“All my family were better at drawing than me, but now I am the illustrator,” smiles local artist Augusta Akerman as she meets Katrin Magnussen in Brixton Market.
As a testament to her talents as illustrator and textile designer, she has helped transform the Lecture Room at The South London Botanical institute, which relaunches on March 26, with Augusta’s handmade wallpaper designs. “It’s my first ever wallpaper commission so they really gave me an opportunity here,” she says gratefully.
It was inevitable, perhaps, that Augusta would become an artist, as creativity was always in abundance in the household: “My family is very art-farty. My dad has his own studio at the bottom of our garden where he makes his own wax, does rubbings and draws into them. My mum is amazing at illustrating and does tapestries, whilst my brother studied design and is very good at painting.”
Clad in a fluffy black and red jumper, and clutching a cup of black coffee for warmth on this chilly morning, she explains how she initially set to be a Photographer after graduating from Glasgow School of Fine Arts in 2008.
“After graduation, I returned to London and tried to work as a photographer. But, I realised that I only really wanted to take the pictures that I want, not for someone else”, she laughs.
Augusta managed to create a success career in various films and ads, but she became increasingly preoccupied with illustrations and thought “this is what I want to be – an Illustrator!” But with her family so gifted at illustration, she did not immediately feel she was as talented. She trails the pattern on her colourful notebook absentmindedly. “It’s a confidence thing I guess. That’s what the MA did – it gave me the confidence to say ‘I can!’ and I needed that validation to make me feel like an illustrator. That year at Camberwell College of Arts was amazing!”
“I know now that illustration is my niche. I was scared to leave films and advertising, but I feel so much happier now than two years ago, “ she beams, and adds, “Change is difficult but once you do it it’s a massive wave of relief. And because you made such a big decision for yourself you think ‘I have got to make this happen’ and try my hardest. I am very happy that I did it.”
The 31-year old has been freelance for the past seven years and adds to her income by working part time at fabrics heaven Liberty’s as an online order picker. ”I spend most of the time in the fabric department where I get to look at their fabrics and designs all the time – I love it,” Augusta’s eyes get dreamy.
She hopes to be able to combine illustration and pattern design further. “I always wanted to combine a beautiful design that tells a story. I want my textiles to be part of people’s everyday lives,” she explains and adds, “The other side I want to develop is editorial illustration and commissioning. At some point in the future I would love to make illustrations for a book. That’s an illustrator’s dream – to have a book! “
The more immediate future for the illustrator revolves around trying to make the move from her parents’ house and in with her cinematographer boyfriend who grew up near Augusta in Stockwell. The increasingly prohibited prices of the Brixton rental market means it will not be easy to settle in the neighbourhood where they grew up.”It’s a London-thing: Not being able to immediately move out”, she flashes another smile. “I remember laughing at a friend’s 25-year old brother living at home when I was young, saying ‘I never want to be living at home when I am 25!’ How wrong I was!”