Creatively Speaking – Interview with Phoebe Richardson

07 Sep

Well I have decided that I am going to dedicate Fridays to a different style of blog.  A few wonderful artists, creatives and designers that I have featured over the last few months have agreed for me to invade their lives for a bit with a few questions… kind of a virtual coffee or cuppa.  So less of me……

A couple of weeks ago you may recall a blog post on graphic artist Phoebe Richardson and her “Bone China Range”.  Well in between organising her first exhibition (all details are below for anyone in London over the next few days), Phoebe has kindly taken the plunge and stopped by to tell us a little bit more about herself and her work…. I hope that you enjoy.

How would you describe your work and style?
My college art teacher once made a poster about me called “meticulous”. I actually try and fight against that but it usually manages to pull me back. I recently finished a limited edition print of my three favourite London Bridges and it was a constant battle remembering that I couldn’t use really fine lines as they wouldn’t show up through the screen. I love detail, and the stark contrast between black and white. I know I need to move in to colour but in my eye nothing compares to black and white.

What, where and/or who inspires you?
Looking around, reading and talking to people inspires me. Sometimes I fall in to a bad routine of going to work (I’m also a full time graphic designer for a high street womenswear brand in the UK), coming home, watching TV and then repeating this day again and again. When I do that I freak out. Then I read a magazine, go to an exhibition, talk to people and suddenly I’m back in it. The Natural History Museum is still inspiring me (as it has done pretty much my whole life), the Wellcome Collection is always good and recently I visited the Invisible exhibition at the Hayward which was all about art that isn’t there. At first I struggled with the concept but by the end I loved it and couldn’t stop talking about it all day. One piece in particular will always stay with me. One of the rooms had two air conditioners which filled the air with a fine mist from water that was used to wash the bodies of unidentified murder victims in Mexico (Teresa Margolles’ Air/Aire (2003). You didn’t realise what atmosphere you had stepped in to until you read the plaque on the wall inside the room.

A lot of your work is based on human anatomy, where did your love for this come from?
I’ve always loved the look of the skeleton. Each bone is so perfectly formed and intricate and it kind of blows my mind when I think we all have them underneath. Also the early drawings and engravings by Da Vinci, Albinus and Gray are just so detailed and precise. They’re really beautiful and striking. And to think they sat there drawing from life (or rather death) to create such accurate references shows how dedicated they were. I don’t think I could stand to study and draw from an actual human corpse. I can’t even bare to walk past a butchers’ shop.

Da Vinci

How did you decide to transfer your beautiful drawings on to ceramics?
After three years studying Graphic Design; creating magazine pages, posters, learning about type and attempting web design I realised that I really wanted to create something people could buy and use. So for my final major project I decided to throw caution to the wind and, going against all my tutor’s advise, do some illustrations and apply them to something 3D. My idea for the ‘Bone China’ range came after a trip to the Natural History Museum when I was feeling lost and uninspired. Having spent an hour or so looking at the dinosaur bones I caught the train home and as I was sitting there I realised bones on bone china was such an obvious idea it had to be done. The next stage was to work out a way of building on this idea so it wasn’t just a name with some drawings on a plate. I wanted the illustrations to work with the shapes. I spent ages working out what parts of the body would work on what shapes. In the end the ones that made the cut were the stacking coffee cups; the skeleton can be taken apart and put back together again, the mug that replaces the jaw of the drinker, the egg cup that when the egg is placed inside it completes the skull (and so you can crack a skull and feel really aggressive when you have your breakfast), and the skull dinner plate and left and right hand side plates. There were others which I couldn’t make at the time because of my student budget. Sometimes I think I should make them now but I should probably just stop drawing bones. It was also really important for me to create my china in the traditional way. I use a lovely family run factory in Stoke-on-Trent, the home of English ceramics. It’s a shame now as so many of the factories have been forced to close down because of companies taking their business abroad where it’s a lot cheaper.

Which is your favourite personal project and why?
I think Bone China because it was the most successful and commercial idea I’ve had and it was totally my own.

What has been the most exciting point in your career to date and why?
I love it when my china gets in to magazines or someone famous buys some but the most heart in my mouth excitement came when I got to create artwork with Vaughan Oliver for the Pixies’ back catalogue box set called Minotaur, and the label artwork for David Lynch’s first single, I know. I told him (Vaughan) at the time that I had peaked way too soon and I would never get to do anything as exciting as those things again. Three years on and it’s still true.

David Lynch Single Cover

Work for the Pixies

Do you have any major projects in the pipeline at the moment? Can you share these with us?
I recently did a surface design for Lazerian’s Gerald exhibition. Gerald is an intricate origami dog that you buy flat packed and can make up. Liam Hopkins (the designer) asked a load of designers to create new skins. I took off his fur and exposed the skeleton (obviously – I’m so predictable). That was such a challenge. All the folds and cuts for different parts of the dog were so confusing. I sat with my pen, scalpel and glue drawing on wrong bits and doing a whole section only to realise that the dog’s pelvis was facing the wrong way. I got there in the end though.

If you could have your work displayed anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be displayed?
That’s a hard one. I don’t really see my work as being in exhibitions but I’d like it a lot if David Lynch had some of my china in his kitchen.

What would be your dream commission?
One where someone said money isn’t a problem, do whatever you’d like.

If I were coming to visit your home town where would be the must stop place or places for me to visit?
My home home town is Southsea in Portsmouth (although I live in London now). There are some nice little independent places down there now including a shop that sells vinyl and really good homemade pies (it’s called Pie & Vinyl) and there’s the loveliest vintage shop that’s been going since the eighties called One Legged Jockey. I want everything in there, always. But most of all I’d recommend riding your bike down the seafront and going to the fairground where time stands still, getting some chips and watching the hovercraft come in and out. (I feel a bit homesick now.)

Pie & Vinyl Exterior

Pie & Vinyl

Describe your perfect Day

I’d love to work in a studio with a couple of friends and at least one dog and be able to make a success of it.

Now as much as I love your work, I love cooking and am always eager to find out a new recipe… what is your favorite dish to cook?

Time for me to be shamed. I am not a good cook. Ask anyone I’ve ever lived with. I do heat up pitta and am able to dip it in humus though!


I have one coming up this week! Starting on Thursday 6th September for Vogue’s Fashion Night Out.
If any of your readers are in the area it’s in Wolf & Badger, Dover St, London at 6pm. It’s running for 5 days. It’s my first ever exhibition and I’m displaying some of my original drawings. Mostly anatomical of course.


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6 responses to “Creatively Speaking – Interview with Phoebe Richardson

  1. marsellaj

    September 7, 2012 at 7:19 am

    What a great interview! Loved it.

    • birdcagedesign

      September 7, 2012 at 8:52 am

      Thank you for stopping by, I am so glad you enjoyed the interview. Pheobe was great fun and has given some really great answers…. i really want to try out the Pie shop! 🙂

  2. Hidden Passions

    September 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Liked the coverage of Interview.

    • birdcagedesign

      September 7, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed, thank you for stopping by 🙂

  3. intecoolochoberord

    September 9, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    A nice and interesting concept, looking forward to more lovely friday interviews!

    • birdcagedesign

      September 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      There are a couple more on the way, I am so glad you enjoyed this, I am sure the others will be just as good 🙂


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