Read our interview with textile designer Niki Jones who explores craft in a contemporary way in her beautiful homewares. Before starting her own company, she worked as style coordinator at Habitat and design director at Wedgwood. Here, she explains why she feels so strongly on keeping craft alive and how she went about starting her business…
You studied textile and industrial design at Scottish College of Textiles and London’s Royal College of Art – what inspired you to take these courses and to become a designer?
I’ve always been obsessed with pattern and from a young age showed a natural aptitude for art. I love colour and pattern and feel that it can have a really uplifting effect. Textiles always interested me and after I had done my degree in Scotland I felt that I had a better technical knowledge but wanted the additional time doing my MA to allow me to really explore my own hand writing.
What did the job of style co-ordinator at Habitat entail and what exciting projects did you work on?
Habitat is a unique company and at the time I was there I don’t think I was aware of what a unique position I was in. I had a massive amount of creative freedom and traveled all over the world sourcing and developing product. I loved the breadth of the projects I could work on and the variety of styles and materials.
Why did you decide to start your own business and how did you go about it?
I have always been quite motivated and I enjoy carrying through a project from beginning to end. I often felt frustrated when I had to pass projects on to other people that didn’t have the same vision as me. I like to control all aspects of the collection and I feel that this makes the collection stronger and also makes me a better designer. After living in London for 10 years, I moved back to Scotland and became aware of how spoilt for choice I had been. I wanted to make my collection accessible, hence having it online. I have a real love of the hand made and was keen to explore traditional crafts in a contemporary style. In this fast moving, mechanized world, these traditional craft skills are vulnerable and will disappear.
There are many techniques that can only be made by hand. I love the fact that a product can be lovingly produced by a person and that each time it’s made it is slightly different. Referencing traditional techniques and patterns pays homeage to previous generations and gives it roots. In this mass-market world I want to contribute something of quality, which involves skill to be made.
I love referencing the past when designing and often start a new range this way. At the moment I’ve been taking inspiration from polish paper cuts. Other designers I find inspiring are Paola Navone and Marcel Wanders. I’d love to build a collection like Tricia Guild of Designers Guild one day – she’s a unique figure within textiles.
What’s your top tip for anyone wanting to start their own business?
You have to have courage and you must see the positive in all the problems that are thrown at you. It’s a massive learning curve, but I think if you think about everything in bite size pieces it becomes more manageable. Don’t lose site of your goals and be true to yourself.
How would you describe your home’s style and what do your family think of it?
My own style is relaxed and eclectic. I don’t ‘design’ a room scheme, I just have collections of objects that I have found or designed over the years. I enjoy changing things around and I think it gives you a new appreciation for objects when you place them in different spaces. I love colour and pattern and like to experiment in my home with new prototypes. I live with my 5 year old son who loves to draw and often gives me his own designs for cushions.
What three products could you not live without?
I could live without anything apart from my son, but three objects I love and enjoy having are…
…my vintage Kantha quilts I have on my bed. Not only do they look gorgeous and feel great, they are one of a kind.
My ceramic wall piece by brazilian artist Valeria Nascimento. I never tire of looking at this in the changing light.
My Robin Day dining chairs. They are so comfortable and look great and remind me of my days at habitat.
What’s your top tip for aspiring designers?
I think it has to come from the heart. If it interests you and you love it then it shines though in the product. You also have to understand the manufacturing process to get the best results.
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