Designer Feature | Izzie Klingels

Izzie studied Fine Art at Chelsea School of Art in London. She has worked commercially as an illustrator since 2001, for a broad range of clients from fashion, music and advertising, including Vogue, Topshop, Volvo, Dazed and Confused, Penguin Books and Italian Marie Claire. She now focuses equally on non-commercial projects, exhibiting in Los Angeles, London and Seattle. She currently lives and works in Seattle, where she finds inspiration in the damp lushness of the city and the dark mystery of the old growth forests and mountains that surround it.

We recently visited with Izzie in her shared studio space located in the International District.

Photography by Rachael Lang

Tell us about your background. How did you get started as an artist and illustrator?

After graduating from Chelsea Art College, I started a company called Lazy Eye with a friend, Spencer Bewley. We made visuals and videos for bands and clubs and did a lot of touring in the 90’s. In 2001 some girlfriends and I started a club night and fanzine called Hey Ladies, featuring female artists, illustrators, writers and musicians. We were kind of sick of the boys’ club culture and wanted to give women a voice. When we started the fanzine I thought, hang on a minute, I went to art school, I can draw, and started making illustrations for it. I probably hadn’t drawn in 6 or 7 years! Hey Ladies got a lot of attention and I got commissions from magazines like Dazed and Confused, Vogue, I.D and Elle which really kick started my illustration career.

Walk us through a day in the studio. How do you start your day?

I start my day with my one caffeinated drink of the day, a good, strong cup of British tea! Next, I spend a couple of hours on the Internet, getting distracted on social media and catching up on emails. Then, it’s just 8 or 9 hours of drawing, really. Quite boring! I like to listen to audiobooks while I work. Two recent highlights have been Quicksand by Nella Larsen and The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. At the moment I’m listening to Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I’m a big Dickens fan and his books remind me of London and how magical, strange and old it is. My drawings are usually made up of millions of tiny dots. It takes a really long time to build up the ink this way and it can be quite maddening, so it’s good to zone out and get into a story while doing it. The flower skull took about 3 weeks to draw. At the end of the day I make sure I completely cover my arm in Bengay (a trick my friend, artist Amanda Manitach, taught me!) because I suffer from pretty bad RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). It really helps.

Your practice is quite multi-faceted from illustration to floral arrangement to textile design, what inspires the directions you take?

I see all these things as part of the same overriding creative urge that drives me. It’s really important to me to try to make something every day, whether it’s a flower arrangement, indigo textile or drawing. My illustrations often have a botanical element, so that obviously links to my floral design. The textile work that I do probably appeals to me so much because it’s quite bold and it’s liberating to work so freely. My drawing is very controlled and detailed, so it’s fun to be experimental and loose with indigo.

 Who/what are your major influences? Who are you currently following?

I love finding old books on illustration, textiles or graphic design, because they point you to things you would probably never discover online. I’m currently really into a book called Wearable Art which is about these wild constructed textiles from the late 70’s and early 80’s, like a floor length, avant-garde, crocheted kimono featuring the New York skyline at night, complete with a 3D Williamsburg Bridge! Sharing a studio with jewelry designer Rachel Ravitch and graphic designer/digital artist Christian Petersen means that I’m surrounded by inspiring and energetic creativity.

In terms of art, I found the show Your Feast has Ended at the Frye very inspiring, not only for the strength and clarity of the message, but also for the way it referenced and celebrated cultural traditions and used them in new ways. Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes and Nicholas Galanin are artists that I respect and admire. I also loved the Mark Mitchell Burial show and its exploration of such serious ideas through clothing. I’m very interested in the way aesthetics and design shape our lives and how much they tell us about the way we live and think. I think that participation in creating our surroundings and visual identities is crucial to our psychic well being.  

 What projects are you working on now?

This summer I will be leading an indigo workshop as part of Summer at SAM at the Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s going to happen over four Saturdays in July and we’ll be communally creating an installation exploring the huge impact that indigo had on the world - building empires, driving resistance and clothing a new type of worker.  I’m also making new work for a show with two other fantastic Seattle women artists this winter. It will be the first time I’ve shown a large body of work since 2013 and I’m planning some big things!

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