Sally Caulwell: Illustrator and designer


Design/Life: Finding inspiration in the hedgerows

Sally Caulwell: Illustrator and designer

Design/Life: Finding inspiration in the hedgerows

What’s your background?

I grew up in Rathfarnham, one of five children. I was lucky enough to live in a house that was bursting at the seams with paper, paints, clay, glitter, wool and lolly pop sticks. I spent countless hours lying on the floor drawing or painting or making doll houses out of shoe boxes. I spent most of school in the art room, and went on to study visual communications at The National College of Art and Design, Dublin.

I started working in design about 12 years ago. For 10 of those years, I’ve been with Detail design studio. The company is run by Paul McBride and Brian Nolan. I have always felt lucky to have my job. I get to spend time with clever, talented people… and I get to tackle new problems and challenges each day.

The Irish hedgerow print series is a more recent development in my design career. I picked up a set of old prints years ago and just loved everything about them. The simplicity of the layout, the intricate detail of the plants, and the little sign off at the bottom stating the Latin name. We have so many under-celebrated wildflowers in our hedgerows so I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at some of them.

I was in college with Clare Grennan and Laura Caffrey, the talent behind The Irish Design Shop, Drury St. I showed them some work-in-progress illustrations and the project was born from there. They are so passionate about what they do, and it shows in their beautiful shop and in the amazing jewellery that they create behind the scenes.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

I’ve two little ones, aged three and four years old, so getting the house up and out is first on the list. I emerge from the mayhem and go to work. I work in Detail three or four days a week. I draw in the evenings for myself. It’s a time when I can think clearly, get into my flow state, and draw whatever I feel like.

Tell us about a recent project or design/favourite project or design you have worked on?

Last year, I did illustrations for Twitter Dublin. There was a big team working on the project and my part was to illustrate the 10 cities where Twitter have offices. It was so much fun.

What’s your design style?

I like to play with geometry, distilling things down to simple forms. Nothing makes me happier than a balanced composition. I like to play with repetition, pattern and colour palettes.

What/who inspires your work?

Working in Dublin’s thriving creative industry is a continuous source of inspiration. It’s an exciting time to work in the field of design. With almost everything being produced using a computer, I think designers and illustrators have to work hard to seduce. When something is crafted with passion and nuance, it stands up.

What’s your favourite trend at the moment — if you have any?

I have a weakness for pineapple prints.

What’s your most treasured possession?

My new phone. It’s gold.

Who is your favourite designer, or style inspiration?

Miroslav Šašek, a Czech illustrator who produced stunning books in the ’60s and ’70s. He produced a series of illustrated books for children, his ‘This is…’ series. Starting with Paris and progressing through other places, his paintings celebrate the everyday. In his This is Ireland book, he looks at old green phone boxes, sheep, rush hour on O’Connell street. He captures everyday life perfectly. His work is large and colourful and full of fun.

Paul Rand is another favourite of mine. His books for children are simple and heart-warming. Sparkle and Spin is a favourite.

What would be a dream project for you to work on?

A children’s book! With two tiny kids who like to put off sleep for as long as possible, I have delved in many story books over the last few years. I’d love to illustrate my own.

Have you any design tips for us?

Try do what makes you happy, and when in doubt… reach for a glass of Pinot.

  • Additional information:
  • Instagram: sallycaulwell

Prints are available from Sally Caulwell’s website, as well as in-store at the Irish Design Shop, Drury Street, Dublin 2 (

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