Feature in Febs issue of LIVING NORTH magazine! Full interview below (WARNING - It appears I can waffle for Britain):
How did you start?
I studied a BA in Textiles and Surface Design and graduated back in 2002 with a first, then moved straight to London after being offered a job as print designer for British label Red Or Dead. After a year I had to move back to the North East and was offered a lecturing role on the degree I graduated from. It was at that point I wanted to get back into designing for myself and for a few years designed and made women’s screen printed handbags, selling in boutiques in London and the North East. The business was successful and I struggled to keep up with demand, but I have always been a print designer at heart and found the ‘making’ side to the process tedious and time consuming. Early last year decided to rebrand and go back to my original love of flat print design, and what better way to indulge in bold pattern than in statement wallpaper!
What do you love most about what you do?
I get to do a little bit of what I love doing each day, even if I am not researching ideas, drawing or designing, I still find the business side such as marketing quite creative. I am lucky to have found something I have a passion for early in life and then to have found a way of carving a career from it. Being able to design for myself means I get to develop my own style without commercial studio restrictions. To be able to express your ideas and style and have people buy or admire your work is a great feeling.
What inspires you?
I come across something different that inspires me every day. I notice the smallest details in things, and bank ideas for future projects if it’s something I can’t work into a current project. Nature is an endless supply of inspiration to my work, and I have always had a huge interest in fashion which I use to create unexpected concepts for the interiors market.
What makes SurfacePhilia different?
I digitally print my wallpapers and take full advantage of being able to use as many colours as I like in a design, whereas within traditional screen printed wallpapers you are limited on colour numbers due to cost. Digital printing also allows me to have my wallpaper repeats as small or large as I want, I really play with scales and again this is something you can’t do with traditional methods.
My work is very hand illustration based and I like to make this a key feature in all of my designs, I work with inks, paints, even collage and I want my work to almost look like it’s been torn from a precious sketchbook rather than resemble something that looks flat, graphic and mass produced.
Because I working in flat print there is only so much innovation I can bring through but I still try to push boundaries between different areas of design. My work experiments in ways of crossing fashion with interiors, hand illustration with traditional repeat patterning. I often turn to fashion for inspiration and figure out ways of bringing the exciting elements of fashion across into interiors through movement of imagery, intricacy of detail and a playfulness with scales. I’m trying to introduce unexpected and unusual designs into the interiors market.
What are you most proud of?
Last year I needed a big change and nearly left the area to move back to London. In the September I visited London Design Festival which is a hugely recognised design event around the world. I was so inspired by the shows I visited, that I made a big decision to stay in the North East and concentrate on making a proper go of my designing once and for all. I set myself the goal of exhibiting there the following year, applied six months later and got into an exhibition called Tent which is the second largest show at the festival, I was so happy I had been accepted in. A year later and twenty minutes into the opening of the show, I was approached by the interiors buyer for Liberty and was asked if I would like to sell my debut collection of wallpapers in store. For me as a designer having your work recognised by Liberty is such a big honour, and gaining that level of acceptance is a massive achievement. I was so overwhelmed I had to ask her to repeat herself! This past year I have worked extremely hard and hit every stumbling block imaginable, but it just goes to show that if you stay focused, determined and dedicate yourself to your goals, dreams really do start to come true.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently in the process of getting my debut collection of designs manufactured onto fabrics to sit alongside the wallpapers. All five of the designs in the ‘Navajo’ collection will be available on fabrics early 2012. The wallpaper collection is already retailing online.
Is there such a thing as an average working day?
Not for me unfortunately, I quite fancy the routine of an average working day and being able to plan around the expected, but being creative and self employed, you have to wear many hats within the business, not to mention the working hours and knowing when to knock off for the day! I’m usually collaborating with other individual creative’s each week on some project or other, such as photo shoots, blogging or swapping of services which is always fun and adds excitement to the working week.
Where do you hope to see your business going in the future?
I would like the brand to become a recognisable name in the interiors market. My focus is not only on the commercial wallpaper side but I am mainly interested in working on a commission basis for people. Whether that be creating one off designs for other brands or mural painting for boutique hotels! I have also been approached by clients and other design businesses asking me to consider offering a full bespoke interior design service, which is definitely something I am hoping to do.
How would you spend your perfect weekend in the North East?
Probably spending the day in Newcastle looking around the cities galleries or visiting some of their amazing open studio events, and then going out to one of our rural destinations with my camera and getting lots of snaps I could maybe use in my designs. An evening meal and drinks would definitely have to be squeezed in somewhere too!
Other than designing what makes you happy?
I love travelling and visiting different cities abroad, I’m at my happiest when I’m discovering new places and learning about new things. I love photography and take at least one picture a day, that’s not to say I’m any good at it, I just see it as more of a visual diary I keep for myself.