Evoking powerful memories of Teesside landmarks…
Abby+Owen is a two-person, Teesside-based creative studio specialising in art and design for commercial application. They create all sorts of illustrations, often of iconic local landmarks.
Their illustrations are usually commissioned by local businesses to use as part of their brand, for display in their headquarters or to sell on merchandise. Abby+Owen also create privately commissioned illustrations of people’s homes and their favourite local landscapes, and help established businesses and start-ups by creating branding and promotional materials.
Abbey, what’s your favourite landmark in Middlesbrough?
My favourite landmark is the iconic Transporter Bridge. It’s such a striking and dynamic structure. We currently sell prints of an original illustration of the Transporter Bridge on our website. The commission was an exciting challenge… it’s one of my favourite projects to date!
What does Middlesbrough mean to you?
I went to college to study graphic design at Green Lane, the Middlesbrough campus of the Northern School of Art. This is also where I met my partner, Owen. We found we shared a love of illustration and collaborated together brilliantly. From student nights out at venues like the MedicinWe went to college to study graphic design at Green Lane, the Middlesbrough campus of the Northern School of Art. This is also where I met my business partner and partner partner, Owen! We found we shared a love of illustration and collaborated together brilliantly. From student nights out at venues like the Medicine Bar to visits to MIMA art gallery, I have a bunch of fond memories of Middlesbrough.
What’s the story behind Abby+Owen?
A year and a half after graduating from the Northern School of Art’s university campus, Owen and I entered a competition together to produce twelve large railway posters for permanent display… and won! These are on display at Hartlepool Railway station and the designs are sold on merchandise such as prints, pillows, tote bags and tea towels.
The railway posters were the perfect springboard for me to take the leap to become a self-employed designer and illustrator, leaving my job as an in-house designer for a local apprenticeship provider. Businesses across Teesside began commissioning me to create detailed scenic illustrations of Teesside landmarks and I found myself becoming increasingly renowned across the North East for my distinct style, which is reminiscent of vintage travel posters, but with a modern twist. I’m passionate about showing Teesside in a positive light through colourful, contemporary design. In October 2019, Owen stepped down from his directorship role ready for a new challenge, and we knew right away it was the right time to forge an official partnership. In May 2020, ‘Abby+Owen’ was born.
How is your Teesside-themed artwork received by people in Middlesbrough and Teesside?
Our work often resonates with people who live in Teesside, and therefore have fond memories of some of the landmarks we’ve illustrated. We’ve received so many lovely emails with people explaining how much our illustrations mean to them because of the memories the location holds. It’s one of my favourite things about this job.
Many businesses commission us to create artwork that will represent their Teesside heritage… for instance, one of our clients, North Star Housing Association, commissioned several illustrations of local landmarks for use as wall art in their Headquarters. Vintage Chartered Financial Planners also commissioned an illustration of Roseberry Topping, as they felt the image perfectly encapsulated their Teesside Heritage and brand personality.
What would your advice be to anyone in Teesside who wants a career in art?
If you’re at the start of your journey and looking to study art or design, I can’t make a stronger recommendation than The Northern School of Art. Both Middlesbrough’s Green Lane Campus and Hartlepool’s University level campus are fabulous institutions. My own experience was that the tutors were supportive and knowledgeable, and the facilities were excellent and easily accessible.
That said, there’s nothing to say you have to study art and design to practice the arts at a professional level. My advice would be if you want to be an artist… make art! It might sound overly simple, but you are what you repeatedly do, and if you can turn creating art into a habit, you’re already halfway there!
For more information on Abby+Owen’s Artwork, please visit:
Interview by Chloe Tempestoso
Founder of Project Middlesbrough