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Illustration: Why I set up an eco-friendly clothing brand inspired by tattoos

Kate Loring, 26, is an illustrator from Chichester. She designs eco-friendly clothing with illustrations inspired by tattoos, with her brand Snooze.

A lot of my illustration work draws from traditional tattoos. The vast majority is strictly line work and then my own take on some of the more classic tattoo iconography.

I draw white ink over a black background because I think it gives it depth without overcomplicating. Clean lines and no shading. It’s easier to translate onto fabrics which is obviously a huge part of what I do.

I opted to do art and graphic design as my chosen subjects in school and have loved art since I was a kid.

I’ve always found it relaxing and enjoyed the process enormously; having to research everything, building the composition, making the templates etc.

Not many people know but I don’t actually design the whole thing in one piece. I design it in layers and then put other parts over it. A good way to describe it is hand-drawn photoshop/procreate.

My illustration style

With such a clear tattoo style this usually is my main source of inspiration – but the research process also throws up a lot of interesting images and ideas. I try to adapt work or images to show recognisable traits of my own style which has developed over the years. I read a lot, listen to art review podcasts, and am always looking for exhibitions, virtual or in person. It’s a whole world to immerse yourself in and you never know where the next piece of inspiration will come from.

Choosing a piece I’m most proud of is always difficult because each one has elements I favour and am happiest with. I have a painting called ‘The Snakeshake’ which I’m immensely proud of because it breaks the barriers of my classic style where I used complete colour and shading – very out of my comfort zone.

However, I think my favourite piece was a jacket I painted for a giveaway with a sheep head on one pocket and a wolf head on the other. It was something I did very early on and was a big project but it came out beautifully and was just a joy to design and paint from start to finish

Eco-friendly business

For so many years I’ve become much more conscious of my resource use and the impact it has on our environment. I’m always looking for ways to reduce plastics, using refillable food shops to avoid any packaging and in fashion, I try to shop more sustainably too.

I’d wanted to make shirts for years and had been asked about doing so countless times by friends and family. But it didn’t sit right with me to be contributing to this unsustainable fashion system of production that is draining our planet’s resources.

Read more: How I use illustration as a force for good

I spent months thinking about how I could make it work and the idea came to me to hand paint pieces. I experimented with a few techniques and materials and finally was able to execute the system that I use now. It was a bonus really that it all aligns with my other values so that each person gets something hand-made with a real personal touch and something completely individual to them. I don’t replicate any designs.

I am always massively humbled when anyone wants to buy one of my designs for clothing and even more so as a tattoo. When my work is appreciated I just feel incredibly grateful. It really does make me happy to be able to produce something that people love and that I am proud of.

The future of Snooze

In five years I’d like to have grown Snooze more to reach a wider audience, expanded my product repertoire to bags and hats, and help other creators to develop ways they can make their clothing brands more sustainable.

There are some skills and subjects I’m desperate to build my knowledge on such as screen printing and physical tattooing. I’m hoping in the next few years I’ll be able to do that.

My advice if you want to get into illustration

To my younger self would be to have more confidence in my work and that it’s okay to fail.

Making mistakes and experimenting is how you develop as an artist and creator, sometimes just running with an idea and seeing it fall short at the end is how you get better. Improving your technique, your composition, developing your style, is what comes from those shortfalls and they’re just as important as the successes.

My only other piece of advice would be that regardless of wherever art takes you, remember that sometimes just doing something for fun is why you started it in the first place. It doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be all about the work all the time.

Art is meant to be fun and too much of the time it gets taken much too seriously.

Keep working at it

I’d like to say to any other artists on the start of their journey that all the little blips like mental and creative blocks, losing the drive for it, the frustration and hard work is all-natural but fully worth it when things start to come through.

Keep working at it and never forget to be on the constant search for inspiration. Check out exhibitions, books, podcasts, talking to people and other creatives. Search out collaborations anywhere you can, everyone goes at their own pace, and remember to enjoy every second.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.
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