What is your earliest memory of design? When did you first know that you wanted to become a fabric/wallpaper designer?
I never thought of doing fabric design growing up although I always loved colour and colourful interiors. I remember going to stay with friends who had an apple green drawing room with blue and white curtains and I never forgot it. It was so 70s and uplifting. When I had my first flat I was always trying out new paint colours and finding old fabric for curtains and cushions. I always wanted to make my surroundings feel relaxed, happy and colourful.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a fabric designer? Did this start from prior experience as an Interior Designer?
I first began to collect textiles when I went to India when I was 18. I loved all the colours and the patterns I saw there and I weighed down my rucksack with block-printed cottons and embroideries. In my twenties, I also collected fabric remnants that I bought every Friday on Portobello Road. I often found fantastic old faded chintz - amazing for covering headboards and making cushions. So it was always a big interest but it wasn’t until we moved to the house we live in now on the North York Moors that I started stencilling and lino-cutting to decorate fabric. It has grown from there. I started to organise getting some of the designs printed for fabrics for our house and then slowly started printing them for other people.
Where do you find the inspiration for your designs? What would you say are the main influences on your work?
The inspiration for my fabrics has mainly come from antique textiles. I love the shapes and patterns in suzanis, old block prints and Indienne prints and these trigger the idea for a new pattern. I often simplify and enlarge a very small part of an old and complex pattern. I have also taken inspiration from patterns on old lustreware and other ceramics. Sometimes inspiration comes from something I have seen in an exhibition or gallery. The textiles and the ceramics in the V&A are always a great source of inspiration.
Where is the most surprising place that you’ve found inspiration for your designs?
I’m always taking photos of things that suddenly grab me when I’m walking around. A couple of years ago I took some photos in Lisbon of a beautiful antique Portuguese wall tile which I’ve started tinkering with as the beginning of a design. Also, the colour of random things can really inspire me. Some pink and blue lustre-ware I found in a flea market was the basis of the colours in my Suzani pattern.
What’s your creative process? Take us through the development of a design from idea conception to the final product.
I start with tracing the pattern that has caught my eye and then I usually simplify it and change the scale and mix it up with different backgrounds and framing patterns. I also try it out with loads of different colours which often brings in more changes. Then I start looking at the pattern with the printers and we play around with strike offs, different colours and scale and keep altering it and changing it until it feels right.
What types of materials and production processes do you prefer to use and why?
I use rotary printing, screen printing and digital printing. I do love traditional screen printing and it is awe-inspiring when you see the skill and patience used by Howard Voyce and his team at Ivo who print my fabrics. But I also think digital printing is now so good. You can print incredible detail and it is more sustainable, uses less water and produces less waste. Everything I print is printed here in the UK and I like supporting British manufacturing. At the moment I print on 100% linen which is beautiful. I am also thinking of starting to use an organic cotton/linen base to be a bit more affordable.
(Image left) Fabric Designs from left to right Suzani Blue/Green, Suzani Grey/Clementine, Jaipur Blue, Suzani Blue/Yellow, Polonaise Blue/Green | (Image right) Cushion in Honfleur Reverse Green and seat cushion in Circles Pink
What is something that most people don’t understand or appreciate about textile design that you wish they did?
I am not sure if people always understand the length of time it takes to develop and produce a design. You have to experiment a lot and make many changes and that involves a lot of cost in both time and money.
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?
I don’t think there is a wrong choice. I think it is important to choose the colours and patterns that cheer you up and make you feel happy in your surroundings. Go with what makes you feel good. One way to start is to look at interior magazines, Instagram and Pinterest to find colours, patterns and rooms that you instinctively like. It’s helpful to create a mood board of the colours and fabrics you are thinking about putting in a particular room and then edit it down.
Is there a particular design in your collection that’s your favourite and if so, why?
At the moment I really like Pushkar. I love the red/blue colour combination – I find it incredibly uplifting and I love the pattern. The original idea for it came from a border on an antique embroidered Indian Kantha throw – so the basis of it could not be more traditional but because the scale and context are completely changed it actually now looks quite modern and funky. I’ve used it on our kitchen curtains and it cheers me up every morning.
Blinds in Pushkar Blue/Red
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 am new to the business so that is a hard one. But it seems to me that there is an increasing range of choice. There are now so many different smaller fabric houses and designers. I think digital printing is making it easier for small designers to get going because they are able to print small affordable amounts to order. This then means there is so much more choice out there which is really exciting