For our latest limited edition woven label we worked with London based illustrator Tess Smith-Roberts. This label tells the story of the old school fabric-testing methods used by our Italian corduroy mill Duca Visconti. Legend has it, the original owner - the 'Duke of Visconti' - would have an outfit made from the fabric in question, and then head off into the sunset on horseback for a few weeks at a time. If his trousers returned in one-piece, voila! 

Although Duca's testing methods have now advanced, we loved this story and wanted to give it a permanence inside Batch No.4. Tess has a knack of adding so much character to everything she draws so we knew she'd be right for the job. Little did we know then that she finds horses the most difficult thing to draw... sorry Tess! 

What’s your creative process like for a project like this one?

I normally just look at reference photos and do sketches until I get to somewhere I like. So here I spent some time looking at old cowboy photos and paintings, and did a couple sketches of them until a nice lil cowboy came together. Then came the horse, man that was hard. I think horses are the most difficult thing to draw ever! I normally always make them look like dinosaurs by accident, but this one is a good old horse.

How has work been through lockdown?

It was so quiet for a while, and whilst I panicked and thought "oh crap is my career over?" I actually really enjoyed it too. I felt so relaxed and just spent lots of time cooking and going on walks! Gave me lots of time for personal projects too, it was really nice to slow down a bit.

We love watching your weekly still life project on instagram. How did it come about?

Thanks! My friend Zena and I are both really into illustrating still life scenes, so over lockdown we sent each other a still life scene each and drew it. It was so fun, so we thought why not make this an actual thing? And then Still Here Still Life was born!! Every week we post a photo prompt of a still life scene (usually always involving food) and invite people to draw it. We get so many wonderful responses from all over the world! It's actually fully insane how much it blew up, we can't even share all the drawings we get sent because there's too many!

Have you picked up any new habits during lockdown?

I started getting into making rugs! I use the latch hook method so it's well slow, my most recent one has taken me 4 months, maybe 5, so far. Probably got another 5 to go. One day I'll get a tufting gun and be super speedy!! I also got way more into cooking, never even realised how easy making pizza from scratch was. And so tasty! It's also really nice to take some time out, not thinking about work or anything, to cook. It's so relaxing. Definitely my favourite time of the day!

What are your favourite sites for inspiration?

I used to love going on craigslist to find weird stories to illustrate, once I found a post of someone ranting about dentures being left by the pool in Palm Springs. That was a good one. Now though I guess I mainly use Instagram, especially to find photographers for Still Here Still Life. 

What are you working on next?

I'm painting some murals tomorrow around Mayfair! In and around South Molton Street. If you're in the area check it out! Should (hopefully) be done by next week. 
Follow Tess's latest work here