How long have you lived in London?
I moved to London to study Visual Communication at University of the Arts, LCC. Art school was good for me – it gave me everything I needed to enter the creative industry. I spent my time there as a bit of an introvert, but I don’t regret it. I absorbed myself into the briefs that came in from external designers and companies. I was tutored under Hamish Muir and other prestigious designers, and I had free reign over the letterpress, book-binding, digital and print studios at the college – as well as memberships to magazines, galleries and museums.
After graduation I met my partner James, who is also a designer. I was able to create my own schedule, freelancing as an illustrator and editorial designer for companies such as; Huck magazine, Little White Lies, Howies, Okido and before joining Rapha full time, for Ally Capellino.
What brought you to London?
I’m originally from Stratford-upon-Avon in the Midlands. Some of my fondest memories are from growing up there. My early teenage job was renting out rowing boats to tourists on the river, and then later on whilst at college, I was a scenic artist for the Royal Shakespeare Company. It’s a tranquil place but, as is usually the case, I felt a need to get to the city to develop and refine. Perhaps I’ll go back there when I retire.
Is that how you ended up involved in design?
It’s in the blood. I have my mum to thank for that. She’s a very talented sculptress and artist, as is my brother. She focused on bringing us up to pursue creative paths. She always helped me to develop, sending me to ceramics, ballet and other art classes outside of school. My brother also taught me the basics of Adobe Creative Suite around the age of 16 and I carried on from there.
You work for Rapha as a graphic designer, tell us about your work.
Working at Rapha has given me the opportunity to turn a creative hand to a range of things – anything from Cycle Club interiors to printed materials for Rapha Travel trips, and the design of a classic Italian frame bike for the L’Eroica. My main interest is in publication design and type setting. Beyond Rapha, my personal projects have recently taken on a theme of botany and landscape. I’ve been working with a landscape architect and we’re currently collaborating on a series of publications that give an explanation of London’s sylviculture, topology and its shifting landscape underfoot.
You recently had a beer with iconic typographer Erik Spiekermann, how did that come about?
I’m still in shock. He came to the office to see Simon Mottram [Rapha CEO] and joined the graphic design team for after work beers. He’s such a prolific designer, whose attitude has influenced my work since I started designing for print. His personality is honest and outlook methodical, some might say very German… I could have listened to him for hours.
How did you get into cycling?
Cycling is also in my blood from my mother’s side. My granddad used to belong to the Coventry Road Club in the early 30s. He and my grandma had a tandem and would tour around England, often riding up to Scotland, even during the snowy winters. James and I recently renovated a 1986 Jack Taylor tandem, which took us a year to rebuild.
I started road cycling when I was working on the river during my teenage years. There was an abandoned turquoise and orange 1987 Cannonade SR500 that had been sitting in the boathouse for a few seasons. It was the perfect size for me, so I signed up to a triathlon when I was 17 and came fifth. I spent that summer riding from Stratford to Bilbao, through the Pyrenees. Since then, I’ve done a few triathlons, long weekend rides and daily commuting. More recently I’ve started building a lightweight Mercian racing frame, and I’m hoping to start competing next year.
So, being a triathlete, you also run?
I do. I’m part of The Gentlewoman running club and love the freedom and the core strength you get from running. I’m currently clocking around 38km in weekly for training, and I’m racing next month, which should be fun.
You took a trip to Sweden recently? Tell us about that.
I visited the town of Munkendals, based at the mouth of Saltkällefjorden on the western coast of Sweden. The town was founded by monks in the early 19th century, as the river that ran through the land, was rich with salmon. They built workshops and mills on the banks, and Arctic Paper Mill eventually established itself there. I went over to source and find out about the sustainability of paper stocks for an exciting project coming up at Rapha. The locals are rightly proud of their heritage and country. After the mill visit they took me to a lake for some fishing and swimming, and we ate smoked elk around a fire in the evening.
And your own family heritage has links to the far north of Europe?
My family surname derives from my grandmother Helèna’s side; her bloodline traces back to Latvia, but she lived in Kraków, in Poland. She was brought up in a convent and during World War II, her name was linked with Jewish descent. She was found hiding in a cellar, after helping Jewish citizens escape to neutral countries, and was detained in the Warsaw extermination and labour camp for four years. She was only 15 years old, but strong, and so was made to work on the cranes, clearing up the destruction of the city. After the war, she moved to France and met my British grandfather. They came to England, had eight children, and he went back to work as a carpenter and a painter and decorator.
Besides Rapha, what’s next for you?
Apart from building bikes and a plan to tour around Norway, my boyfriend and I often collaborate on projects together. We worked on the Lexus Design Award last year, and are currently working on a print publication based around the early morning hours. We’ve also recently been briefed by Studio Loop.pH to collaborate on a teahouse for London Festival of Architecture that uses locally foraged botanicals.
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