Beyond Creative is back once again and every time I write an interview I’m still so amazed by each and every story and journey. I had, as always, the pleasure to meet Anna Smithson the Creator & Designer behind the brand Annie Little through blogging. Through her designs and work I really enjoyed her iconic prints and so we met & caught up over a coffee. Anna began to tell me all about her creative journey right through to how she began to where she is today. Having gone through such an amazing road of discovery I was compelled to share her creativity with you all. What I love about Anna’s story is that she had to discover who she was as a designer first, which then lead her to her successfully business and astonishing accomplishments.
HOP: Did you always know that you wanted to be a Designer
AL: I always knew I wanted to be in the creative field from a young age, even when I used to fill my bedroom bin with paints and carry it down the stairs to the kitchen table! Without a doubt a printed textile degree was the one for me! Fabric, pattern and colour have always been my passion.
HOP: So how did you start your career
AL: Following my degree I felt I wanted a career in a creative field but not necessarily designing for myself. At that time it felt the only options were to sit in a studio and paint floral or stripe repeats. I set about getting work experience in various areas including styling and retail buying, then gained work experience with Ella Doran and managed to work my way up, getting a job that was fantastic. Ella is a very inspirational lady and at that time was 5 years into her business. There were just 3 of us in the office so it was all hands on deck, which was great experience. I then went on to work in Fine Art Publishing (wall decor for retail shops) for the next 9 years. Over the years I researched trends, commissioned artists & photographers, responded to client briefs, put together presentations, managed a design team and often saw imagery I had worked on in high-street. I could not ignore however, the creative blood that ran through me and over the years dabbled in my own projects working my way up to getting my own studio at the Wimbledon Art Studio’s.
I developed my style of colour and pattern onto canvas – people often thought it was fabric! I exhibited, sold work and took on commissions and it was great. I decided to create under a pseudonym ‘Annie Little’ from the very beginning and I now really like having a brand name. I don’t mind if people call me Annie though! Then came the move from London to Bristol. I enrolled on a refresher screen-printing course (as I hadn’t touched it since university!) and I fell back in love! It was the perfect time to turn my ideas and designs back into prints, the current range was born and Top Drawer and Pulse (at Earls Court) gave me the opportunity to show my ranges to the retailers and the Annie Little brand has now gone from strength to strength.
HOP: What was the inspiration behind the Annie Little brand
AL: LACE LACE LACE! Colour, pattern, texture and vintage objects (such as stamps). To be honest it has been a natural evolvement and I have been experimenting with all the things I love. But Lace really does it for me and is a constant stream through my designs. It’s what I would like people to recognise as a signature to Annie Little.
HOP: I adore your King & Queens range print. How did this concept come about
AL: Well, I inherited lots of stamps and loved the colours and designs so started to incorporate them into my paintings. They were such a nice addition and people really loved them. So when I turned back to screen-printing I started to experiment with them again. I particularly liked the 1950’s stamps and the Queen looks a real beauty! When I started to look into the copyright I had to narrow down my choices. Although the King stamp can be deemed as controversial I honestly thought it was the most attractive king on a stamp with a good design and I like the fact there was only one stamp produced with Edward VIII on. It didn’t even occur to me a couple of years ago when I started looking at the designs for the Queens Jubilee this year – quite amazing timing!
HOP: There’s so many great things going on, so what do you have planned for 2012
AL: New designs to be launched at Pulse London in June, which I am very excited about!
HOP Exclusive: A new Annie Little range and new prints to be added to my collaborative range ‘Annie & Amelia’ (ranges produced with designer Sian O’Donnell from ‘The Strawberry Card Co’). I am very fortunate to have had a busy year so far, gaining some lovely retailers across the UK and Europe as well as some prestigious larger retailers such as Selfridges and the V&A. I want to make sure everyone is happy and grow my business at an appropriate pace.
HOP: So what is a typical day like at Annie Little
AL: Never the same!! As it’s just me at the moment it’s very busy so I could be doing anything from screen-printing to packing boxes to being on the computer or to be seen dashing from one job to the next!
HOP: Who is your favourite designer and why
AL: I wouldn’t say I have a ‘favourite designer’ as such as I love and admire so many. I am however, a total sucker for magazines and shops! I have always subscribed to Vogue, Elle Decoration and Living Etc and am constantly buying other mags such as Mollie Makes (a recent discovery!) and Ideal Home to name a few! I used to travel to America for work and discovered ANTHROPOLOGIE – WOW! I loved it and was beside myself when it came to the UK! A highly inspiring shop. When living in London I would often visit Liberty and I always enjoyed browsing through the fabric and stationery departments. When I worked in East London over 10 years ago there were some fab finds there too. It’s also fab these days to be able to see so much more through social media such as Twitter and blogs, often giving smaller designers the opportunity to show their work and I have loved admiring many a design, I discovered Lou Rota recently. One of my fave items in my home is a Catherine Hammerton cushion.
HOP: What 3 things could you not live without
AL: Ooh Mary only 3?!!… 1) My husband! he is so supportive and has encouraged me through my days of questioning – as have my friends and family – it makes all the difference to have the support you need Boring but true. 2) My diary and iPhone! 3) My first cup of tea in the morning!
On a more creative note – the screen-printing studio at Spike Print in Bristol, my lace, magazine, scarf and tea cup collections!
HOP: What are your top tips for anyone thinking of going freelance or changing careers to become a Designer
AL: Just keep going and work very hard! It’s the nature of the industry and in the beginning will often require you to work for free or for very little. Sometimes this is necessary but remember – know your limits. Talk to people and be open to every opportunity that comes your way… your path will soon become clear.