Can you give me a bit of background on yourself, education and career?
I grew up in Darlington and always had an interest in the arts. I studied Textiles and Surface Design at Cleveland College of Art and Design, and it was here that I was encouraged to enter competitions, apply for work experience and learn how to present work to a professional standard. Since then I have gained my PGCE to teach art and design for post-16 studies.
How would you describe your products?
I specialise in wallpaper design and have focused on creating designs that tend to be more masculine rather than typically feminine. I think there is a gap in the market for commercial papers that appeal to men and women with an interest in design. Bold florals are everywhere but I want to offer something different.
I started studying wallpaper in my second year at college, and found I could work with bigger repeats and imagine how it would look on walls. I think now, after years of people painting walls cream and beige, wallpapers are becoming more popular again. You can really be so creative with the imagery and colours you use when designing.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
I love every stage in designing, from collecting my own research to drawing and designing, then painting out a final design idea. To be able to do this and have companies love your drawings and your colour choice so much that they want to put their brand on it is amazing.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get inspiration from everywhere. I teach art and design at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College and a lot of the artists and designers who come to give talks give me ideas, as do the students themselves.
I take lots of photos when I visit places; I am always interested in architecture and structures. I like looking at lines and shapes and how I can make them into patterns. I was very inspired by a recent trip to Reykjavik. All the designs there are amazing, every shop and bar and restaurant you go in has a quirky or edgy design layout with unusual furniture or products to buy. I’m really looking forward to creating something from my photos.
What’s the favourite piece you’ve designed?
I really love my design for Graham and Brown’s New Wave Collective. I like that it is simple and abstract, and I love the final printed finish to it.
It must have been great to work with Graham & Brown, who else have you worked with?
Graham and Brown have been fantastic to work with, they are so professional but really friendly and fun too. And they have such an amazing reputation, to say I’ve worked with them is incredible. They are the first major company I have worked for on a project basis, but I have also worked on competitions with Tigerprint and the Bradford Textile Society, both excellent companies for competitions and those looking for work experience. I did also work with womenswear designer Andrea Freeman, from Darlington, on her label ‘Redana Studio’ whilst working towards my PGCE, and I learnt a lot from her about setting up on your own and visiting trade fairs. She has a lot of experience from working with Barbour for many years and it was great to work with a fashion designer after studying surface design for my degree.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am working towards building my own brand and looking at creating a range of new designs to photograph, as I want to set up a really sophisticated and simple website. I want to work with local businesses who print onto a variety surfaces and look at getting large orders of home and giftware printed. I am interested in printing onto ceramics for plates and mugs so I will be doing a lot of sampling to ensure my products are to a high standard when I am ready to launch.
Which designers do you admire?
I love the work of Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg for the way they mix and layer colours. I always think it’s a good idea to research all areas of art and design, not just the area you’re designing for. My go-to brand is always Cavern Home for quirky and abstract prints. I love the stencil print work of Dawn Dupree as well.
Is there such a thing as an average working day?
As I am still setting up my own brand, I try to juggle my own artwork with teaching on a supply basis and working as a team leader at a local store, so some days are more regular than others. I much prefer being busy and having deadlines and goals to aim for, even if it can get a little stressful.
Can you tell me about your awards?
I entered my degree collection into the New Design Britain Awards. I was over the moon when I was shortlisted as a finalist and absolutely shocked when I was announced winner. It made me realise that all my hard work, studying, listening to feedback and self-evaluation had really paid off. My work had been recognised by some very important people in the design industry and it really boosted my confidence. I was proud to come home and tell people what I had achieved. I feel my achievement was down to the support and encouragement of the tutors at CCAD. Without them telling us all to enter competitions and apply for work experience, I probably wouldn’t have entered at all.
Where do you want to be in five years time?
I would like to still be teaching art and design at colleges, have my brand up and running, and possibly have opened up a store somewhere in the North East.