Lily Corcoran is an illustrator, designer, and founder of Petal to Petal; an illustration and design company based in West Cork.
Growing up with creative parents, Lily Corcoran was introduced to art early on but it was when she was introduced to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and William Morris by a family friend that she was truly blown away. "I love the Arts and Crafts Movement and the whole ethos behind it. Although it isn't always attainable, I feel that it's right." In line with the movement's ideals, Corcoran's own work is inspired by the art of traditional lacemaking and involves her spending days, sometimes weeks, hand drawing numerous individual floral elements to create one larger shape or pattern. "The skill, technique and time that goes into lacework fascinates me, and I try to do it justice by creating original designs in one single piece of detailed illustration." We sat down with her to find out more.
what is your design background?
I studied Visual Communication and then Art & Design Teaching at Secondary Level at Crawford College of Art & Design in Cork City. I really enjoyed teaching but wanted to follow my dream of working as an artist and see if I could actually make it a reality.
what do you love most about your JOB?
The biggest obstacle in my commute to work is a sleepy cat lying in a pool of sunlight on my studio floor, and that in itself is something I feel very grateful for. I love being my own boss, even if it's sometimes a challenge to keep motivated and push myself to meet deadlines. I wouldn't change a thing though, I love my job!
How would you describe your work in three words?
Detailed, precise and distinctive
what are you currently interested in and how is it feeding into your work?
I've always been drawn to detail, and love pattern and texture, so it was inevitable that I would fall in love with the art of lacemaking. Several years ago, I started to study lace stitches and since moving back home to Ireland after living abroad I have been working with Irish Lace; illustrating stitches of different laces from different regions in Ireland. The skill, technique and time that goes into lacework fascinates me, and I try to do it justice by creating original designs in one single piece of detailed illustration. Pieces like 'Cork Lace' can take me weeks to complete.
WHAT DOES YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS LOOK LIKE?
It completely depends on what I am working on. I work in two styles, 'Flower Bomb' and 'Lacing'. Both these styles are unique to me as I made them up! 'Flower Bomb' is an illustration style that I designed almost a decade ago which has evolved and been refined over time. I combine elements of different flowers to create lots of different flowers which I illustrate organically in different shapes and patterns. 'Lacing' is illustrating in lace and when I started to do this I made up the lace but over the past few years I have started to study actual stitches. First I come up with the subject matter. I have, literally, books full of ideas that I don't think I will live long enough to complete. At the moment, I am working on counties of Ireland in the 'Flower Bomb' style and the series is called 'In Bloom'. As there are 32 counties to work on I should be busy for a while! I illustrate each image in one piece and on average an illustration takes me a few days. I then scan it in, work on it in photoshop, and add the background colour. When the design is ready, I create art prints and greeting cards and I apply some designs to different products like notebooks and tea towels.
HOW DO YOUR SURROUNDINGS AND LOCAL COMMUNITY AFFECT YOUR WORK?
I'm very happy in my own company and I can concentrate when I'm alone and undisturbed, so living in a remote part of the countryside works well for me. If I'm not listening to music or podcasts while I work, I just open the windows and listen to the birds singing and it's very relaxing.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY FOR YOU?
I work from home and have an open studio at the top of our house, overlooking the sea, mountains and a forest. In the morning, I feed our menagerie of animals (3 cats and 4 chickens) and have a coffee with my husband before he goes out to work. In my studio, the first thing I do is check e-mails to see if any orders have come in. I then plan my day, taking into account the odd break where I go for a walk outside or to see my parents who live nearby. I try to be realistic and only plan what I will have time to do. Every day is different and I can be working on any number of things - new designs or wedding stationery commissions, packing orders to post out to different stockists or from online sales, new packaging ideas, photographing products, ordering supplies or doing my own marketing. I manage every aspect of the business myself so working days are long but fulfilling. Everything is continually evolving and developing.
WHAT FIVE THINGS IN YOUR STUDIO COULD YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT?
My studio companion Dotty the kitten, my large cutting mat which I always work on, my pens and paper, my laptop and a lovely cup of coffee!
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
Success is happiness and for me, happiness is striking a good work/life balance that allows time with family and friends. I set up Petal to Petal so that I could work from home, and around family life. When we meet people they often ask 'What do you do?' and it usually means 'What do you do for work?' and not for pleasure. I'm lucky because what I do for work is what I do for pleasure and going to work everyday is a joy.
WHICH WOMEN DO YOU ADMIRE AND WHY?
I admire any woman who has managed to create that perfect work/life balance. Anyone who can do that and who manages to create something beautiful is my hero!
SHOP THIS FEATURE
Irish Lace Limited Edition Digital Print
Ireland in Bloom Limited Edition Giclee Print