It was at Chelsea Flower show in an artists conservatory where I first met Rob Ryan. He has long been a hero of mine and is an original and witty designer. We got talking about design , design theft and copy right, as he is one of those talents who is often copied. He kindly invited me to a talk he was giving to the association of Illustrators at The Courtauld Institute.
Rob is not a trained illustrator but a painter, although it is for his illustrative work that he is mainly known, particularly his intricate paper cuts with words compositions that are now used on ceramics,
fabrics, cards, jewellery etc. He has written and illustrated two books, ‘This is for you’ and ‘ A sky full of Kindness’ he is currently working on a trilogy.
He has collaborated with Paul Smith, Lulu Guiness, Tatty Devine and Liberty of London.
Rob says he had no career strategy, after doing a foundation at Birmingham Polytechnic and a degree in fine art at Trent Poly. He studied printmaking at the RCA, in those day sit was a three year course. As he, in his self deprecating way, says he studied for seven years and when he graduated in 1984 he didn’t feel qualified for anything. There weren’t the number of galleries there are nowadays, so for many years Rob did his print making in the day and in order to feed himself and his family he worked in a cinema in the evenings and at weekends. His wife worked full time and he did the taking the children to and from school. It was only when the children were in secondary school, and Rob had more time, that he took that leap of faith and gave up his part time jobs and started doing creative work full time. He was doing small print runs for other people. He was represented by a gallery for his prints and ‘This is real art’ for a short while. ‘This is real art ‘ found applied outlets for artists, such as book jackets and he was asked to ‘create all of Liberty’s fifteen windows for Christmas. His big break came when he was asked to collaborate with Paul Smith and produce a fabric design for the Japanese market.
It was after this that Rob began to be widely known and copied. It got to the point where people were not only being influenced by his work but were doing wholesale copying. Rob decided the only way to protect himself was to sign all his projects and to go to to court when he was copied.
As a passionate hands on maker Rob is now in the fortunate position of having a licensing deal with Wild and wolf. This means that he now has the might of their organisation to back him up if his copyright is infringed and he has to go to court again to defend what is his intellectual property.
He continues to produce goods for John Lewis , cards for Roger Le Borde and he can still makes with his own hands craft goodies that he sells through both his etsy and his own shop on Columbia Road. Rob Ryan a lovely man and a great quirky talent.