As a working mum I have to plan my days very carefully. When my children are at nursery I will spend some of the days in the studio dealing with, orders, product submissions, marketing (editorials) and developing the range. I am currently planning to attend my first trade show later this year and I intend to add a new product to the Oscar Francis homeware range which is taking up quite a lot of studio time right now. I will also often arrange to meet another designer and spend a morning at an event like the upcoming Pulse or Clerkenwell Design Week. This is good time to get out and see what other designers are producing and also a good way to do a bit of networking. When I am with my children I still respond to queries and deal with orders during to the day and get back to the studio in the evening once they are tucked up.
Owner & designer of Oscar Francis a London based studio creating bold modern graphic prints and patterns.
Who gave you inspiration to change your career & setting up your business?
It was a combination of my children and my late father. I had wanted to start my own business for a long time but was always too hesitant and consumed with my job. When my twin sons were born it was intense and tough but I managed to find time in the evenings and when they napped to experiment with fabric and start designing my own patterns inspired by my love of architecture. The business idea began to take shape and it became obvious that if I was going to take a chance and start up on my own this was the moment to do it.
My father was also an architect and had run his own practice for nearly 40 years. His achievements and ambition have always been a source of inspiration to me and of course he set the example by being his own boss. Growing up in a creative household (my mother is an artist) in which both my parents determined their own financial and creative paths had a big influence on me.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
An artist. From an extremely young age the only activities I was interested in was drawing and painting. My mother has told me many stories of how she had to drag me away from pen and paper or the latest project just to eat dinner!
What challenges do you face in running a new design business?
There are the “normal” challenges for any new business. The initial investment is an obvious one. It’s a big risk. Then there are the pitfalls of finding the right suppliers and manufacturers to work with and develop your products and designs with. That takes time, which also (again) takes money. After that, for me, it is the ongoing challenge of growing the business at a manageable pace and having the time to evolve the designs that work and be brave enough to shelve the ones that don’t.
What advice would you give someone wanting a change in career & about working for themselves?
Give yourself a decent time frame to develop your idea and your business plan. Make sure you are realistic about the amount of money and time you can dedicate to it, especially if you plan to run your business in your spare time whilst working. Reach out to others within the industry and take advice on the best shows or venues to take your work to and to meet potential retailers. Have patience! When approaching retailers or agents allow time for people to respond to you and to your work. You may not get an immediate response (you may not get a response at all) and this can be frustrating, but don’t let it dampen your enthusiasm or passion for what you do.
What design trends are you seeing at the moment & which excite you?
I have noticed a lot more minimal graphic prints. Geometric prints with names like “cubism” and “viaduct” appeal to the architect in me, and it’s a nice change to see such a wealth of options beyond floral, animal and leaf prints.I have also seen some beautiful, minimal accessories and homewares. The Vanessa Vivian lamps for Axo Light and kitchenware like Hay Kaleido coated steel trays and Stefania Vasquez terracotta pots (for Sambonet) focus on form and colour rather than texture or surface decoration.
Your business is named after your sons, do you like to get them invloved?
Not at the moment they are only two! But yes, it would be nice to include them in some way in the future. I have had a children’s range of textiles in mind for a while and when I begin to develop that more they will definitely be involved.
What are the best & worst things about your job?
The process of taking an idea for a print from its conceptual stages through to a finished product is very rewarding. I also relish the fact that I choose the creative direction that the business goes in and who I work with. There aren’t many elements of the job that I dislike, I can be a little bit impatient and so waiting for retailers to respond to your work is frustrating for me.
5 quick fire questions...
Last homeware item you bought?
A dualit kettle for my studio
Lie-in or up at dawn?
Up with the birds (whether I like it or not!)
Dessert Island disk?
“So What” – Miles Davis
Dessert Island luxury?
Factor 50. I am a redhead.
If you could only save 1 item from your home, what would it be?
A framed photograph of my father with the order of service I designed for his funeral tucked in the back.
Thank you Sarah, we loved meeting you and sharing your journey with us!