First port of call, a quick Q&A with Kate Usher Surfaces, exhibiting at Futures, 100% Design. London Design Festival.
Kate Usher graduated with a first class honours degree in Textiles and Surface Design from CCAD and is the Founder and Creative Director for Kate Usher Surfaces. The Newcastle based business designs creative surface prints for a range of different clients within the design and trend forecasting industries, as well as designing and manufacturing bespoke luxury wallpapers under the brand name Kate Usher Surfaces. Kate’s prints and creative direction have always been well informed of future trends and her keen eye for colour, and her awareness has been recognised by two separate trend and colour forecasting panels within the UK leading to a position with both.
Kate’s work is quickly gaining recognition within the UK market having been featured in The Independent, Living Etc and The Evening Standard. Having moved on from the graduate showcase New Designers One Year On, Kate attended her first international interiors trade show at this years’ 100% Design, showcasing as part of a North-East based collective called Design Event.
How long have you been running your business for?
Since January 2010 (9 months)
And what is your background training in?
Textiles and Surface Design
Can you tell us a little about your products and creative direction?
I've developed a collection of luxury wallpapers which are fun and capture the attention of children, yet sophisticated enough to appeal to style conscious adults too.
What is the key element of your designs?
Well executed illustration, and luxury finishes.
...and where do you gain your inspiration from? What is your starting point?
Mainly I just think about all of the imagery that I would like to put on my own children's walls, but can't currently find on a wallpaper. I brainstorm their interests and take millions of photographs on trips to the zoo, the sweet shop or the beach etc. I'm always scouting for interesting, shapes objects or creatures that appeal to kids.
What materials do you work with?
My designs are digitally printed on non-woven paper, and sometimes embellished with glass beads and Swarovski crystals. I’m also beginning to work with vinyl and perspex.
As your brand is ever growing, who are you finding your products are becoming more appealing to?
Exclusive retail stores for window displays, and also commercial sector interior designers.
How do you market your brand and products?
By attending trade shows such as 100% Design, and targeting interior magazines with press releases. I also have a website and a blog.
How important is experimentation to you and your work?
Very important, it’s the main reason I set up on my own, to give me the creative freedom to explore my own ideas without commercial limitations. I like to try out new techniques and processes, such as flocking with tiny glass beads, even if the process turns out to be too expensive or time consuming, it’s nice to say I tried it!
Do you get your work manufactured or is it all handmade?
The wallpapers are manufactured but I do the hand-finishing myself in the studio.
What exciting product are you working on at the moment?
A laser-cut perspex hanging mobile with a Christmas theme and a nursery wallpaper featuring penguins!
Do you have any quick advise for new design graduates hoping to set up their own business within industry?
Attend all the free workshops you can and take every bit of advise you can get, there is a lot of funding out there for different things and it’s just a matter of knowing which pot to tap into! Also it’s definitely a good idea to get some decent work placement experience within the area you want to work. Oh!... and expect to work even harder on your own business than you did at uni!
Read more features and reports from myself at London Design Festival with Arts Thread: http://blog.artsthread.com/