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Q&A with Owen Gildersleeve

Designer and illustrator

My name is Owen Gildersleeve and I'm a designer and illustrator based in London, UK. My imagery frequently combines multi-layered papercuttings with graphical forms and hand-rendered typography, and I enjoy collaborating with photographers, animators, and stylists to help bring my ideas to life.

What inspired you to become a designer?

I've always had an interest in photography and fine art, and during school would spent a lot of my time either in the darkrooms developing photos, or in the art studios painting canvases. As I began try to work out what I wanted to study at university, I realised that I could combine all of my interests in design and illustration, and have carried on along that path ever since.

What design software do you use?

Although most of my work is handmade, I use quite a few programs to assist my process. A lot of my initial mock-ups are created in Adobe Illustrator, and I will sometimes print these designs onto the reverse of the paper ready to cutout and make. Once the finished artwork is photographed I will then spend quite a bit of time editing and retouching the imagery in Photoshop.

What is your ideal work environment?

I'm currently based in a shared studio in Dalston with three lovely illustrators. This is an ideal workspace for me as it's nice to have other people around to talk to and share ideas with, but it's also a small enough studio that I can get my head down when things get busy. I'm also lucky to have quite a large work space in the studio, which is important for me due to the type of work I do which often involves spreading out and making quite a mess.

Where does your design inspiration come from? 

I've always tried to look outside of my practice for inspiration, as it's easy to get bogged down looking too much at work in the same realm as yours. I still find fine art and photography very inspiring, and have always admired artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg, whose artworks have a very hands-on approach.

Who is the person you admire most?

Although there are a lot of people I greatly admire, the person that really stands out is my girlfriend Ciara Phelan. She's an exceptionally talented collage illustrator, and even though things have been going really well with her work she's decided to push herself even further and start up her own homeware business Kith & Kin. This is obviously a huge undertaking, and Ciara has had to put a lot of time and effort into making it work, but it's already started to pay off and I'm extremely proud of her.