- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.6XeXEVt9.dpuf The Curiosity Project: Curb Your Curiosity: Kate Usher Studio

8 October 2012

Curb Your Curiosity: Kate Usher Studio

I'm actually seriously excited about today because despite the fact that it's Monday it does mark a brand new series of Curb Your Curiosity in which I hand select and interview disgustingly talented/creative/genius (delete as appropriate) designers.

'Curb' is aimed to both inspire from a visual perspective but also to give guidance and encouragement to anyone with a small scale business or someone considering setting up on their own. Each designer brings their own unique perspective to the table and it makes for a great read.

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Today's guest is a kindred spirit of mine, it's actually really rather spooky the number of things we have in common through reading this and indeed more as we've talked since. Her refreshing approach to children's wallpaper is like nothing I've seen before and her designs appeal to both adults and children alike. Who says we have to choose Thomas The Tank Engine or Peppa Pig all the time? Meet Kate Usher as she takes us through her life as a surface pattern designer...


'Hang About'
© Kate Usher



• Introduce yourself to us!
I'm a surface pattern designer, mum of two, child of 6, running my own business part time from home where I live with my husband and sons, Joel 7 and Milo 3.

• Describe your style…
I think this is probably something I'm still discovering myself, either that or it will never be a permanent thing as it changes constantly, but on the whole I am a big lover of colour and bold pattern. I enjoy using contrasts in my work between different materials and media or by fusing bold strong colours with complimentary muted tones. I'm a huge fan of collage. A lot of people say my work has a vintage feel with a contemporary twist.

• How did you find your way to surface design? 
I would say I was inspired by my oldest sister who studied textiles while I was still at school and from a young age I'd always had an unhealthy interest in home interiors! Elle Decoration and Ideal Home were my favourite magazines as a teen!?
I went straight from school into a fashion design course at college and whilst I enjoyed fashion, I quickly realised that I was more interested in the materials, prints and embellishments than the cut of a garment and so I began my degree in textiles and surface design. This was a five year journey for me, getting married and having two babies along the way, but I loved every minute and therefore couldn't ever imagine myself doing anything else.


'Sharkbait'
© Kate Usher


• What do you love about the medium you work in? 
Well I always start with hand-rendered artwork and finish everything digitally, so I guess I love having the best of both worlds. I love exploring with paints or mark-making or collage on paper and then taking that to the next level by polishing up the design on Photoshop. I also love the fact that I can edit and undo any mistakes at the click of a button!

• Where do you find your inspiration- who or what inspires you? 
There is just so much that inspires me. Frustratingly I always get my best design ideas as a vision in my sleep or just as I'm drifting off to sleep on a night!  I take a camera everywhere with me and I am constantly on the lookout for interesting textures to photograph and collage into my designs, be it a dirty pavement, flowing water or foliage in the park. I find masses of inspiration on the internet, and I have my favourite sites that I always refer to when looking for fresh ideas. Book By Its Cover is fantastic for illustration inspiration, they feature lots of different artist's and illustrators' sketch books on there, as is Pinterest - I could get lost for hours on this site! NotCot is also good for random snippets of visual inspiration.
A few of the people who inspire me are; children's book illustrator Oliver Jeffers, Indian fashion designer Manish Arora, stylist Faye Toogood, and the stunning work of German interior stylist Irina Graewe.

• How do you translate your inspiration into a design?
I like to begin with a mood board featuring inspiring photographs, magazine cuttings, colour chips and materials. Then I begin sourcing objects or photographs of what I want to draw and spend ages sketching these out in different ways in different mediums. 


'Fair Enough'
© Kate Usher


• How do you structure your working day? 
Get up, feed, clean, dress the kids, before I pack them off to school and nursery. Then I spend three or four hours working like crazy! It changes from day to day, one day a week I might concentrate on emails and paperwork, the next day design development, the next day sampling and order management. Then I pick up my youngest son and he usually falls asleep in the afternoon so I might squeeze in an hour here and a couple of hours in the evening after bedtime. Its all a bit hectic at the moment and a home studio is not the ideal working environment, but I wouldn't give up the privilege of being a stay at home mum for anything. So its a delicate balance, but as they are getting older I'm beginning to get more and more time to concentrate on my business.

• We all get creative block. How do you combat it?
Usually if I'm struggling creatively or if something isn't working out the way I want it to, I always find its best to go away and leave it, then come back a day or two later with fresh eyes. A walk in the park or by the sea always helps me, my children give me endless inspiration, so time out with them is never a bad thing. If I can afford the time, a day in London, taking in new sites, exhibitions and design trends will always shake off any creative block I have. In fact I usually come back with a buzzing head, too full of inspiration! 


'Roll Up, Roll Up'
© Kate Usher


• Share your favourite tool with us.
My Wacom Bamboo tablet and pen! Or my set of really good quality sable paint brushes.

Describe your dream creative space… 
My dream creative space is a garden studio, surrounded by beautiful plants and perhaps a Japanese style water garden. It would have big bi-fold glass doors which I could swing open on a sunny day. Inside it would be largely white and calm, with lots of well organised storage, comfy seating, sheepskins rugs, and a colourful visual inspiration wall, which would change constantly. Oh and some kitchen facilities so that I wouldn't have a single excuse to pop back into the house during my working day. And perhaps it its not too much to ask, a state of the art Bose sound system so that I could enjoy my favourite music while I work! If I won the lottery this space would be the first thing on my list!

• What lead to the moment that made you decide to sell your products professionally?
Throughout my final year of uni my plan was to start up some sort of  surface pattern business, or work as a freelancer (there aren't a huge deal of opportunities in the north for textile designers and as I was already settled with a family, moving south for employment wasn't an option). My final project at uni which happened to be wallpaper, was well received and it seemed like a natural progression to carry this success forward into a wallpaper design business. I was selected to exhibit my final project at New Designers in London. This gave me the encouragement that I had what it takes and in that same week I was also offered a place in my local area on an incubation scheme called 'Starter for Ten'. Initiated by Wayne Hemingway and Gateshead Council, it awarded creative entrepreneurs with free, shared studio space and business support for the first two years of setting up.


A bespoke design
© Kate Usher


• What's the biggest lesson you've learnt on your creative journey so far & what advice would you give to a newbie?
A decent business plan, time management, and good organisation are EVERYTHING! It's all very well being a talented designer and there are many people out there who can create pretty patterns but unless you are self motivated and are able to take a few pitfalls, without giving up at the first hurdle, then your creative talents can easily go to waste. If you don't feel confident that you can make it own your own, it would be a good idea to start out as an in-house designer, and gain some experience first. Ive never been the most organised person so I found running a business very challenging at first, and I'm still learning every day. I would say take advantage of any free help and advice you can get your hands on, from courses in book-keeping to marketing to furthering your design skills, never stop learning!

Take us on a crawl of your favourite shops. Where do you like to shop and why? 
My favourite Interiors shop in the whole country just happens to be local to me, RE in Corbridge, Northumberland. Its a beautiful emporium of vintage, handmade and reclaimed products, all carefully crammed into an old garage building. The owners are both ex-fashion designers with a faultless eye for style, their displays change regularly and I try to visit every couple of months as its a constant inspiration to me.

Anthropologie
© Fashion Foie Gras

Another of my favourites is the Anthropologie store on Kings Road, I could literally spend hours in there, browsing the knick knacks and carousels full of handcrafted drawer knobs! I feel the Anthropologie brand is so avant grade in terms of trends, they just do their own thing and its usually fantastic. When in London my favourite area to shop in is Kingly Court in Soho, such a nice collection of gorgeous little boutiques. For fashion I love Urban Outfitters, Brick Lane Thrift Store and the womenswear floor of Liberty (purely for inspiration!)


• Do you predict any trends emerging for pattern and colour for 2013? 
Inky, watery prints and porous textures will be strong. And the Navajo prints which have been big in fashion this year are going to seep through into interiors with lots of Native American influence, think dream catchers, multi-coloured weaves, and primitive decoration.

• What's on your bedside table?
Not a lot, a curled up eyelash (from my night out with the girls), my porcelain dog lamp and my iPhone. Oh and a copy of Creative Review but I rarely read books these days, sorry!

Complete the sentence: "If I could see my work hanging anywhere in the world it would be…"
A 'W' hotel in somewhere cosmopolitan like LA, Dubai or Shanghai. At least that's where I'd like to see it, perhaps not my children's collection but I'm working on a new collection aimed specifically at edgy and quirkier contract interior markets.

• You're planning your last ever meal and celebrating with a dinner party. You have 6 seats around your table-who would you invite to join you and what would you serve up? 
This is a tough one, probably Brigitte Bardot, Daniel Craig (he'd have to come in Bond character, The Dowager Countess of Grantham from Downton Abbey (if she were real!), Prince Harry, Zane Lowe (I just love his accent!) and my best friend Katie!! I wouldn't bother cooking, I think I'd hire in some Tepanyaki chefs to cook up a Japanese banquet in front of us followed by a chocolate themed feast for dessert!

• Give us a song! Which one song helps you whistle while you work? 
'Sailor Song' by Autoheart (formerly known as The Gadsdens) I just can get enough of this band! or Janelle Monae's  'Tightrope' if I really need picking up!




Kate-I had to pick Tightrope as this is my favourite pick me up too! Thanks for a fantastic first interview! Our next interview is back on Oct 15th. 

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