Inspired by daydreams and all things decorative, illustrator Susannah Garrod uses watercolours and a loose line to interpret her whimsical vision on paper. Her work, which evokes the elegance of a bygone era and the lighter side of fairy tales, is utterly charming.
Her first Papier collection is full of lovingly drawn swans, enticingly sumptuous red lips and elegantly flowing bows in pretty pastels of pink and blue. Perfect for wedding invitations and secret notes of passion alike.
With Valentine’s Day approaching with the haste of Cupid’s arrow hurtling towards an unsuspecting heart, we just had to make a date with her. We met in the suitably romantic enclave of jeweller Jessica McCormack’s Mayfair townhouse where Susannah won our admiration with her beautiful draft paintings and mysterious Victorian puzzle purse love letter. More of that below…
Susannah Garrod at Jessica McCormack, Mayfair
Your designs all feel very connected. As if they’re all part of the same fantasy world. Is that how you see them?
A lot of my work comes from my imagination or memory and sometimes subconscious so they do embody my own little fantasy world. I’m not a slave to perfect draftsmanship, I want to express fluidity and emotion on the page rather than a perfectly accurate representation of whatever I am drawing. That is the beauty of art – the individual response that something can evoke in yourself. Painting that reaction is a way to share the emotion.
What or who was your first love?
I can honestly say drawing was a first love. From a very young age I would get up in the middle of the night and create illustrations on the landing where there was a light on, well after the rest of the house was asleep. After that it was my pony, Mystery. I would draw him and often find myself still doing so!
What’s the loveliest thing about love letters?
Who wouldn’t want to receive a letter telling you how you are loved? A handwritten love letter takes a little effort which in itself shows thought and feeling from the sender. Then there’s the individuality, with no two handwritten letters being the same. In this digital age, a handwritten letter is even more special. It’s tangible, a keepsake, romantic.
How long should a love letter be? What sort of things should they write?
Love letters don’t need to be long, they just need to be genuine and authentic to the sender. They don’t need to be for a specific date or a BIG gesture. A little love note tucked in your loved one’s suitcase or under their pillow “just because’ can really make someone’s day.
If you could write a love letter to anything in history, what would it be?
I’m inspired by historical love letters – the fact that they survived through the years and have been cherished. (It’s unlikely we will find printed love emails tucked under floorboards and tied with ribbon in the future). The Regency period fondness for sending a “puzzle purse” love letter is particularly wonderful. They would be carefully constructed to reveal little illustrations, poetry and perhaps a lock of hair.
I’ve created my own version of a puzzle purse for Papier as an example; illustrated with romantic motifs and including the poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How do I love thee? from 1850, dedicated to her husband, the poet Robert Browning. Elizabeth and Robert are known to have exchanged hundreds of love letters to each other during their relationship giving us a clear idea of just how much they adored each other.
What’s the most romantic thing someone has ever done for you?
For our first (paper) anniversary my husband sent me on a treasure hunt – a big one – covering miles along a seashore and up a hillside. When I finally found the final clue it was a love letter that read “always in your heart…”. The treasure I discovered had been in the inside chest pocket of my coat all along and was a plane ticket to a faraway land ...
Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
My family. My children are my greatest inspiration.
What other period of history would you love to live in?
The 20s – last century – for their all-encompassing style! Let’s hope the 2020s can rival the 1920s for that!
How do you want your designs to make people feel?
I hope my designs inspire people to step out of the everyday, if only for a fleeting moment. My illustrations often originate from daydreams so I would encourage anyone to take a moment to dream…
Are you longing to lay your love on paper? Then first, open your heart to Susannah's utterly romantic collection.