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The Rife Team

Clare Phillips: How To Turn Art Into A Business


Credit: Clare Phillips

Jacob Dyer meets one of Bristol’s most known artists from the DIY scene about her move from art collective to shop stalwart. Find out how she set up her own successful business.

No matter where you go in Bristol, you’ll see some form of art. Creativity is part of this fair city, and as you traverse through the centre, it’s impossible to ignore the vivid pieces that adorn the buildings and public spaces. From the infamous Banksy stencil on Park Street, to the colourful murals on Nelson Street, there’s something that’ll cater to every taste. But the production of fantastic artwork isn’t just limited to the streets of Bristol. Some people from our city have taken to selling their work online. One such person is Clare Phillips, who not only has an Etsy shop, but also has her products sold in retailers throughout Bristol. Clare graciously agreed to talk about her work for Rife magazine.


Credit: Clare Phillips

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Clare Phillips, a Bristol based Illustrator and Graphic designer. I graduated from UWE in 2011 with an MA in Printmaking/Illustration.

What inspires you the most?

Galleries and museums are a great source of inspiration. It doesn’t even have to be related to what I’m working on, it’s just a feeling of being visually inspired and charged with the urge to create. Because my work has a retro feel to it and the 1950s is an era I particularly find inspiring, places like the London Transport Museum really appeal to me. I love checking out the drawers with all the old adverts and leaflets of the time. Just the general aesthetic, literally an old ticket stub or timetable, can be inspiring to me.

What piece are you most proud of?

I think I’d have to say my print of New York City. It measured three metres by one point five and was created as part of my final end of year show at UWE in 2011. It took almost a whole year to complete (between other work) but every time I went back to it I’d get totally lost in it, adding more and more detail. I could have gone on and on if there hadn’t been an impending deadline. I’d never worked on that kind of scale before and even though it was four years ago I’m still proud of it. It was a major springboard, in the sense that straight after I worked on that piece, I began creating my Bristol designs then a whole series of other illustrations for different cities and getting into art licensing with my city range, ‘Wish you were here’

Credit: Clare Phillips

Credit: Clare Phillips

How did you get into making and selling art?

Straight after leaving UWE in 2011, I joined SNAP, a Bristol-based printmaking cooperative. That was my first experience of selling my work in a gallery/shop, and as a direct result of that and the community surrounding it, I got involved in Paper, Scissors, Stone, set up by Bryony Morgan as part of the ‘love local, buy local’ project by taking part in the first ever pop-up shop. This really supported and promoted my work and was such a great learning curve. Gradually, as a result of being able to showcase my work in a shop, other retailers spotted my work and started getting in touch with me about stocking my work and it basically grew from there. I’ve also got an Etsy site that I sell my work on. There is such an outpouring of incredible artistic talent in Bristol and there are so many fantastic initiatives and opportunities for creatives living here.

Which artists/photographers do you admire the most and what do you take from their pieces?

I love mid-century artists. They inspire my work so much as I love that retro style. I’m totally captivated by vintage travel posters and the old underground posters (check out my Pinterest). In terms of photography I particularly love the American street photographer, Vivian Maier, with her wonderfully captivating scenes. I also really adore those muted colour palettes found in old children’s books. Illustrator Miroslav Sasek is a massive childhood hero of mine as well as Mary Blair to name a couple but really there are so many.

Before you create anything, do you have any rituals?

I like to begin a new project with a clean and tidy workspace. So when I’ve got that I usually start by sketching down a few ideas, often though I do tend to go straight to my Mac.

What’s your favourite place in Bristol?

Oh wow. There are so many to choose from. If there’s a glimmer of sun in the sky I like to stroll around Leigh Woods. It’s a pretty amazing place. Driving under the Suspension Bridge at night when it’s all lit up with blue lights, I love that. Or in the summer the harbour side area, I like to check out the Arnolfini. The brilliant thing about this city is that there’s always something going on. Whether it’s an event, a show or maybe an exhibition. There’s this great, creative buzz.

What’s one medium you haven’t worked with, but you’d love to?

As I studied print making I’ve tried all kinds of traditional mark making techniques; etching, collograph, woodblock, lino cutting, screen-printing… I really got into screen-printing at university and spent a lot of time doing that. I do love the medium that I work in though. Digital art gives me so much freedom in terms of trying out different colours, re-working something easily and quickly when a certain piece needs editing and that’s what I love about it.


Credit: Clare Phillips

You can find Clare’s work at the following retailers:

Blackwells, Park St

The Guild, Park St

Tourist Information Centre, E-Shed

Waterstones, Galleries

Stanfords, Corn St

Health Unlimited, North St

7th Sea, Gloucester Rd

CO-LAB, Broadmead

You can find Clare on Facebook here

Have you set up your own shop? Are you a Bristol-based young entrepreneur? Get in touch and let us know. Maybe we can feature your stuff? Tell the editor