Designer Close-Up: Sarah Relf of Magpie’s Cabinet

Designer Close-Up: Sarah Relf of Magpie’s Cabinet

The trip of visiting all of our many amazing collaborators, designers and practitioners over the last few months has been such an inspiring one. None less so than this month’s focus: the botanical musings of Sarah Relf. Sarah, who works under the name of Magpie’s Cabinet, has long been a favourite of ours; her pencil drawings and textured botanical images a particular favourite.

Sarah began her career studying textile design at Norwich University of the Arts, focusing on print and pattern design. Post-graduation, while working in retail, Sarah honed her skills and then in 2015 started doing markets, fairs and taking on small commissions for party invitations and personalised cards. Feeling confident in her growing client base, she then came up with her company name The Magpie’s Cabinet, an homage to her love of collecting things.

Sarah lives in the glorious, artistic village of Fangfoss and takes inspiration from these surroundings. “British flora and fauna are at my doorstep and I’m always picking up feathers, sticks and empty snail shells on my walks with the dog.” As a collector of many things, she adores multiples of objects: “I used to go with my dad to hardware shops and spend so long looking at the displays of doorknobs and brackets, those boxes full of nails and screws, like a functional pick’n’mix.” Combine that with her intrigue of antiques and vintage – weekends spent at car boot sales or traipsing around charity shops, finding keys, spoons, glassware and ceramics – this muse is all very evident in the work of Magpie’s Cabinet, building textures of traditional botanics and curiosities.

Sarah Relf of Magpie’s Cabinet at home in rural East Yorks.

With her career as an illustrator and designer propelling forward, and an ever growing list of clients, one day Sarah recieved a phonecall out of the blue from Alex Hall (LYCC’s chief). Alex had recently been working with an award-winning branding agency (no names needed) and just felt that their vision for her brand wasn’t what she had envisiaged. She had had an idea of something more botanical, and as fate would intervene, Chris Wood (Alex’s hairdresser at the time) had told her about the incredibly talented Magpie’s Cabinet. Alex had taken a gamble and called Sarah and the two had found an instant connection and shared passion. The acorn logo was born and the botanical packaging followed: the two have had a flourishing creative relationship every since.

A selection of some of the illustrations Magpie’s Cabinet have done for LYCC.

Over the years, both Alex and Sarah have developed the image that works for the brand, this creative part being one of Sarah’s favourites. Aside from lots of core images we can see here on this website, the logo and packaging, you can also get Magpie’s Cabinet exlusive cards for the shop and the two are keen to expand on a full range using some of her work.

For other artists and enthusiasts I asked Sarah some quickfire questions:

Talk us through your process for the Logo?

I always start with pencil drawings. The Logo was ferns at first, long fronds in various layouts but they just didn’t feel right. Then Alex suggested an acorn. I draw out a few – some fat, some long, some more textured than others, until it was just right. I then turned my pencil illustration into a digital file and worked through lots of typography to find the right typeface that was classic but not too old-fashioned. I also hand draw all the botanicals, animals and objects that are on the original boxes used for the LYCC Aromatherapy Range. Every time I look back at that box I find something I’d forgotten about!

What’s your proudest career moment to date?

That’s a tricky one – it’s so easy to talk about someone elses successes, isn’t it! Probably taking the leap and leaving retail to focus on my illustration business. 

Do you exhibit or have any shows coming up?

The last year has been so difficult for creatives, especially as craft fairs and art markets were non-existent. It was been so great to get back out this summer and meet people face to face and talk about my work. The next event I’ll be taking part in will be Fangfest Festival of Practical Arts, which is running over the weekend of 4th & 5th September in my village of Fangfoss. Fangfest has been running for over 20 years and this year we have some amazing arts and crafts people coming along to demonstrate their skills. More info at IG: @fangfestfestival FB: /fangfest 

To stay up to date with Magpie’s Cabinet click here.

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