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Inspiration to Interior

 

My passion is drawing and if I could, I would draw everyday. I am lucky that my style lends itself to wallpaper and fabric and also that people have welcomed my designs into their homes. The journey from ‘inspiration to interior’ is a long but exciting adventure and it’s given me the opportunity to build relationships with craftsmen and small businesses that are at the very top of their trade. It’s been amazing working with those who have such a high level of skill and experience and I will be forever grateful to them for their guidance and support over the last few years.


DRAWING & DESIGN

 

It is almost 5 years ago to the day that I sat at my kitchen table and started to draw the family of elephants that would become The Waterhole, my first wallpaper in my debut collection Safari. Inspired by the jaw dropping view of Kilimanjaro from my husband’s family home in Tanzania and my growing love for elephants, I wanted to illustrate the beautiful way that these giants eat, breathe and sleep as a family. The theme for my first collection was born; capturing the typical characteristics of wildlife in their natural habitat with flamingos standing in lake Nakuru, leopards hiding in trees and zebras standing in lines, as if you were looking across a savannah at a herd in the distance.

 

When I begin, I always work in black and white (or sepia tones) so that I am not influenced by colour. I sketch using fine liner biros, watercolour pencils and paintbrushes to soften the tone. I draw each element separately and then put the pieces together like a puzzle. With Waterhole I needed to create depth to capture the perspective of the mountain behind the animals so I used slightly different drawing styles for each element; more detail for the mother and calf in the foreground against a sketchy technique for the trees and mountain behind.

 

 

Once an idea has been formed, I work on transforming my illustration into a wallpaper design. Drawing is only one part of the wallpaper designing process as you then need to make the illustration work in repeat, a very different technique. You have to consider both the positive and negative space while visualising how it will sit on a wall in a home, restaurant or hotel lobby. I research my competitors and look for any similar themes so that I can create something unique and exciting. For example, when I first drew flamingos for my Nakuru wallpaper, Cole and Son were the only brand to have a flamingo design, so I ensured mine was completely different using scale, colour, drawing styles and printing techniques.

In order to solely focus on drawing and design, I block out around 6-8 weeks after which I have more or less a finished collection in place. I then present this to the factory where the fun really begins!



COLOUR & PRINT

 

There are multiple ways to print wallpaper and when Anstey saw my collection they recommended the gravure technique to best capture the level of detail in my drawings. Gravure is where the designs are etched into a copper cylinder.

We work closely together for a few months, separating the different layers of tone in each drawing so they can be etched onto the different cylinders. Every correct layer needs to be in its exact place in order to create the precise colourway for each design. This fundamental stage requires absolute accuracy and precision.

 

 

To achieve the different tones, the cylinders are etched electronically to create different sized microscopic holes; the bigger the hole, the more ink it can hold which in turn produces a darker colour. The maximum number of cylinders that can be used is 8, which was needed for Waterhole, Camouflage and Tribe. In total we used 35 cylinders for the Safari Collection and 24 for the Albion Collection. The images above illustrate the intricate and detailed engraving on each cylinder.

Colour is everything with wallpaper and if I had to choose my favourite stage of the process, albeit the most challenging, this would be it. A design comes alive with colour and in a matter of seconds I witness my black and white illustrations transform into a wallpaper design. At this stage I am forced to make a series of huge decisions, which can either make or break the design.

 

 

By this stage I have already selected colour charts (I referenced Farrow & Ball for Safari and Little Greene for the Albion) and have considered colour distribution and density of colour for each design. I have also given thought to where these wallpapers may end up, be it in a nursery or playroom or a dining room, hallway or bedroom. Ideally, by offering 2-3 colours for each design my collections are versatile enough to appeal to the different ages, styles, tastes and types of room.

I kept Waterhole, Camouflage and Tribe very neutral so that the detail of the artwork wasn’t overpowered by colour. Whereas with my more playful designs i.e. Nakuru (flamingos) and Nutcracker (squirrels, from Albion shown above left) I could be more daring with colour and play with metallic pigments to achieve a stunning contrast with darker tones.

 

 

The colour process takes 3-4 days during which the colour specialists hand mix the different pigments for each cylinder and then each one is placed by hand, into a machine and spun once. We work back and forth lightening and darkening colours to ensure the balance and distribution will enhance the design to its full potential. Eventually, I sign off on the perfect palette for each design, the different colour recipes are logged and each pigment is then created in bulk-sized quantities.

The cylinders, colours and paper are then loaded onto the 30-meter long machine (below) and the printing begins. It’s fast, roughly 1500 meters can be printed in just 30 minutes. Once printed, I take 3 drops away for the photoshoot and the rest is wrapped, branded and dispatched to my warehouse as stock ready to sell.

 


PHOTOSHOOT

 

So that I can show my designs in situ, I plan the different types of rooms I need to create and which props I might need to best show off each design. I hire furniture from companies such as Granger Hertzog and put together schemes and rooms sets for each design.  I hire almost everything except a loo that I bought so that I could recreate a cloakroom; our wallpapers are often used in these spaces so it’s important to provide examples.

Starting out as a one-man band, the shoot for my first collection began in a somewhat comedic way with me driving, solo, a 4-ton truck through London to Acton to collect the hire furniture. Acton is the furniture hire hub of London with warehouses full of furniture and props from every period, in every colour to suit every taste and style. With a full truck I then drove to Scotland to a space I am fortunate enough to have access to.

For the shoot itself, I hang my paper on fake walls, add a skirting board and then work through each room set by placing furniture in front of the wall, such as a chaise longue for a bedroom wall, desk and globe for an office etc. The aim is to give people an idea of scale, repeat and colour so they can visualise the paper on the walls of the different rooms within their homes. After 2 days of onsite preparation, the shoot itself takes between 3 and 4 days.

 


In addition to the room shots are a variety of images for press, website, design brochures, samples and sample books – all to be designed and created before the collection’s launch at Decorex, 2 months later.

 

 

REFLECTION


 

Although lengthy, complex and expensive, launching a wallpaper collection is an amazing adventure and exceptionally gratifying and exciting. It is still (and always will be) time consuming and challenging at times, but it’s so much fun, especially now that I am able to enjoy the process with my small team who work so hard to make it all happen!

5 years later and I am lucky enough to have 2 full collections including cushions and fabrics, a stationery line and a young family. I am often asked when I am going to launch my next collection and although I have a lot of ideas, juggling family life, cash flow and keeping the wheels at JT moving, I need to schedule the next 10 month launch process carefully… still, watch this space because there is more to come and we can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

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