At Tent London this year, one of my favourite stands was, without doubt, that of Sian Elin, a surface pattern designer from Wales who sells her own range of textiles and wallpapers. Sian also works as a freelance illustrator and specialises in hand-drawn illustration as featured on her own range of greeting cards. Her bold, colourful designs are a joy to behold and it’s no wonder that she has received widespread press coverage since the launch of her new range at Tent. I wanted to get the inside story from Sian herself and luckily she kindly agreed to answer my questions.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am 29 years old and I live in Wales. I am creative, colourful, driven, spacey, and particular!
You used to work as a children’s book designer. How has this experience influenced your work today?
I loved my time working as a children’s book designer and it was a great career for five years. It has influenced my work through the use of colour – it is very important to create stimulating colours that children can engage with – and pattern too. I employed the use of pattern a lot in my role as senior designer and it has influenced my clarity in design, because it is very important to create clear designs that a reader can navigate easily and find stimulating. It also gave me great experience in running my own business – to be disciplined and work to deadlines, deal with suppliers, and run my own budgets.
How and why did you move from book design to surface pattern design?
I left full-time employment at the end of 2011 to fulfil my long-term ambition of owning my own surface pattern design business for interiors. It was a scary decision to quit, but also very motivating and empowering. I had been working on surface pattern design for two years whilst I was fully employed, so I took it one step further by making it my full-time job.
You recently exhibited at Tent London. How was that?
It was fantastic! It’s something I had been wanting to do ever since I visited the exhibition for the first time three years ago. It was like a dream come true to be at my stand exhibiting my own products, which I had put everything into. I got to meet lots of extremely talented designers there, some of whom I have admired over the years. There’s such a broad spectrum of creativity at Tent, it’s very inspiring.
Your new collection reflects your recent travels. Can you explain how?
It reflects my travels over the past three years or so, and also my time spent living in Israel recently. After travelling to India with my job, I became fascinated with Moorish and Islamic architecture. I had never seen anything like this in the flesh, and couldn’t quite believe that people had actually erected and designed these incredible buildings. I’ve been in awe of this kind of design and architecture ever since, from the Taj Mahal, to the Alhambra, to a simple archway in South America.
Apparently you have a fascination for the built environment. Tell us more.
Well, I’m just utterly addicted to the eclectic mix of colours, textures, and shapes that streets, signposts and buildings provide. I love the energy, quirkiness, and cultural identities apparent in cities. I am very impacted by colours in cities, which is why I fell in love with India so much. I recently visited New York, and just can’t get enough of the crazy hectic-ness and assault of colour at Times Square!
What else inspires you?
Nature; I really love the sea and the mountains. I grew up in the countryside in Wales and spent a lot of my childhood outside. I hiked the Inca Trail in Peru a couple of years ago, which was absolutely breath-taking. Over the years, I have taken countless photographs of the way the sea froths, or the contrasting purple and green leaves on a hill-side. Maybe nature will be something I incorporate into my designs at a later date.
Your work has been supported by the Arts Council of Wales. How did this come about?
Well, I knew I wanted to exhibit at Tent London and realised that it would be a large financial undertaking, so I applied for a grant online. Luckily, they came back to me a week or so later to let me know I had been successful. I feel incredibly lucky to have been supported by them.
What are your top tips for incorporating bold & colourful patterns into your home?
Start with a simple base, like nude walls and furniture. I really love grey, and think it can be a wonderful backdrop to pattern and colour. Use natural materials like wood. Add then add in bold colours and patterns through accessories, or objets d’art. You can pick up some amazingly colourful things whilst travelling abroad. I hope to accumulate a wonderful eclectic mix in my own home over the years.
What do you have planned for the future?
I hope to build the Sian Elin brand over the next year, and start selling my products in large department stores in the UK. In the future, I would like to expand my product range as well as build a small team of people to work alongside me.