When Angela Harding and her husband first bought a boat and started sailing the country’s waterways, she never envisaged how much she’d fall in love with Suffolk. 

Based in the Midlands, the couple’s boat Windsong is moored just outside Woodbridge, and every summer the two board the vessel, meandering their way around nearby rivers.

“We’ve kept our boat here for the past 10 years, and we actually live as far away from the sea as you can really, as we’re in Rutland. But we both love being on the water. We do go as far afield as France and Shetland, but our favourite place to go is the Suffolk rivers, such as the Deben and around Butley,” she says.  

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“We originally used to visit Norfolk as that’s where my daughter lives, and that’s how we found Suffolk. We’ve sailed all around the British coasts but Suffolk is the place that kept drawing us back. Particularly for me, the Deben is so beautiful and great for wildlife. Although I love being onboard, I’m not good at waves, but the river is wave-free, and you’re so much more surrounded by nature than you are out at sea.” 

Traversing the region’s rivers, Angela always has her trusty sketchbook in tow, capturing the landscape and wildlife she sees on her journey. 

“A lot of my work is inspired by being on those rivers, and I work in my mini studio I have aboard the boat.” 

Angela’s work is iconic, and you may in fact recognise it.  

Advent calendars, tea towels, notebooks, bags, and jigsaw puzzles all feature her eye-catching and colourful renderings of local flora and fauna across Orford, Southwold, the Deben and beyond. She has also designed book covers for memoir ‘The Salt Path’, and PD James’ murder mysteries.  

“A lot of my book covers have influences in Suffolk,” she says. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Angela's boat WindsongAngela's boat Windsong (Image: Angela Harding)

“When we were in Snape last year, we were moored up next to the Maltings there and you could stick your head up in the middle of the night and hear nightingales singings, bitterns booming, and owls hooting. I don’t think there’s many places in the country where you get such a great wealth of beautiful sounds, and a rich tapestry of wildlife here.” 

Angela’s work is so revered in fact that she was commissioned for her first ever book last year, A Year Unfolding. It depicts a journey through a year, as she watches the seasons unfold in front of her in her Rutland studio. Giving the reader details into how nature transforms and evolves over 12 months, she tells the stories of some of her most popular images.  

“I’ve mainly illustrated other people’s books so when I got the opportunity to work on a nature book, I took the plunge and did it myself. It gave me so much more control, and when I got the book back, it was my complete project and a sheer joy. I really pleased with how it came together. 

And this month, she’s released her follow-up book, Wild Light. 

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“I’m more pleased with this one, especially the print quality. It’s been wonderful to watch it come together,” she explains.  

“I think the publishers were a little surprised with how well the first book did, and it sold a lot of copies. They only printed 5,000 at first, but they sold out before the book was even out. I think we’re on print run six now, which is 50,000 copies. With this new book, it started with a print run of 2,000 and ended up selling in 10,000 in the first week, which is amazing. I was pretty gobsmacked.” 

There’s no doubt how successful Angela has become over the years, and it’s not just the county’s beautiful scenery that’s helped play a part in that.  

East Anglian Daily Times: Angela working on her artAngela working on her art (Image: Angela Harding)

Her tea towels are printed locally – by a chap called Stuart Morris, based in Hadleigh, which has certainly helped boost her profile and popularity. “I have a close relationship with Stuart and he’s been a joy to work with. That’s actually how I started my offshoot of illustration as a business – producing small tea towels here in Suffolk. To this day, we do thousands – but originally it all started with a few hundred.” 

Explaining what sets her latest release, Wild Life, apart from her debut, she says: “Wild Light is just one day, and it’s about watching the quality of light that follows from first light to night time. I commissioned a friend of mine who’s a good photographer to come to my house and she was up at 4am catching the first light as it came across the studio. It’s all about a single day, and the quality of light, and how it affects us. When I’m in the back of my boat in Suffolk, watching the sun go down, it’s a completely magical thing.” 

Not one to rest on her laurels, while Angela’s second book is currently flying off the shelves, she is already planning her third one.  

“That one will be about sections of a month, and focus on water, islands, and the coasts,” she says.  

While she’s been working as a printmaker since the 1980s, she admits her success didn’t come until she reached her 50s. But what’s her secret? “Never give up. I encourage anybody else striving in illustration to keep going, and to have faith. Have confidence in yourself, and value what you do.” 

This month, Angela will be in Suffolk talking about her latest book, as well as printmaking and life as an illustrator. She will be at Snape Maltings on Thursday, November 24 and Southwold Books on Saturday, November 26. 

To find out more, visit angelaharding.co.uk