Becca Shaw, independent British artist, textile designer and founder of design brand Becca Who, tells us the benefits of shopping small, and why she has the best job in the world when she’s designing.
On starting her business…
I grew up in a home full of entrepreneurial spirit as both of my parents ran their own small businesses, and their drive and ambition definitely rubbed off on me! I was always going to do something creative as I’ve been constantly drawing since I was small. I was a finalist in a children’s national art competition which saw my artwork displayed in Christie’s auction house in London. I remember being so thrilled and, from that point on, finding a way to draw for a living was always my masterplan!
I started Becca Who a little over two years ago. Having already run a creative business, offering design and print services, I wanted to take some time out to parent my youngest son and it felt like a good time to re-shape my worklife. I wanted to start a brand which was more authentic to my own artistic style and offered something different – focussing not just on design, but my love of textiles too. Now Becca Who creates wearable art for women and men, homeware and also fine art prints.
On a typical work day…
As a working mum, my day always starts with the havoc of preparing breakfasts and trying to get everybody out of the house on time – plus whatever else my two lovely, but disorganised, boys have in store for me!
After the school run I return to the blissful calm of my home studio, where I take some time to breathe, enjoy a cup of tea and check what’s on the week’s ‘To Do’ list. I’m super organised and as I often have multiple projects on at once, list-making is definitely my friend!
Often I’ll have meetings with customers, or people I’m working on projects with, and I contract work to a local dressmaker so I’m often nipping over to her studio. Most of my work, however, takes place at either my computer desk or my drawing table.
I tend to handle customer enquiries, supplier emails, orders, website updates, and general admin first, and then I can devote myself to the designing. Getting out my sketchbook or painting digitally, with the music on, makes me feel like I have the best job in the world!
On shopping small and manufacturing in the UK…
I feel that we’re in the midst of a return to slower fashion; moving towards better quality and timeless design, appreciating true craftsmanship as more mindful consumers. Personally, I’ve always gravitated to independents when shopping for myself or buying gifts. I prefer the originality, the diversity of products and, of course, the level of personal service. As a small business owner myself, I’m guilty of replying to an email on a Sunday if it sounds urgent, albeit with a glass of something in hand, sat on a lounger in the garden!
Purchases that excite me the most are those that have a back story – whether it’s an artist painting their inspirations onto pottery or a small jewellery boutique. Many indie designers have small online shops that are like a well kept secret, and I think that many of us love that feeling of having discovered a treasure.
All of my products are made in the UK and I pay close attention to every detail. From my painstaking hand-drawn artwork and the highest quality digital printing, to every silk scarf being lovingly finished with a hand-rolled hem before being beautifully packaged. I consider each product as a work of art which is meant to be treasured and enjoyed for a lifetime.
Manufacturing in Britain means I can have closer relationships with my partners which makes all the difference when it comes to quality and availability. It also means a great deal to be a part of the textiles industry in Britain, with its rich heritage, particularly in Lancashire where I’m based.
On the inspiration behind her ‘Regal Exotic Leopard’ design…
I’m an animal lover and am constantly inspired by nature and the landscape of my home county. My designs are an intentional homage to British wildlife and you’ll find them across most of my products.
I tend to aim for a slightly surreal vibe, with touches of the unexpected – almost setting the scene of a story, hoping to engage the viewer’s imagination – and evoke a sense of escapism. I loved creating the ‘Regal Exotic Leopard’ design because it enabled me to explore a landscape that I’m less familiar with. I gave the exotic animals extravagant headdresses and jewels which seems, to me, very fitting for an artistic tribute to such regal creatures.
On the variety that comes with being open to commissions…
I love the diversity of projects I’ve been able to work on; from creating bespoke silk scarves and a one-off velvet table covering centred on my popular ‘Stag’ design, to homeware collections for a textile company.
My most thrilling project to date was an editorial feature for the 2018 edition of Burnley Magazine, which beautifully showcased my products in one of my most beloved places. Towneley Hall is a stunning historic home and museum at the heart of my hometown, and my wildlife inspired garments were shot in the grand period rooms, along with pieces from their natural history museum such as foxes, pheasants and badgers. My concept was to bring nature indoors and I even created a large ‘tree’ for the shoot, to stand by a magnificent fireplace in the hall. I’ve been captivated by Towneley Hall since I was a little girl and so this opportunity was truly magical for me!
I also enjoy getting involved in the local community and am currently working with a youth project, offering textile design workshops to local girls for a project around their future aspirations. The empowerment of young women is something very close to my heart and inspiring the girls to try surface pattern techniques is great fun. Seeing their embrace of textile design – and the fantastic patterns that they have created – is really rewarding.