It’s the holiday season and we’ve been taking part. A camping trip to the Lake District offered a dramatic difference to the usual scenery we live within here in the Midlands, and it was refreshing change for being so. Everywhere seemed so green, really really green, not just the local park green but intense, vivid greens that lush meadows could offer. Naturally with that comes rain, but even then the colours were vibrant. Lichen was glowing, moss saturated, even the sheep were blue! Some colours took me back to studio projects, Pantone references, British Standard colours and colour choices, others offered a welcome diversion.The strange thing is, that when I compiled the image to include with this post the images looked really grey, but it really wasn’t like that through my eyes!

This change of scene is just what the mind needed after an intense workload juggling several design projects and at the end of a hectic academic year. I like what the seasons do to us, make us adapt and notice the time passing. This time of year feels like a celebration, as harvests ripen in the sun (ummm..) and we prepare for a new season of productive design work, education and research.

I shall remember the vivid greens, the birds circling overhead in the sky of blue; the vast views that some people get to enjoy day in day out. I shall remember the feeling of change, and rest, and stopping just for a short while, as a warm memory in the depths of winter when working in the studio. I am bound by the academic year, as well as the seasons on the allotment, the trade show calendar, and birthdays, as so many people are. It’s good to recognise the rhythms and differences brought on by change. Hooray for holidays!

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It’s the holiday season but that’s a tricky thing when it comes to being freelance. Yes I have leave from being an academic at this time of year but the design jobs seem to know when it might be good to take a holiday, then the projects pile up, each with a deadline that results in juggling. I’ve made lists of lists, with schedules and then more lists. Each task gets ticked off, only to be joined by a further task, only to discover that some of the industry does take a holiday and instigate factory shutdowns – good on them! I like their style…

I’m not complaining, it’s just always the way of things, and I actually like times like this. This is the portfolio career that I wanted and imagined. Over the last two weeks I’ve lost count of the number of designs I’ve completed, the different colourways, the scale testing, the rhythms, repeats and patterns I’ve honed. In each project the client has been very different, with highly specialised requirements, and again, that’s really exciting.

Alongside all of this I am also preparing to launch my ‘construct’ collection, and as I can’t share the other design projects yet I thought I’d share one of the images I’ve prepared for the press release. The project has been months in the making, and has been growing in so many exciting directions I’m really looking forward to setting up my stand at Tent London in September. If you think you might visit the show as a trade visitor don’t forget to register for a ticket: http://www.tentlondon.co.uk/trade-registration

Do check back and see more of the collection

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We had a great day out at National Trust’s Sissinghurst gardens in Kent last week even though the weather gave us several seasons in one day. It has been a number of years since my last visit and I’ve spent those years becoming more of a gardener, and launched my Plot to Plate collection of garden inspired patterns in that time so my reasons for observing, taking photographs and drawings have changed. The planting was fantastic; the combinations of colours and textures in particular were stunning. Here’s a few examples:

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I’ve spent many months working on a new pattern collection and will be launching it at Tent London at London Design Festival this September. I’ve kept any signs of the design development away from social media until now, but here’s a couple of the patterns from the ‘construct’ collection. I shall write more about the ideas behind the collection in due course.

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I’ve been out in the ‘real world’ so to speak for nearly twenty years, and while I found that such a scary idea during my time at art college, having little idea of what I really wanted to do, now I realise it’s okay.  I look back and remember so many exciting things that I’ve been up to and so many great people I’ve worked with that I am grateful for living the portfolio career in art and design.

I made the choice to lead an academic career alongside my own practice and both really support each other. I am sharing and honest in my own learning experiences from industry working across art and design contexts. The students’ creative journeys also inspire the creative investigation in me. We talk of ‘branding’ and ‘professional identities’ in the Second year that I am currently leading in the Textile Design degree course at Birmingham City University, and consider how we and others see us and what we can control and what others interpret. I’m not a corporation or multinational company and yet the word ‘brand’ is commonly used for the self-employed too. Language used in promotional material as well as social media build a story, whether we like the tale or not. Does my design integrity come across? what about my inspiration? is the market level clear?…

I’ve been redesigning my website over the last few months. This is always an opportunity to ask myself more questions, and to reflect on where I’ve come from, where I’ve been and where I plan to go within the world of design, and specifically pattern. I’ve been excited by the process. I’ve chosen headings / page titles that more accurately reflect my current practice and edited substantial information relating to projects of years gone by. I’ve made it more image-based and updated text, again to reflect the shift in my design practice interests. With social media being a really key part of building a ‘brand’ these days this process has been happening as I go, but I’ve finally embraced instagram, having enjoyed Twitter over the last three years.

So, for all the bookbinding workshops I’ve led, the public consultation exercises I’ve participated in, the colours and materials I’ve sourced, the flowers I’ve drawn and the prints that I’ve pulled, this is where I’m at now…

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Despite having lived in Headingley, Oval and near Edgbaston I’m not a great fan of cricket but today I spent a number of hours at Edgbaston, the home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club as they hosted a charity community day. The highlight for me was the arrival of the Red Devils, from the skies in the most fantastic spectacle, bringing the ball for the 20-20 match. The marching band looked fabulous in red to the complimentary green of the grass and I also discovered I have a skill in rifle shooting, so there you go, a surprising day.

I gathered lots of images of patterns too. Here’s the day in grey, green & blue pictures…

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It always takes far longer to prepare for a trade show than it does to be there but I thought I’d show a bit of the journey of my show. Rather substantial worries kicked in the night before when we feared the contents of my stand were not able to be carried by two human beings, and more worryingly, not allowed on the train to London. Somehow we managed what felt like a physical endurance test, in fact it was… and began to make it my home for the next few days. Olympia is a stunning building to spend time in and we got the show up in a few hours, ready for the off… and there was still time to admire the London Underground graphics at Earls Court.

The Plot to Plate collection has grown substantially since its first trip to Olympia when I was showing in the Spotted section, at Top Drawer back in 2012. I am delighted that the new Hanbury and Parterre cushions have been well received by visitors to the show. These are hand screen printed and then sewn in Birmingham by social enterprise Textiles by St. Annes. The patterns are inspired by National Trust’s Hanbury Hall and Gardens, near Bromsgrove. The Hanbury wallpaper was also popular with interior designers visiting the show and Plot to Plate VVV was the most admired of my fabrics. My ‘parterre’ show dress was also much commented upon, with orders keen to be placed!

I was pleased to be an ‘expert pick’ by David Nicholls of House and Garden in the Pulse Preview and also chosen by Trend Bible in the trend section of the show catalogue.

It was also a pleasure to meet ex students of mine, graduating from the Textile Design degree at Birmingham City University, as visitors to the show in their industry roles, and I could still remember their names! How nice of them to say hello and make time to find out what I was up to.

The new friends made of the exhibitors beside me was really special. Such a supportive group of people, helping out, freely sharing trade insights, generally lovely people really helping the show be a great experience. The end of the show, although a welcome relief to the hours of standing (I really couldn’t carry a chair on the train!) was almost a sad time, as we stripped the walls bare, packed up our belongings, said our farewells and left, with the most ridiculous load I ever plan to carry. Maybe I’ll start making paper thimbles!

Thanks to all who visited and thanks to all who helped along the way! Here are the images which represent in some small way the few days at Kensington Olympia, May 2015.

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