Meet the Maker – Bee Brown
Illustrator Bee Brown creates beautiful, sustainably made stationery and prints from her home studio on the Warwickshire border. She has a passion for folk art and the artistic traditions of people from all over the world, but also finds inspiration in nature and the changing seasons, and carries this love of the natural world through to her materials, always striving to make them as planet-friendly as possible. Bee talks to fellow designer and Folksy seller, Eddie from Eynonymous Designs about her influences, style and ethos…
When we create as children, we are quite uninhibited, just painting whatever’s in our head and enjoying the process. It’s the same for me now. I find that I still go to that ‘happy place’ when I’m drawing or making something.Bee Brown
Hi Bee! I love your beautiful designs. Could you start by introducing yourself?
Hi there! I’m Bee of Bee Brown Stationery & Prints, also known as Bee Brown Hive sometimes too. I’m very pleased to be here!
I’m a freelance illustrator and pattern designer based on the Warwickshire border, where I live with my husband and two teenage boys. The work for my Folksy shop is really a personal project all about channelling my design skills into creating my own (small) ranges of eco-friendly paper products, such as wall art prints for the home, mini prints, sticker sheets, paper parcel tape, greetings cards and postcards.
I also sell my own ethically made wooden pin brooches here too. It’s my way of doing my bit to protect our environment, as well as hopefully spreading the eco-message and a little joy along the way too.
Your work has a unique folk art feel. Are you inspired by any particular artists or designers, past or present?
This is a big question as it covers a few areas for me. Here goes!
I think my love of folk art began when I was at art school and an opportunity to work at the studio of Polish children’s picture book artist Jan Pieńkowski opened my eyes to folk styles from around the world. His work takes many different styles (moveable books, as well as work for the theatre), but my introduction really began in the form of his stunning papercut silhouettes – a popular form of folk art in Poland since the 1900s. His book Christmas is a good example.
My childhood is also an inspiration to me. I was quite a quiet kid, often just spending time outside or inside drawing. When we create as children, we are quite uninhibited, just drawing or painting whatever it is that’s in our head, not bothering too much with the outcome and just enjoying the process. It’s just the same now, and I find that I still go to that ‘happy place’ when I’m drawing or making something. That’s definitely seated in childhood… although I’m a bit more bothered about the final results now I’m an adult!
There are many other inspirations, and I think as creative people we are rather like sponges, soaking up ideas and stimulation from all around us to get that next spark for an idea. I look to second-hand books on my shelves that can feed something new as well as just taking in the world around me. Pattern, colour and my love of the natural world are all creative fuel.
And, of course, paper itself is an inspiration too. I just love it! It’s such a simple, everyday material that we take for granted, but the forms it can take are endless: stickers through to books, through to lampshades, through wallpaper and back to cards and stationery. It is at the same time so robust and yet so delicate. The possibilities are endless. It comes from the earth and goes back to the earth… there’s a real kind of symbiosis there. For me, it’s a perfect material.
What techniques and tools do you use to create your designs.
My techniques are relatively simple. I make pencil drawings and sketches just with pencil or a good old black biro on A4 paper. I do sometimes use a sketchbook but it’s easier to make scans from a sheet of paper. If I’m making digital artwork (most of my work), I then scan my drawings into Illustrator to then create my finished artwork from on my computer. Alternatively, but not so often these days, I will just use watercolours and gouache on watercolour paper if I’m making a small painting.
Strong colour is a definite feature of your work. Do you have any favourite colour combinations?
At the moment it’s pink and orange, but it’s always changing! Turquoise and mustard are good, and pink and green are lovely too. It’s impossible to have a favourite!
Climate change and polluted oceans are something we really can do something about if we are willing to make just a few changes in how we live our lives.Bee Brown
Caring for the planet feels very important to you. Have you always had a keen interest in nature or did a particular event spark your determination to only use eco-friendly materials?
Yes, since a very small child I’ve always loved being in nature and very much enjoy the natural world but sustainability and aiming for that in my business is a more recent aspiration. I’ve always been a big recycler of paper but cutting down on plastic is really the thing now.
Climate change and polluted oceans are something we really can do something about if we are willing to make just a few changes in how we live our lives. In whatever ways we can. It all helps. It’s vital if we are to protect our amazing planet for the future.
What is your favourite part of the design process?
My favourite part is that ‘light bulb moment’ when something clicks into place and a new idea forms. It’s then that little rush of excitement to begin turning the idea into a new design or product.
My work has always had its own distinct style. Like handwriting, it comes from within you, is created by its own hand and takes time to evolve. I feel my style is coming together and in its ‘fruiting phase’ now but it’s aways on a journey.Bee Brown
It is difficult to pick a favourite in your Folksy shop, but your ‘Night-Time Spring’ card takes me back to my childhood in Germany in the 1970s, when folk art was very popular and less known in Britain. When did you first realise you had found your unique style?
My work has always had its own distinct style. I rather liken it to handwriting in that an artwork style belongs very much to the person who created it. It comes from within you, is created by its own hand and takes time to evolve. I feel it’s coming together and in its ‘fruiting phase’ now but it’s aways on a journey.
As an illustrator I have often created work to meet a client brief… the wonderful thing about creating products for my shop is that I’m making the work that I want to make.
Eco materials are costly. Do you feel customers are becoming more aware of the importance of sustainability in a market often saturated with mass-produced products?
I think manufacturers in the widest sense are becoming a lot more eco-conscious and I don’t think it’s always the case that we pay a premium for eco-friendly products anymore. I believe consumers are becoming a lot more eco-savvy too and, in turn, are demanding that from the market-place. The message is getting across.
In the case of my own products, I don’t find that when I’m looking for companies who share my values to work with (printers, for example), I’m having to pay more for that privilege. Eco-friendly products and packaging are becoming more and more available to the masses at very affordable prices, which is just what we want – for it to be mainstream and just the way we live our lives.
Finally, Bee, at present you stock paper products. Have you any intention in the future to have your amazing designs printed, using eco-friendly inks, on to fabrics?
Yes, a wonderful idea! I would love to produce my own ideas on to fabric in a very eco-friendly way. If you head over to my insta account @beebrownhive, you’ll see that as a freelance designer I do create designs for fabric, but to do so in a very eco-friendly way would be wonderful. If I ever get to a point whereby producing a more sustainably produced fabric is something I could invest in, I would love to.