Aileen Lee meets Andrew Pain, the Co-founder of Black Hen Designs
What’s your background?
I am originally from Surrey. I moved with my wife Vida to her native Lisacul, Co Roscommon, in 1997.
I had worked in the construction business all my life and by around 2010 felt it was time for a change, although I didn’t know in which direction.
Vida was working as a professional visual artist and at the same time we were running a picture-framing service, which was the starting point of Black Hen Designs, our original glass paintings. I design and draw each of the illustrations.
In the early days, I would have hand drawn and painted every piece, but as the business grew, both Vida and I now share the work of painting.
We also now employ a full-time member of staff to help with the day-to-day packaging and distribution side of the business.
I have been amazed at the response to our glass paintings — they seem to appeal to such a diverse range of people, both young and old.
Currently our designs are mainly sold here in Ireland through selected stockists, but we have seen a steady growth of sales abroad through our online store.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
My day usually starts with walking the dogs, as soon as it’s light, and a quiet time to inspire ideas.
Normally then it’s down to painting for the morning, depending on the light, and some framing or drawing in the afternoon.
When we first started our business, I worked all the hours I could just to establish the business idea and to market the Black Hen brand through craft fairs and retail shows.
It was a great learning curve for me to know which direction to go in with my designs and to realise my target audience.
In recent times, I have tried not to work too late into the evening or even every weekend, but often when the place is quiet on a Sunday or I’ve been out gardening, an idea comes to me which I just have to explore there and then.
Tell us about a recent/favourite project/design?
I have recently finished creating a new range of multi-layered glass paintings, something I’ve been meaning to get back to for some time. I’m delighted with the results.
I was asked by the Kilkenny Shop in Dublin to turn one of these into a large window display. The finished creation, “Full of Life”, looks great.
What’s your design style?
Fairly minimal. It’s about clean lines, simple geometric shapes and blocks of colour.
What/who inspires your work?
Not having any art background and being self-taught gave me the advantage of not having any pre-conceived ideas of how something should look. I knew whatever I designed would be related in some way to nature as it’s my passion.
What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?
I tend to try and not follow trends. I like to do my own thing.
What’s your most treasured possession?
I don’t really have many possessions. Having said that I do have a great collection of David Bowie LPs somewhere.
Who is your favourite designer, or style inspiration?
The American illustrator Charley Harper was simply amazing. When I first saw his work, I was an instant fan. His talent of combining humour with spot-on animal behaviour instantly appealed to me.
Your dream project?
That’s a tough question as I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of what I want to achieve with my illustrations. I would love to work on more detailed designs keeping with the quirky style I have become accustomed to.
Have you any design tips for us?
Always keep it simple.