This NEW WAVE blog post is one that I have been excited about writing for a long time and I’m so excited to share one of my most exciting freelance collaborations to date.
At the centre of this collaboration, entitled NEW WAVE, is Barbara Chandler, a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. Barbara has written for a long list of magazines and newspapers, including Homes & Gardens and the London Evening Standard. She can always be found photographing at London’s many trade shows and exhibitions, on a quest to spread the word about the emerging design talent that Britain has to offer. Almost a year ago, I received a phone call from Barbara, who was keen to curate a wallpaper collection that offers boutique designs at affordable mass market prices, from a selection of UK designers. The brand that would be working alongside Barbara manufacturing and selling these designs is one of the world’s leading wallpaper companies, Graham & Brown. This is a company with a strong brand history, with members of the original founding family still playing important roles in the running of the company. Graham & Brown are known for championing and nurturing British design talent, and this collaboration is testament to that.
A few weeks later, 25 designers from a wide variety of artistic backgrounds gathered at the Graham & Brown headquarters in Blackburn, for an introduction to the project. This included watching trend videos, learning more about the companies history, and we also had a very interesting tour of the factory. It was fascinating to see hundreds of metres of wallpaper being printed on rotary screen machines in a matter of minutes. There was also a rather tasty buffet that we tucked in to on arrival at the venue!
The brief was simple: ‘describe what surface pattern means to you through a wallpaper design’.
I drove home with my head spinning about all of the possible routes my wallpaper could take in terms of colour and theme. One important piece of advice we were given was that we had been chosen because both Barbara and Graham & Brown loved our work as it was, so I felt, whilst I wanted to explore a new theme or idea, I needed to remain true to my design style. As a proud Yorkshire lass, my work has often been inspired by the beautiful coastal surroundings in which I grew up, and also currently live. The rural countryside of Yorkshire also has a huge amount to offer, so I began thinking about how I could produce an exciting design that somehow celebrated the lush green rolling hills and market towns which can be found further inland. I hoped that by focusing on a different area of Yorkshire, I’d be able to move my work forwards and give it a new twist, whilst also building a story behind the design.
The fact that the Tour de France is heading to Yorkshire for the Grand Depart in July this year had always been at the back of my mind. Even though at the time, it was over a year away, promotion had already begun up north, alongside the extensive planning required to successfully run an event of this scale. You will never catch me personally riding a bike, but I love drawing bikes, so decided, that although perhaps the idea was a little quirky – I would develop a pattern that celebrated this event, but in a way that resulted in a design that could be enjoyed by many.
Gary Verity was at the heart of Yorkshire winning the bid, and I read an article about him and the pitch in the Dalesman, which became the focal point of my research. After an afternoon driving the route the race will take from Leeds to York, I spent a couple of weeks on and off drawing, amending drawings, drawing more, changing layouts and tweaking colour before finishing a design I truly felt happy with. Hand illustrated buildings surrounded by cobbles combine with a viaduct and patterned hills adorned with bikes to create an eye catching conversational print that is illustrative,colourful and most of all fun. The most nerve-wracking part was yet to come however. In order for my design to be in with a chance of being selected, I needed to present it to members of the G&B team, Barbara and also the fabulous communications company CamronPR, whose offices are based in Covent Garden; the chosen venue for this part of the project. Then followed a week or so of waiting before hearing from Barbara that my design had been selected to go in to production. Ecstatic doesn’t begin to describe how I felt at this point!
The wallpaper was manufactured in December 2013, there’s an image below of it coming off the printing machine.
We had a day of portraiture sessions in Blackburn in January, before all meeting up again on Tuesday this week for the press launch. This was held at the beautiful CitizenM boutique hotel in London. After months of secrecy, the wallpaper was unveiled to some of Britain’s best journalists. I can’t wait to see everyone’s designs pop up on blogs and in magazines over the coming months. The evening continued with a beautiful dinner at Soho House, followed by lots of laughter and cocktails back at the hotel. It was a wonderful evening, and I’m so incredibly happy to have been a part of this. You can see my design in-situ below – I love this photo!
Of course there isn’t just me that has contributed to this project. There are 12 other incredibly talented designers and artists who too have had their work put into production for use on wallpapers, to be sold worldwide through Graham & Brown. One of my favourite photos is the one below, a lovely lifestyle shot, that showcases everyone’s work beautifully.
The wallpapers goes on sale today! You can purchase them from here
I love this group shot of all of the designers together.
There are a few more lifestyle shots of some of the papers below:
Nancy Straughan – Coffee Bean
Louise Tiler – Urban Tree
Kate Usher – Fishes
Helen Stevens – Feather
Emma J Shipley – Paridisi I
I’d just like to say thank you to Barbara, the G&B team and CamronPR, it has been an amazing project to work on and a brilliant opportunity for my brand.