Indian Ink and Female Forms: We Talk to Frances Costelloe

Frances Costelloe is a London-based creator whose minimal pieces have made their way into the most stylish girls’ homes. After working in fashion and interiors, Frances combined her love of drawing and ceramics by creating a collection of hand painted lampshades, Indian ink line drawings and scallop shell dishes. Her playful aesthetic using stylised female forms makes this a new and exciting brand to collect.


Hi Frances! When did you launch your namesake brand and how did you get to it?

I started selling my painted lampshades and drawings just over a year and a half ago. My baby was 6 months and I finally felt able to be creative again. I started to paint the shades for myself but they became popular when I shared them and people started buying them. 

Had you been painting before or was this a new career change?

I have always drawn and painted but only in my spare time. Which when I was working wasn't much. I always wanted to be a painter when I was at school but decided art school wasn’t for me. When I took some time out and started to make ceramics I got really into glazing and that sparked my interest in simple painting. Reducing the image to just lines.

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Did you have any inspiration behind the line drawing? 

Yes, I love Matisse. He is so great at colour and line and even though he flattens the space, his paintings still have so much energy. I saw the cut outs show at the Tate about 5 times and I love the way that with simple shapes and colour he could create such beautiful work. I am also more recently into Paula Rego. I’d like to do more work with multiple female figures in it. 

You come from a family of creatives and you must have grown up amongst art everyday: did being part of the Freud family affect what you're doing today?

Art has always been part of my life as has the gallery experience. My mum always has lovely art books around and my grandma was a great painter. Especially of landscapes and flowers. I also think having an inspiring art teacher at school helped. I used to be able to look out from our art department at the top of Highgate and look down into the whole of London. I painted that scene and all the clouds when I got into Derain and Pissarro.


Your drawings and lampshades are painted with Indian Ink: was there a reason behind this particular choice and do you think you will expand to a wider range of interior objects?

I have always loved ink. I used to use it more for pen and ink and I loved drawing almost abstract versions of urban landscapes. I like the way with Indian ink once it dries there is no going back. You can’t even blend it. The finality of it means you have to integrate mistakes into your work. It also means you can colour around it without the colours bleeding. I would love to paint more ceramics and maybe collaborating with a London based ceramicist on a small collection soon. 

You're a full-time mum and a full-time artist: how do you manage your time and how does a day in your daily life look like?

I am lucky to be able to get help twice a week from a child minder to look after my child and also he is looked after by my husband one day a week. I have also recently started back at Bella Freud as a freelance Lifestyle manager to work on the candles, perfume and homeware. I am working out now how to clear time to be creative and not get stuck on the computer and in email land. Let’s hope I can!

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Do you believe the creative vein will be passed on to the new ones in the family?

I hope so. My husband - Nick Jensen - is a painter and has a skate brand Isle. I encourage my baby to draw and he has gone to so many exhibitions. It was so busy when we saw the Bonnard at the Tate I had to carry him around spotting fruit and dogs in the impressionist works. He was pretty good and it kept him occupied.

Lastly, a bit of a fun question: name a place in London where you go to feel inspired if you ever feel stuck in rut!

I love the Tate modern view. St Paul’s is one of my favourite buildings so I like gazing at it from the members bar. I always find the Thames inspiring as have so many artists before me.


You can find Frances’ work here and sign up for her latest drawing class at The Work Club here.