Meet the Maker – Kayleigh Radcliffe
You’ll usually find artist and maker Kayleigh Radcliffe “hermitting away” in her studio in the north west of England, where she brings to life extraordinary, curious and quirky anthropomorphic characters in ink, paint and clay. We pulled her away from her universe of the weird and wonderful to talk to fellow artist and Folksy seller Emma Weeks from DotKDesign about the influence of a magical childhood filled with antiques, her love of vintage illustrated children’s books, her creative process and her passion for craft.
Shop Kayleigh Radcliffe on Folksy – folksy.com/shops/KayleighRadcliffe
Treat yourself to 10% off everything in Kayleigh’s Folksy shop while she’s our featured maker – just add the code KAY10 when you check out.
I’m a bit like Peter Pan, a child at heart who never wants to grow up, so I spend my life creating characterful characters for other people who have a playful nature too.Kayleigh Radcliffe
Hello Kayleigh. I absolutely loved looking around your shop – your work is so beautiful and I love your vintage style. Could you tell me a bit more about yourself and how you got started?
Thanks, Emma! Well, I grew up around antiques (my parents used to be in the antiques trade so I got dragged to antique shows as a young girl), which is probably the reason for my vintage style today. I’m a bit like Peter Pan, a child at heart who never wants to grow up, so I spend my life creating characterful characters in 2D and 3D form for other people who have a playful nature too. I have always been a creative soul and dreamt of being an artist when I was young, so what I do now just gradually developed over the years.
Are you self taught or did you study art?
Since I could hold a pencil I have been creating art. I was forever drawing, painting and making when I was little, and I’d make Christmas decorations every year for my family — nothing has changed there! I was lucky enough to grow up with a creative dad who introduced me to craft, ceramics in particular, so the making side of my work is very much self taught.
I did go on to study art and design at Southport College and graphic arts / illustration at Liverpool John Moores University, but I never developed my own ‘style’ until many years after graduating.
My childhood has played a big role in inspiring me, from my magical family making me believe in fairies and witches, watching Labyrinth on repeat as a tot… to dressing my pets in clothing.Kayleigh Radcliffe
What or who inspires you?
My childhood has played a big role in inspiring me, from my magical family making me believe in fairies and witches, watching Labyrinth on repeat as a tot, to having Beatrix Potter books and dressing my pets in clothing. But current-day inspiration comes from lots of places: the countryside I live in, all things vintage, antique and vintage illustrated children’s books (especially fairy tales and nursery rhymes), and the creative Instagram community.
Your greeting cards are stunning. How long have you been painting with gouache and what is it about gouache that you particularly enjoy?
Thank you! I haven’t been painting with gouache for very long. Perhaps about three years. I used to use watercolours but felt like I needed a change, so I gave gouache a go and it sort of just clicked with me. I rarely draw out my designs first, so I find gouache a great medium because I can easily paint over any mistakes due to the paint being so opaque.
Do you have a favourite tool – or something in your studio that you couldn’t be without?
A paintbrush would be an appropriate answer, but to be honest I couldn’t be without my music. Music is constantly playing while I’m in my work room, it keeps me motivated and in good spirits.
My figure decorations are a lengthy process… usually a batch will take me three to four months to complete.Kayleigh Radcliffe
Your hanging decorations are so detailed and characterful. I can see why you have collectors of your work. Can you tell us more about your creative process here?
My figure decorations are a lengthy process, but in simple terms I hand make a ceramic bisque head, attach it to a body which I cover with cotton, and then the whole figure is decorated and given its own special outfit. I don’t tend to plan what my figure will look at the start, the design process develops naturally. I make my figures in small(ish) batches – I’ll have about 7-10 designs on the go at once, and usually make 10 of each design. Usually a batch will take me three to four months to complete, depending on what else I’m working on at that time.
I create wooden laser cut decorations too, which are simpler to create. I paint the design with gouache, scan it in, create the vector cutting file and send the files off to a wonderful small laser cutting company in London who print and cut the designs for me.
Running a small business can be tricky at times. What made you want to open your business, and have you faced any particular struggles on your journey? How did you overcome them?
Working a normal day job just didn’t feel right to me when all I’d dreamed about was being an ‘artist’, and to be honest I don’t like working for other people. A few other members of the Radcliffe family are self employed too, so starting my own business was going to be inevitable.
Everyday I face struggles – lack of confidence is one, decision making is another. It doesn’t help that I’m the most indecisive person on the planet! Not having somebody there to run ideas by is difficult, but if I’m stuck with design ideas I’ll often run them by my boyfriend or close family… not that I’ll always listen to them, ha.
Everyday I face struggles – lack of confidence is one, decision making is another. It doesn’t help that I’m the most indecisive person on the planet!Kayleigh Radcliffe
If you could travel back in time to when you were first starting your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Get more confidence girl!!!
How do you spend your time away from the studio? Do you have any other interests when you’re not making art?
Watching obscure films on the Amazon Firestick is an almost nightly treat. I’m a country girl, so walking and gardening are other things I do, along with entertaining my cat and dog. I’m often hunting for vintage clothing too and if Covid wasn’t around I’d be going to gigs!
Since I could hold a pencil I have been creating art. I was forever drawing, painting and making when I was little… I was lucky enough to grow up with a creative dad who introduced me to craft.Kayleigh Radcliffe
What does craft mean to you?
Craft is my passion and my life.
Use code KAY10 for 10% off all Kayleigh’s products while she’s our featured maker on Folksy.
Meet the Interviewer
Emma Weeks from DotKDesign creates calligraphy and watercolour art, often inspired by psalms and scripture. You can find her on Folksy at https://folksy.com/shops/Dotkdesign and read her Meet the Maker interview here – https://blog.folksy.com/2020/06/22/dotkdesign-watercolour-calligraphy