Tricia is the business, literally!

Tricia DesignsTricia is the business - literally!

On our second day of work experience, we travelled to Bowdon to interview and profile Tricia Harrison, who runs her own design business Tricia Designs. Tricia creates designs that can used on a variety of items - from Christmas cards to wrapping paper, and mugs to stationary sets. We aimed to find out more about her, her business and how she became so successful in developing designs for the textiles industry.


We traced Tricia’s love of art back to her childhood in Africa, where she lived until she was 11. It was in Cape Town, aged four years old, when she was ecouraged to take up drawing and painting, and given her first set of oil pastels - by the person drawing her portrait. She remembered asking her mother whether she was any good at drawing, and when told that she did have talent she decided right there that she would pursue a career in art.


Back in England, Tricia continued to show her flair for art through completing a three year course in textile design at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University), which she passed with flying colours, despite initially failing her O level in Art (she says it must have been a marking error). She then went on to spend the next five years working in the textile industry, including time with a fabric company in Bolton, who specialized in household design. She describes this period as ‘the beginning of the end’ for the textiles industry, due to the increasing number of machine-made fabrics and prints. Despite enjoying working in the company, the redundancies in the mills forced Tricia to consider going freelance which she did in 1982.


At first, she started working for stationary companies making repeat patterns for wrapping paper, progressing to working in ceramics and making prints for cups and plates. Her nature-inspired creations have been used for the National Trust, and has a lot of experience designing for big companies such as Card Factory, Carlton Cards and International Greetings. She recently had to decline an offer from Hallmark to work for them creating the Forever Friends bears, as she couldn't commit to a protacted period of full-time work away from home. Tricia's clients let her know the kind of style they’d like before she begins work on her designs. She mentioned that recently there’s been a high demand for Cath Kidston-esque prints, and old-fashioned florals.


Tricia also talked to us about the inspirations behind her work. After showing us some of her mother’s excellent pastel drawings of their African staff, it is easy to see why she was such a big influence. She also mentions the artist Pierre Redoute, whose delicate paintings of wildlife have clearly inspired her.


Tricia has an agent, who pays her a guarenteed fee for all the work he commissions regardless of whether he's then successful at selling it on. However, if he sells any of the designs he commissions on for a great fee she doesn't get any further payment so it's risk free for Tricia but without the full rewards she might be able to get if selling her designs through another route. Tricia does though produce designs which aren't for her agent, her own creations which she sells directly to her own clients. Her newest collection is a set of handmade animals, made from raw wool. Each animal has a story behind it, and comes with a handmade greetings card. However, time restraints and the pressure for Tricia to produce other pieces of work for both her agent and her clients, means that she has little time to work on these. Through her new website, Tricia hopes to display these new products alongside her other work. Tricia’s website is only just starting up, and she lacks a wide ‘internet presence’, including social media pages on websites such as a Facebook, that some other design companies have. We are now moving into a generation where using computers in a business is essential, so we’d recommend that Tricia makes sure she improves that aspect of her business.


An important question we asked Tricia was ‘What advice would you give someone wanting to start their own business?’, to which she replied by telling us that people should be prepared for some struggles and disappointments; hard work with little reward is to be expected at the beginning. Tricia also believes that there are pros and cons to running your own business, but you can be in control of your future and do something you love. She told us that to set up a business in the art industry you have to be very dedicated and never be too daunted by a job, as everything will broaden your horizons and 'the jobs you really don't want to do' can sometimes be the most useful.


Overall, we were incredibly impressed by Tricia Harrison’s work and her tale of how she got to where she is today. Her unique and delightful designs are crafted by a woman with a real flair for art, we feel that her business will continue to grow and thrive in the future, and wish her all the best.

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