Rosa & Clara Designs, created by East Dulwich resident Jessica Hayman, boasts homewares that are so beautiful they’ve even caught the eye of the V&A. Karen Jensen-Jones finds out more

Jessica Hayman is quite adamant that her old job as a lawyer can never compete with the satisfaction she now feels running her own business in East Dulwich, designing homewares, gifts and stationery.

‘Despite my love of art and illustration at school, it never occurred to me that it was something I could do for a living,’ says Jessica. ‘I decided to study law, which would lead to a ‘proper’ job, but after I graduated I took a year out and started my own handmade card business, which was quite successful. Graham and Green in Notting Hill was one of my first stockists and I’m very proud of that.’

After qualifying, Jessica worked as a solicitor for 10 years but she never lost her passion for illustration and design. ‘I was always making things and designing cards in my free time, but the opportunity to start my own business only presented itself once I was on maternity leave,’ says Jessica. ‘I took some short courses in digital textile design and screen printing to get up-to-speed with new technology and I’ve never looked back.’

Rosa & Clara Designs (named after Jessica’s daughters) is now a thriving business with the emphasis on creating premium quality, design-led products manufactured in Britain. With her signature designs in pineapples, flamingos and urban landscapes printed onto everyday items such as cushions, lampshades, coasters and wash bags, Jessica is passionate not only about her craft, but about supporting British manufacturers.

‘When I started out, I was incredibly lucky to be supported by the local independent shops in this area. Roullier White in East Dulwich is a great supporter of independent designers and was one of the first shops to stock my designs. Jane Newbery in Dulwich Village was also very loyal and I was determined to see my lampshades hanging in her beautiful shop. Lois in Peckham and Brave Girl Gifts in Crystal Palace also have an appreciation for interesting, well made designs and this has all added to the success of my business. In return, I’m passionate about supporting small British businesses myself.’

As demand for her designs has grown, Jessica finds she can no longer hand make everything herself but is not prepared to compromise on quality. ‘From day one, I knew I wanted everything I designed to be made to a particular standard in Britain,’ she says. ‘Tea towels are printed in Lincolnshire, wash bags handmade in Leamington Spa and my cushions are sewn by the Working Well Trust, a mental health charity based in London.’

However, lampshades are another matter and Jessica insists on making them herself in her East Dulwich studio: ‘I simply love making lampshades,’ says Jessica. ‘I make them to order so they’re the perfect size for any ceiling or lamp. I start with a hand-drawn design, often inspired by the London streets where I live, and I finish it digitally, which gives me a lot of design flexibility. When I first started designing, everything was done by hand but the digital process has enabled me to really experiment with colour and shapes. It’s a very exciting medium to be involved in and it’s come a long way since I first started.’

And it seems Jessica has come a long way since those early days making cards as she was recently selected as one of the designers taking part in an exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood called Small Stories: At Home in a Dolls’ House – an exhibition revealing the fascinating stories behind some of the UK’s best-loved dolls’ houses. The exhibition includes a Dream Home installation, with rooms designed by local artists and designers that children can play with and add to.

‘I’m a member of Designers/Makers [an agency supporting freelance designers] and the V&A gave members the opportunity to submit a concept for a miniature room to be included in a Dream Home installation as part of the exhibition,’ says Jessica. ‘I decided to design a bedroom because I love seeing print and pattern everywhere in the home and, for me, more is more – there’s no beige in my house! I made a miniature duvet and cushions using my flamingo design and a lampshade using my 1950s inspired pineapple print.

‘It was very labour intensive as it was all so intricate and my daughters helped by painting mini portraits of the family to put on the walls. It was quite a long wait before I got the call to say I’d been chosen. I’m especially honoured because my room will be shown alongside designer Donna Wilson, whose work I really admire, as well as a team from Liberty.’

The New Year will most certainly bring more exciting opportunities for this forward-thinking designer who is already planning ahead: ‘‘I’ll be selling at the Country Living Fair in spring, The Corner Shop at Craft Central in Clerkenwell in the summer and I’m considering expanding further and branching out into department stores. I just feel so lucky to be doing a job I love.’

Buy online at
Small Stories: At Home in a Dolls’ House runs until 6 September 2015