Graphic designer and crafter Fiona Watson makes individual pieces of ‘digital art’, using a mixture of traditional artistic techniques and the latest technology to decorate her individual jewellery and homeware.
Fiona’s career path towards becoming a ‘digital artist’ and setting up her business Figero Designs wasn’t always straightforward.
“I’ve always had a creative streak, and while growing up found an outlet in dancing,” she says. While working as an office manager for an international Norwegian company she found an outlet for her creative side by becoming involved with a local dance troupe, dancing and helping to make costumes for the team events and shows. When the teacher moved on, the troupe came to an end and without the creative outlet of dancing she began to look around for something else.
She enrolled on a four year night school course to do graphic design and, despite some life changes, hard work and a baby, she stuck to her plan and passed the course, ending up with a Higher National Certificate.
When her daughter began school, Fiona decided to quit her job and devote more time to her child. Needing to remain flexible, she set up her own company offering freelance graphic design and web design. The company was a victim of its own success, as Fiona quickly found the demands on her time too great.
“I couldn’t devote the time to clients that I felt they deserved,” she explains. “As a result, I shifted the company’s structural content and looked for something that would be less deadline-driven. One day, as I was browsing the internet, I discovered a process that involved putting digital images onto jewellery. I thought if I was making my own products and selling them at craft markets, I’d be more in control.”
“I love designing, and my family are a big support,” she says. “I made up the business name, Figero Designs, with letters from my husband’s, daughter’s and my own name, as I wanted to show how much they mean to me.”
It took Fiona a while and many attempts to get the process right.
“The jewellery was successful, but I was competing with a lot of other jewellery designers, and as I’m quite a practical person, I began to look around for a more practical application of the process. I quickly came up with the idea of glass vases, and tile coasters, decorated with digital images.”
Fiona’s vases sold well at craft fairs, and she soon found herself taking personalised orders for them, decorated to suit the recipient.
“I’ve always been attracted to bright colours,” she says, smiling, “but quickly learned that pieces which sold best were the more muted and monochrome designs, so I had to re-educate my palette.”
Fiona uses a mixture of techniques to create her designs, including software packages such as Photoshop and Illustrator as well as hand drawing. The finished design is printed onto special paper using a high specification laser printer, and adhered to the glass – a tricky and time-consuming process, as the finished result has to be completely smooth with no air bubbles.
“It’s very delicate operation to hold the printed design flat, while smoothing and not stretching it,” says Fiona. “It took me a while to perfect the technique. I cut the squares out by hand and judge by eye if they’re straight on the vase. As the vases are uneven and chunky, any minor imperfections in the design actually add to the charm. As I have a tendency to perfectionism, making something that’s not 100% straight pushes me right out of my comfort zone – but I have to admit, the results are better for it.”
Fiona’s inspiration for her individual, quirky pieces is widespread, but her daughter, now 11, is a never-ending source of ideas. “She’s always been mad on elephants,” laughs Fiona. “I can see we’ll have a few of those popping up in designs soon.”
For more information, please visit Fiona’s website www.figerodesigns.co.uk, or contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org. Prices start at £15 for vases and £4 for coasters.