From designing Millwall’s football kit to Topshop’s wallpaper, local artist Chérie has done it all. She may be best remembered for her “cult following” shop, Ripe, in Grope Lane, but these days, you’re more likely to see her spray-painting a mural or shop window on Shrewsbury High Street!
Chérie’s shape shifts between roles as an illustrator, fashion designer, and dance instructor. You may have seen her playful, iconic art for sale around town, with her greetings cards stocked at Write Here, and a whole range of colourful kit for sale at The Colonel’s Son Coffee Roastery – including printed cushions, facemasks and purses.
Spending many years switching between the capital and Shropshire, she’s now established herself as a stronghold of the Shrewsbury creative community, and it comes as no surprise that with the Illustrator’s Fair in her safe hands, the event has already drummed up much attention from a range of local retailers and artists – including Write Here, Matt Sewell, Julie Anne-Pugh and MyShrewsbury’s own cartoonist Tat Effby. “I’m launching an illustration fair because I have a studio full of stuff, as I’m sure a lot of other artists do, too!” Chérie says.
Growing up in Ludlow, where she won the Young Artists Prize, Chérie skipped her A-Levels and went straight to Hereford Arts College to study fashion, picking up one of her first gigs designing shoes for Dolcis. As a young designer in the nineties, Chérie moved to London’s East End, where she worked for the likes of Moss Bros and French Connection. The short, sharp introduction to the “geezer world of corporate wear” was a real eye-opener: “I was naive and young when I worked there. A lady once took me to the side and said, ‘To be taken seriously around here, you need to wear flat shoes and get your hair cut’.”
Chérie quit in January of the Millenium year: “I was too creative for that job anyway!”.
She propelled herself into the exciting world of freelance, designing for Red or Dead, Topshop and Speedos, to name a few: “Back then, the fashion was all embroidery on cargo pants. One minute I’d be drawing a design for Kickers, and then it would be used as the wallpaper in Oxford Circus Topshop, but nothing had your name on it. It was like starting a new job every day.”
One of Chérie’s favourite freelance memories was being given the task of illustrating the staff aprons for The Body Shop, commissioned for the late Dame Anita Roddick. When at first Roddick rejected the designs, Chérie was “advised to draw the models to look like Anita, so they would emulate her attitude”. It worked – she loved them!
Chérie also launched her own clothing brand Slush, in 2003, selling through independent boutiques, magazines and markets: “You just had to show up and pitch your ideas, there wasn’t such thing as social media – you just went to the markets, showed them your work, and people were truthful.
“I’ve sold my stuff everywhere, from Spitalfields in London to the Custard Factory in Birmingham.”
Chérie moved back to Shrewsbury in 2005, and although initially she “didn’t want people to know she was there”, her iconic shop, Ripe, became a firm favourite for kitsch, tongue-in-cheek gifts during its 13-year span. “It was more difficult to find connections in Shrewsbury at the time; there was no one on your wavelength. You had to use public relations, but these days, you can self-promote with social media. The difficulty is being able to do it in an honest and authentic way.”
It was through the Market Hall that she found her crowd, and went on to produce a set of illustrations for the Birds Nest Cafe: “The Market Hall was a great place to network, you could gather feedback far easier than from social media.”
Soon after her daughter was born, Chérie shook up her style again and went to study a Masters of Illustration in Manchester: “You have to jump on what inspires you, so my work isn’t consistent with one style. Adaptability is key for an artist. I want to strive in a creative industry; I’m determined to try and survive.”
She certainly has! Since then, she’s been sponsored by Lamy to document the coffee houses of Soho, illustrated a children’s book, and featured as the Urban Outfitters Artist of the Month in 2017.
These days, she thrives and survives by selling her illustrated wares online, making woven wall art (follow @every._.cloud to see more), and, of course, as a dance fitness instructor!
“I have been a dance instructor since forever…you name a gym, I’ve danced there! You need another creative industry to have another string to your bow, so I do dance classes…I’m desperate to get out again!”
When she finally finds the time to relax, she continues her life-long passion for portrait and people drawing: “When you are your own brand, it can be a struggle to have some downtime, and people drawing has always been an escape for me.”
It’s clear that Chérie has done far more than just survive, and her fruitful “jack-of-all-trades” career is far from over: “I want to do more graffiti!” she exclaims, “I’m excited; I need my business to be bigger because I’ll have longer days when my daughter leaves home. I’d love a studio at the Flaxmill, but I’d need the business to grow proportionally before I take that next step.”