KRISTJANA S WILLIAMS
HERITAGE-INSPIRED FINE ART WITH A CONTEMPORARY TWIST
Icelandic artist Kristjana S Williams studied graphic design and illustration at Central Saint Martins and quickly gained critical acclaim as creative director of Beyond the Valley for eight years.
In 2011, Williams began creating fine art pieces, art prints, furniture and more. Her inspiration comes primarily from layering nature upon nature and “the symmetry in all things living”, which stems from the artist’s childhood.
Williams supports her artistic practice by producing a growing collection of homeware and interior products including wall coverings, fabric and cushions sold on her personal website, and via brand collaborations. She has a particular interest in heritage brands and narrative-based artworks, fusing rich colours and hints of Victorian engraving to illustrate their rich history. “Clients like and respect the narrative aspect of our work and the in-depth research behind it. I don’t really license my work because of the bespoke nature of most of the heritage brand work I do. It’s best suited to narrative, which is what I really thrive on – whether it’s a commercial or client commission or private commission.”
In 2016, renowned British perfume house Penhaligon commissioned Williams to create bespoke narrativebased packaging illustrations for the brand’s new range of fragrances, after the head director came across her artwork in the Connaught Hotel. “They wanted to create a new collection that was based on this make-believe aristocratic family,” says Williams. “Their team had already gathered a lot of history and had been thinking about the packaging for ages – writing down ideas.” The products sold so well that Penhaligon grew and expanded the collection. It’s a creative collaboration that continues to this day. “I think it often depends on the commercial success of the product and how successfully you meet the brief,” adds Williams.
As a part of the commission, Williams designed a number of large-scale artworks to appear in store windows and at point-of-sale, promoting the new collection in boutiques throughout the world. “The process was very collaborative and I really enjoy working with feedback, so all the information we get I use to fuel my creativity,” she continues. “With packaging, you have to be mindful of layouts and folds and how the artwork works on this surface, but I think the more you do it the better at it you get. We always make up everything
physically in the studio first, and do some experiments to see if the design is working.”
GET YOUR WORK SEEN
Establishing your place in the art world takes time, and Williams urges artists and interior designers to take every opportunity they can to show their work to the world. “Research and look at all the different art fairs and get your work out there whatever way you can, however small you need to start. Even just taking a few things and making posters and sticking them up on the wall, or sending out a small postcard,” she says. “If people see your work and like it, the opportunities will come in. Don’t worry about getting rejected from the fairs either – it’s very competitive. Just apply again the following year. People do remember you and people admire perseverance!”
Penhaligon’s shop in central London