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The design process & how a design comes to life

I'm in love with stationery

I'm a paper and pens kind of girl. The only computers I came across on my design degree were in the library. You could book them by the hour if you were keen. No internet. No Creative Suite. Apples were a snack in those days.

Give me paper any day. My sketch book habit took hold. My love of thinking on paper set in. It's stayed with me. Design ideas flow from doodles, idle moments, things I see and pick-up from my travels; leaves, stones, flotsam and jetsam, scraps of bark, whatever appeals. There has to be a quality about them that does more than just catch my eye; intriguing, textural, mysterious, colourful.

From a scrap of an idea to a pattern

It's an organic process. The design, a pattern will take shape as I cut, snip, tear paper, plastic, fabrics, found materials, anything that appeals. Applying ink, to a surface, material scraps, rough paper as I go. Then I step back and see what's emerged. Often something unexpected or unplanned will present itself and lead me off in a new direction to explore.

From a scrap of material to a printed design

Some designs like 'Scissors, Paper, Hole-punch' don't need to be digitised on a computer. The design was transferred onto a block of lino the old fashioned way with tracing paper and a pencil. The lino is cut, then inked up for printing, with the circles overlaid with a stencil and sponge.

What it means to be 'hand-printed'

As well as lino block-printing, I hand-silk screen some of my designs. I create stencils, either with cut paper, acetate film, or a liquid block to create a barrier between the ink and material. Each piece is slightly different, reflecting the idiosyncrasies of the hand-printed process. It's sometimes slow, painstaking work, but very exciting as you see a design come to life on the fabric.

The inks

I use industrial quality inks, which I colour-mix myself, giving me a limitless range of colours to work with. The inks are colour-fast to the same extent as all printed materials are. They will fade over time with repeated washing as with everything else. I wash test ink batches for my own peace of mind.

And when it's not 'hand-printed'...

My four and five colour designs like Eucalyptus Leaf and Oak Tree, need to be made into a digital files. With the numbers of colour involved in the design, it makes it beyond my simple self-built print set-up in my ex-beach hut studio facilities. So I scan the paper designs, create digital files, which are then printed for me in Macclesfield.

 ...it is printed in Macclesfield

Macclesfield was once at the heart of the British textile industry. Luckily some of that heart remains. Registering five colours by hand would make cushions too expensive to sit on, so I looked for an alternative to screen-printing. I found RA Smart, of Macclesfield who are ‘dedicated to bringing to life the creations, dreams and aspirations of designers around the world’ (or Dorset). They are industry leaders, experts in digital printing, hence a lot of their work appears on the runway at London Fashion week. And they are helping to keep the British textile industry alive.