Hi Francesca, first things first: why and when did you decide to start Francesca Tiley Design?
After graduating from art school in 2016 I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in illustration and design. I had already started to establish a personal aesthetic and began to start selling screen prints with Print Club London. From there I realised that I could apply my designs to more areas and so have been expanding into greeting cards, murals, zines (and more!) since then.
What had you done previously?
I started straight out of art school and so never really stopped making. However, I’ve had all sorts of side jobs to help support my creative career.
How would you describe your style?
I realised early on that I wanted my work to maintain a human and handmade quality to it, whilst also bringing a positive energy into the world. Colours and shapes have the power to do that, and so I let them do most of the talking.
That’s so lovely. How do you start a new piece?
Everything, almost always, starts with a drawing. Be that a sketch or a rough outline, drawing is a way of planning and experimenting with ideas. I usually already know what medium I’m going to work in from the start, and so then adapt the idea to this.
You’re renowned for your bright and bold, colourful Mexican-inspired designs. Has this always been a part of your work?
I spent my best childhood memories in Mexico where my Mum’s family are from. There’s a lot of incredible folk art and sign painting there which I must have absorbed as a child and has now ended up coming out in my work!
Which is your most popular product?
‘Sassy’ screen print has been very popular. The lettering and colours are very bold and bright…plus I think a lot of people enjoy that word and its sentiment.
Hard question: do you have a favourite?
I’m most proud of a risograph fold-out picture book I recently made called ‘Life is a Carnival’. It celebrates the ups and downs of life through funny characters dancing in a parade. I love experimental children’s picture books and so was really pleased to have finally made one myself.
Where do you create from? Does your location inspire you?
I create from a small studio space I’ve carved out for myself in our family loft. As long as I’ve got a tidy(ish) desk and a quiet environment then I’m all good!
Sounds great! What does a typical day look like for you?
This changes day to day depending if I’m teaching or have a commission on. However the day usually starts early.
How do you balance illustration work with ceramics?
I tend to make clay ladies when I know there’s a market coming up or if a shop is looking to stock them. The rest of my time is spent focused on illustration, design and teaching work.
Phew! You are busy! How do you approach PR and marketing?
It’s all been a learn-as-you-go sort of thing! I really should be more disciplined, however at the moment I do my best to put time aside every week for it.
If you were to share any words of wisdom with readers looking to start a creative business – what would you say?
Start small and do your research. For any young entrepreneurs I really recommend The Prince’s Trust as they offer an incredible amount of support and opportunities if you’re starting out.
What’s been your highlight so far? More than anything it’s when I meet people at markets and they tell me that they’ve genuinely connected with the work. That means the world and reminds me to keep on going.
Describe your work in three words:
Colourful, decorative and uplifting!
What are your making rituals?
A quiet space and plenty of tea breaks.
Tea or Coffee?
That would depend on the time of day…
Mountains or Sea?
Night Owl or Early Bird?
Early bird, 100%
I wish someone had told me…
To not be shy about PR and marketing! A lot of artists find it difficult to promote and sell what they do, and this is still something I struggle with. However I realise now that treating that side of things objectively and confidently is very important for a creative career.
Photography by Francesca Tiley