Interview with Writer and Illustrator - Tiffany Francis-Baker

Tiffany makes a living out of writing, drawing and painting, as well as experimenting with printmaking, woodcarving, pyrography and heritage crafts. In her book Dark Skies she travels around Britain and Europe to learn more about nocturnal landscapes and humanity’s connection to the night sky. Tiffany also writes a fantastic blog and newsletter which I always enjoy reading!

Why have you chosen a freelance career?


I fell into a freelance career by accident, which is good as I'm not sure I'd have had the courage to do it otherwise! I left my old job with a plan to move somewhere else, then a change of circumstance meant I decided to stay where I was. By this time, a replacement had already been found at my old job, and after a couple of panicked weeks of searching for something else, my sister and boyfriend persuaded me to give freelancing a go. I definitely believe that everything happens for a reason, and although it's had its ups-and-downs, I now can't imagine not having the freedom of working at home. I've been freelance for about 2 years now, and it's taken me most of that time to get used to it - learning self-discipline and motivation, how to structure my day and find a work/life balance. But as a creative person, I've never felt so liberated since deciding to work for myself. I've never been good with routine, so it suits me well to have a different schedule every week and keep things fresh! And I would definitely say I've produced my best creative work in the last 2 years.


How do you select the projects that you say yes to?


This is such an interesting question as I've only recently come to terms with the idea that I have the right to say no to things. I think it's so important to be open-minded when you're beginning a career, and in my early days I used to say yes to absolutely everything. It was fine when I was at university and didn't have any real responsibilities, but in the years following I definitely didn't learn to say no, and last year I suffered a big burn out as a result! While it wasn't enjoyable to experience that, I've since learnt a lot about my own boundaries and standards as a freelancer. I now only say yes to projects and events if I feel I will genuinely enjoy them and if I feel like they will push me further along the career I've chosen. I still try and stay open-minded and see opportunities from every point of view, but I've definitely learnt to value myself more and recognise that, after several years of building up a career, I have earned the right to choose how I spend my time.


What makes the best creative environments for you?


I'm quite introverted and love being at home, so that is usually where I feel the most creative and productive! But I also have two dogs, which means I get out every day - whatever the weather! - and often come up with new ideas while out walking. There's a quote by Wordsworth which I think sums up that process quite well - he describes poetry as 'the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings... recollected in tranquility.' I'm lucky enough to live on the edge of a market town in the South Downs National Park, so it only takes a few minutes for me to be in the middle of the countryside. Generally speaking I can work for quite a long time inside without needing to be anywhere else, as long as I have access to a kettle, delicious food and I can watch the birds in our garden. But I also don't hold myself to high standards if they're not working - some days, particularly in winter, I just fancy working from my bed all day - so I do! I find when I go with my intuition, creativity flows much more easily - however lazy it might initially make me feel!


When do you feel deeply connected with nature?


Being out in the South Downs is when I feel most connected with nature. Having grown up here, I feel very close to the landscape, and I love walking every day and watching the seasons slowly changing. I particularly love spring and autumn as they bring such a transition that I'm usually craving by that time of year - I love the fresh growth of spring after the long winter, but I also love the sense of hibernation that arrives with autumn. My favourite outdoor experience is the sound of a great tit singing in early spring.


Where would you really like to explore and why?


I'm a keen horse rider and I have always wanted to visit Patagonia! There was a Scottish writer called Lady Florence Dixie who rode across Patagonia by herself at the end of the 19th century, and I've been gripped by the idea ever since. I love exploring but I haven't yet made it to South America and I think it would be an amazing place to visit. I just love the idea of galloping across those wide open grasslands surrounded by mountains - irresistible! I'm also obsessed with South American food so it would be such a treat.

Tiffany's book Dark Skies was recommended to me, which is such a great read that got me out on adventures in the dark. Since then I've been following her work, buying her creative pieces, and she's even designed my podcast artwork for me.


Explore Tiffany's beautiful creations on her website, Instagram and Twitter.

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