ROCWORX Rachel O'Connell working on marbled leather in her studio.  Tools are on the bench and the artist is wearing a leather apron


Rachel O'Connell

Hello, I'm Rachel the founder and designer-maker at ROCWORX. I am a multi-media marbling artist and educator.  I have over 30 years experience in marbling and trained as a leather worker over 15 years ago.  I began marbling in my teens and have since worked with artists all over the world, learning and layering up the skills for my marbling craft in a creative environment. I combined marbling on leather over a decade ago.

As a sustainable artist, working towards being Net Zero aligned, I use natural materials and repurpose synthetic textiles, some of which are donated by local and national organisations, such as the Royal Opera House.

I have a background in, and love for, textile art, sewing and printing, all of which influence my designs.  I have worked in printing, interior design, in mainstream education and community arts projects with indigenous groups overseas, as well as in finance. Marbling remained a creative hobby for many years, a chance for me to de-stress from my working life.

Why I started my brand...

I started ROCWORX a few years after being assaulted at work. This attack completely changed my life, as, apart from the shock of a physical assault, it affected where, how and who I worked with.  Having to sign an NDA meant I didn’t even have a voice for a few years about how and why I turned marbling into a profession and started a creative business. 
Part of my healing journey was art therapy counselling.  It was a chance to be creative in a safe space and after trying painting and silk screen printing, we then did a day of marbling together, with me actually teaching the therapist the techniques.  This return to marbling, after over a year of not being able to create, very poor sleep, multiple panic attacks, nightmares and anxiety, gave me confidence, bringing me joy, easing anxiety and helped my healing process.  
I am so proud that I can pay this help forward as I now work with trauma survivors, using the mindfulness and joyful creativity to help them in their healing journey. 
When marbling, you learn that you cannot always control the outcome, nor make the same pattern twice, only a similar pattern, as the paints tend to move over the water, so you learn that it is about the process of creativity. The breathwork involved is mindful, helping focus the mind.  The colours and patterns lift your mood and I found the creative release of marbling has allowed me to let go and heal from my trauma.  

Starting ROCWORX was the best decision I ever made...

Deciding to turn professional to design and make marbling goods for a living was hard work.  Switching from a corporate career to a creative career was financially tricky. I quietly launched my brand during the pandemic too.  It has been a steep learning curve for the business side, but I have found great mentorship with Small Business Britain and Theo Paphitis as an SBS winner.  It took me a few years to find my creative 'voice' and style, making lots of products, until I realised that though I can make anything, I don't have to make everything!

Running a creative business has brought me incredible joy and taken me down a path I only dreamed of in my previous career.  Since launching my brand, I have been fortunate to have sold work in local and national galleries, such as Manchester Art Gallery, Dulwich Picture Gallery and MAKE Southwest in Devon, as well as in local independent retailers and galleries. A pinch me moment happened this year, as I now have work in The British Museum.

I also demonstrate, tutor and sell work in Weald and Downland Living Museum and have sold, demonstrated and tutored workshops at Craft Festival, Bovey Tracey, where in 2023, I demonstrated my endangered craft on behalf of Heritage Crafts.  I am thrilled to have been asked back to tutor workshops again at Craft Festival, Bovey Tracey in 2024.

This year I will be taking part in London Craft Week with Jay Blades Presents Craftworks Show in May and at Handmade Oxford in June and in the summer I will exhibit work in 'Pull the Thread' with Blue Patch sustainable makers in the John Ruskin's Brantwood Museum.  Later this year, I will also be tutoring and demonstrating at Kelmscott Manor, home of William Morris.  Check my News + Events page for more information and booking links.  

I am a proud member of Heritage Crafts, MAKE Southwest, Devon Artists Network, Design Nation, Leather UK, The Society of Bookbinders and Blue Patch.  As a sustainable artist, I am also a member of the Green Maker's Initiative with Make Southwest.  


My creative journey has also taken me down the path of teaching...

In the past few years it has been my privilege to have tutored workshops with A Level students, in SEND schools, in local primary schools, community groups and for MAKE Southwest’s Arts Council Saturday National Club, tutoring teenagers who wish to pursue art as a career. I have privately tutored trauma survivors too, helping them in their healing journey, coming full circle in my healing journey.  

I also volunteer as a Speaker for Schools, tutoring students interested in a career in art.  During the Summer I will be tutoring marbling at Cockpits Arts for Creative Dimensions Trust, a charity set up to help disadvantaged teenagers be taught art  skills and crafts to pursue a career in art.

Marbling is a beautiful, mindful craft. My workshops offer a safe space to create, play with colour, make mistakes and learn through failing, but most importantly, have FUN! Even after over 30 years of marbling, mistakes happen and when a new beautiful pattern appears as a result, I like to call it a happy accident.  I am always learning.

Marbling is classed as an endangered heritage craft.  My hope is to show that this heritage craft can be used in contemporary design.  My aim is to create beautiful, practical products to wear and use every day in the home and also help educate, with the goal to pass on this beautiful craft to future generations.  I marble using traditional Turkish, European and Japanese techniques, incorporating marbling into my textile items, including leather, as well as my embossed printmaking art work and paper stationery. 

I work with leather as it is a sustainable material, a by-product of the food industry and is compostable.  It is a beautiful, yet robust, practical material and, if cared for, will last for hundreds of years, unlike synthetic materials.  If you want to know more about the leather or marbling process, I've popped a bit more information in my Leather and Leather Care and  Marbling pages.


In memory of our first dog, Amber the Sprollie.  
Forever remembered, playing with a ball at Burgh Island, Bigbury-on-Sea, South Devon


Thank you for visiting my store and following my creative journey. 

 ♥︎ ROC