What is your earliest memory of design? When did you first know that you wanted to become a fabric/wallpaper designer?
One of my most vivid early memories of design is of my mum taking me to the V&A Museum and coming across the fabric sample room – this was, I think, the moment that I knew that fabric and textile design would be an important part of my life. In this room, a wonderful Victorian cabinet housed a selection of the most delightful fabric designs. You could pull out each frame and discover a whole world of Ottoman fragments, Indian crewel work, and Greek embroideries. It was so magical. I was instantly hooked.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a fabric designer? Did this start from prior experience as an Interior Designer?
No, my journey to fabric design didn’t begin with interior design; it started with a long-standing love and appreciation for fabric and textiles. At eighteen, I enrolled to do a Foundation Course at Camberwell. When I walked into the Printed Textile Department for the first time, I felt like I never wanted to leave. I loved everything about it: the colours, the screens and even the maths that is needed to work out how the patterns fit together.
Where do you find the inspiration for your designs? What would you say are the main influences on your work?
I find inspiration everywhere! I love birds and include them in my work and designs often. I’m also influenced by Greek embroidery, botanical prints, tropical gardens, early iron-work, American Fracturs . . . the list goes on! And then there are all the things that I’d love to include in my work that haven’t made it on the shortlist yet: kites (both paper and feather), circus acts and even Christmas decorations (I have an amazing ever-growing collection that I add to every year – last year, it was a beautiful glass blue whale ornament).
Collages created by Claire over lockdown. These will be a starting point for some of her future designs.
Where is the most surprising place that you’ve found inspiration for your designs?
At art school, we were given a project to select any ordinary household object, draw it and then repeat it over and over to create a pattern. I chose a can opener and the results were surprisingly effective!
What’s your creative process? Take us through the development of a design from idea conception to the final product.
I always start by hand, whether that’s creating an image using lino, cut paper, potato printing, collage or paint. Sometimes I even use a kitchen sponge to apply paint in a suitably uneven fashion. Once I’m happy with the design I’ve produced, I’ll photocopy the image in black and white several times and then stick all the parts together so I can play around with the repeat. Once I’m satisfied that the flow works and that the design repeats in an appealing and elegant way, I send it to the experts at my printer who will then digitise it and fine-tune the repeat on the computer. But it’s so important for me to always start the creative process by hand. Designing straight onto a computer is not for me: it’s far too clean and much too small!
Image Left: Claire's Studio | Image Right: A painting that Claire completed in art school. Thirty years on, it is still hung up in her home.
What types of materials and production processes do you prefer to use and why?
In terms of materials, I’ve worked with wood, paper, fabric, glass – there’s a role for almost everything! My first job was working for Anokhi in Jaipur and that instilled in me a love for block printing that I think I will never lose. Although modern digital printing is fabulous and makes it possible for us designers to experiment with and use so many more colours and textures in an affordable way, there’s something about the tactile craftsmanship of physical block printing that is just so special and immediate.
What is something that most people don’t understand or appreciate about textile design that you wish they did?
The overall feel of the pattern matters – it has to flow. I can’t believe it when some people don’t spot when a pattern is upside down!
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?
The easiest way to start is to paint your walls white. Create a blank slate and then start adding colours where they are easy to change such as cushions, sofas etc. When you do fall in love with a wallpaper or fabric design – and you’ll know when you do because it is such a satisfying feeling – just go for it. It really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It’s about what you love.
Is there a particular design in your collection that’s your favourite and if so, why?
I love “Parakeets in the Oak”. I have used it in my spare room, paired with Edward Bulmer's wonderful “Invisible Green” paint and it makes me smile every time I go in there.
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?
People have been making and designing textiles for thousands of years so, in many ways, what has happened during my career is but the blink of an eye. Of course, technology has brought about a lot of change – and in many ways has made textiles more accessible, which has to be for the better.
Over the last year, we’ve all spent a huge amount of time at home and it’s great to see how we have all come to appreciate that putting a little bit of extra thought and effort into what your home looks like can be incredibly rewarding.