Hi everyone! How are you all today? I hope you’ve enjoyed the long Bank Holiday weekend if you live in the UK. Traditionally, this is a time when lots of us take part in DIY and try to get our homes ready for the greatly anticipated summer season. I’m happy to say that I actually haven’t been doing any DIY at all this weekend. That’s because my kitchen makeover, which has been in progress for a year, is finally finished. I can’t tell you what a relief that is. So this weekend we have been mostly enjoying our new space. I will be sharing a progress post with you guys shortly and then the final reveal will follow once I’ve had the time (and good light) to photograph it. So that’s all very exciting!
Something else exciting however, is that I am hosting a fantastic giveaway today, which I am sure you’ll love. A few weeks ago, I received an email from Niki Jones, a fantastic designer who wanted to introduce me to her work. I have no idea how I hadn’t come across her before if I’m honest and that’s why I really love it when people reach out to me. Once I had checked out Niki’s website, I knew she would be a perfect candidate to feature on The Design Sheppard so I immediately responded and asked if I could interview her so I could give you guys a more in-depth insight into her work. Luckily, she agreed to make time for us. So here it is:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from Glasgow and after many years away I returned here to set up my business eight years ago. I did my degree at The Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels and then went on to do my master at the Royal College of Art. After graduating, I started a design role at habitat, becoming the textile and style co-ordinator. I left after six years to pursue an opportunity as design director at Wedgwood. In 2005, I took time out of my career to have my son and after time working as a freelance designer I started to form the idea in my head to create my own collection which launched in September 2009.
How did you first discover your love of design? What is your earliest memory of design?
I loved drawing as a child. I found it very therapeutic. I remember when I moved into my own room that I was very considered and conscious about how I wanted my environment to be. I don’t think I was overly aware of this at the time, I was just naturally interested. However, when I look back on my childhood a lot of my memories come to me through colour and texture.
I remember the teal blue boucle sofa my parents had so vividly and the warp-raschel knitted curtains I used to hide behind in my bedroom. I think I was always destined for textiles.
You’ve had a really successful career. Why did you decide to set up your own company?
I suppose there was a combination of reasons. I am single mum, so being my own boss gives me a great degree of control and flexibility for my son. Having moved away from London, I had become very aware that there was an opportunity to tap into people’s appetite for something different that wasn’t available in their local vicinity. I loved the idea of a shop, but as I researched the business it became more apparent that the opportunities were online. This also gave me the opportunity to reach a larger audience of like-minded consumers. I loved the idea of bringing my lo-tech hand-crafted pieces to the public through the hi-tech technology of the internet.
What makes the Niki Jones collection so special?
We don’t do disposable. Each design is given great time and consideration and really has to earn its place within our range. We use great quality materials and traditional manufacturing skills to develop our products. We design products not just pattern. So a cushion is designed as a product rather than cut from running meterage with attention given to every detail.
Can you tell us about how and where your products are made?
We love to champion great craftsmanship and design alongside these skills to enhance them. So for instance, our hand-embroidered crewel embroidery collection is made by hand in Kashmir in the north of India. This collection celebrates this ancient craft but with a fresh and contemporary design approach. We seek out the best in heritage and artisanship, re-interpreting these skills to ensure their survival for future generations.
What is your favourite part of the design process?
When the first samples arrive in of my new designs. Its like Christmas morning!
You love to travel. How has this affected your design work?
I am interested in the history of pattern and how cultures often overlap. When the Victorians started to explore travel they collated influences, patterns and artefacts from all over the world and then combined them into their homes. These items then became aspirational and inspired other designs. I am fascinated by the journey that patterns take and how something ancient can appear entirely contemporary with a fresh perspective. I find travelling such a vital part of my design and development process. It exposes me to new and interesting patterns, colours, techniques and materials that then feed my design resources, keeping ideas fresh. I feel more focused and sharp when I am travelling and somehow more receptive to ideas.
Who or what have been your main design influences?
My time as designer and style co-ordinator at habitat was a vital step in my development. I was fortunate enough to be there during the time that Tom Dixon was Head of Design. His non-conventional approach and strong respect for design with in a commercial environment has had a lasting influence. During the six years I was there, I worked along side seriously talented established and young designers, such as Matthew Hilton, Georgina Godley and Bethan Gray. Being immersed this environment was probably the most important time of my career and helped me to find my own voice creatively.
Can you describe a normal day at work?
I can’t do anything in the morning without a fresh coffee. So no matter what, that’s my first port of call. No two days at work are the same, which is part of what I enjoy about it. I usually deal with emails first and draw up a list of things to do for the day. Then I get any invoicing or admin stuff out the way so that I can focus on whatever creative projects I have on. I find it hard to focus on the creative side of the business unless I am up to date with everything else. My job doesn’t really stop, it’s something that is with me all the time and being creative isn’t something that can be time-tabled.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you can tell us about?
I am looking at developing fabric by the meter in the coming year. This will allow us to explore other product categories such as upholstery and lampshades. I also have a few new collaborations launching in the coming year.
If you’re interested in learning more you can watch this short video about Niki and her studio
So it was great to hear more about Niki, her background and her design process. Now for the exciting giveaway! Niki has kindly offered us a duvet cover and two pillowcases from her new collection to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, simply follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck guys!