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Meet local maker Tom Woolley

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Meet local maker Tom Woolley

Tom is a freelance illustrator who lives in Birmingham and specialises in bold and graphic illustrated maps. Tom's maps capture iconic architecture alongside popular food and cultural hotspots. His combination of vivid colours and stylised illustration create unique and distinctive artwork. 

What first fuelled your passion to make / create your designs / product?

I've been obsessed with maps since I was young and I thought making illustrated maps of the different areas of Birmingham would be a fun thing to do.

Tell us about the origins of your business.

I first starting selling prints of my illustrations when I lived in Yorkshire. The first prints I sold were drawings of Saltaire village. I designed a map of Saltaire to sell at art markets and followed that with maps of Leeds and Bradford. I moved to Birmingham in 2017 and started creating maps of the different Birmingham neighbourhoods to sell at art markets around the City. 

What’s your motto?

I once heard someone say 'do your best and try to live it down' and I think about that a lot.

How would you describe your designs / products?

Colourful and vibrant illustrated maps of Birmingham and beyond. 

What was the first success / landmark moment for your designs / product range?

The Tolkien Trail of Birmingham has been really popular. When I first moved to Birmingham the Tolkien connections really interested me, so it was fun to illustrate the history of his Brummie influences. 

Tell us about your materials - where do you source your materials from?

I work digitally using Adobe Illustrator and create everything in vector graphics. All my maps are then printed digitally on high quality paper.  

Tell us about your making process?

I'll start off looking at Google Maps and picking out landmarks, cafes and popular hotspots. I then sketch out the roads to create the skeleton of the map before adding illustrated icons. 

Have you ever had any interesting commissions?

I work as a freelance illustrator and map commissions make up the main bulk of my income alongside selling prints. I designed a visitor map for Aston Hall recently and it was really interesting to find out more of the history of this fascinating building. 

Do you have a favourite of the Birmingham museums? If so, why?

I've got a soft spot for Sarehole Mill because of the Tolkien history. Fascinating to think of him and his brother running around the woods of Hall Green as Birmingham was becoming a manufacturing powerhouse.

And finally, a tourist arrives in Birmingham for the first time ever, where do you take them?

Maybe start with a whistle-stop tour of Victoria Square and the Library before lunch at Medicine Bakery. Hop on a scooter to explore the Jewellery Quarter and then rent a bike to glide down the canal to Bournville. Dinner in Stirchley before heading to MAC to catch a film.  

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