What is your earliest memory of design? When did you first know that you wanted to become a fabric/wallpaper designer?
My earliest memory of design came from sitting with my Nanna who taught me to knit and sew. She was a very talented seamstress who made lots of things from clothes to knitted blankets. I became so fascinated with textiles, the feel of the fabric and the process of making something beautiful with my hands: this has to be where my love of design and textiles came from. I then went onto do an Art foundation course at the age of 20. I specialised in printmaking and my final piece was a batik printed fabric length. The process made such an impact on me and stirred my mind in such a way that I knew right then that my passion was in fabric design.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a fabric designer? Did this start from prior experience as an Interior Designer?
I studied Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design as my degree at Leeds College of Art. We could specialise in any form of surface pattern design for either fashion or interiors. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be a fabric designer for interiors. I’ve always had such respect for a well designed space that gives you a feeling of peace and harmony, and also that interiors have more permanence in a consumer’s life, so I wanted to contribute to this world more. After graduating I started looking for design jobs abroad, I knew I wanted an adventure and to expand my experiences, which in turn inspire my designs. I was offered a design job in Mumbai working for a home furnishing manufacturing mill as their European designer. Not in a million years did I expect to be moving to India after university, but I went with my gut instinct, took on the challenge of immersing myself in a completely new culture, and I never looked back. It was the best decision I could have made to kickstart my professional career. I learnt so much out there, worked independently on my own collections and grew my design skills. After three and a half years out there I decided it was time to come home and start my own fabric design business in London, where I could blend the design inspirations from my upbringing with those I had collected in my years abroad.
Nichola Taylorson fabric designs dyed, washed and dried in India
Where do you find the inspiration for your designs? What would you say are the main influences on your work?
I find inspiration for my designs all over the place. I love trawling through textile design books looking at vintage patterns and prints. I get a lot of inspiration on my trips to India, mainly in Jaipur, from all the colours and traditional patterns. A lot of my inspiration comes from artisanal Indian wood blocks - the geometric shapes inspire the basis for a lot of my designs.
Where is the most surprising place that you’ve found inspiration for your designs?
I went for a research day at The V&A museum (pre-covid) and I found that I got the most inspiration from the ceramics section, looking at antique clay pots and their intricate patterns. This is where I got the inspiration for my new favourite design in the collection that I am launching later this year! I love the puzzle that is finding the perfect blend between the feel of the fabrics, the uplifting colour combinations, and the structured angles and lines of my patterns.
What’s your creative process? Take us through the development of a design from idea conception to the final product.
Sometimes I start off by sketching a simple pattern that I am inspired by, playing around with shape and scale, or manipulating a wood block print. I often see one motif that I like, play about with the patterns in Photoshop, then put them into a repeat to see if they work as a design, trying out different scales and layouts. Hand embroidery is a big part of my work, so I always look for where I can add some embellishment to the design. I send off my artworks to my agents in India, who work with my suppliers to convert the design ready for printing. My designs are then hand screen printed and hand embroidered by artisans in Jaipur and Delhi.
The start of something new . . . The process begins with the sketch of a simple pattern
What types of materials and production processes do you prefer to use and why?
All my fabrics are printed on 100% linen, I love using this material because of the natural fibres and the finish it gives. The feel is durable and very versatile, lending well for both drapery and upholstery.
When I first started out, my designs were hand block printed and mud printed using a traditional method called ‘Dabu Print’. This creates a gorgeous imperfectly perfect, ‘wobbly effect’ as I like to call it. However when scaling up, it was not production friendly, so I converted these designs to screens. My designs are now all hand screen printed, which works best for me as we can keep the printing and colour as consistent as possible, while still getting that bespoke hand-done look.
What is something that most people don’t understand or appreciate about textile design that you wish they did?
From my point of view and looking at how my fabrics are produced, I’d say the key features are production time, and keeping the colours consistent. My fabrics are all hand printed in India, and while that makes the fabric special and gives them their uniqueness, it also comes with risks and is a lengthy process. Launching a new collection can take 6-8 months. Through trial and error, going back and forth approving samples, I can eventually give the go ahead for production. The printing process is complex, completely manual and colour matched by eye, so slight quirks and colour variations occur. I see this as part of its beauty, and being able to appreciate the journey the fabric has been on. All of this is what makes small batch textiles unique and special.
Throw and pillow case in Jiva Ash Grey Embroidered
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?
Firstly I would say there is never a ‘wrong’ choice. If you see a fabric that you like and are drawn to it, that is a great starting point. Play about with samples, pin them up in the room and live with them for a bit - that will always give you a good idea about how you feel being around them. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns and colours, you’ll be surprised at how contrasting colours and patterns can really compliment each other.
Is there a particular design in your collection that’s your favourite and if so, why?
My favourite design in my collection has to be ‘Taraka Slate Blue Embroidered.’ Taraka is such a fun geometric pattern and works so well either for drapery or upholstery. I love the colour combination of the slate blue print with the pops of red embroidery, really makes it stand out.
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?
I have been in the textile industry for over ten years now, but my business is still a baby being only just over two years old. I would say what I have noticed since starting up my business is the growth of interest in sustainability. I feel people are becoming more aware of the world we live in and how important it is to look after it. Therefore making more conscious decisions, investing in small businesses and choosing quality over quantity. Slow fashion and textiles are becoming more and more popular, with the idea of treasuring something that you will keep for a very long time. This is my hope, that we continue moving in this direction.