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I'm slightly obsessed with plants, so I really enjoyed the process of visiting Kew Gardens and the Marianne North Gallery to gather inspiration from her vast array of paintings.

Prior to visiting, and reading about Marianne North, I was charmed by her story and stunned by her incredible commitment to sharing her painted vision of the plants she’d observed all over the world. As a Victorian woman, to travel intrepidly to all parts of the world, alone, and set up her easel wherever she went, was incredible.

Looking at her paintings, I was also struck by how much the world has changed. The opportunity to travel across the globe is almost normal now for everyone. There is also a huge wealth of botanical photography available for all to see.

So in contrast to this sharp, almost photographic imagery, when I started my design ideas, I set out consciously to explore a more expressive approach to observing flowers. I am passionate about growing plants in my own garden which provide essential nectar for bees and butterflies. Instead of venturing across the world to exotic locations, I chose to start by including familiar UK garden flowers such as the Buddleia, Verbena bonariensis and Echinacea as starting points, then progressed the design ideas further by painting other floral motifs into a more abstract and less recognisable direction.

Artist and designer Jo Angell in her studio

Artist and designer Jo Angell in her studio

My working approach is to start painting and drawing with different mediums including acrylic paint, ink, block printing and even bleach! I gather together lots of these different elements.

A sketch for Art UK by Jo Angell

A sketch for Art UK by Jo Angell

These are then scanned into my computer where I can ‘play’ by layering colours and textures. I think about spatial placement, scale and harmonising the colours. In the next stage, I start to put the designs into a repeatable pattern for placement on a range of surfaces, again thinking about scale and the edges of the particular product.

Art UK's Buzz range designed by Jo Angell, inspired by Marianne North

Art UK's Buzz range designed by Jo Angell, inspired by Marianne North

I hope my designs pay homage to Marianne North. I was trying to retain a sense of exoticism and strong colour, in keeping with her paintings, yet also create something which feels fresh, contemporary and expressive.

Jo Angell, artist and designer

Jo has designed the Buzz range of products exclusively for Art UK. You can see more of her work on her website.

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