Who I am and what I do
I came to designing in my mid 30’s from a somewhat unconventional background. Family and cultural ties were strong and with this came obligation, so I studied and worked in law for 5 years before following my instincts to study fashion and textile design. I add to that a number of years spent researching techniques and processes that were not part of the local design industry.
My professional interest in textiles started as a student when I was unable to find the fabrics I could see in my imagination. Driven by need, I conducted experiments applying lacquers, heat, and acids in controlled and uncontrolled ways. I would dye, shred, and reconfigure the results, creating completely new textures. I still work this way.
My studio is in a beachside suburb of Sydney Australia, but all of my wallpaper is hand-printed in England. I am based in Europe for now to be closer to clients and research a collection. Projects are many and varied - from supplying wallpaper to Virgin Atlantic Airways, to a collection at the Cooper Hewitt New York; and, the continuing Braille wallpaper project.
How I work
There is no easy way to describe this, as I never really work with any theme or set idea. Quite the opposite. As an artist and craftsman, I follow feelings as they occur and this funnels itself into the technical and experimental process to determine how a notion can be realised - as a textile or wallpaper, or a garment - with the visual and tactile qualities I see in my mind.
In experimentation and creation, I embrace not only technical accuracy, but also trial and error, chance, accident. I relinquish control over the outcome – the end result often being different to what I had imagined. But I believe much more in possibility as opposed to probability.For me, to know exactly where I am going and why, destroys creativity. It is just a series of things that begin to happen without plan or reason. Then I apply technical knowledge to create a prototype. Then it goes to a printer to generate it in production quality. The computer rarely is used unless the design goes into repeat. Many of my ideas are very difficult to manufacture and I am on a continual search for the right manufacturers.
What inspires me
I always follow intuitive feelings in my work, coupled with the material and technical fluency acquired in the pursuit of vision. Inspiration is a very personal thing for me: there is never a theme. Even when I lecture, I discourage students from working with a theme. A theme will result in predetermined conscious or unconscious concepts related to that theme.
I always use a sketch book and sketch, I stick in samples that I make, or collect them in piles that I can get lost in. But I write more than I sketch - words, ideas, concerns that flow, these then somehow become physical or graphic. Take for example, the notion of medical depression: that we have drugs for every human feeling fascinates me - and worries me. Rest assured, this will be a wallpaper in the coming months.
My design philosophy
I think that good design is something that has integrity and is personal to the designer – completely devoid of the influence of the trends of the time, or colour and style forecasts. Good design is something that can not be dated or easily identified with a theme. If something is good, let it endure. I think that design is over intellectualized. I mean, it is just stuff. And there is too much of it being churned out. This is something that designers need to address.
Is wallpaper an art form? Not really – though the approach to creating something that will be a wallpaper may well be similar to an art approach. An original concept is important to me and this is probably more a fine art approach than a design approach.
Technology is a good thing and a bad thing - I see many of my students treat the computer and the internet as the only source of reference. They don’t want to get their hands dirty, and the computer makes them lazy. I think that the hand and the brain are the best, the most original, starting points – always. And technology is the flame that can cook it all together.
My stylistic influences
Definitely designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Reiko Sudo, and Martin Margiella who produced and continue to produce work that is highly personal and unfettered by market demand and trends. I respect this approach immensely – it is about a personal expression, rather than implementing a pre-researched market plan.
Craft - as opposed to technology - is very important to me. My work is all hand-printed and I have immense respect for the skills of the craftspersons who are so often overlooked in favour of the celebrity that designers achieve.
My future goals and ambitions
I have been researching in Greece and although I stayed in some rural remote places, life there has changed – and the skills that I remember from when I was a child. Many skills - like the way food is made or the folk arts - are disappearing. Once a certain generation dies, these things will be lost. I would like to preserve some of the skills that my grandmother and others had, and also the social history that goes with them.
Technology has been a great leap forward on many levels, I understand and appreciate that. And I do not seek to romanticise the past, but because of technology, there is a social and practical history that is dying and may be vital to us in the future. This concern will also end up as a wallpaper somehow.
And there is the Braille wallpaper concept. I want to work with disabled artists and writers to publish their work in the form of braille wallpaper. The larger phase of the project is to develop affordable braille signage. There are so many examples of where people who do not have vision or who have low vision have no way of accessing information that we take for granted.
My likes and dislikes
I dont like violence, aggression, political campaigns that use public money, discrimination in any form, and television.
I also don’t like the relentless march of personal technology. People have stopped looking at what surrounds them. They have stopped interacting with people around them, with strangers in the street. Have you tried smiling at a stranger lately? Homeless people on the street are friendlier than the average person.
Professionally, I really dislike having to water down concepts to suit market demands; fashion campaigns that use celebrities, and indeed the concept of celebrity itself bothers me. I also do not like to be told that professionally something can’t be done.