Vanessa Arbuthnott designs wonderful fabrics, rugs and wallpapers. Enchanted by her latest Swedish collection, ACHICA Living sat her down for a flat white and biscotti to talk Birtwell, buttercups and beautiful soft colours…
Did you always know you would be a designer and what was your first big break into the design world and setting up your business?
Not at all – I dropped art before GCSE and did a science degree with nursing, and ended up working mainly in Intensive Care. I then did a PGCE and taught art and crafts to 5-9 year olds. I realised how much I connected with art and so a few years later, while I was bringing up four children, I did a morning a week studying surface print at Stroud Art College.
Over four years I built up my skills to print my own fabric designs by hand. I then offered my house to magazines as a photography location – they spotted my fabrics and asked if they could include them in their shots and it took off from there…
What is your favourite personal design?
My favourite is Songbirds in Buttercup and Clay! I love the wiggle and spots in the design and the stylized birds.
Which fellow designers do you admire?
I admire Rapture and Wright for their beautiful freely drawn designs, and Celia Birtwell for her charming images.
Who’s your favourite artist?
Matisse, because I love his paper cut-outs and the reason for creating them because he found brush works too difficult is his wheelchair-bound old age.
Do you ever wake up feeling uninspired and if so, how do you overcome designer’s block?
Frequently….I just have to set some time aside and surround myself with inspiring books!
What advice would you give anyone wanting to be a designer and set up their own business?
Not to hesitate – must feel totally confident about the product and go for it!
Which three products can’t you live without?
My woollen rugs from Solva woollen mill. The beautiful Tub chair that we make to order and finally our new organic cotton/linen plain in Teal.
How would you describe your home’s style?
Chaotic Gustavian country!
How do you spend your weekends?
Gardening….cooking….looking after my family.
Tell us one thing we don’t know about you?
I am a passionate bird watcher!
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