I have several Erica Sturla tea towels. I bought my first in Edinburgh; it had to be William Wallace with the strap line “Be brave….it’s just a wee pile of dishes”. The second was Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat cake..as long as they wash up afterwards” and lastly, Julius Caesar “I came, I saw, I conquered the washing up”, bought from a small stall, outside the theatre, at Stratford Upon Avon. I love the designs and the clever play on words. There is a way in which she can make those models come alive; there is a sense in which the words on the tea towels really do belong to the models. When I wrote the Tea Towel Blog on Julius Caesar (www.myteatowels.wordpress.com dated 12 July 2018) I thought Erica Sturla would be a good tea towel designer to have a conversation with. Clever tea towels make wiping up so much more interesting!
Let Erica tell her own story: “I’m an artist and illustrator, based in Sussex. About 20 years ago I discovered polymer clay and made some very basic figures which I mounted on hand-made cards. It was a very small-scale production and the figures were rather tiny and crudely modelled! I was working as a graphic designer and had two very young children at the time so it was really a side-line. About ten years ago, I began creating larger, more detailed figures and assembled them in groups on hand-painted backgrounds – paintings with a three dimensional quality. Some small art galleries started to show them and I was thrilled when they began to sell.
In 2011, I began working with Holy Mackerel Ltd who publish cards. Soon I had many designs, across several ranges of cards, so we decided to launch the tea towels. My ‘Funny Olde World’ range of tea towels makes a humorous twist on historical figures and there are now 15 designs.
It is a range that continues to grow and has been taken up by small independent shops, museums and heritage gift shops. It’s a very proud moment when you see one of you tea towels in the Tower of London!
I trained in Fashion Illustration and Journalism, worked as a designer in the sign industry and now I’m a full-time professional artist, dividing my time between creating paintings for galleries, modelling figures for cards, tea towels and gifts and undertaking private commissions for portraits in clay. As a child, I always wanted to be a clothes designer. Well, in a way, I suppose I am – I make figures and design and make very tiny clothes for them in clay!
It’s always fun to begin with a lump of clay and from it create figures that have a personality and interact with each other in a joyful scene. I’ll be exhibiting for the first time at the British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate in April 2019. I’m very excited to see how people react to my paintings and new designs on tea towels and hope this will bring new ideas for more products in the future”
Thank you Erica for telling Visitors to the Museum about your work. I am interested how so many Tea Towel Designers (a) have started off in mainstream industry and end up with their own small businesses, often sacrificing big money for pure enjoyment and (b) how many refer to the importance of small independent shops. Erica is no exception.
I cannot end this article without two of my absolute favourite tea towels; I have not come across these in my never-ending search for tea towels. These are tea towels of a different theme; who could resist the Full English?