CREATIVE Q&A: APRIL MAWHINNEY | Textile Designer & Illustrator
This is the first in a series of new Q&A Blog posts, where I will interview a range of fabulous creatives and give them the challenge of answering the same Q&A questions. So, I thought that if I am going to make others do this, that it would only be fair if I should go first!
So here we go... my Creative Q&A with little ol' moi...
April Mawhinney-Wells is a designer, illustrator and textile designer based in County Down, Northern Ireland.
She runs April Mawhinney Design Studio and is known for her highly illustrative style of textiles which feature flowers, plants and birds. But also for her watercolour inspired geometric prints.
She has worked as a textile designer both in-house and freelance, and now continues to work both directly with her own clients through her studio, as well as freelancing for other exciting print studios in the home decor, kitchen textiles and apparel markets.
Today April chats to April (like she has a split personality!!), and she answers the following Q&A questions. So grab a cup of tea and I hope you enjoy this teeny-weeny insight into April's career...
Describe your creative style in 3 words.
Illustrative, Detailed, Maximalist
What made you decide to set up your business?
I always wanted to be an artist - it would have been my standard answer before I went to Uni. However, I always enjoying all aspects for being creative, and even had a children’s sized loom when I was 7! After studying my A-Levels and completing an Art and Design Foundation Course at Belfast Art College; I applied to study a BA (hons) in Textile Art at Winchester School of Art in Hampshire, England, and that is where it all started. It was an amazing course with all the freedom of a Fine Art degree but with training of a Textile Design degree. I learnt to weave, screen print, tapestry weave and dye yarn, whilst exploring contemporary fine art practices.
After graduating, I worked for a while as a Textile Designer, but later started my own leather accessories brand, Little Red Designs. This steadily grew from being based in my bedroom, to my own small scale manufacturing business creating bespoke hot foiled leather gadget and handbag accessories. It was a very successful business; I was selling all over the world and had 28 day waiting list for my handmade accessories. But after 7 years of solely making, I realised I really missed drawing and I starting thinking back to my first love of illustration and Textile Design.
In 2013 that desire to be more creative and less of a production line, saw me set out to shift my business back towards Textile Design. That year, I won a year long Talent Development bursary funded by the Arts Council and Aspace Arts to help me start up April Mawhinney Design Studio.
In 2015, I started working on a freelance basis for a design studio where I create bespoke bedding and kitchen textiles for many well-known high street brands. Over the years the studio has grown, and alongside my freelance work, I now also teach online through Skillshare and run workshops on Textile Design. I also work with my own clients and have a small group of freelance textile designers who supply designs for sale through my pattern library. Right now, things are busy, as the studio has just launched it's first home decor and gift range - it's an exciting and busy time; especially as I am pregnant with my second baby and due to give birth any day now - if not already by the time this is published on my Blog!
What are you most proud of so far in your career, any highlights you’d like to share?
I think it was the first time I got paid to design a Textile Print! The second highlight was seeing one of my designs emblazoned on a product for sale in Primark. I know it isn’t a top-end brand, but knowing that people all over Europe may be buying my design was amazing!
Which artist or designer inspires you?
There are so many, but I love the work of Bari J, and her wild maximalist florals, the work of Amy Butler, for her graphic vibrant prints, and of course, Michael Angrove for his fantastic realistic and detailed illustrations.
Favourite tool you use in your creative practice?
It has to be my Pental 120 A3 0.5mm Automatic Pencil - All the Illustrations I did for the Lough Cuan Collection where completed with this.
What top tip would you give to anyone who would like to turn their creative passion into their career?
Not to underestimate the importance of part time or additional jobs that you may have to do alongside your creative career. As self-employed person, you have to be everything for your business. You need to be a bookkeeper, a sales person, a marketing manager, a brand manager, your Customer Service department, your stylist, and a Designer and Creative Director! I had a part time Civil Servant job for many years and I learnt so many skills that have really helped me to run my own Design Studio. So although it may feel frustrating or like you are treading water - learn as much as you can from a range of diverse roles :)
What are you reading now?
Elle Decoration - I don't have the time or stamina to read any books at the moment!
What music are you listening to at work/in your studio?
I'm listening to a Florence and the Machine Playlist on Spotify
First app you open on your phone in the morning?
Instagram - Heaven forbid that I ever have to take a social media detox!
When I'm not pregnant it is an Expresso Martini from Muriel's Gin Bar in Belfast.
Favourite flower or plant?
Probably a fragrant Sweet Pea or a multicoloured Hydrangea.
Are you named after anyone?
Yes, my mum - her name is Avril (which is french for April)
Tea or Coffee?
Coffee - An Americano with Oatly Barista Milk.
Summer or Winter?
Red or Green?
Red of course! Have you seen my hair?!?