My commute to work is a few steps across the garden of our lovely Californian home. It’s often buzzing with hummingbirds in the early morning as I walk barefoot across the dewy grass with my first coffee of the day to open the studio windows.
I have worked in many places in my life— London, Cape Town, Brighton and Los Angeles— and can work almost anywhere. Whenever I’m travelling, I always have a sketchbook and pencils in my bag. However, my studio is a magical place where I can bring all of my ideas together and create without interruption. It is full of inspiration and wonderful smells; of oil paints and sharpened pencils. I have shelves of inspiring books and piles of my sketchbooks, fabrics and colour inspiration, which I’ve collected over the years. My vintage plan chest contains handmade papers from Nepal and Japan, coloured samples, design off -cuts and my collection of textile and wallpaper designs.
My studio space is a converted garage. Originally, it was musty and dark, and I was very concerned it wouldn’t be light enough. So, I found two large, vintage, industrial windows, put in skylights and painted everything white, including the floor. Now, everything is bathed in natural light. Colour is such an integral part of my design work, so an abundance of light is crucial. It also lifts my mood. The minute I walk into my studio in the morning, it recharges my batteries and puts a smile on my face.
My studio space is a creative heaven infused with potential, waiting for me to open the door.
Sitting at my desk, the large windows look out onto a garden filled with inspiration. I am continually amazed at the plants, which grow in California with their Dr. Seuss-like quality. Enormous pink and orange flowers bursting from trees and bushes attract extraordinary butterflies, and the walls are decorated with dancing shadows. Occasionally, a flying, iridescent, green beetle will land on my desk. On the weekends, if I’m not working in my studio, I am planting in the garden creating a future floral reference for my designs.
I studied printed textiles at Middlesex University in London in the 80s. In those days, no one designed on a computer. We learned to draw out the design by hand, translate it into a repeating pattern and then onto screens. We matched the coloured dyes for our fabrics by eye and followed recipes to mix the correct ingredients. It was a very hands-on, messy but magical process, printing with silk-screens on huge print tables and watching our designs come to life on fabrics, sheer silks and rich velvets.
I am still in love with the printing process, but now, I print my designs onto paper by creating lino cuts. I design the artwork by hand, which is translated further down the line onto wallpapers or home furnishings. Today, most design work is created digitally, a faster process in an age, which is consumed by speed. I still believe, however, that the traditional methods produce the most beautiful results. The imperfections are the characteristics of something made by hand. The flaws are qualities, which become its beauty. You can discern the hand of the maker, the touch and the process.
When I’m involved in a design, I often carry on working well into the evenings and can be frequently found in my studio on the weekends as well. I realize that I am a complete workaholic, while at the same time, I do not really consider what I do to be work. I thrive on design and am lucky to do what I love and make a living from it.
In 2018, I launched my own wallpaper collection and now, I am busier than ever: creating designs, sampling colours, marketing and advising clients. It is wonderful to have that connection with my customers, to help them with decorating ideas and see them so happy with the way wallpapers make their homes into spaces they love.
My studio doubles as a gallery space to display my wallpaper collection. Twice a year I hang lengths of all my wallpapers around the walls and open my studio for the day, serving food and drinks. It’s a lovely informal way to showcase the collection and a great way for people to see large lengths of wallpaper in situ. Then they can discuss their decorating projects and leave with a selection of samples. At the same time, I also lay out my desk to display the process from the initial sketch through lino-cutting to the finished print. Seeing the origin of the wallpaper and its transformation from pencil sketches to a finished product tells a story, which makes it so much more interesting and helps people to feel involved in what they are buying.
As well as catching up with friends at these semi-annual events, I have met many wonderful people. People have come from all over; some who follow my design work on Instagram, others who’ve just dropped in with decorating ideas and curious neighbors just wondering what goes on in my studio. It’s a great day, and everyone seems entranced by the studio space.
It is a thoughtful, tactile process involving heart, hand and eye, that gives my work a distinctive and original character which people are drawn to.