane Crick is offering 20% off all her cards, gift wrap and prints. Just use the code MTM17 when you check out (only valid for a limited time).
Jane Crick Live Craft Demo
Watch Jane Crick demonstrate how to make a pillow pack gift box and gift tag from one of her cards!
In this video Jane shows you how to make pillow pack gift boxes from her greetings cards. We also get a cheeky tour around her beautiful garden! If you want to make your own gift box and matching gift tag, download the free PDF template below, then just follow the instructions in this video. You can make your gift box from one of Jane’s gorgeous greetings cards which are available here.
Click the template to download (it will open in a new window)
Meet the interviewer
The makers asking the questions this week are Mecki and Zanna Allen from Zan and Me. This mother and daughter duo create handmade ceramics made by Mecki that feature Zanna’s illustrations. They live right by the coast and work in adjoining garden studios.