Founder of Wonder & Rah
On her work’s past, present and future.
Drawing and painting was a huge part of my childhood. Growing up as the daughter of an art teacher, creativity was part of every day life. We visited galleries, I would tag along on my mum’s school trips (that’s how I saw the amazing sensations at the tate) and we would draw and design on pretty much anything we could get our hands on. At the time it involved a lot of dodgy fashion designs my mum would then try to teach us to make – I was never very gifted in that department!
Interior design was also something I was fascinated by, again led by my mum. I constantly updated my room, tackling various DIY projects, sticking fake fur on top of tables and cutting shapes out of leopard print wrapping paper to stick on the walls, mum even let me paint a mural above my bed, risky I know!
I did an art foundation after A-levels and went onto study Graphic design at uni, later switching to illustration. After loving so many aspects of art and design over the years I struggled to find my niche, I felt pressure as an illustrator to deliver a consistent style, but I much preferred to change styles and trends depending on the project. Probably the most consistent theme was pattern though, I’ve always been a huge fan of pattern.
The disillusion I was feeling about carving out a career in design mean that I switched focus completely, I decided I might be better suited to work in fashion/retail and spent 12 years working towards my final position as Senior Merchandiser at Kurt Geiger. A very analytical roll which I enjoyed but left little to no time for creativity and my creative past times became a distant memory.
I started W&R nearly a year ago. After having my son Leo I returned to work and really struggled, its not a part time job even though I was desperate to make it one so after having my daughter Robyn less than 2 years later, I decided to take some time out. Childcare being what it costs in London, the financial implications of me not working were minimal. When Robyn turned one and a half I was ready for a challenge and really craving something to do that was entirely mine, alongside looking after the kids who were both a long time way from starting school. I wanted to get creating again and for the first time in a long time felt the confidence to just try it. The fear of judgement was still huge but becoming a mum definitely made me braver and more determined. My first idea was to create Initial art, I did a variety of designs but bottled it at the last minute and decided to work on some children’s poster designs instead. My main ambition was to create artwork for kids that was less twee/more design led and suited family spaces as well as nurseries. I worked on my first collection of 20 prints which I launched on Etsy in April 2016. Since then the hobby has become a small business, joining not on the high street then growing into its own webshop. When Liberty approached me to stock some of my work it was a huge moment for me. Recognition I never would have dreamed of!
My style is born out of the practicalities of looking after 2 children with little childcare. After struggling to finish any full paintings I decided to work more on painting textures using a variety of media like inks, watercolours and acrylics, then collaging and manipulating them in photoshop – that way I could stop and start whenever I needed too. I love the depth and quality you get from original artwork so it was always going to start on paper.
Allthough I’m a big planner in my personal life I am very much seeing where the tide takes me with W&R. I’m very aware that Leo starts school this year and whilst I feel a pressure to keep growing and expand the business I know I will have plenty of time for that when the kids are at school. That said I’m a bit of a workaholic naturally (thats years working in retail for you) so my autopilot is to squeeze as much in as possible and say yes to everything.
The process of working creatively has brought me so much joy I’m keen to keep moving forward, keep growing, keep experimenting.
To see more of Natalie’s work visit Wonder & Rah