Chelsea Waites


Chelsea is a multi-disciplined illustrator and Manchester School of Art graduate. Working mainly with digital tools, she isn’t afraid to get hands-on with more traditional techniques such as clay modelling and rug tufting. Her work is full of humour and instantly recognisable by her signature big-eared characters.

Portrait of Esther Roper by Chelsea Waites

Artist Spotlight

How would you describe what you do?

I would describe what I do as storytelling of the everyday. The mundane really interests me, what people consider insignificant in their lives, I think is great. The small details in our lives make up who we are be it not getting dressed all day on a Sunday or picking your nose when no one is looking. I like to empower people and reassure them that it’s okay that we do these things and I like to do it through humour in my work as I think it makes everyone feel more comfortable.

When did you know you wanted to be an illustrator?

I knew I wanted to be an illustrator as soon as I found out you could study it at university. I had studied art in high school and college however, it was never something that I considered I’d ever be able to do as a living even though it was the only subject I was actually good at. I thought I’d always be a forest ranger or a gardener till I failed my A-level environmental studies exam and decided to do art at college full time. I got a load of university prospects at a UCAS event in Manchester and read every art course the universities offered. Illustration really caught my eye because it allowed you to work in any medium, this is something that was important to me as I like to constantly change and challenge how I work.

Illustration really caught my eye because it allowed you to work in any medium, this is something that was important to me as I like to constantly change and challenge how I work.

Chlesea Waites

How does print play a role in your work?

Print plays a large role in my work as I mainly work digitally and working on a screen all day on a piece to then finally see it printed in its final form as a book, a zine or a print is so gratifying. It reminds me that all my hard work is worth it.

What does your typical working week look like?

I have yet to have a typical working week as working freelance you never know when your next commission is going to come in. However, if I am working on a commission, I start my week off by researching any relevant topics, finding reference imagery and inspiration. Then I move on to get my ideas down through lists and sketches just so it’s all out of my head and then start working on the piece till I am happy with it and meeting the deadline. If I don’t have any commissions to work on, I will work on personal projects that I can sell at print fairs or online. This allows me to be a bit more playful with my work as I don’t have a deadline to meet.

How do you create your ideal work space and conditions needed for you to be creative?

To create my ideal workspace that allows me to be creative I first need to get through my emails, any that I need to send or answer. If I have just finished a project, I need to declutter my desk as I tend to collect random items that I needed at one point for the project and just never put back. It’s kind of like clearing my mind allowing room for a new project and finally I need a good album or podcast to listen to.

In a perfect world where will you be and what will you be doing in ten years time?

In ten years time I will still be in Manchester as I love this city so much I couldn’t ever leave it and hopefully I will be working with bigger clients still empowering people with my work. Also, I’d like to have a couple of dogs.

We’d like to ask you to recommend a ‘woman in print’ to us…

Saffa is also a co-creator of Over Here Zine Fest, which is an Event showcasing work of Black / Asian / BAME / People of Colour zine makers. Some of Saffa’s clients include La Times food, Google, Buzzfeed and SICK! Festival to name a few. She is truly amazing, and her work is beautiful.