June round-up

Current obsessions + good ideas:

This month, I’m starting something new on my site: a monthly round-up of designers / illustrators / artists who are inspiring me right now, and the projects they’re working on. So now that July is here (!), here are three very different creatives who I just can’t get enough of.

© Ciara Phelan

© Ciara Phelan

If you follow me on Pinterest, you’ll know that I can’t get enough of Ciara Phelan, a UK illustrator and textile designer who crafts beautiful collages out of cut paper and vintage ephemera, mixing analog and digital techniques. Her collages are all so different from one another, but they all share a lovely depth in the composition, great colour palettes, and an overall feeling of joy. Her portfolio shows a fantastic range of applications, and the work she does for her clients clearly reflects her personal style.

Here are a couple more, because I just couldn’t choose:

© Ciara Phelan

© Ciara Phelan

As someone who has never been all that skilled at drawing or painting, I’ve always turned to collage when I want to create something more “artistic” with my hands. I’ve been experimenting with a digital collage series just for my own amusement which I may get around to sharing when I feel the quality is up to snuff! In the meantime, I’ll just keep wishing I had skills like these.


Russ & Daughters neon sign

© Kelli Anderson

Inspirer #2 is artist/designer/basically-a-magician Kelli Anderson. Her work caught my eye with the recent rebrand of New York institution Russ & Daughters, which I first became aware of in this nifty video about the making of their new neon sign (another obsession of mine you may be aware of).

This type of mega-rebranding project seems like it would be equal parts fun, rewarding, and challenging. Working closely with the Russ & Daughters staff, Kelli had the opportunity to make design decisions about everything from the new silverware to the logo refresh to the menu design to the sesame seed wallpaper (!) and everything in between.

She definitely succeeded at retaining the history and heft of the 100-year-old branding, while updating and modernizing it for a new generation of New Yorkers.

Russ & Daughters design

© Kelli Anderson

You can read more about her fascinating and in-depth design process behind the rebrand over on her blog, or listen to a superinteresting interview she did with Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge recently.

Bonus: She also created this amazing “Existential Calculator” for designers to answer the question, “Should I take that job?” Is there anything she can’t do?


abstract painting by Lisa Congdon

© Lisa Congdon

And last but definitely not least is artist/illustrator Lisa Congdon. I feel like I’m a little late to the game with this one because she has be putting out amazing work and getting rave reviews for several years now, but I’m so glad I finally found her.

Her path to becoming an in-demand illustrator and working artist was not direct, or even deliberate. This talk she did earlier this year at the Typo design conference really sums up her career and background, and has some valuable life lessons about embracing the scariness of the unknown when embarking on a new path of any kind. Very inspiring!

Illustrations by Lisa Congdon

© Lisa Congdon

Lisa has a client-based illustration practice as well as a personal visual arts practice, which seem to influence each other but are also quite separate. Her style is very distinct, and the work she does for clients is unmistakeable. Her artistic practice is quite abstract, especially her more recent paintings.

I find her work really refreshing and authentic and honest, and I think this probably has a lot to do with her not really intending to be an artist, at least initially. She started painting and making collages in her 30s for fun, and only gradually started to sell her work and take on commissions after several years of creating mostly just for herself. I love the idea that a person could uncover and foster a previously-secret talent, and then actually be really, really good at it!

I’m looking forward to her upcoming book, Art Inc: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist, which is a guide for other creatives based on her trial-and-error experiences of becoming a working artist.

PS She also has a great Instagram feed which often features her pets, especially her cat, Barry. Search #typicalBarry. You won’t be disappointed.


So that’s what I’ve been fawning over this month! Check back in a month to see my July round-up of current obsessions & good ideas.