My growing up years were spent moving from house to house, country to country, continent to continent. I remember planning for one upcoming move to Canada: as a 13 year old I spent weeks preparing little project bags for myself and my siblings to work on on the long flights. I sewed little drawstring bags so that everything was contained and looked pretty, thought of age-appropriate sewing projects for my 7 year old brother and 15 year old sister and myself. I don’t think we ended up doing much sewing on the flight, but the joy of thinking up complete projects has stayed with me.
One of the houses I grew up in (in a small village on an island in the Pacific Ocean) had walls made of woven bamboo in beautiful designs. House building on Lavongai island is not just about functionality – a lot goes into the craftsmanship, using the right materials and the skills passed down through generations. On days when people gathered in the community space right beside our house for a whole day of building, I loved to watch, absorb, emulate. Using bush materials for building meant I could grab a few of my own and try it out to my heart’s content. I think living in a culture where its normal to just build a house, a boat or anything you need from the material that grows around you – I think this has shaped who I am.
I spent hours foraging, building, treasuring, creating. And this influences how I make things today, scavenging for material, building up a treasure-trove of beautiful, pleasing to touch and natural materials. I find creativity flows best when I’m holding something in my hands. So often these days we spend time looking at beautiful pictures of things other people have made that its hard to just start. Only once my hands are actually busy with needle and thread or a pencil and paper do the creative ideas start to flow. With my sewing kits I want to give you that same creative feeling, taking away the hours of looking and browsing, and instead giving you the tactile materialsmto touch, and start sewing.
Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to fabric design: being able to create the very material you work with. Why I’m so fascinated with the process of designing an object that is sewn with one of my own fabric designs. Being able to mix and match and create the actual colours and patterns that decorate as well as the 3-D object.
I discovered fabric design during the last year of my PhD and was instantly hooked. I spent a few years figuring out the intricacies of repeating patterns, learning software and trying out different ideas. I remember the first time a pattern came out the way I had envisioned it – the satisfaction that comes when you’ve put in hundreds of hours of practice so that you finally have the skills to create something the way you want it to be. At that point I started thinking about expanding further than pattern design and started experimenting with designing 3-D objects out of fabric, felt and yarn.
Around this time I also moved from Germany to England and had two little girls. I wanted to make lots of the things they needed myself and it was especially nice to design and sew toys and nursery accessories with my own fabrics. Over time I refined some of these designs, added new ones and the cream tea and lace collection was born.
After three years in England we moved to The Netherlands. Here I found a printing studio that is the stuff of dreams. Large bright rooms full of every possible printing press you can imagine. For the last year I’ve focused on lino print carving, printing, creating physical objects with my designs. It takes time, the process of printing by hand slows you down, makes you concentrate on each detail, learning the idiosyncrasies of each printing press and the difference a millimetre of pressure makes to the quality of the print. Every time I pull the paper off a fresh print, the design popping out at me thrills me. I’m working on a series of linoprint florals. As I learn to be a better pattern designer this is where I keep learning – how do you make something intricate, capture the flow of the natural form of a plant, and put it into repeat? Repeats often look harsh to the eye. There will always be some element of a square hitting your senses. There’s a fine art to working through and around that square, to soften it. I love calculating the intricate shapes, geometry still fascinates me. For my linoprint patterns I refine my existing patterns, painstakingly carving it from linoleum and hand-printing, before digitalising and putting back into repeat. This adds a clarity and pureness to my designs that make them sing, while working from existing patterns ensures the delicate flow of the repeat is preserved.
The products I create are a combination of linoprints on paper and fabric items. I’ve taken the linoprints back to the computer, scanned, recoloured and had them digitally printed onto my favourite natural materials. You will find a range of products for the home, a range for children and sewing kits as well as fabric, gift wrap and wall paper. Most of the products feature my newest linoprint designs, often in combination with some of my favourite hand-drawn and then digitalised fabric designs. I design all the products from scratch, starting with a drawing and then working through a series of prototypes until its just the way I want it. New product designs are then thoroughly tested by my toddler in-house testing testing team.