Holly Francesca Berry got lost in Kew Gardens back in 2012 and had to look at the visitor’s map to see where to go... now she’s created hundreds of illustrated maps.

How did your business come about and what did you do before? 

I always wanted to have my own business, so after Art School, I only wanted to get part-time jobs so I wouldn’t get too lost in my way and not have the time to set up my own business.

I started with craft markets alongside my part-time nannying job, then after four years since finishing my degree I went full time as an artist. Working at home was quite lonely but my partner (and now husband) Elliot began to work more on the business at weekend events and one day off from his job each week, he then also came onto the business too, at the end of the next year.

What was your first commission of and who was it for?

I was very lucky. The head buyer at the Royal Botanic Kew Gardens was going for a run on a Sunday morning and she stumbled across my first art print at an arts stall I had in Kew Village. (This was the first event I had done since moving to London). She loved the Map of Kew Gardens design I had created and asked that I come in for a meeting with the team next week. After that it was full steam ahead with logo creation, packaging designs, suppliers and website. And Holly Francesca was created.

Holly Francesca BerryHolly Francesca Berry (Image: Holly Francesca Berry) What has been your favourite place/thing to draw?

For me, it’s always the latest and newest range that I have been working on. Seeing new ideas that didn’t exist come to life is always a great feeling. Lately, I have been trying to bring in more of a heritage-feel to my work. Playing with the boundaries of colour and the types of shapes that would be needed to formulate the landmarks that I am trying to represent.

And what has been the trickiest?

Landscapes. I always have a sketchbook with me while on holiday or just taking a forest walk. I always try to capture the landscape and the feeling of that place, but I do get disappointed when I take them further. Last year, I spent some weeks staying in the Andalusian Mountains and created many, many landscape paintings there, but I don’t think they will ever see the light of day.

How long does it take you to complete an illustration?

This varies depending upon the subject and details required. I like to work quickly and finish a whole project before moving onto the next. I try to work in batches too, whether that’s six new maps or ten food prints. Once I get into the creative flow it becomes a lot easier for me.

Are there any commissions you don’t take on?

I only take on commissions that follow a particular style of my work. If there was a flower or a person that someone would like drawn, I would refer to what I have created so the customer knows roughly how I would do the commission before I begin. I’m in a bit of a strange sector between being an artist, first and then an illustrator, so I wouldn’t create work that needs to follow someone else’s style. I would do each subject on my own, with my own twist.

How many different places/items have you now illustrated?

Hundreds. Possibly 150 map designs already and a growing collection of travel posters and food art. More recently I have been creating a large number of Portuguese pieces [Holly has just relocated to Portugal] which have actually also been very popular back in the UK. As well as more work for some of our most popular UK regions.

What might people be surprised to know about you/your illustrations?

Being dyslexic and not doing so well at school... I actually think that’s helped me get to where I wanted to go. The challenges I faced have made me use my drive to start the business and keep trying to improve on everything.

The River Thames illustrationThe River Thames illustration (Image: Holly Francesca Berry)

What has surprised you the most since starting up your business?

How much one can blur the line between having to be a mum and being a 'creative'. And if you try to get rid of that boundary of having to do one or another then you can really succeed doing both.

What does 2024 and beyond have in store for you and your illustrations?

We have four new styles of artwork coming out this year. Where we have concentrated on different parts of the UK with these designs we plan to contact many shops, restaurants, hotels; to further spread our artwork for more people to enjoy. We are also in the process of setting up a Portuguese leg to the business!

What top tip would you give to anyone starting up their own business?

Well, if you're launching an art or creative business, make sure you really love the technique and process of making the products. So that it feels easy to you. Can you do it often? With kids around? On the road travelling?… if it feels effortlessly without a big set up then I think you’re onto a winner. I would also suggest doing events, meeting real people and hearing what they like is so important.

Where is your favourite place in Essex… and why?

That’s a tough question, as there’s so many places. The first thing that comes to mind is stopping in Saffron Walden. When we visited my parents and Elliot’s, we would stop mid-way in Saffron Walden, wander around the old buildings and grab a picnic to relax with.