Designer Diaries | 10 Questions with Beki Bright

What is your earliest memory of design? When did you first know that you wanted to become a fabric/wallpaper designer?

I’m from a family of avid collectors, as a child I was always going to car boot sales, auctions and antique shops. Our house was full of interesting objects, patterns and colour. Being surrounded by unusual interiors and watching lots of period dramas definitely sparked an interest in history and design. As a child I loved fashion and art and was only really interested in studying art and textiles at school. The path to becoming a designer wasn’t clear cut, I studied fine art textiles at university and started my career working in film and theatre. It was only in my late twenties that I decided I wanted to become a textile designer! 

Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a fabric designer? Did this start from prior experience as an Interior Designer?

I have worked in various roles within the textile industry since graduating from Goldsmiths with my BA Textiles. I started my career by working as a Breakdown Artist and Dyer for costume departments in theatre and film where I specialised in dyeing fabrics and colour matching. After taking a break from the costume world I started working for a textile design studio in London. Being in this environment has given me access to some of the most beautiful antique fabrics and patterns and has allowed me to travel the world, providing an endless source of inspiration. 

I have always been really creative and in my spare time, I was taking lots of courses in landscape drawing, textile design and Lino printing. I became obsessed with researching English 20th-century artist-designers after discovering Charleston House. I loved how artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant decorated their home creating a space that embodied functional art for everyday living.

I wanted to somehow combine the practical skills that I had learnt whilst working in costume with my creative and research interests. It was the natural decision for me to create a brand that enforced the idea of artist-designed textiles for everyday life. This coincided with a move from London to Somerset giving me the chance to enrol on the MA Design at Bath Spa University where I worked towards launching Beki Bright. Everything came together whilst studying at Bath, this is where I developed a business plan and the Harvest collection for my final project, the rest is history!

Beki Bright's The Plough design featured at The Ham Yard Firmdale Hotel by Kit Kemp Design Studio. Photo by Simon Brown 

Where do you find the inspiration for your designs? What would you say are the main influences on your work?

I have always been fascinated by history, especially looking into past traditions and folk stories. Having grown up in rural Suffolk and spent more recent years living in Somerset, I draw inspiration for my designs from these surroundings and the landscapes that encompass them.  These experiences have led to a fascination with English folklore, county crafts, and rituals of the countryside all of which inform my work.

I love the work of Enid Marx, Barron and Larcher, Peggy Angus, Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden.  Their work is energetic, playful and full of colour, all of which have become important factors within my own practice. Through discovering their designs and artwork I began to see design in a different way. This made me want to start creating fabrics that were highly decorative and functional whilst celebrating the English countryside.

Where is the most surprising place that you’ve found inspiration for your designs?

I surprised myself by wanting to create a design that acted as a homage to my Grandad’s farm. Both my Grandad and his wife Sally had been avid antique collectors and a treasure trove of rural and agricultural artefacts and antiques decorated their farmhouse. My Grandad used to breed Suffolk Punch horses and the farmhouse walls were adorned with memorabilia from past country shows, corn dolls and horseshoes.  Every inch of the walls and surfaces were decorated to the max; having lived there for 40 years and gathered a lifetime’s worth of interesting and unusual objects.

It was only as I helped my family pack away the contents of the farm house after Sally passed away that I came to realise that these sorts of homes will cease to exist in the same way in the coming years.  Especially as the older traditions of rural life will start to fade away with the passing of generations. My design ‘The Plough’ was created to honour their home and my family’s history through colour and pattern. 

What’s your creative process? Take us through the development of a design from idea conception to the final product.

The first stage for any of my designs is the research. I spend lots of time drawing in the landscape, gathering inspiration from museums, exhibitions and books, collecting as much information as possible before I start designing.

I’m pretty old school with my design process, with ‘Staffordshire’ I took all my research and drew up lots of different elements, eventually piecing them together to create the woodland scene.

I play around with scale at this stage, blowing the designs up in size and reducing them, redrawing elements until I feel like the design has the right balance and flow. This is when I start to work on the repeat tile scanning the drawing into photoshop. I work between my iPad and my computer, fine-tuning the drawing until it’s just right. After this, I will then head to my print studio in Bermondsey, which is where I do all of my practical printing work. In the print room, I am in my element and absolutely love the physical nature of screen printing. I will play around with the artwork, trialing lots of sample screens, and testing the scale and colour combinations. I will finalise the design here, then send the repeats and trial swatches to my factory in London, where they set the design up for production.

What types of materials and production processes do you prefer to use and why?

It was important to me when setting up my business that my fabrics and wallpapers are produced in the UK, as I wanted complete transparency with the production process.  All of my work is screen printed in London, onto a UK woven linen and cotton mix base cloth and printed with water-based pigments. For me the printing process is as important as the design. I love the quality of print you get with screen printing; it has a crispness that you can’t achieve with other types of fabric printing.

 Linen has always been my favourite fabric to print on, it has a beautiful drape and wears well with age, giving character to the design. I have chosen a linen and cotton mix base cloth for all my fabrics as it's a more durable option to 100% linen but still has the overall look and feel of linen.

I have a very small production chain which means I oversee the whole process from concept to completion, there is little to no wastage with any offcuts being repurposed into samples or used for packaging. It is important to me that my fabrics have been made to the highest quality, are sustainable and have a positive impact within the interior textiles industry.

What is something that most people don’t understand or appreciate about textile design that you wish they did?

I’m not sure a lot of people understand the time and effort that goes into creating a design. The process of designing a new collection is very time consuming, each design may take up to a year to complete. So much thought goes into every detail, from the design process, right through to the packaging.

When you buy from companies like mine you are investing in products that are long lasting and will be loved for years to come.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to experiment with adding more colour and pattern to their interiors with fabric/wallpaper but is scared of making the wrong choice?

Start small, experiment with adding a little colour and pattern into your home with a cushion or lampshade. By adding a few key pieces, you can really start to get a feel for what you like. Once you're feeling more confident I would try investing in a small occasional armchair upholstered in a pattern or a colour, or by wallpapering a small room such as a downstairs toilet. Before you know it, there will be lots of colour and pattern in your home without it being overwhelming!


Is there a particular design in your collection that’s your favourite and if so, why?

That's a tricky question! I get rather attached to each of my designs as they are such a labour of love and all remind me of a certain landscape or time in my life… but I would have to say that ‘The Plough’ holds the most sentimental value as it has been inspired by my Grandad's farm. It's also the design I won ‘Homes and Garden Best New Comer for Surface Pattern’ with which is one of my proudest achievements.

How has the fabric and textile industry evolved since you became a part of it and what do you see and hope for the future of it?

In the four years I have been running my business I can already see a change for the better. It's exciting to see companies like Haines challenging the waste created in the interior textile industry by repurposing surplus fabric, which is having such a positive impact.  I have also noticed a shift in the way that companies are producing their fabrics, with much more emphasis on production in the UK and made to order production runs.  As a screen printer myself, the biggest issue we have is the water waste throughout the printing process. I find it incredibly exciting to see factories and companies using technology to recycle their waste water, hopefully this will become industry standard within the next few years.