Nothing pleases Annah Legg more than a pile of vintage maps. Her obsession runs deep, with her home decorated with them, and her work is made from them. We caught up with Annah recently to find out more about her love of maps and her inspiration behind her collection...
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work?
I’m Annah from girl&bird! I create accessories using vintage map prints, that can be personalised to any location in the UK, and further afield too. My goal with girl&bird is to bring back the importance of places, and the memories that are attached to them. The idea came when I had moved to uni, and was missing home. I had some vintage maps of Sussex that I’d collected or been given over several years, and put them up on my wall to feel a bit more connected to home. When I left uni, I ended up doing the same with Cornwall, as I missed that just as much! After having the maps on display for a few years, I just felt that they were too beautiful (and represented places that I loved too much) to be kept in a box and never looked at. I experimented with different ways of incorporating the maps into usable products, before deciding that printing was the most sustainable and high-quality option. The girl&bird range includes wash bags, purses, cushion covers, tote bags and ipad cases, all of which feature gorgeous prints of out-of-copyright maps. There are more products on the way, too!
Apart from creating things what else do you do?
I currently work full time at a design consultancy as a textile product developer, working on prototypes of client’s innovative products. It’s a fantastic job, and really varied - but when I’m not working on girl&bird or ‘work’ work, I usually try and unwind with some TV, cooking, or by going for a run. There is such a thing as too much creativity!
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I’ve always enjoyed creating - and having something that can be held rather than just viewed. During my Art Foundation, I toyed with the idea of Fashion, Photography or Illustration, before settling on Textile Design. The course (down in Falmouth) was fantastic, and I specialised in Woven Textiles which is a very practical discipline. However, I still felt frustrated by not creating products or useable items. So, since leaving, that has been my main focus and has really made me feel like ‘A Maker’!
What do you love most about working in your chosen discipline?
What I’ve loved most about selling at fairs is hearing people’s stories about the places that are special to them. It’s a really lovely feeling - giving people something that reminds them of a happy place. Sewing itself is very therapeutic. If you’re making several of the same item then you can really get into the swing of it, so it’s quite easy to relax into what you’re doing. I’ll always love working with fabric, too – it just feels very natural.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Apart from old maps, I’m so inspired by other people’s homes. I love seeing how people combine mundane, everyday objects with special and extraordinary pieces, especially when there is colour involved. Interiors magazines and books are always an inspiration - I’ve got stacks of Elle Decoration in our living room! Wandering around and people watching is always inspiring, as is connecting with other makers. ‘Handemade’ is very important to me - especially after having designed products for mass-production. Being able to support a local craftsperson is an incredibly powerful thing!
Describe your studio or workspace?
My boyfriend and I moved to Bristol in September, so I’ve now got a fantastic second bedroom that is all mine to work in! The window looks out over some gorgeous trees, and I’ve got plenty of storage. I keep my maps out in a vintage wooden box (although they overspill into a slightly less glamorous cardboard number) so they’re easily accessible, and my three special locations are up on my wall, alongside some inspirational images.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman who would it be?
It would have been incredible to see the inner workings of the Bauhaus. Anni Albers has long been a bit inspiration to me, especially when I was at university. Her woven tapestries are incredible. A current designer who I’d love to get an inside peek at would probably be Orla Kiely - I love her use of colour, and the retro style. I’m always inspired by printers! Other than that, give me a chance to wander around any creative person’s house and I’ll be happy!
How would you describe your creative process?
When developing new products, I tend to approach it with a very clear idea in my head of what I want it to look like - zip positions, proportions, and dimensions. I’m not good at getting that down on paper in the form of sketches! It usually takes a couple of samples to get it just as I want it, and then it’s a case of getting the location to fit well on the product. Coastlines can be tricky! When I’m testing out a new idea for prints, I tend to just have a go at them on fabric, as it’s very difficult to get an idea of how something works until you’ve got something to hold. Generally it’s best to go with something that feels right - and is enjoyable!
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I’ve got some prints from friends that are very precious - an engraving by print-maker and designer Abi Burt is up on my wall at home. My boyfriend bought me a concrete necklace by Rhiannon Palmer Jewellery for Christmas, which looks like a galaxy - it’s beautiful!
What do you when you are stuck in a creative rut?
I tend to try to step away from my workroom and do something else. When you’re making alongside a full time job, I've often felt ‘stuck’, but usually what I actually need is a walk followed by a cider! Switching off is important. Failing that, going to a gallery or museum, getting some new fabric or making something for myself rather than someone else always feels like a guilty (but necessary!) pleasure.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I’d love to be working for myself, developing the product range and designing prints alongside the vintage maps. Although the starting point has been maps, a running idea in my creative work has always been things from a birds-eye view. I’d love to take that further - perhaps with weave, or with print designs. It all comes back to the name - I’d just love to be a bird, really!
Thank you Annah! We adore your work, and have our eyes on your zipped pouches for Christmas! You can discover Annah's map creations in our Made in Britain shop.
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