Art has the power to transform the energy of the spaces we live, work, and play, but finding affordable, locally produced, artwork for your walls – particularly larger scale pieces – can often be a tall order.
“From a young age I’ve always had a huge passion for art and design,” says Michelle Collins, founder of Sheffield-based digital art studio Green Lili. “After studying art in college I chose to specialise in Graphic Design, and went on to work in this industry for several years creating licensed posters for popular movies and music. This really gave me the skills to paint and draw digitally and experiment with new ideas and drawing techniques.”
From there, her progression to creating digital artwork came naturally. “It’s here that I really found my passion,” she tells me. “The idea of being able to combine my love of nature, travel and interior design all into one was something I really wanted to go for.”
She began with a small collection of abstract prints and partnered with a publisher, securing some early success when she had her first collection launch into John Lewis and secure press in a number of national magazines. “I think this was the lightbulb moment,” she says. “I really believe in the power of art to help lift the mood and spirit, and there’s no better place to start than your home – to create an environment where you can feel good, be creative and enjoy spending time. So in 2015 Green Lili was born.”
I really believe in the power of art to help lift the mood and spirit, and there’s no better place to start than your home.
Michelle’s belief in the power of art to help lift mood and spirit, as well as its ability to restore focus in the same way that the outdoors can, has shaped Green Lili’s designs from the outset. “We’re a small team of 3,” she tells me, “and are lucky to have created a lifestyle where we can travel and draw inspiration from different cultures and interiors along the way, to share these experiences through art and designed goods with people all over the world.”
All Green Lili designs are created in their Sheffield studio, although they nearly always don’t start there. “I usually start by gathering photos from travels and being out and about, exploring colours I like found in nature,” Michelle explains. “I then spend time looking at interior books, magazines and online and collate all the ideas together into several mood boards. This gives me an overall feel for the style of pieces I’m about to design and the kind of space they might work in. When creating I usually have a set or collection in mind, rather than just one piece. Once I’m in the flow each design can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to complete!”
They use a local print and framing partner in Sheffield, who helps to bring their designs to life using giclee print processes that provide long lasting and vivid colour. “This really does the artwork justice,” says Michelle, “and means it will last a lot longer for people to enjoy.”
While drawing a huge amount of inspiration from global travels, their immediate surroundings in Sheffield also play a big role in defining Green Lili’s artistic style, especially in recent times. “I love being out and about in our Green city,” says Michelle. “This year particularly I have noticed and taken in so much more from the local surroundings and the kind folk of Sheffield, and we love to venture out into the Peak District on weekends too. Our Sheffield collection began with a series of iconic landmarks and now includes Yorkshire quotes and nature spots from around the city, with ‘Ey Up’, 0114 and Botanical Gardens proving popular!”
Green Lili have also added iPhone cases and rugs to complement their wall art offerings, as Michelle is a firm believer in the idea that surrounding yourself with art brings positive energy and personality into day-to-day life. “We want to create art for every day,” she tells me. “Phone cases mean you can take your art with you everywhere you go. With people not seeing each other as much this year, it’s important to stay connected so if we’re spending more time on the phone, why not have something you love to look at and makes you feel good?”
Rug design also felt like a natural fit for Michelle; “artwork translates well and a good, soft rug epitomises our slow living culture and love for a relaxed bohemian interior,” she tells me. “As a brand we’re all about going with the slow. Taking time to enjoy your home as well as getting out into nature. Your home is the place to focus on what’s important and personal to you. To create a space that you feel good and want to spend time in. We hope to bring a sense of calm and a smile to your face every day through art and design goods that are meaningful, whilst letting your personality and creativity run wild!”
“We love to work with brands who have a similar outlook,” she continues, “and French Connection Home were a great fit. Collaborating with them to create their first wall art collection was a dream. With a contemporary nod to the Native American style and pieces inspired by modern day California, this collection epitomised our shared love for a rustic and relaxed bohemian interior, as well as all things botanical.”
“Nature is a huge source of our inspiration, and we strongly believe that spending time outdoors re-energises creativity and instantly puts you in a positive mindset. We want to help protect our environment, so make sure to only use 100% recyclable packaging and frame our art using sustainably sourced materials of a high quality to ensure products are made to last. Everything is made-to-order to reduce waste.”
“I think there’s a responsibility for us all to be a little bit more green, bot personally and professionally” she tells me. “I try to take it slow – especially just now – walking a lot and getting outside. Recycling, upcycling, re-using items and avoiding single-use plastic is a must. I try to make only considered purchases, and love to shop locally to support small independent businesses.”
In the future Michelle hopes that Green Lili will become the go-to place for creativity and bringing the good vibes into the home. “We’re aim to build on the brand and offer a wider range of home and lifestyle products with an emphasis on the slow life,” she tells me, “introducing more items that encourage people to slow down and feel good. We also plan to go further in our efforts to help the environment, continually improving processes and designing thoughtful, considered products.”
Lead image © Sam Gavrilovic. 4th image © Laura Highman. All other images © Green Lili. All used with permission.