One of the biggest changes you'll notice to Cowshed this summer is how our products look. Illustrator Katie Scott was chosen to create new botanical illustrations that emphasise the natural ingredients that are at the heart of everything we do.
Ruth Costello, Soho House Design Director, Graphic Design & Art Direction, says: ‘We originally chose to work with Katie on our Morning Noon Night book to illustrate the ingredients that we use in the Cowshed spa at Soho Farmhouse from the produce gardens. For the Cowshed refresh we wanted to find a way to tie the new branding to the walled garden at Babington House without it looking twee or obvious. Katie's obsessed with creating something that pays tribute to the heritage of plant illustration but with her own spin. I think it would have been hard to find anyone else who’d give it that detailed finesse.’
We visited Katie in her north London studio to find out how she works and why she chose Cowshed.
'I always knew that I wanted to be an artist or a designer, then when I was doing my A levels realised what illustration was. I studied in Brighton and started working as soon as I left and can’t really imagine doing anything else now. I always feel like, how would anyone not be [drawn to botanical illustrations]?! I’m equally influenced by plants themselves but also by 16th century drawings of plants – I love how we get them wrong when we draw them or how we interpret them. My work isn’t always just about trying to represent a plant, it’s trying to pick up on those weird, strange details in the way that medieval illustrators would draw botanicals.'
'The fact that I’m referencing Victorian plant illustrators puts me in that lineage but a lot of my work is digital as well as using paints. That makes me the next step along the line, so I’m not just copying them, I’m evolving it which feels nice because there’s no point harking back. Ernst Haeckel was the first natural history illustrator that I became obsessed with as a teenager and he's maintained that number one spot! Albertus Seba is a 17th century scientific illustrator and loads of his drawings are completely mad – he was working under the title of science before that was a word, but so much of it was made up or manipulated – I really like that.
It depends on the project but I’ll often start with a pencil sketch , then I draw the line work out and then all the colour and that can either be with a fine liner or on the computer. The colour is scanned in watercolour swatches that I then paint over the top in Photoshop – it’s a technique that I tried once and liked and I’ve been doing ever since. It does look weird and most people assume that it’s painted.'
'I rent this studio and sublet to a group of friends who I’ve shared with for about 5 years. I like being around people, I don’t want to be alone! I like the mix, when every day you don’t know who’s going to be in and I think there’s probably a big problem with illustrators getting very lonely who don’t have studios and people to talk to. You email people but really you don’t ever need to see anyone. I wouldn’t want to be in a studio full of illustrators, that would feel too close. The group I have here is really nice and we get on very well – there are subtleties to sharing a space, you have to get the blend right – we’ve nailed the blend!'
'Plants inspire me because they are endless. We all know what a clematis looks like, but have you ever looked at the shape that it forms in a specific week in March just before the bud comes? In London's microclimate there’s a huge diversity of plants. Each plant grows differently so I know what an average rose bush looks like, but there’s one round the corner that’s gone weird and has formed a really cool shape. I love finding inspiration in the city – it feels more special when it’s here. In Angel there’s Culpepper’s Garden, it’s a community garden that's been there for ages but I only found it a few years ago and it’s so nice. There’s something about it being right in the middle of Angel, it’s that feeling of a secret garden.'
'I was always a huge fan of Azuma Makoto – he’s a Japanese flower artist. I got to work with him a few years ago on an animation and that was my first and only real experience of being a huge fan of someone and being approached by them. I can’t remember how he found me, but his work is amazing. He made this amazing flower arrangement and sent it up into the stratosphere, he’s a really interesting artist. I really like quite graphic or not natural history artists. I really love Nathalie du Pasquier who draws objects in a very bold, colourful way – nothing like my work. I’m probably drawn to that more than anyone who’s too similar to what I do. I like my botanical artists to be a few hundred years ago, at a comfortable distance!'
'I was only ever going to do one beauty product packaging project, so I did hold out for a while for the right thing to come along. Cowshed felt like the right size – well known but not too big, not a tiny start up and I like the products. The brief was quite easy – because botanicals and beauty products have this marriage that goes back forever, it was like how can I be a part of this and make it slightly different, or still have my hand to it?
There are so many botanical illustrations, I think what a brand like Cowshed really wants is how can we use botanicals that are important to the product because they’re the ingredients, but how can we make it not look like everyone else’s – I guess that was my role. My favourite label is the one with the grapefruit on it - Replenish (which used to be known as Grumpy Cow).'
'To relax I go in my garden – it sounds like such a cliché, but really dirty hands and possibly some slug eggs between my fingers and I’m happy!'