As we continue to meet some of the amazing independent designers who have reached the finals for the Henries awards, today we’re excited to introduce you to West Country Designs. So, if you’ve ever wondered what goes into designing a Henries award finalist range of cards, you’re in the right place! Discover West Country Designs’ unique creative talents and find out what inspires Anna’s illustrations.
Anna, West Country Designs
Based out of Taunton, Somerset, Anna is the creative talent behind West Country Designs. Anna’s fantastic illustrations are inspired by the West Country landscape and her childhood memories, creating adorable card designs featuring an assortment of forest characters and cute animals. Explore a selection of West Country Designs cards at the bottom of this article and find a beautiful card for your next birthday.
Congratulations on your awards news! With over 14,000 entries, how did you feel when you heard the news that your work is in the Finals?
Absolutely thrilled! It still brings a smile to my face when I think of what an achievement it is. It’s wonderful recognition from the industry and it has given me increased confidence in my designs.
Was this your first award nomination?
This is my first award nomination. I am very new to the industry and feel honoured to have my designs recognised alongside a host of extremely talented and well-established designers and publishers.
Tell us a bit about your Henries nominated range…
My nomination is for the Best Spring Seasons Range.
Easter symbolises new life and so I incorporated this theme into my designs through the animals, buds and spring flowers I painted. Cheeky chicks hatch from multi-coloured eggs, rabbits play in tulip fields, and tortoises wake from hibernation to enjoy Easter. I often blend humour with my cute designs, so with my West Country links, I could resist including carrots in my designs and rabbits enjoying them!
How did you become a greeting card designer?
After graduating from university in 2006, I lacked industry know-how, confidence and the financial backing to start out in the world of illustration. I decided to retrain in Human Resources and administration roles, with the intention of returning to designing again in the future. However, it wasn’t until I relocated from a city to a village in Somerset five years ago, that I found my love of the natural world again and I felt inspired to draw. The pandemic was a catalyst for me to draw and paint nature again. I began with pen and inks drawings, but my love of colour soon led to me watercolours.
I started painting watercolour illustrations in March 2021 and at the time I planned to create designs for textile products and my small business West Country Designs was born. However, I soon realised that my designs had a market for greeting cards. I now work from my sunny Somerset studio and this beautiful county never fails to inspire me.
Describe your typical work day…
Hectic! Being an independent designer means juggling production, selling and administration responsibilities, alongside creating artwork. I work long days and find that I’m particularly productive in the mornings. Every day is different and it is all a learning process. I write lists and try to stick to a daily routine to ensure that I manage my time efficiently, but even with the best laid plans, orders come in and then they take priority.
What’s your creative process?
I begin by roughly sketching out my designs and then I paint individual elements using watercolours, before collaging them together in Photoshop. I occasionally use pen and ink and pencil crayons, to add little details. I often produce several compositions, and then select the most successful card design. The process takes time and considerable exploration.
What are the challenges you face as an independent artist? And the joys?
I am fortunate to have lots of ideas, but time is one of my greatest challenges. Juggling creating and designing, alongside running a business is tricky. It is difficult to force creativity – sometimes if you sit down to paint as you’re trying to fit it in around others things, it just doesn’t flow as naturally as it usually does. I find it works better to fit in admin tasks when I have limited time, and to allocate myself solid, longer periods of time for designing. I create my most successful designs when I have limited interruptions and I am relaxed.
Getting your work seen as an independent artist is challenging, especially when you are just starting out in the industry and your budget is limited. You need to have a strong work ethic and lots of tenacity. You may need to keep knocking at doors and not all of them will open. Not everyone will like your designs, but I much prefer some people loving my designs, rather than most people thinking they are alright. Nothing beats the feeling I have when customers compliment me on my designs.
Ensuring I achieve a work-life balance is so important – breaking up my day with a walk or lunch out really does help my productivity, as it can be so easy to sit solidly for hours whilst designing / working on other areas of the business.
If you had one piece of advice for a fellow artist, what would it be?
Trust your instincts. Don’t feel that you necessarily need to follow trends or be influenced by what other designers are doing. Create designs that you love, as they will always be stronger than those you produce as you think others will like them.