Michelle Evans is an illustrator, graphic designer, and the Creative Director of boutique stationery studio Roxwell Press.
After studying for a BA in illustration at University of the West of England and a Masters degree in Fine Art at Central St Martins, Michelle Evans "sailed across the ocean, worked on a farm in Norway and made a film" before establishing herself as a scenic painter for major film productions. Although passionate about the film process, "I just love stories, and while I enjoy books, it's in film that I feel truly immersed", she began to feel the need to return to her graphic arts roots, so started working as a graphic designer at a publishing company, where she stayed for the next six years. During her time working there she got married, to her "lovely husband Richard", and it was whilst designing their wedding invitations that she realised that she could turn her love of stationery into a career. A realisation that, after some dreaming and lots of planning, led to her launching her own company, Roxwell Press, in 2014. We sat down with her to find out more.
HOW DID YOU LEARN YOUR CRAFT?
I've been interested by painting since I was a teenager, and started experimenting with watercolour, oils and acrylics. I really enjoyed the painterly marks you could make with them and looked at artists like Matisse and Manet for inspiration. Although I drew and painted in my illustration degree and fine art Masters, it was while I was working in the film industry that I learned the most. I spent a couple of years scenic painting with a fantastic artist who taught me a lot about perspective, colour and how to make a picture with just a few strokes.
What motivatED YOU TO start your own business?
I love painting, and knew that I wanted to have a job centred around it. I also enjoy working with other people, and know that while I'm happy in my own company, working with other creatives, and that sense of community it brings, is also really important. Starting a business was an idea that evolved from these things and my love of stationery. I'd like to build a creative community as a company. Also, I want to create something that brings a little happiness to people, and stationery is such a lovely way to do this.
why Roxwell Press?
Roxwell Press was an obvious name choice since 'Roxwell' is the name of the street where I live and a printing 'press' is the machine that prints the products. Putting the two words together felt so right. I also really like the words themselves; the shapes of the letters and way they sound together.
What is your creative process?
I start by thinking about the product I need to create, then think of a theme for the paintings. On a piece of paper I write out words associated with the theme, and choose a few that could be subjects for each painting. Then I collect a lot of imagery based on these words, using Pinterest or taking papers from my boxes of cuttings, catalogues and wallpaper samples. I create visual mood boards from the words I've chosen, then start to get a feel for what the paintings could looks like. After drawing up a few compositions, I choose the ones which look most appealing then get started with the paintings. Once made, they're digitally scanned and then placed onto a greeting card or art print template in InDesign ready for printing.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR WORK?
Nature is a huge inspiration, there's so much to be inspired by. I especially love springtime with its fresh bright colours and clear blue skies. There's a positivity and energy in the air and it's full of new beginnings. David Hockney is someone who captures nature in a beautiful way, he just loves the shapes and turns up the volume on colour. I look at his pictures and immediately want to paint.
I also find textiles and wallpapers a huge source of inspiration, particularly the beautiful rich colours of Indian cloth and pigments. Woodcut prints from China and Japan have always captivated me, they have an easy elegance, a natural composition that feels free and delicate. It's a feeling that I aspire to create in my own paintings.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU TO help preserve the art of handwritten correspondence?
When we text or email, the devices we use contain messages, other contacts and access to the internet. It's really quite distracting! Putting pen to paper is taking time out to think about someone, as if they are sitting right there with you. It's a moment in time, shared with someone you care about, and made physical on a piece of paper – something that they can keep. Keepsakes are such a valuable part of our lives and our stories. It's truly wonderful to receive a hand written letter in the post, and quite magical to know that it has travelled so far with just a decorated stamp. It makes you feel so special that someone has taken that time for you, to tell you about their day or how much they miss you. Hand writing is so much a part of someone that you can almost see them when you read it. It's also a great way to just stop a moment, to slow down. Making words on a page takes time and there's something very peaceful and relaxing about doing it. It's good for the soul.
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT OUTSIDE OF WORK?
I practice meditation and am always recommending it to people. Quiet contemplation, in whatever form that may be, helps develop compassion and kindness, a great gift to the world that we can all give.
I'm also passionate about film. I just love stories, and while I enjoy books, it's in film that I feel truly immersed and moved. They open windows to so many lives and cultures, and can entertain, bring escape or help us to understand ourselves. I also really admire the creativity that goes into a film; the sets, costumes and cinematography that go into some productions is truly incredible.
What does success look like to you?
When I think that 5 years ago I wanted to start a stationery company and now here it is, that feels a lot like success right now. But there's always a new goal, so it's an ongoing thing in terms of business. In a broader way, success feels like knowing my values in life and staying true to them.
What Is in store for roxwell press this year?
It's a very exciting year ahead. In May, I will be exhibiting at my first very trade show, Pulse, and am hoping that Roxwell Press products will be available in high street shops soon. There is also a potential collaboration with another stationery company in the summer, and later in the year I'll be introducing some new product ranges to go with the greeting cards and art prints.
Which women do you admire and why?
I really admire the women of our generation. It's a very interesting time for women, as the world of opportunity has opened up hugely, created by the efforts of our mothers and their mothers. But it's also brought challenges, as women try to balance career with love and motherhood. There are issues around the time available to continue developing a career with a family, coping with fertility issues, or even finding your life partner and the dream job is all consuming.
What I find so inspiring is the determination to work it out and support each other. It feels like the conventional work/life structure in society is changing and women are playing a huge part in this shift. There is a real entrepreneurial spirit, creating companies that embrace flexible working and giving women the freedom to continue their career dreams. Equally, in big business, women are making a success of leadership roles, bringing natural characteristics of empathy, nurture and collaboration to the business world.
Cover photo by Tani Eichmann
SHOP THIS FEATURE
Spring Florals Art Print
Teatime Greeting Card
Shelfie Art Print
Cat Greeting Card