Interview with Vicky Philips, Lightship Print Shop

Interview with Vicky Philips, Lightship Print Shop

March 03, 2020

When we went to meet Vicky Philips of Lightship Print Shop for our interview, we didn't have to travel very far. Her office is located in a unique location (a ship) in an artsy corner of London (Trinity Buoy Wharf) - also home to The Big Draw HQ! After boarding the ship, she welcomed us into her lovely office which is accessible down a hatch on the main deck.

The funky digs for Lightship Print Shop hold unique ties for Vicky as she and her partner both have a strong commitment to sustainability which is evidenced through the complete renovation of the ship which now works as an upcycled office space for a recording studio and an animation studio along with multiple housing units.

We chatted with Vicky in her office while the waves below (thankfully) didn't knock us about too much. We spoke about The Big Draw, her gorgeous design work that she did for our 2020 theme, her commitment to sustainability and her passion for drawing. 

Interview: Devon Turner in conversation with Vicky Philips.

Image collage of Lightship Print Shop Office 

Thanks for taking the time to share a bit about your design, style and commitment to sustainability with The Big Draw Blog audience. Can you tell us how you first became familiar with The Big Draw Festival? 

Having worked in the industry for many years now (over 15) it is hard to pinpoint when I first became aware of the festival - I definitely remember the Quentin Blake poster from a few years back with lots of fun details in the drawing (always appealing to the illustrator in me!) - I knew it was a worldwide event but hadn’t realised the Festival had started here in the UK so that was great to discover.

Our theme this year is “The Big Green Draw, A Climate of Change”, which you know very well as you designed our lovely logo! Can you tell us a bit about the lovely flora and fauna we see in your illustrations?

I wanted to showcase this beautiful green and lush world we live in, something so valuable and precious - the only planet out there like it that we know about! It is down to us to stand up and protect it now before we lose everything or change it beyond recognition. All the animals, birds and insects I have drawn for the logo and supporting illustrations are endangered or threatened species. I wanted to include well known species such as the Blue Whale, Koala and Pigmy Sloth from around the world but also species such as: the Puffin (whose numbers have dropped by 42% in the UK in the past 5 years); the Iberian Lynx (with numbers only a little over 400 individuals in the wild); and the Mediterranean Monk Seal (with only around 700 left in total) that are threatened species closer to home. (these form part of a cast of other animals I have drawn outside of the main Big Green Draw logo that might make an appearance throughout the Festival!) We are just one big ecosystem called planet earth and we all need each other!

How does the 2020 BDF theme sit personally with you? We understand that your family and business have a strong commitment to sustainability and working naturally.

I have always loved nature from a very young age and so protecting our natural environment has always been important. It is devastating hearing the impact of human activity on wildlife and heart-breaking hearing about the Australian fires, coral reef die-offs, polar bears on the brink of extinction because of the melting Arctic (just to list a few). I have been a vegetarian since I was 17 because of the reduced impact on the environment and in the last couple of years my husband Ben and I have given up flying for holiday travel. As much as we both love to see the world it just felt like we need to start making some commitments and not just leave it up to governments and big industries to do something. Ben has also switched from being a music producer to an environmental consultant and has been doing some important work with the WWF on how we grow and produce food as well as working on a hydroelectric project working with UCL. I think it is so important to make changes where we can and to stand up for what we love! The brief for The Big Green Draw really fitted in perfectly with this and was something I was honoured to be able to work on. I really wanted to focus on drawing some of the animals across the world that are threatened and vulnerable and really need us to stand up for them before we lose them and their habitat for ever.

You’ve got quite a unique office setting, aboard a ship in Trinity Buoy Wharf! Can you tell us a bit more about the history of this unique vessel and how you find working in and around the Trinity Buoy Wharf area?  

Yes! My husband and I live and work on Lightship 95, a historic lightship that was built in 1939 and spent most of its working life at Goodwin Sands warning sailors of the treacherous coastline at that point. My husband found the ship in 2009 after it had been decommissioned for a number of years and falling sadly into disrepair. He bought it and spent many years restoring it and turning it back into a working space. We now have apartments in the back, a recording studio on board in the main part of the ship as well as a mini animation studio, a restored wheelhouse where we live, and my studio Lightship Print Shop in the front! Trinity Buoy Wharf is really the perfect place for us as the Lightship was originally commissioned by Trinity House (who were in charge of maintaining all the Lighthouses and Lightships in England and Wales) so it is nice to be part of that and the Docklands' shipping history. It is also a very vibrant art space full of interesting sculptures and displays as well as being home to The Big Draw, a number of artist studios and The Royal Drawing School - so there is always something creative going on somewhere!


How did you first become interested in art and design? Where has your love of drawing taken you over the years? 

I have always loved art and drawing, it was always my first choice at school, something I couldn’t imagine not doing. I did a foundation year and discovered Illustration and went on to do my degree at Falmouth College of Arts which was an amazing three years! The Illustration campus is just a short walk from the coast which was always a beautiful and inspiring sight on my way to class! It also helped galvanise my love of the ocean and marine life and one of the final projects I worked on whilst at Falmouth was a design for Surfers Against Sewage. After graduating I spent time as a freelance illustrator before getting a job at Bombay Duck in London for a year and then moving to Paperchase in 2013. Paperchase was great as it really pushed my style and made me work to very tight deadlines. Then after 6 years there I left to open my own illustration and surface pattern studio, Lightship Print Shop.

What’s next for you Vicky? Where can our hordes of doodle-enthusiasts find you and your designs? 

The past year has been a very exciting one, there are a few things I can’t yet talk about but coming up soon is a largescale installation piece for Roof East in Stratford, which is very colourful and a great challenge to be able to work on something of that size! I am also exhibiting at The London Print Design Fair in March and another couple of shows in Paris in the summer. You can of course find more of my work and behind the scenes shots of working on board on my Instagram.

Thank you Vicky!