Kirstie Allsopp seems to divide people into two camps… well, I am a huge fan and proud to say so. I absolutely love her! I love her honesty and the fact she has the courage of her convictions – and I think what’s she’s doing for British craft through shows like Kirstie’s Home Made Home is really important. When I was offered the chance to meet her in person, I lept at it! Here’s what we talked about…
Tell me a bit about your role as brand ambassador for B&Q…
It’s about control. It’s about people feeling that they control their own environment. I am scared by the drop in the numbers of people who have ever picked up a hammer, or a drill, or a paintbrush. I find it profoundly troubling that people feel they’re not control of their own homes. And, I was very pleased yo take on the B&Q role – I never do work for things I don’t believe in. It makes sense to me to promote that sense of ‘you can to it.’ You can do it, they will teach you to do it, they are people in store who will help you to do it – don’t just let someone tell you that you’re not the master of your own destiny in your own home, or garden, or street. This is very interesting because I do a lot of work for Keep Britain Tidy and it’s the same thing. You can control your community and your environment and it’s important that you do.
You’ve designed a range of wallpaper for B&Q, tell me a bit about that process from initial inspiration to final product…
The wallpaper stems from some of my sheet designs, which was one of the most fun things ever. This company came to me called Ashley Wilde – and they said ‘we make sheets, we want to make your sheets’. And I said, ‘How does this work” And they said, “well we come and see you, and you give us your favourite colours and fabrics and patterns and anything, and then we go away and we develop them into a range of sheets. And then we come back and we show them, and you say what you like and what you don’t like, and we go away and then come back again… and that’s exactly what’s happened! We’re in our third season now and that is how it works. Obviously there are some things where I want something, and they say that’s not going to sell. There are elements when you’re involved in designing things, when you have to take a lesson from the professionals and they will tell you what works and what doesn’t and you work within that. And that’s actually very good. It’s the same, I have a range for Marks & Spencers. They’ll say, “no that isn’t possible” and you have to accept that. Where as I think, art school designers, artisans as it were, don’t have that – they can do whatever they want. So that’s been very interesting. So the wallpaper… the process works in exactly the same way. I now have Kirstie Allsopp mood boards! (It’s very weird being in the third person!)
I’m a huge fan of Kirstie’s Homemade Home, Kirstie’s Homemade Britian, Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas… why is it important to promote British craft?
It’s enormously important to me. It’s very difficult to buy the products that I make [on the shows] because you can’t get the price point right. What I find really important is showing on the show how much time… on the Christmas show I bought this rag rug for £60. It was absolutely beautiful. There is no way it took that man any less than 60 hours. So he was on a pound an hour. And that is very important, that people understand how much time it takes to make these things.
I think people have been educated into expecting lower prices haven’t they?
Yes. And that’s the problem. I think people have to understand the difference between things that are made here by artisans in their own homes and studios, and things that are made in factories. Things that are made in factories are not invalid in any way, they play an important part in lots of ways, but you have to know the difference between those two things. You have to know the difference between a quilt that’s been hand quilted and one that’s been made on a huge machine in 15 minutes – and that I think is what’s important. And that’s why people making things themselves is so educational, because they gain a knowledge of what’s involved and understand its value.
What’s your favourite colour?
I am having an absolute thing with orange at the moment. It was yellow, it’s now orange, orange, yellow, don’t know. My cards that I write letters on are orange, with Kirstie Allsopp written on in orange. Orange and brown, brown paper with orange ribbon, shades of yellow. It used to be green, then it was yellow, now it’s orange – we’re talking about over forty years that’s happened. I also love the relationship between navy blue and orange… navy blue shoes, navy blue tights and a dress – which is orange.
Further reading for the especially geeky: