“I like the idea of translating creativity into a usable product” 26 year-old cermacist Abi Overland says in between sips of a nuclear-red smoothie. Abi is an illustrator with an eye for the smallest detail. She creates chaotic designs that somehow, bewilderingly, bridge a gap between a kind of monochrome hyperrealism and Escheresque madness.
Abi currently has two collections, Jungle and Panther, with another set for release next year. Each with its own distinct but tribalistic identity. I ask about her creative process, “I have an idea in my mind, but it never usually turns out the way I imagine it. Organic matter and nature mostly form the basis for my work.
The aim is for people to get lost in it the way I do when I’m drawing – it’s a meditative process. Whilst I work I like having some sort of noise on in the background. Silence is distracting”.
Every decision Abi makes seems to place quality first. She sources her ceramics from world-renowned Stoke-on-Trent, “it’s the home of fine bone china – hands down it is the best ceramic”. Digital printing would have been considerably cheaper but Abi instead chooses screen-printing for its depth of colour. Each item is prodigiously hand finished with a gilded edge. The quality in her work is perceptible.
I knew she’d recently been in Vogue, “that was pretty cool. I quite liked that” she says grinning, “that was super exciting. You doubt yourself, but then when something like that happens you say to yourself ‘we’re okay, we’re going in the right direction’. It keeps you going”.
Abi began her ceramic business in 2015, and since its inception she’s gone from strength to strength. “I’ve always wanted to do something arty, at one point it was fashion, and then fine art”. She eventually decided that illustration was her calling, “I’m glad I didn’t go to university straight away, I wouldn’t have chosen illustration if I had”.
Abi worked for three years in the finance industry, she told me through a humoured grimace, before she headed over to boho Brighton to study. She graduated in 2014 and stayed on the south coast for a few months taking on private commissions and other commercial work.
After returning to Jersey she found a part-time role at a finance firm to keep her ticking over, “it offered me three days a week in the office, and it was a good job. In order to start my business I needed a loan, and to get a loan I needed an income”.
Abi clearly has a creative head on her shoulders; I can see that from the way she speaks lyrically about creators she likes, and her own process. But that doesn’t displace her keen sense of business, her aspirations to become an “all inclusive homewares brand” and to see her ceramics on the shelves at Liberty London.
She admits it’s tough starting your own business, she’s always sending letters and samples looking to get her work placed in stores, “you get thousands of people badgering stores like Liberty. I plan on being the biggest pest out of all of them. That’s the plan. Pester-power!”
Gallery: It’s Sunday, it’s cold, it’s raining, you were last seen stumbling out of Chambers at 2.30am. Where are you today?
Abi Overland: Probably out for breakfast at El Tico, if I’m out west. Somewhere at the beach. You need that – a happy setting. And then generally back to bed.
G: Have you ever spontaneously started smashing pottery? If yes, what was your method?
AO: No. But, I did accidentally break something once and my soul died a little.
G: Everyone has a zombie plan. If the rage virus spread across Jersey where would you take refuge and what fortifications would you make?
AO: I always have terrible nightmares about zombies coming and attacking so I should probably have a better game plan. I’d have to get my animals in the car and then drive somewhere safe. Possibly to the rifle range. There’s a lot of guns there.
G: Have you ever had a near death experience?
AO: I went swimming at Big Verns once. And yeah, don’t do that.
G: If you had to eat at one restaurant every day for a month where would it be?
AO: Oyster Box is pretty bad ass, but Banjo’s comes in a close second. There’s so many good quality restaurants over here. I love Bohemia, and I’ve heard Ormer is good, although I’m not rich enough to eat there every day for a month.
G: If you could relive any one day?
AO: My degree show in Brighton.
G: If you had to spend a week locked in a studio with one person, who would it be?
AO: That’s a tough question. There so many great minds out there. I’d have to get to know them first, so any one of my illustrator pals from my course because we’d come up with some really weird shit.
G: Going out in Brighton is fun. Coalition or Digital?
AO: Coalition. But neither if given the option. Audio is where it’s at. Or if you’re feeling cool then Green Door Store.