Zoe Attwell launched her homewares and stationery brand at Home London just last month. She cites 50s design, Lucienne Day, Miró and Scandinavian design amongst her influences, but to be honest she had me at yellow and grey! It was lovely chatting to her at the show, and I was pleased as punch when she agreed to do an interview for the blog – here’s what we talked about…
What’s the most important thing to know about you as a designer?
I love creating colourful, fun designs for textiles, homewares and stationery.
What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
I really like design from the 50s, geometrics, Scandinavian design and am always drawn to the colourful and abstract. Ideas can come from anywhere, very often from just playing around with shapes and colour, and seeing how they fit together, or taking inspiration from something I’ve seen when out and about, especially when travelling… the details of an old mosaic tile or the colours and textures of painted doorways in a seaside town.
How do you overcome creative block?
Often with difficulty. Sometimes I can get completely stuck and my ideas just don’t flow. If that happens I just have to do something completely different to try to clear my head, if I have the time I might try to get out and visit an exhibition or have a look in some interesting shops. But normally I’ll try going for a walk, getting some admin work done, or doing some chores around the house (which I generally find myself doing if I’m procrastinating). Forcing a design is the worst thing I could do, and often shows in the piece I’m working on – that there’s something not quite right about it. All my favourite designs have come about when I’ve been excited and happy during the process of designing them.
Talk me through your design process… how do you get from idea to final product?
I sketch ideas and textures, and then bring them into Illustrator to add colour and work more on the designs. I also draw straight in vector too and then add in some hand-drawn elements and texture. I often design without any particular product in mind and find this can be creatively freeing. A lot of my designs lend themselves to being on a variety of products, but sometimes there will be a strong leaning towards a particular product. This was definitely the case with my ‘retro checks’ design which I couldn’t wait to see printed onto natural linen and made into a cushion – that’s how my range of cushions started. On the other hand, a few of the designs for my tea towel range were developed specifically with tea towels in mind as the end product. Then came the task of getting samples made and deciding on materials and finishes which can take time to get right as I’m a bit of a perfectionist!
What’s your favourite part of the process?
When I’m working on a new design that I know just works, and get a really good feeling about it. And when I get a sample of a new product that has come out just as I’d hoped.
Tell me about a good day and a bad day in the life of Zoe Attwell.
A good day is when inspiration is flowing and I get lost in creating new designs and lose track of time. And when a sample comes back just right. A bad day is when I have creative block, or am dealing with the frustrations of things going wrong, such as samples not turning out how I’d like them to.
Home London was your first trade show – how did it go?
Really well! It was very exciting to do my first trade show, and get my products out in front of people for the first time. I had visited Home before and was impressed by the size and spaciousness of the stands in the Homegrown section, so I knew that’s where I wanted to exhibit. I had very positive feedback and lots of interest in my products, and made a lot of interesting contacts which I hope will turn into some exciting opportunities down the road. I have to say I felt a bit sad immediately afterwards, after all the build up, and missed being on my stand each day, even though it was tiring at the time. I’d definitely do it again.
What are you most proud of?
Following my dreams and pursuing my long-standing love for colour and pattern after many years working in editorial design – launching my own product range and having a successful first trade show.
What advice would you give to an aspiring surface pattern designer?
Work to your strengths and concentrate on the areas that most excite you. And though it’s important to be aware of what’s out there, follow your own instincts and don’t get too caught up with what other people are doing.
What’s next for you?
I will be setting up an online shop so people can buy my products directly, and also approaching more stockists. And I’m looking forward to getting a chance to do some designing again, to just having a play and seeing what happens. I’ve been so caught up in all the other work involved in starting my own product range and preparing for Home that designing has taken a back seat and it’s important to keep it going. I would also like to look into other products and possible licensing opportunities.
And finally, what’s your favourite colour?!
Ooh, it’s hard to choose! I do love orange, especially with grey, and also grey and yellow, a colour combination which seems to creep into many of my designs!
Further reading for the especially geeky:
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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