{the interview series} abigail*ryan

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Hoje trago-vos um casal de artistas! Quando contactei Abigail Percy pensava concentrar as minhas questões no seu trabalho de joalharia, mas ela propôs (e bem!) que Ryan, o seu namorado, se juntasse à conversa, para juntos nos falarem um pouco da sua vida em comum e do projecto abigail*ryan: uma linha de acessórios para a casa, em que as valências dos dois se juntam harmoniosamente para criar peças que parecem ganhar vida através das ilustrações de motivos botânicos de Abigail... mas não vos conto mais, leiam a entrevista para descobrir o resto!

Entretanto, o tão esperado resultado: fiz um update no final do post da semana passada, com o anúncio do vencedor do giveaway! Muito obrigada a todos os participantes e... Parabéns Meagan Ileana!

Não se esqueçam que podem seguir {the interview series} no facebook e reler todas as anteriores entrevistas aqui.
(Por motivos óbvios de extensão e compreensão do texto, tanto pelos entrevistados como pelos potenciais leitores do resto do mundo, a entrevista segue em inglês.)

Today I bring you a couple of artists! When I contacted Abigail Percy, I first thought about focusing my questions on her jewelry work, but she suggested (and well!) that Ryan, her boyfriend, join the conversation, so we could talk about their life together and their project abigail*ryan: a line of homewares, where the valences of the two are harmoniously gathered to create pieces that seem to gain life through the botanical illustrations by Abigail... But I won't tell more, read the interview to find out the rest!

In the meantime, the long awaited announcement: I made an update at the end of last week's post with the announcement of the winner of the giveaway! Thank you to all participants and... congratulations Meagan Ileana!

Don't forget to follow {the interview series} on facebook and to read all the previous interviews here.

Abigail Percy & Ryan Bell | abigail*ryan homewares
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
site | blog | shop | facebook

1. Let’s pretend we don’t know each other and I’ve never heard about Abigail Percy and Ryan Bell. Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Hello there! We’re a design duo, and couple, living in Northern Ireland. I (Abi) am originally from Glasgow but was lured over to Belfast when I met Ryan... we are now proud ‘parents’ to a Lhasa Apso puppy called Angus, and run a homewares business together, too, which is also kind of like a baby as well! ;)

2. Abigail is a former jewelry designer and Ryan, who graduated in fine art photography, has a passion for sewing… this seems to be the perfect combination in the origin of abigail*ryan homewares. How was the brand born?
A: Well, when we first got together, we spent a lot of time in each others workshops as we travelled back and forth between Glasgow and Belfast. When Ryan was staying with me, we would be working together in my jewellery studio, for example, and we very quickly realised how well we worked together and how many ideas we had from sparking off each other! We talked for a long time about creating collaborations together - jewellery ones, through my company, and sewn ones through Ryans business... eventually this just grew in to us starting a little business together, and, so, abigail*ryan was born. The name took us forever to think of! ;)

3. Your business story is also a love story… how do you manage to work together? Who does what?
A: I feel that way, too. I am so fond of abigail*ryan because it was born while we were falling in love! We are lucky that we work together extremely well and very easily. It has always been this way - we worked and lived together and we are very lucky that that comes so naturally and comfortably to us. We just love each others company and don’t run out of things to say... I especially never run out of things to say ;)
R: Really, the way things get broken down within the business is that Abigail does the drawings in pen and ink. They get scanned in to the computer and then one of us begins manipulating that for our tea-towel graphics or for our textile designs which we will send away to be printed. I am responsible for most of the graphic design side of the business and Abigail will handle all the photography and styling of our products for the website and shop. When it comes to the textiles, Abigail does the cutting (because I don’t like that bit!) and I do the machine sewing (because Abigail is a bit scared of the sewing machine!)... Abi will do the hand finishing sewing side of things and also will make the food to keep us going while we work! I make a mean cup of tea though ;)

4. I fell in love with Abigail’s jewelry long time ago! It’s a feminine, inspired by nature jewelry, that expresses technical excellence and an organic creativity. Tell us a bit about your metalsmithing experience, Abigail.
A: I studied Silversmithing and Jewellery at Glasgow School of Art from 2001-2005, and graduated with a BA Hons degree, First Class. I went straight in to running my jewellery business and built up a catalogue of work that is based on my love of florals and botanicals - a lot of my forms come from my photography and from collecting and pressing leaves. My main technique is piercing sheet silver in to very intricate forms which is time consuming work. My jewellery led me to starting a blog, and setting up an online shop which was very unusual back in 2006 (especially for artists in the uk!) and a lot of people in my industry thought it was a very weird way to sell! However, it gave me an opportunity to sell all over the world and build up a fantastic international client base and also gave me control over my business and earnings when my industry was still completely ruled by sending work to galleries on a sale or return basis (which is a hard way of life for a maker!)... I am very proud of the route I took in my career - and if I had not been selling online, I wouldn’t have met Ryan, so everything happens for a reason, and more and more these days, most people are jumping on the bandwagon and consider it a legitimate way to market your work so it has gained a lot of acceptance!

5. The floral forms of your jewelry is rooted in your Botanical Illustration work and it’s easy to see that this is also the inspiration of your homewares line. Would you share your creative process with us?
A: With regards my illustration work, it almost always starts with photography... I like to shoot beautiful blooms and flowers at various stages of blooming and from different angles so I can reference them when I draw. Some of my drawings take up to 30 hours, so a live flower could change a lot in that time... I like pen and ink and very smooth paper so it scans well for digital fabric printing and it’s just nice to draw on!

6. Browsing through your shop I can see a big variety of homewares: tea-towels, cushions, lavender bags, etc… how do you decide the next design to create?
We are always thinking about what to create next and would love to do everything, instantly!! However, we usually do a lot of research to find out what is feasible in terms of finding suppliers and manufacturers (as locally as possible, and within a sensible budget) so a lot of that kind of thing dictates our next steps! In terms of pattern designs... it really depends what amazing flowers I have managed to find and what is itching in my mind to transfer on to fabric...

7. I must say that my favorites are the tea-towels with these beautiful botanical patterns! Can you share with us your best seller?
Our best seller from last year was our Rhododendron pattern, which we re-printed for 2011... this years successes have been Dahlia and Hydrangea, although the rest are really not very far behind ;)

8. Would you give us a glimpse of your working space? Describe it and tell us what you love most about it.
At the moment, we love NOTHING about our working space... we work on our kitchen table, and store lots of things in our messy storage workshop upstairs. We are working towards building an amazing log cabin studio in our garden (hopefully in the next month or two) so we will finally have a studio space which is dream worthy and photo-fabulous ;)

9. How would you describe a regular day at work?
We don’t have a regular day! Every day is different because we work from home and can use our time how we like... we never know what email will have arrived with an order, or what fun thing will come our way (so we might not work that day and go out to do something nice instead!)... we really like it this way and it keeps things fresh and fun.

10. I can’t resist to know more about sweet Angus! What’s his race and his particular abilities?
Angus is a 7 month old Lhasa Apso puppy. His breed is originally from Tibet and were the guard-dogs for the Tibetan Monks... which is why he loves sitting on our feet (to keep them warm!). He is very clever and is good at sitting and lying down on command for treats, giving you his paw to say ‘hello’ and waving goodbye when people leave the house! He also gives us lots of kisses ;)

11. Abigail is originally from Glasgow, Scotland, but you both live together in Belfast, Northern Ireland, now. Do you think that the time and place where you live have great influence in your work? Would you like to live anywhere else?
I don’t think so... although living near nature makes it easier for me to source things. I think being happy makes working easier, so we like where we are now. I don’t want to live anywhere else right now, and I think we will only ever move (country) if it makes very good sense for our business...
But, dreaming...
A: I think it would be amazing to live in Paris (if I could speak French) and perhaps Brooklyn.
R: Yes, I agree, Brooklyn would be nice...

12. If you could live in any historical era of your choice, what would it be? Why?
A: The Arts and Crafts Movement - natural forms were so revered and studied in this period, I think it would be the perfect time for me. Also, handmade was really highly thought of, so that would be nice, too.
R: None! I enjoy the luxuries of the modern age too much to want to go back ;)

13. Reading your blog I can see that, besides creating, you love cooking or gardening. What else are you passionate about doing?
A: I’m not sure we have much time for anything else! ;) I like to cook savory food (Ryan likes to cook sweet) and enjoy having a big garden, though I don’t have much time to plant things. I love going to the Botanic Gardens to take photographs of flowers, and like going to Food Markets at the weekends when we get a chance. I also enjoy looking at Home Magazines and imagining all the things I could do to a house one day...
R: As Abi said, I like baking cakes and buns, and I also like to watch films, play computer games and waste time browsing online. I spend a lot of time thinking about things that I could make, and then never do them. I enjoy obsessively looking at books on Amazon, which I then almost never buy, and like to sit and read cookery books while I snack. Also, I like playing with the pup...

14. What advice would you give to someone who would like to learn a bit more about homewares handmade production?
*Don’t underestimate how much space you will need!
We are going to build a garden studio soon as we have taken over almost every room of our home... usually sewing off the kitchen table. ;)
*Double the amount of time you think it will take to realise a collection!
There is SO much involved in creating real products and making sure they are market ready and as good as can be, especially if you are outsourcing any part of it and have to rely on other people and their time-scales.
*Be strong about your values!
We choose to have everything made/sourced in the UK and our prices reflect this. There are a lot of people who will have things made in India, for example (even Fair Trade) and you still have to compete with their extremely LOW prices. We believe there is nothing more Fair Trade than supporting your local economy and industry!

15. What are your plans for the future? And your most unrealistic dreams?
Plans for the future are our new studio, many Trade Shows in the coming years and a strong healthy business... unrealistically, we are going to take over the world with floral pattern design ;)

Now some quick question and answer game so we can find a bit more about you and your tastes! Tell us one:

book: A: Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
R: A Child's Book of True Crime, by Chloe Hooper or anything by Kate Atkinson
music: We only loved some of Adele’s new album, but seeing her live really brought it to life and now we like it a lot.
movie: A: cliched, yes, but I love Amelie!
R: Raise the Red Lantern
personality/artist: A: Rolf Harris ;)
R: Alan Bennett
color: pink/ochre
object: A: Mushroom sculptures by Kristina Klarin
R: of many, but I love the painting Abigail bought me for my 30th: Woman with the Red Hair.
animal: Angus!!!
drink: A: Assam Tea with skimmed milk
R: Freshly pressed Apple Juice
food: A: Japanese food, especially sushi
R: REALLY good cake. Bad cake is a crime
season of the year: Spring or Autumn. Fresh and crisp, not too warm and not rainy.
travel destination: A: Paris
R: home.
piece of clothing: A: dresses/skirts or Pyjamas!
R: loungewear especially my ‘jammy’ trousers ;)
secret: we don’t have secrets!

Thank you so much for adding a beautiful love story and lots of humour to this series!


  1. Thank you for this interview, guys! I'm excited to see how you do wonderful things together!


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