The Design Process
How long does it take to develop a new collection
Constantly I am jotting down ideas for designs, so when the time comes to physically sitting in my studio at my desk, I am full of ideas and I get really excited watching them come to life and take shape within the square. I will design new collection over the course of a week to two weeks and then send off imagery for sampling. I send sample files to a company in the UK who then digitally print these onto my chosen silk type. The factory prints only using non toxic Azo Free dyes in this process. Once I have selected the samples that work in colour intensity and definition, I send complete design image files for printing and the factory will print, cut and hem all my scarves individually, finishing them with hand sewn corners and care labels.
I now have a “hero” collection of designs. These are designs that have come to be recognisable signature pieces to my brand, such as the “Jellyfish” inspired by Castlegregory in Kerry, the “Zebra” inspired by the wildlife of the Ngorongoro Crater, Kenya or the “Hot House” inspired by the cacti hothouse in Toronto botanical gardens. I add new designs throughout the year keeping the collection fresh faced, upbeat and interesting. No two scarves are the same and all are completely different, from the subtle tones of the “Guinea Fowl” birds to the loud powerful statement print of the “Jester”.
When creating a design, what comes first
The ideas come first, an object usually… be it a flower, or a temple. I am never without my camera and more often than not, something will catch my eye. It could be a texture or a colour, an interesting tile flooring in an old house, an age old wooden doorway with studded framework, detailed stone carvings, a weave or a beautiful fabric, an intricate print on a traditional dress or delicate embroidery on a vintage stole.
More often my fascination and source of my inspiration is nature and the natural world. Ever changing and offering a constant flow of intrigue for me. Whether it is the swirling sea life or the intense colours and intricate detail on plants and flowers. Inspiration is all around me providing me with a constant flow of ideas. I often combine two or three elements that I like and see how they work together as a design idea, sometimes isolating parts of a photograph, an object, bird, flower or animal that I will keep to use on a future design concept. So I keep a huge amount of ideas archived in my head and leaving them dormant until I stumble upon the perfect image to compliment them.
I also think it is so important to embody the mood of the design in each scarf. I try to embody all the colours , smells, textures and mood in each design like this design the Quiver Tree inspired by my visit to the Namibian Desert and the golden quiver tree.
“Quiver Tree” : from photo - to scarf design - to the wearer
“Hothouse”: from photo - to scarf design - to the wearer
“ ZEbras” : from photo - to scarf design - to the wearer
How do I create and finalise the unique individual patterns for every scarf
I do a lot of sampling initially for the upcoming collections. First I sample various colours and patterns to see which work best. Initially I might sample 20- 30 ideas but only choose maybe 10 favourites. Its s a a ruthless process of elimination but often I will come back and revisit a sample i liked and try it out in a different colour to see if it works better.
How do I decide on what colours to use
I love to photograph textures, like the reflection on water, the spines of the starfish, the huddle of terracotta water jugs, the elaborate ceremonial dress of the elephants at the Purham festival India, the golden bark of the African Quiver trees in the Namibian Desert. I generally look through my photos for colour references, extracting interesting colour combinations, usually found in nature. I draw on colours from flowers, plants, birds and fish but I can also find interesting colours in a vintage embroidery, a painting, a temple wall painting, a ceramic. I also gather feedback from by stockists about what colours their customers are looking for and also keep up to date with upcoming colour trends for the following year. The conclusion for me is bright, everyone loves colour and are usually looking for a scarf to brighten up an outfit. I find the more unmatched the colours the more dramatic and unusual the design. I try not to pigeon hole my designs into seasons, however some design colours lend themselves to being more ‘summery’ and others more ‘wintery’ and this usually depends on the colours people associate with winter i.e: deep greens and reds = winter, oranges citrus brights = summer.
Why did you chose silk as your medium
The silk scarf is such a versatile accessory and for me acts as a blank canvas to let my artistic ideas flow. I have sampled in lots of mediums, wool blends, cotton and modal mixes. But I felt the images printed so beautifully on the silk and nowadays silk is such a valuable commodity, people are valuing their purchase more. When its cotton people are more likely to send it to the charity shop or it goes to the bottom of the wardrobe. If the scarf is that bit more expensive and then people will have it forever, they choose well and consider their purchase and choose longevity over throw away fashion.