An Interview with textiles designer Susie Hetherington about her exclusive Flower Postcards range for Pemberly Fox
What is your inspiration for your textile designs?
I am inspired by details and patterns found in nature, mainly, which is ideal for designing flower postcards. I have been this way all my life; my mum said walking anywhere with me as a toddler took ages as I wanted to inspect every stone on the road, and take home every shell on the beach. I live on National Trust Common land and the village has beautiful wild flowers, free-roaming live stock, stunning views and ancient woodland. I don’t have to go very far for inspiration and I think that this is reflected in the greeting cards I designed for Pemberly Fox.
Who inspires you artistically?
Most people involved with the Arts and Craft movement, but specifically William Morris and Charles Voysey. Then later, great printmakers such as Eric Ravilious. Current artists/printmakers would include Mark Hearld, Marthe Armitage, and my friend’s Cameron Short and Lou Tonkin.
Why are you keen to showcase you designs through Pemberly Fox's greeting cards?
Having worked with Pemberly Fox on their brand identity it felt great to then be a contributor to their range. Complete creative freedom is a total gift, and when it is being given alongside their experience in printing, designing some flower postcards seemed like an opportunity to be leapt at.
Which are your three favourite flower postcards you designed?
My friends could answer this by telling you which designs I've sent out to them. Mostly they've been receiving the following flower postcards
Mariesii flower postcards, particularly in the blue colourway. I think it is striking yet delicate, with the contrast of white against blue.
Ivy Rose flower postcards, and my favourite colourway is again, blue. Ok, so blue is hands down my favourite colour anyway, but here I like it because the pattern on thes greeting cards reminds me of china tea sets.
Tournebury flower postcards in green. This pattern has always felt oriental, and shown at a small scale you can really see the full repeat, as if this card is more like wallpaper.
How do you come up with your design ideas?
If anything catches my eye when out and about I photograph it. Later – sometimes many months later – I then draw up these little details and start combining forms. Patterns of just sort of emerge. I am not sure I can really pinpoint when the ideas happen. However, as a graphic designer by trade I used to find my ideas were best when I was just about to fall asleep, or when I was doing a normal or repetitive thing, such as driving or swimming lengths, where I could allow my mind could wander.
When did you first realise that you had a talent for drawing?
My mum was a teacher at my school, and she would tell me that my class teacher, who was also an artist, would come rushing into the staff room to show her what I had just created in a lesson. It wouldn’t necessarily be drawing… I remember once it was a clay owl. Also people seemed to genuinely like things I made for them as a child, and they kept them. Making things for people became something I still really enjoy doing.
What are your favourite drawing materials?
I like to draw with a fine black pen, mostly; a Uni Ball 0.5mm
How long have you been designing/drawing?
After leaving art college 12 years ago and worked as a Graphic Designer. I got into textile design around 3 years ago, when my second daughter was a baby and I had to sell my Graphic Design business. However, I have been drawing and designing in some form or other since I was little.
What is the design/drawing that you are most proud of and why?
When I first started my own Graphic Design business, with two business partners, we were coming from a background of working for major brands, such as Coca-Cola and Unilever. Leaving that security and jumping into the unknown was a big deal, and we needed some portfolio projects to get people talking about us.
My business partner saw an interesting product in a magazine; mineral water packaged in cardboard rather than plastic. It was called ‘Aquapax’. We loved the idea of the product, but the look of the packaging was doing it no favours. So we wrote to the owner and offered to re-design it, I think for free.
As the designer, it was down to me to show we could improve it enough to get the attention of the major retailers, who had previously rejected the product. It worked; the design got lots of press and the work we had done made a big difference to a little company, and it was stocked by Waitrose. It felt like design really mattered to that little company, which is a feeling that can get lost when involved with the big budgets of major brands. And I still like the design, many years later. It was a bit different.
Who is your biggest fan?
My children. I have three daughters and they are surrounded by my work. My three year old, when asked what she is going to do when she is older, answers ‘fabric like mummy’. My six year old now points out scenes and flowers she thinks I should incorporate into a pattern.
How did you get started in the business?
As it was too much to juggle with young children, I sold my graphic design business when expecting my second daughter, . I started drawing again when I was sitting in the car if the kids had fallen asleep. I needed something to do with the sketches, so began lino cutting, and it all went from there.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Currently I am working round very young children, so my business is very part time. I hope that in 10 years time, when they are all at school and a little more independent, I will still be in my village doing similar sort of work, but hopefully it will be a busy, successful business that has grown alongside my children. I would also love to give my partner, Ollie, the chance to take some time off, as he has been busting a gut for us for many years whilst I have had the little ones.
Which other artists / designers do you most admire and why?
My best friend Lou Tonkin, who is a printmaker. She is a single mum of three, and I met her when expecting her first baby. From that point onwards she has managed to grow her art and her career into more and more beautiful work, despite raising a brood and managing all that life throws at her. She, like me, is easily inspired by simple pleasures, the nature on her doorstep, and just by being a maker. She just gets on and does it, beautifully.
Please choose your five favourite locations to visit in your hometown:
Jolly Nice Farm shop/ Café, Frampton Mansell (nr Cirencester), for, amongst other things, the best Salted Caramel ice cream you will ever taste.
Thistledown Camp site, Nymphsfield, Gloucestershire… I have never camped but it is a gorgeous spot and there is a lovely atmosphere on one of their pizza oven evenings.
Westonbirt Arborteum. If you like trees, like me, or want a good place to take the family or walk the dog.
Newark Park (National Trust Hunting Lodge), Gloucestershire. This is my closest National Trust property, and one of my favourites. It is not in any way big, and compared to some of their properties, the house and garden is less manicured and grand than many. In fact I would go as far as saying it is scruffy. But it has amazing views, and is very charming. And you can let your kids loose and enjoy a cuppa from their pavilion in the grounds. It’s saved me on many an overcast day, and lifted the spirits.
The Canteen/Domestic Science in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. This café is a regular hang out for my family on a weekend. It has a pretty, and interesting little courtyard location in the centre of our market town. It does great food, has friendly staff, and the interiors of it inspire me (it is sort of industrial, up-cycled chic). But best of all, it is joined onto ‘Domestic Science’, a fantastic interiors and gift shop with ever-changing, really inspiring stock. I take the kids to the Canteen, and then ask my partner if I can sneak next door and take a look whilst the children, and their sticky hands, are otherwise occupied.