Inspired by Wales – its beautiful scenery, language and culture – my guest this week is Lizzie Spikes, artist and illustrator based in Aberystwyth in West Wales. Lizzie founded her company, Driftwood Designs, in 2005, which she runs along with her friend Becky who apparently has a passion for spreadsheets! I caught up with Lizzie to find out more… Hi Lizzie!
Hi! My name is Lizzie Spikes and I’m the arty part of the partnership that runs Driftwood Designs. I live and work on the West coast of Wales, near Aberystwyth, in a cave-like Welsh cottage with my two sons, our two hounds, two cats and our mildly grumpy goat.
What inspired you to set up “Driftwood Designs” ?
Becky Barratt and I have known each other since school,and we found ourselves as new mothers with complementary skills and the need to make a living around our children. Driftwood Designs was conceived and created at Becky’s kitchen table with a handful of cards and a couple of poster prints run off for us by the friendly printer up the road.
I am always curious to know the origins of brand names, so why did you choose “Driftwood Designs”? Did you consider other names?
I came up with Driftwood Designs as a company name. It was my second choice – I had my heart set on Flotsam and Jetsam Designs but it wasn’t available as a domain name and with hindsight would have been a bit of a mouthful. Driftwood Designs was next on my list and it’s served us well.
You have a lovely wide range of illustrated products including posters, greeting cards, lampshades, cushions, tea towels, mugs and so on. What products and designs are proving popular amongst your customers so far?
Our cards are still our biggest seller and the pandemic has definitely increased sales as people strive to keep in touch. Alongside this Becky and I both love the product development aspect of our work and like to dream up new designs and creations – hence the ever-increasing array of designs. We try to put our imagery onto homewares that are both practical and beautiful.
I particularly like the Colonnog Hearty design in the velvet cushion and tea towel. Do you have a particular favourite design?
I also love the hearty designs and now that we’ve found a British company who can make our textile products as bright and beautiful as we want them to be I would like to make more! Our china mugs bring me joy every day and I love my ‘Seasons’ lampshade.
As you are based in Wales, are your products available to purchase overseas?
We’re happy to send things overseas and our website is fully stocked with our many products.
What inspires your illustrations? Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific to draw? Do you draw in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there?
I find lots of things inspiring – nature, the changing seasons, quotes I hear or read, places and people. And I’m lucky that our customers send me ideas and things they think I’ll like. I always have a working notebook on the go which is full of scrawls of the things I don’t want to forget.
I hear that you like to work with pieces of flotsam and jetsam driftwood that you collect from your walks on your local pebbly beaches. What was the hardest or most unusual piece of artwork you’ve created so far out of driftwood? Favourite piece?
I like Driftwood as a canvas – the pieces that wash up have always had a previous use and a history that makes them inspiring. My favourite piece of driftwood treasure thus far is a wooden guitar that I found on a local beach one rainy April which I turned into a scene.
Have you always wanted to be an artist/illustrator or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?
I have always painted and drawn and it feels wrong to go a day without doing so. I studied Drama and Fine Art at university – I specialised in sceneography and costume design because it was another way in which to interpret, illustrate and communicate literature. One day I’d like to revisit set design but for now I’m happy to illustrate things on my kitchen table on a smaller scale!
When you are not illustrating, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
In my spare time I can be found out walking with my hounds and a flask of coffee or in the sea – swimming or trying to master standing up on my surfboard. I like to be outside in all weathers. I also like cooking, and eating, and my perfect weekend would be a hike somewhere new with good friends followed by a big meal, a glass of red wine and a warm fire.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I love clothes and have frocks in all colours, shapes and sizes but mostly end up wearing paint splattered jeans which are worn on the knees, jumpers and wellies! On the days when I wash the paint off and head into town for work or meetings I like to wear less practical attire and can even be found in heels.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
My favourite online shops are a local coffee vendor called Teifi Coffee who delivers my favourite brew, an art materials supplier, ebay for new and old dresses and I hate trailing around supermarkets so I try to buy most of my groceries online too. The boys and I get the occasional Gousto food box delivered – it means that we try different things and the boys are getting adept at cooking by following the instructions so it counts as a home schooling task. Locally we’re very lucky to have some wonderful independent shops and if you ever venture to Aberystwyth, Medina is definitely worth a visit for food and supplies.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I definitely, absolutely need a new pair of Saltwater Sandals. I had a gold pair for years and they finally gave up at the end of last summer.
Boots or Shoes?
I wear boots in winter and sandals in summer… I rarely wear shoes and have never really considered why not- they were a part of school uniform that I was happy to leave behind.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Driftwood Designs
We can be found on the web at www.driftwooddesigns.co.uk or on Facebook as Lizziespikes-DriftwoodDesigns and Instagram as @drifteddesigns or in real life we have a shiny new shop on Pier Street in Aberystwyth and in Castle Arcade in Cardiff.
Absolutely beautiful prints and illustrations, Lizzie, they definitely conjure up the spirit of Wales!
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Lizzie Spikes/ Driftwood Designs