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Presenting: Lucy Ketchin

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You may know her from her popular illustration work, but did you know Lucy Ketchin designed the recyclable paper bags we use in all five of our Cow Vintage locations? The Leeds based artist came in to see the web team to talk living life as a creative lady, being an Instagram sensation and collaborating with Cow. The following photos also feature Ketchin wearing all We Are Cow, along with illustrations from the artist herself! Shop the look and read our interview below.

What have you been creating recently?

I’ve been doing a lot of sewing, dabbling with natural dying like onion skins. I’ve been hand quilting too, it’s very therapeutic. A blanket quilt stitch on wall hangings; when you quilt it makes a really nice texture and ripple in the fabric.

I do so much digital work that it’s nice to create something tangible, that has taken so much time. It feels more impressive because of the time and effort that has gone into it. I have been doing some illustration now and again, I’m currently working on a commission for a friend for an online women’s trainers store.

I’m focusing on self initiating at the minute, creating things for myself rather than other people. Hopefully people will like it! And then I can get back to reopening my website and accepting freelance work. I want to be able to choose stuff that I like and that I’m passionate about.

It’s also hard choosing designs for products like prints and totes that I’m happy to see again and again for the full year - I’m a perfectionist when it comes to that. Which is why jobs like doing the Cow bags are good, because it’s sent away and it’s done and people like them.

It’s so great seeing the Cow bags everywhere, out and about, being tagged in them on social media. It’s more of the tangibility: It’s not just a graphic that’s online on a website, it’s out in the world, in print, where people can physically own it.

 

Your textile projects remind me of Hannah Hill’s embroidery (@Hanecdote). She says it’s about reclaiming work that has been traditionally for women and making it art. What do you think of that?

That’s literally it, I’m super into American crafts in the Bay area over there. I follow so many people in that community who are making beautiful things out of beautiful linens, vintage clothes, weaving and sewing. I just thought what if I take a step back and create something really beautiful with just my hands.

People in America have these histories of their grandmothers or family showing them how to quilt, but I don’t necessarily have that. But I’m trying to incorporate those kinds of values into my work. Hand dying, for instance, makes it feel like I’ve built this entirely from scratch.

I lost my love of creating things for a time; you can push it to a point but you’re not necessarily happy with it. You’ve got to find your love and your rhythm with it. This quilting project has brought back the love to my illustration work too, just creating things in general again.

 

It’s easy to stick to the one thing you do that you know people enjoy. Is it important to realise and feed the full creative self even if you’re not getting the same kind of positive feedback?

I needed to do that, I needed it for myself and to be on my own doing it. It’s about finding the time and the interest in it for yourself. My parents sew but I could never sit and learn it from them. I’ve grown up with a lot of sewing machines and tried it now and again, but I’m completely self taught.

I’ve learned all the chemistry for the dying myself and just done it in my kitchen: I’ve just been totally obsessed with it over the last couple of months. It’s just easy and fun - I can go to the grocers, pick up a few onions and by that time the next day I have a piece of fabric that I’ve dyed myself and it’s such a vibrant yellow.

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It’s so much more fulfilling creating something from scratch than altering something that’s already made.

Definitely. And with the quilting I want to incorporate my drawings and create pieces that combine them both. I’ve always wanted to make something huge and impressive. I feel like I’ve found the medium that I can do that with.

I really want to put on a show, I’ve never done a solo show. I want to create imagery that you can touch and walk through.

 

You don’t get so much a physical experience with some art, I think people underestimate how setting up a room affects how you experience the work itself.

Totally, I like something tangible.

 

Like the Cow bags?

Yes, like the Cow bags. They were so much fun. I spent so long getting the characters just right, in the right clothing. I shopped in Cow Birmingham loads when I lived at home, I’ve got photos of myself aged 14 in Cow clothing - it was mad they asked me to do it!

I’d not really shopped vintage for a long time, so it was about discovering that side of things again. It goes in waves, sometimes I’m interested in fashion and other times not. So it was interesting trying to figure out what I could bring to the bags.

I’d like to do more work like that, where I get to see it out and about.

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I know you also work a job while doing your freelance work. Do you think it’s sound advice to give artists that you should have that kind of backup?

Most people I know in the creative industry have a backup job, usually in the service industry or retail. It can be damaging but at the same time, you just make it work. It depends what you’re doing really, if you’re in a job that you enjoy and have a good social life, you’re more likely to be in a mood where you can create. Whereas a high stress job, even with spare time, you won’t have the brain or the imagination to spend two hours sitting down to draw.

I’ve been through so many different service industry jobs and it’s just about finding the right balance. I tried to do full time freelance and it’s not for me. I need that social interaction that comes with a job, even with just getting on a bus.

If you’re shutting yourself away and living online, how can you possibly create art that’s relevant to the people around you? It won’t be at all.

It also depends on how much money you want to make from your art, but I’m so much happier being skint and barely getting by than having a strenuous full time job that leaves me with no energy to create.

 

You have a really popular Instagram account, do you find this helps or hinders your art?

I find it really difficult, I think a lot of people follow me because I have quite a personal account and they like the things that I post. But there’s this association between my amount of followers and a kind of professionalism that I don’t want.

People will check in like, “What are you working on?” When really my last project was six months ago and I’ve just been getting on with things or looking after myself.  

I love it and I hate it, the whole Instagram thing. I used to try really hard with the curation of it but now I don’t worry about posting all the time or posting certain things. I try to be really real with it now, be honest and stop people idolising my kind of Instagram.

I feel like I have to do something with this platform, not just get my work out there but use it. There’s a lot of people listening to me and I have to be honest.

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Do you get a lot of people asking you for advice through Instagram?

I do, I get more emails though. Every now and again from university students who can either be very copy and pasted - “I sent this to 150 people” types of things - or those who really care about it. It takes so much for me to reply to them, I have so much I want to talk about, so is it really worth it to someone who isn’t interested in me in particular?

I’m not even sure I have that much positive to say a lot of the time, if I’m trying to be real with them. I recently got asked to do an Instagram challenge that was to show each day in a month of being a working artist.

The first day being something like, “What’s your favourite thing about being an illustrator?” or “What gives you inspiration as an illustrator?” and I thought the only way I could do this seriously would be to take the piss. Like, what’s my favourite thing about being an illustrator? The money. Drawing stuff and seeing it everywhere.