Heals have a 200 year history of finding and commissioning practising artists and designers to create work for their own collections. Recently they have created homeware collaborations with Printmakers Kangan Arora, Maxine Sutton and Daniel Heath. This Autumn/Winter, Crafty Fox regular Jill has produced a collection of cushions for Heals all hand screen printed in her London studio. I asked her to tell us more about how it came about.
How did you get involved with Heals?
I met Caroline Dulko who’s now a buyer at heals through a craft fair, we were both selling our wares, we liked each others work and bought things from each other. I didn’t realise this though until we met in person for a meeting about the cushion project at the beginning of this year.
What inspired the collection you designed for them?
The collection was themed on the idea of a menagerie, so I was looking at exotic wild animals (I collect antique bird and animal anthologies) that would have formed part of the collections of the rich and wealthy hundreds of years ago in menageries, now in zoos and still also in the wild. There was a Menagerie at Tower Hill for six centuries until 1835. Queen Elizabeth I would let you visit her menagerie for free if you donated your cat or dog to feed the lions!
How does working towards a brief differ from designing for your own brand?
I worked in pretty much the same way as I usually work; having a think what to draw, doing loads of drawing, choosing my favourites, cutting them out putting them together, finding the right fabrics, deciding what colours etc… The way it differed was that I had to think what Heals customers would respond to and how my designs would fit into someones home and it had to be specific for Autumn Winter so that informed my decision when choosing a cosy moleskin fabric.
What did you enjoy most about the project?
I liked doing lots of new drawings, I liked working towards a more specific brief, I should do it more often! And it started other ideas too, but I loved the way the end result, the final collection hung well together. I really enjoyed working with Caroline, sending her reports of my progress and getting feedback from Heals. It was a proper collaboration. I’m also looking forward to going into Heals and seeing my cushions - I haven’t been yet!
Any tips for people seeking textile design commissions?
I would say try focus on your own work (be different), and try not to do too many things in terms of products, then get out there, lots! Approach as many shops as you can, do as many different fairs as you can and maybe if people see your work a few times in different places - they’ll remember you. You never know who you might meet just by showing people your work and talking about it.
Photo credits: Diana Stainton and Tessa Galloway