These Meticulous City Prints Aren’t Just Souvenirs Of Places Visited Their Mementos Of Home

“Many people think of a souvenir as something you buy abroad, it is nice to own something that makes you feel even more connected to your home,” says Rowan Ottesen, a graphic design student. She is referring to the meticulously detailed city illustrations that she and The City Works founder, Sylvia Moritz, design and sell online.


From plates to notebooks, the pair firmly believe that every place has it’s own character, holds memories for those who visit and can be both a comforting home and a journey of exploration: “From where we grew up, to where we settled down, to the places we visit, and those we still dream of seeing. [We] set out on a journey to illustrate these places. City by city. Brick by brick”.


The attention to detail is mesmerizing from colourful blockprints of the cosmopolitan cities of Paris and London, to the debossed notebooks focusing in on sought after London boroughs like Westminster and Kensington. The team urge those who come across their designs to, “take a closer look.” We spoke to them who are in this year’s Designjunction.

The Plus: How did The City Works start?
Rowan Ottesen:
After graduating from University of Arts London, Sylvia Moritz’s city-themed etchings started turning a few heads, so she decided to make a small range of stationery using a similar style. Again, a few heads were turned, and I started helping out with the many tasks that come with starting a business! The City Works took off after an exhibit at the Pulse trade show in 2015, which led to our first London stockists and a commission from the Barbican Centre. 


TP: What city would you like to illustrate next?
Our adventure so far has taken us to London, Vienna, Bethlehem, Bath, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Oxford and Graz and next up we are planning to illustrate the great city of Berlin. This will form the basis of a larger collection based on German cities, which will be coming out in early 2017.


TP: What is the creative process when beginning with a new city?
We like to try to find a balance between cities that many people know and love while also uncovering places that are a little unsung. Ideally we like to visit a new city in person if we haven’t already. This gives us a true insight into the current culture and vibe of the place. A vast body of research is then gathered, which informs the initial sketches of the designs. 


TP: Sum up the Blockprints in 3 words.
Bold, playful, mementos

TP: Why do you think people are drawn to merchandise featuring their own cities?
Everyone has a home. Some people have their home cities and others have their adopted hometowns. Although many people think of a souvenir as something you buy abroad, it is nice to own something that makes you feel even more connected to your home. 
Our designs are extremely detailed, so I think that a connection is created when people ‘get lost’ in the design. It’s nice to own a piece of work that reveals something new every time one looks at it. 


TP: Which item is the most popular? Why do you think this is?
Our city mandala colouring posters have proven quite popular. These spherical designs can be displayed any way up, which also makes it a collaborative colouring activity in a way. Adult colouring in general is very popular at the moment and I think the high level of detail of our cities is something that attracts people.  


TP: What does the future hold for TCW’s?
In September we will be exhibiting at Design Junction 2016 alongside many other great brands. Then in October our debut adult colouring-in book ‘Lost in London’ will be released with Hardie Grant Publishing. Which is something we’re very excited about. Then after the busy Christmas sales period the new year will begin with us attending Top Drawer in London, and hopefully releasing new commissions and collections.