A fine line

Charlotte Pearson discovers one Hove illustrator’s love for Brighton and Hove, ceramics and biscuits.

Martha Mitchell Design - September 2013 etc Magazine

Not many people would think that a business could be started with just a few doodles.
But Martha Mitchell Designs, based in Hove, was born out of a love of drawing.

“I did a decorative arts degree which consisted of ceramics and illustration,” she explains. “I have always loved drawing and I am always doodling so decided to do something with what I love.”

Illustrator Martha’s ceramics, tea towels, tea pots and coasters contain intricate, fine line drawings of recognisable items and places such as Brighton Royal Pavilion, malted milk biscuits and a can of Pringles.

“They are all places and things people know,” Martha smiles. “I started drawing packaging when I was back at uni so after a little break it is great that I am able to bring it back again with new tea towels.”

At 26-years-old she has been running Martha Mitchell Designs full time for the past two years.
But it is something she has been working on since graduating from Nottingham Trent University in 2009 when she worked at a florists to raise funds to start up the business.

Talking in her studio in Hove Martha explains her passion for drawing and how her company is rapidly expanding.
“I started out with a Brighton range, and have created more and more. The London range is really popular and I have done one for Liverpool. I decided to do Scotland as I went there for a few days and found it was so beautiful.
“I want to do more places as well, such as Barcelona or New York – obviously I would have to go there for research purposes,” she laughs.


The ceramics are created in Stoke, whereas other items are manufactured in Lincolnshire.
“I have also started working with Able and Willing, based in Brighton and in association with Brighton and Hove Council.
“It works with people who have physical and mental difficulties,” she says. “I am getting my coasters printed there at the moment. I just think it is great supporting local businesses and those in the UK.”

Martha also works on commissions, with the orders coming in from as far away as Australia.
“I did a commission from an Australian company based in Sydney. It was great for me to do as when you think of Sydney you just think of the Opera House but they really showed me what other attractions there are there,” she explains.
“I have also created some mugs for a law firm in Yorkshire featuring things you would associate with the county. It is a great way for me to learn about different areas.”

At present items cam be bought at a number of places including the Brighton Pavilion shop, Liverpool John Lennon Airport, St Paul’s Cathedral in London and online through Martha’s website and notonthehighstreet.com
“I have a few shops in Brighton that stock me and I go to a lot of fairs and sell there. I love meeting customers and talking to people.
“The response has been very positive, I am a bit sensitive so it is great when people give me compliments,” Martha says.

Each ceramic item is also unique due to the process used to create them. The drawings are put on using digital ceramic transfer applied by hand then re-fired, meaning each piece is a one off and no sequence is ever repeated.


But does Martha ever get bored drawing the same things?
“I love doing the Brighton items which are really popular but every few months I change the design a little adding a different detail,” she says. “If something isn’t selling I just phase it out.”

Martha’s passion really does shine through when she talks about the future of the business.
“I just love what I do,” she smiles. “And I think that is really important as that way it doesn’t feel as if you are working.
“I can’t imagine myself doing anything else, which I guess is another sign that I am doing the right thing.”

For more information visit www.marthamdesign.com