You may have seen Sian Elin's work, since launching last year she's had some great publicity and her designs are certainly memorable. She's also very lovely, which makes me all the more pleased to have had a chat to her about her work...
patternbooth: What were you doing before you gave it all up to pursue patterns?
sian: I worked in the publishing industry for five years, as a children's book designer for Oxford University Press and Penguin in London. Both were fantastic experiences, and allowed me to get to where I am now. It instilled a love of pattern and colour, attention to detail, and a clarity in design – it is very important to create clear designs that a reader can navigate easily and find stimulating.
patternbooth: Tell us about that journey...from full time employment to today. What were the key steps you've taken?
sian: Well after graduating from University, I was attracted to children's publishing because I wanted to work with illustrators, and on colourful and exciting products. I've always done a lot of sketching myself, and so being able to commission wonderful illustrators was a huge draw. I was also able to work on my own artworks within the role, and use a lot of pattern and colour too.
After visiting lots of large trade fairs as part of my role – like Tent, and New Designers – I quickly realised I wanted to work in pattern full-time because it encompassed my two main interests: colour and illustration – and I am fascinated with the almost scientific aspect of pattern design, especially after traveling around India and the Mediterranean. I knew I wanted to transfer that discipline to interior products because I've always been very interested in the design of spaces, and how features in a room interact with one another. And in addition I very much wanted to work for myself, and build my own business.
So all of this combined meant I worked on pattern design in my spare time outside of work for 2 years, before taking the very scary plunge of leaving my full-time job at the end of last year. And I haven't looked back since!
patternbooth: What is your design inspiration?
sian: I love all things mid-century modern. I also love hand-drawn illustration and am very impacted by colour. My new collection focuses on the built environment, and is influenced by Islamic and Moorish Architecture after traveling through Asia, the Mediterranean, and the Levant. So they combine Scandinavian sensibilities with Moorish flair. This eclectic pairing is representative of my fascination with cities because of their mix of colours, textures, and shapes. I love the energy, quirkiness, and cultural identities evident in a metropolis.
patternbooth: How are you finding managing everything?
sian: The business side of things is lots of hard work, but really fun too. I have a business advisor who helps out with anything I am unsure on. And working in my role as Senior Designer in publishing gave me great experience in running my own business – to be disciplined and work to deadlines, deal with suppliers, and run large budgets.
The hard part is juggling every aspect of a business, from design and creativity, to sums, and suppliers, and marketing. But this is also incredibly satisfying, and the idea of working on all of these things was one of the reasons that I left my office job. So when all these aspects come together, that really makes me smile!
patternbooth: This is something I'm having a dilemma with at the moment...how did you decide what product lines to begin with?
sian: Well I knew I wanted to do cushions, because I am a little obsessed with them myself. I really like how versatile they are, and they can instantly change a space with very little work. And the teatowels I wanted to offer as a more affordable version, which can also be displayed as piece of art. There is something just so wonderfully tactile about textiles which informed my choice. I wanted to do a wallpaper range also, because I think the world of wallpaper is so exciting right now – the breadth of designs available is incredible! It's also quite a big challenge to design something which covers such a large surface area.
patternbooth: What is your proudest moment so far?
sian: I think exhibiting at Tent was a huge milestone for me, because it took a lot of hard work, blood, and sweat to get there! I am also quite proud of the press I received since Tent, and am very excited about upcoming publications that I will be featured in.
patternbooth: Where do you want to be in five years time? and do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
sian: I'd love to expand my range, and print onto other interior products. I'd also love to have a small team because it can be quite lonely working on your own sometimes!
My advice would be to take your camera with you wherever you go and record everything. Try and see pattern in everything you look at. And sketch and draw as much as possible – try everything out. In addition go to as many trade fairs as possible, meet as many people as you can, and talk to buyers in local shops. They are full of advice, and sometimes much easier to approach than a large shop.