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Meet the Maker: Lisa Stickley

We chat to Lisa Stickley, the award winning designer behind our exciting new shop range which celebrates the Gallery’s iconic architecture, on her inspirations, her ideal south east London day out and more...

Lisa Stickley. Photo by Ben Anders. 

Have you always been a fan of Dulwich Picture Gallery?

Yes, for as long as I’ve lived in London (which is quite a while now!) We used to cycle from Clapham to visit many moons ago, and it’s always such an inspiration. One exhibition, Saul Steinberg: Illuminations - back in 2009, made a distinct impression on me. I loved it, bought the book and regularly seek it out to pour through. I was very much an avoider of drawing figures, particularly portraits, at that time, but as soon as I saw Steinberg’s illustrations it seemed to ignite a whole new way of looking at drawing for me. This subsequently trickled down into my doodling brain, eventually leading to a very new direction for my work, from textile designer to author and illustrator of children’s books - for which I am eternally grateful.

What inspires you about Sir John Soane’s architecture?

I can remember visiting the Soane Museum regularly when I was studying textiles at Central Saint Martins back in the late 90’s. I was blown away, it’s such a treasure trove of sculpture, furniture, colour, detail and stunning paintings. To be asked to draw one of Soane’s iconic buildings was a privilege. The arches, consideration of light within the space, the repetitive geometric frieze that appears both internally and externally, the surrounding gardens, the fact that he used a simple London stock brick to build the majority of the gallery, sprinkling it with detail using expensive stone. It’s the perfect building to house such incredible works of art, and one of the most beautiful galleries in England.

Can you tell us how you approached the design process for the range?

After a very nice initial meeting with the Gallery’s retail team, I spent some time in the gardens sketching and photographing. Back in my studio I worked in pen and ink to create a series of drawings of the building as a starting point. I tend to draw quite quickly and really wanted to capture the architecture with a fresh, clean, spontaneous line.

I then worked on creating pattern to complement the main design, based on the geometric frieze, and created textures, trees, sky and clouds in various paint, scribble, crayon techniques to use in the final artwork too. All of this was then scanned into the computer to collage together digitally.

Then, I was stumped. And for quite a while I struggled to achieve the aesthetic I was after. I had to hide everything for a while and come at it from a different angle. It was while working on something completely different (which is often the case) that a final bit of inspiration struck in the form of a tea towel from the 1950’s. I’d been over thinking and over working everything, and the simple block colour combined with black line of the pattern on the tea towel was just what I was aiming for. I revisited everything and got there in the end!

Then it was a matter of preparing the artwork for each individual piece, and sending everything on to the various producers in charge of making the final product.

What’s your favourite piece in the range?

I was delighted to receive one of the (first - hot off the print table) tote bags from the range just before lockdown. But my all-round favourite pieces are the notebooks. I use notebooks all the time but these are extremely well made with a quirky primed canvas cover which is pretty wonderful.

You’re a local south east Londoner – can you describe your ideal SE day out?

Yes, we’ve been here for 8 years now and we love it. Hmm, an ideal SE London day would have to involve breakfast at Spinach on Lordship Lane where they have the best poached eggs on toast, great green coloured smoothies and coffee, lots of coffee. A scoot with the kids (I have two little girls aged 4 & 6) to Peckham Rye Park where they would frolic for hours in the new playground. Then we’d hop on the bus to Dulwich Village for a picnic lunch in the Gallery’s beautiful gardens. We would have to have cake from the café (because it’s always delicious) and a good browse around the shop! Later on we’d head down to Forest Hill, to the florists Yolly on Dartmouth Road, to buy some ranunculus, followed by early pizza in BOnA Sourdough, next door. Back home to greet babysitter and tuck kids in bed, then an evening stroll to see what’s on at Dulwich Picture House with my hubby.

How did you stay creative during lockdown?

I’ve been very lucky indeed to have been immersing myself in a new project during lockdown, working with the brilliant team MakeBox & Co heading up their new Makebox KIDS arm. It’s a bit of a dream project really, working on monthly art & craft projects for kids, from concept to creation and everything in-between.

It’s keeping my creative brain busy and the girls and I are very much enjoying inventing super fun, quirky, original things to make and do. They are perfect muses! It’s such a pleasure to be able to come up with stuff kids can really absorb themselves in creatively and to (hopefully) teach them new things along the way too.

All of the items in the Lisa Stickley x DPG range are available to buy online or in person at the Gallery pop-up. 

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