SOUTH WEST LONDON’S PRINT & PATTERN DESIGNERS
Creative south west London is home to some of the UK’s finest pattern designers and artisan print makers, bringing personality and fun to interior design. The Resident goes behind the scenes with designers Marie Holt, Gisela Graham and Hannah Watchorn
Words: Madeleine Howell
1 Marie Holt
When I meet Marie Holt, who founded ByMarie when she moved to Earlsfield five years ago, she is excitable after a productive morning in The Printing Tree Studio at Wimbledon Art Studios. ‘It has a lovely atmosphere – the whole building is full of artists,’ she tells me. Holt specialises in lampshades, as well as cushions and greetings cards. ‘In my studio at home I’ve got lampshades lining the walls,’ she laughs.
Her designs are all hand-drawn and she launched her first collection after travelling through south east Asia: ‘I was inspired by the landscapes, the wildlife and the transport – elephants, bikes, and boats. I took photographs of everything. I cycle everywhere myself – I love Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common.
Last weekend, I cycled to Little Venice.’ This year, fresh from a trip to Sri Lanka, she has launched a new collection featuring tigers, gorillas, giraffes and lions. ‘I like to experiment with the interiors of the shades, using copper, gold and matte finishes,’ she adds. ‘It makes for a contrast, and you can match it to the décor you already have.’ We also love her vintage range, featuring bold Sixties florals and striking paisleys. Next up, Holt is plotting to launch an Impressionist-inspired range, sparked by visits to art galleries across the globe.
You’ll often find Holt at the craft market on St John’s Hill, or up in Spitalfields, and you can even attend one of her lampshade making classes in Southfields. ‘People love making something to take home,’ she explains. ‘They always go away with a big smile.’
2 Gisela Graham
Fulham resident Gisela Graham is famous among homemakers for her town-and-country style. She built her company from scratch at her kitchen table, and Gisela Graham Ltd went on to become one of Europe’s foremost wholesale design companies.
She describes her pieces as ‘informal, timeless and pretty’. They’re all about marking special or seasonal events, such as the Queen’s 90th or the birth of a new baby, as well as celebrating the everyday. ‘I had two small children and I wanted to do something that would let me keep an eye on them,’ she explains. ‘I’ve loved crafts since I was young. I came from an arty family: my sister is a jewellery designer.’
She loves the village feel, ‘chic shops’ and restaurant scene in Fulham, where she’s lived for over 30 years, but draws inspiration from all sorts of places. ‘I keep my eyes open,’ she says. ‘I love to visit stately homes, cathedrals, art galleries, theatres and my house in Catalonia.’
This summer, a chunk of profits from Graham’s Kitchen Garden pattern will be donated to the ‘Save the Honey Bee’ fundraising campaign run by the British Bee Keepers Association. ‘I love bees,’ she tells me. ‘They’re important to the environment, and they’re under threat. The Kitchen Garden design has a fresh feel, with fruit and flowers as well as the bees that pollinate them.’ Her latest pattern, La Bohème, anticipates the autumn, with chrysanthemums and humming birds in ‘rather decadent colours, purples, and pinks’.
Nautical schemes, including her blue fish Shoreline pattern, are among her bestsellers. ‘I think it’s to do with nostalgia for natural landscapes,’ she explains. ‘The idea of unspoilt coastlines strikes a chord in us urban dwellers, and a marine theme fits in well in bathrooms.’
3 Hannah Watchorn
It’s hard to resist Hannah Watchorn’s finely detailed prints, which she describes as ‘modern country, in earthy colours’. Her tiny ‘Indian seed’ paisleys are the star of her new ‘Chikoo’ collection, and I’m also a fan of her pheasants, falcons and herons. ‘I’m inspired by the outdoors,’ she explains. ‘I try not to go for the obvious, and I look for interesting creatures or intricate patterns within antiques, old Greek pots and things.’ They’re simple, fresh and up-to-date, and sit well alongside the décor in both urban and rural homes. ‘When you walk into a room, it’s important to have character and detail,’ Watchorn says.
‘Mixing different prints and pieces together is what makes every home unique.’ When I catch up with her, she’s busy looking after her eight-week-old newborn and two-year-old at her home studio – which makes her hand-finished collection all the more impressive.
‘I met some block printers out in Jaipur a couple of years ago,’ she adds. ‘I’ve set up a relationship with some manufacturers out there using the old methods, which adds a subtle irregularity. I hand-draw everything and either use lino blocks over here, or carve the drawings onto wooden blocks and send them to India.’
How did she come to discover her passion for textiles? ‘I studied illustration, so I’ve always been artistic in that way. I used to be a stylist for various magazines, but then I found my calling working with print for G P & J Baker and Mulberry Home. I ended up working for Nicholas Herbert in Fulham, who does beautiful 18th and 19th century designs. I ran my first collection exclusively for him, but now I’ve started up on my own from my home studio, which is so exciting.’ You can find her prints at Nicholas Herbert Ltd or at Paint the Town Green in Earlsfield.