When we were children, my mum would conjour up artistic projects for my sister and me during school holidays. We would walk through the woods and fields of the Sussex countryside collecting leaves and seeds to create beautiful things. There was a freedom and a connection to nature which I’ve never lost. Even now I will always return from a walk with a flower or a fistful of seed pods to draw.
I have been designing textiles for the home furnishings industry for the last 32 years. I studied Printed Textiles for five years, finishing my degree at Middlesex University in London in 1987.
I grew up in a house full of wallpapers. My bedroom even had wallpaper on the ceiling! We had big bold William Morris wallpaper in the sitting room, pretty floral wallpapers in the bedrooms and my father had a very groovy brown, gold and orange stripe in his study. Those were the 70s, everyone revelled in pattern. Fashion and interiors were exuberant reflections of the times. It was fun and people loved to make a statement.
Fast forward through decades of cool painted interiors and here we are, ready again to embrace pattern like never before. It’s so exciting! Once again we can create rooms with so much more character than just painted walls. Today’s wallpapers are much easier to install; now we paste the wall rather than gluing the paper. My papers and inks are eco-friendly from FSC sources, which allows consumers to identify and use paper made from well-managed forests and recycled sources.
The wonderful thing about having my own company is that I can choose what, where and who I work with. I never saw myself working for only one company. That’s not to say that there haven’t been moments of frustration. For many years I struggled to be acknowledged as the designer of my work. This made me more determined than ever to start my own collection, and so began the journey to design my range of wallpapers.
My clients now range from Pierre Frey in Paris to Crate & Barrel in Chicago, Sanderson in London, Pottery Barn in San Francisco and many more. Every client has a house style and I reinterpret my designs to reflect that. This keeps the creative process interesting and fresh. I can be designing kitchen textiles or bedlinens one week for a client in London and the next creating a range of furnishing fabrics for a customer in New York.
Today my studio, where I design patterns, is an integral part of my creative process. My pinboard is a riot of colour and untamed ideas, yet there is a sense of calm. This is where I am most at home. I design patterns for textiles and wallpapers the ‘old fashioned’ way. Today mostly this is done at other companies by CAD (computer-aided design), as the traditional methods are too time costly. However, I am finding more and more in our digital world that people are seeking a human element and are constantly drawn to what I create—both the process and the authentic results it captures.
My creative process begins with an idea. I find inspiration all around me; I collect vintage textiles, finds from flea markets, old cookery books, flowers and dried seed pods from walks or friends’ gardens. I have an old stamp collector’s swap book filled with swatches of colour reference. And then there are my sketchbooks, piles of them stuffed with ideas, doodles and drawings. All these need to be corralled into some kind of order. I accumulate the most relevant on my desk and slowly a theme emerges. These then migrate to my pinboard and I start to build up a collage of the trends to be inspired by for the next collection.
I tear a large piece of butcher’s paper from my roll, which is great for rough drawings because it doesn’t feel too precious. I draw out the size of the lino piece, which is the material that I will be cutting or carving into a relief pattern. Since lino, the material being carved, has no directional grain and does not tend to split, it is easier to obtain certain artistic effects with lino than with most woods. Lino is considerably easier to cut than wood.
I draw out the size of the lino piece I will be using on the paper and start sketching the pattern within the specific area. The design could be based on an idea from my sketchbook or a series of plants I’ve collected, but this will be drawn and re-drawn until I am happy with the way the flowers move and interweave across the pattern.
Great Design starts with good draughtsmanship and there are no shortcuts for that skill.
Once I am happy with the design I decide how many colours it requires. Some designs require three or four colours and others are strong enough to be printed in one colour. For each colour I will create a separate lino. The areas are separated into layers on tracing papers and each traced onto a new piece of lino.
Next I carefully carve each piece of lino. They must be precisely cut, as the finished design is an intricate jigsaw of colour and will be used as the relief surface. Small flaws in the lino are hallmarks of the medium and a testament to its ‘handmade’ quality. However there are mistakes which can ruin a print, such as not getting the registration correct, meaning locating the print in the same position each time to ensure the overall design fits together exactly.
For carving the lino I have a series of wood-handled lino ‘gouges’ which I have used for years. They are like old friends, which feel familiar in my hands and I instinctively know where I want them to go and which marks to make.
Printing each lino in turn, I leave a day between layers for the oil paint to dry. As each colour is printed over the previous colour, the pattern emerges and comes to life. This is the most exciting part of the process, but also—if I’m not concentrating—where things can go wrong. I lay down the paper carefully, ensuring that each time it lands in precisely the same place. Each print then rests in the drying rack, ready to be assembled into the finished textile design.
After designing for everyone else in the industry, and having had the validation of my designs selling worldwide for the past 30 years, it was an easy and natural progression to put together a capsule collection of my favourite designs. The collection is very English, reminiscent of the Bloomsbury set and of William Morris, of English country gardens and seaside villages. Created in a traditional way, the wallpapers are very contemporary and will sit happily as a feature wall, but also look wonderful covering the whole room. I feel very proud to have curated this collection, which I hope will endure for years to come!
A wallpaper should flow seamlessly, the repeat must grow and flow as nature does, taking your eye on a gentle journey.