The Story Behind The Design

After having a conversation with a customer today it dawned on me that there is often a reason behind a design – unless of course you are like one of my all time favourite artists Agnes Martin who claims her head was like an empty vessel which captured external artistic messages which she then applied to canvas – she doesn’t seem to take much credit for her beautiful paintings as she claimed she was just a receiver and her hand automatically carried out the work. Wow.

pencil sharpens

You may well find yourself connecting with a piece of art or design but be totally unaware of the inspiration behind it. That’s great but I find if I am able to speak to the artist and hear their story, the art takes on a new depth or an extra layer.

I was lucky enough to meet artist Sandra Robinson at the Waterside Arts Centre, in Sale, close to Manchester last month and I made an instant connection with her ‘21:00 From London Euston’ train window series. I found them immensely atmospheric as each painting depicted dramatic and ever changing natural lighting conditions on a journey. She explained she was on a train from London to Manchester and she made written notes of what she saw from the window. She took these notes back to her studio and painted from her written instructions and the result is a very intense series of beautiful paintings full of movement.

A series of ten paintings by Sandra Robinson

A series of ten paintings by Sandra Robinson

The designs I have on my mugs also have a story attached. I was working in Iceland last January and as you can imagine there was very little light and it was brutally cold. I was watching the birds at the central lake, ‘Tjornin’, in central Reykjavik when I spotted some tiny low lying flowers growing on the banks of the lake. They made me smile that despite the very harsh conditions they were still determined and gutsy enough to grow! I knew straight away that I wanted to use these brave flowers in a design. The finished design is screen printed onto bone china mugs because I liked the idea of a hot steaming drink (obviously there are lots of steaming hot geothermal pools in Iceland) being enclosed by these tough little Icelandic flowers. The sky changes very quickly in Iceland and within a few hours I witnessed a stunning pink sunrise, intense clear blue skies, grey, snow laden skies and was hoping for a green Northern Lights sky – hence the colours of the mugs…

Tjornin Mugs

I also found the town and the Icelandic people very colourful so the two tone set of mugs represent the brightly coloured houses of Reykjavik, the black one the dark winter sky – nobody would know this but I thought you may like the reasoning behind the design!

Two Tone Tjornin mugs

T

house facades Reykjavic

The powerful, strong and elegant birds I was watching are depicted on these mugs.

Flying High Mugs

My ‘urban’ series of linen tea towels were inspired by the huge brightly coloured cranes and loading machinery at Leith Docks, Edinburgh. It’s a gritty, industrial and efficient place where tonnes of cargo start and finish their massive journeys across the sea. A magical place actually, full of intrigue. I really wanted to convey the bold, brash, powerful bright shapes and screen print the designs onto linen.

urban linen tea towels DSC_0019

And lastly, my Botanical DNA scarf was inspired by my Dad who was both a geneticist and a gardener. When I placed the plants in long rows, they reminded me of DNA helixes! The design is printed on a semi- sheer, floaty silk cotton blend.

Botanical DNA Scarf

Well I think that’s probably enough about my own designs for now (!) but you can see more (like my Sol LeWitt inspired cushions) on my shop

What are the stories behind your creations? 

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8 thoughts on “The Story Behind The Design

  1. Thanks for the mention Niki, I agree its great to know not just the inspiration but the reasoning behind the inspiration. Iceland sounds wonderful and you have captured the quiet beauty of those hardy flowers wonderfully on the mugs. And Agnes Martin, one of my favourites too!!

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    • Thanks Sandra. I hope you don’t mind me making a montage with your beautiful images but I wanted to convey the journey and the moving image from the train window. They looked great in the exhibition hanging in a line and I felt I was actually on that train too. Thanks for sending them.

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  2. I enjoyed reading about the connections between the finished product and the inspiration. Love the gray mug with golden flowers, the urban tea towels, and oh, the scarf is beautiful. Oh, and the collage of bold geometrics from Iceland is very eye-catching. Hope you’re well, and full of ideas…

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    • Hello, really lovely to hear from you as always. Thank you for noticing the important things, you always do! I hope you could have another quick look because the artist Sandra Robinson has sent me images of her work that I have now inserted to the post. I bet you will appreciate them :)

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  3. That’s brightened my day! It’s got me thinking too which is always handy especially when I’m feeling uninspired and just plain dull. And beautiful glimpses-from-a-train paintings. Your lovely yellow/grey mug has become a favourite with everyone – there’s always a battle for it and it’s become known as the ‘smug mug’ because that’s how you look when you bagsy it!

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