When I first found out I was pregnant back in 2013, I couldn’t wait to decorate our baby’s new bedroom. However, I needed to go gender neutral as my husband and I didn’t want to find out what gender our baby was until arrival day. I was almost certain we were having a boy but we decided a gender neutral theme would be the sensible option. (Good job too as we had a girl!) Coming up with a gender neutral design wasn’t as easy as I had initially thought. We ended up going for green and incorporated a woodland animal theme which is really lovely. You can read about our nursery project here.
It’s not all that easy to find gender neutral products for use in a children’s room that look nice, can grow with them and are great quality. This was a problem that textile designer Helen Baker also had. But rather than compromise she decided to fill this gap in the market by designing her own collection of fabrics, cushions and lampshades. The Cornish-inspired collection is right up my street, being from the neighbouring county myself. I love the graphic elements and if I were to redecorate our girls’ room I would definitely consider incorporating Helen’s designs. But for now, let’s find out a little bit more about Helen and her designs.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m Helen, a self-taught fabric designer, an interiors addict and life-long creator of things. I’m 38 years old and live in Wiltshire with my husband and two sons.
How did you first discover your love of design? What is your earliest memory of design?
I’ve loved design for as long as I can remember but my earliest memory of design is tracing my finger around the simple floral pattern on my bedroom wallpaper as a little girl. For me, I love how design is creative problem solving and have applied this in many ways, from finding the best layout of a room to designing my own fabrics to suit our family.
You grew up in Cornwall. How has this affected your approach to design?
I lived in Cornwall on and off for 25 years which has had a big impact on my approach to design, especially growing up on the north Cornish coast. The ever changing patterns and colours of the sea and sky has always fascinated me and this comes through in my nature inspired designs. My debut collection is titled ‘You can take the girl out of Cornwall..’, an updated contemporary coastal range reflecting modern Cornish life, a far cry form nautical clichés we so often seen.
What made you decide to set up your own design studio?
When I moved from Cornwall to Wiltshire in 2015 I was renovating our new home and looking for fabrics to suit my whole family without compromising on style. Being the only female in our household I didn’t want fussy florals but rather graphic design-inspired patterns that would work for us all in gender neutral colours. Frustrated with not finding what I was looking for, I decided to find out how fabrics are designed (more creative problem solving!). I taught myself how to illustrate digitally, took some online surface pattern courses and read lots of books on my design heroes. I used our house as a testing ground and was really pleased with the results. I wanted to push myself further to design a whole collection so I started with what I knew and was inspired by – life in Cornwall.
Can you tell us about how and where your products are made?
I am an eco-conscious consumer and I wanted my business to have the same principles. I am very pleased to be working with a fabric printer in the UK who prints onto 100% natural cottons using eco-friendly inks, thereby minimising the environmental impact of manufacturing.
What is your favourite part of the design process?
My favourite part is the brainstorming of a theme, probably the most creative part of the fabric design process. I surround myself with all the inspiration I can find on a topic to come up with potential design ideas to take further. I love exploring the different possibilities of this stage and finding out what works and what doesn’t by making initial sketches using paper and pencil.
Who or what have been your main design influences?
I’ve always loved bold and simple Scandinavian design that suits everyday family living so Marimekko is one of my biggest design heroes. Their ethos is to bring colour, pattern and happy memories into everyday living and I aspire to achieve these same goals. I also love the work of Orla Kiely who is a great believer in trusting your instincts alongside creating patterns that are uplifting and bring pleasure to others.
Can you describe a normal day at work?
No two days are ever the same, which is something I love about this job. I divide my days into creative days and business days as I prefer to focus on one aspect at a time. My creative days usually involve a walk to help clear my head and to reconnect with nature looking at shapes and patterns around us. Business days are spent fulfilling orders, emailing, and number crunching, all necessary parts to make the business happen.
What can we expect to see next from Helen Baker?
I’m putting the finishing touches to a British garden themed collection, again all nature inspired and drawing on silhouette shapes. It’s been so great to see how people have connected with the current collection, in particular with the family-friendly and gender neutral aspects, so I can’t wait to share this next range later in the year.
Thanks ever so much to Helen for taking part and for introducing us to your lovely products. I can’t wait to see the new designs later in the year.
What do you guys think about Helen’s Cornish-inspired collection? Have you found issues sourcing gender-neutral products for your home?