Pulse is fast approaching, and so my series of interviews with new and independent designers exhibiting within LaunchPad is gathering pace. This week, I spoke to the absolutely lovely Abigail and Ryan Bell, aka abigail*ryan…
What’s the most important thing to know about you?
We are design duo abigail*ryan, and husband and wife team, Abigail & Ryan Bell – we design beautiful hand-illustrated products for home.
Ryan says you should also know that he’s a really good dancer!
What inspires your designs?
Flowers, plants and nature are a huge source of inspiration for us! Abigail’s hand-drawn pen and ink illustrations of gorgeous flowers form the basis of our pattern designs, and from there, we are hugely influenced by colour, and unusual colour combinations, which add a real edge to our otherwise more traditional floral prints.
Talk me through your design process from initial idea to final product.
The first thing we do is source lovely flowers and plants, and Abigail photographs them, keeping interesting forms and silhouettes in mind. She then painstakingly draws the flowers in black ink, creating the unique illustrative bones of our signature style. From there, we scan the drawings into to the computer and Ryan starts to build our patterns, repeats and motifs… we work together on the colour story, and design the products from there.
There is then a huge amount of work that goes in to sourcing ethical, UK based manufacturers we feel passionate about working with – asking questions about processes, sampling stages, awaiting manufacture and then working with the material when it arrives in the studio. If it’s printed fabric, we will cut and sew this in our Belfast studio into cushions, if it’s something like our tea towels, we will fold, package and box them, paying attention to branding, designing labels, and sourcing packaging. There’s so much to do on each and every product, and we enjoy every stage of management, design and creation.
How do you overcome creative block?
We don’t get creative block! Being a duo, we are constantly bouncing ideas off one another, which sparks more ideas… and more ideas!
We might have logistical block, or practical block (financing ideas!) but the ideas themselves are never hard to come by…
Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of abigail*ryan.
Good Day: Waking up to awesome emails, perhaps a lovely order or a request from a magazine we love! Ticking a good amount off our to-do list (you know those days where you feel super productive and things just ‘work’ in the studio, or Abigail has created some really great new drawings, or Ryan a new pattern design and we feel really excited?!) and being able to finish at a reasonable hour and stop for a nice home-cooked meal together and play with the dog!
Bad Day: Being woken up by a spammy phonecall (they always ring REALLY early!), having to deal with difficult suppliers perhaps where customer service is a little lacking or being really held up by a delivery not arriving and dealing with the knock-on effect of that. Maybe one, or both of us, is sick? That’s always stressful…
To be honest though, we don’t have many bad days. We get to work alongside our favourite person in the world, from home, with our gorgeous dog and mostly suit ourselves when it comes to schedule and workload. We’re really blessed.
What are you most looking forward to about Pulse?
Debuting our brand new collection for the home, including our new wallpaper, and seeing everything together, and on display, for the first time. Just getting to share the collection with buyers and press will be really exciting!
What are you most proud of?
Our recent collaboration with Jo Malone London, and Jo Malone Style Editor, Charlotte Stockdale, which is currently on sale exclusively at Selfridges.
…and our new collection. We are over the top excited and proud of what we have produced together this year.
How do your products make people’s lives better?
We are firm believers in bright and bold colour in the home! Colour makes you happy, and (literally) brightens your life… additionally, all our products are made in the UK, so whether you realise it or not, by buying abigail*ryan you are supporting British industry and giving jobs and support to our economy – SO important!
What advice would you give to an aspiring textiles designer?
Make your work different, stand out, be unique.
Take time after training to find out who you really are. A lot of very new graduate work is a little too derivative of established working designers, and I think if they took a little time, rather than instantly wanting a piece of the pie or thinking homogeneity is a road to success, young designers would find their own, truer voice, which would lead to a more successful career in the long-run.
Importantly: be nice, be professional, deliver.
And finally, what’s your favourite colour?!
Ryan: Yellow, or Blue. Or Green. Sometimes Pink. Chartreuse? Hmm. Lots.
Abigail: I think every colour can look spectacular when paired with another, every colour has something to offer. I couldn’t possibly choose, it wouldn’t be fair to the Pantone chart…
And finally a little message from Abigail and Ryan: “We would like to apologise for a slightly bare website, and out of stock items! We are set to launch our brand new collection at Pulse London in less than a week, so we have marked down all the very few cushions we have left in stock to half price. Find us at stand LP58 at Pulse London, where we will launch our new collection of Wallpaper, Scatter Cushions, Yardage, TeaTowels and Napkin Box Sets.”
Profile image (top) copyright Tarah Coonan Photography
Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.
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