deryn relph

Today I'm pleased to share with you my chat with the very clever Deryn Relph.  You may remember I first showed Deryn's work in my Pulse review earlier in the year, so it was a treat for me to find out more about her colourful world.

1. Tell us about your creative journey so far?

After graduating in 2010, I didn’t have a definite plan in mind with regards to my career! I’d previously worked in Upholstery and Soft furnishings, and hoped I could combine my new textile design skills with that. I exhibited at New Designers in 2010 and from that got freelance design & colour work as well as commissions which made me realize that perhaps I could have a creative future! By embracing all sorts of opportunities and working hard things have gone from strength to strength!

2. What are your early creative memories?

I’ve always made things! I particularly remember my frustration, aged about 5, at not being able to create what was in my head. I wanted to make a spider with a ball of wool and just kept winding it round and round – I couldn’t work out how to fasten it off, or how to create the legs!

My nan taught me to knit and crochet. My first knitted creation in bottle green acrylic was a very odd-shaped, holey piece that became a blanket for my brother’s Action Man.

I also crocheted a hat, booties and mittens for a new arrival in the family. I’ve no idea if they even fitted –  I hadn’t followed any pattern just made it up as I went along!

I was about 7 when I made my first garment. A rust coloured corduroy skirt, with matching tasseled bag – it was the Seventies after all!

3. You produce a variety of work from re-upholstered pieces to, cushions to lampshades. What is your favourite way of working?

I’ve tend to work in a variety of ways that include small batch production as well as bespoke commissioned pieces. I produce a core collection about once a year. This is predominantly for online sales and trade customers – the pieces are repeatable. I really enjoy the initial designing for a new collection but after a year or so making the same thing it can feel a bit monotonous. I much prefer working on larger, more individual pieces such as chairs and footstools or a commissioned piece such as a lampshade. New challenges help keep creative ideas flowing!

4. Your work is super colourful. What inspires your choices?

I grew up in the Seventies and think my love of colours probably originates from then, being surrounded by all that psychedelic colour and pattern! I try and embrace the power of colour as a sustainable design solution – I hope that if something makes you smile or feel happy, you are more likely to keep it for longer.

For individual collections I work with a concept or idea, take photos, collect visual imagery and create mood & colour boards. A colour palette begins to emerge, and I fine tune that by working with my yarn shade cards, sketching and sampling.

Inspiration is often from microscopic/scientific imagery, natural structures or nostalgic objects. My Buttonbox collection was inspired by my Nanna’s salvaged button collection, whilst my most recent collection, Petals & Pixels was inspired by structures and patterns found in flowers.

5. What are the challenges of running a creative business?

For me the biggest challenge is definitely trying to maintain some kind of work-life balance, though that’s probably true of anyone that is self employed – not knowing when opportunities will come means it’s very difficult to say ‘no’ to anything, particularly if it has a guaranteed fee attached!

Once you’re established, finding time to design new things can be tricky too! Time planning, and routine are key to keeping up with orders, admin, accounts and design development – three years in, I’m getting better but am still not quite there yet!

6. What are the joys?

Having complete creative freedom is great! It’s also exciting being able to work on freelance projects that mean my designs are put into production on a scale I could never really contemplate. Working hard is rewarding too as it’s all for your own benefit, and there’s flexibility about where and when you work.


7. What are the key lessons you've learnt along the way?

Research! – be that by visiting the shows or exhibitions you plan to take part in, trends, your customer, what’s already on the market, costings – you need to have a really clear idea of everything.

Planning – setting deadlines by booking an event can be nerve-wracking but also very motivating!

Identity – knowing yourself, your style and your customer/client is important to maintain integrity and develop your brand.

Commercial viability – may feel like it’s stifling creativity, but it’s also necessary to recognize what is feasible.

Recognize your strengths & weaknesses! –  join networks to get advice and support, and if need be get help with important aspects of your business, for example photography. Good photos are vital, I don’t have those skills, so prefer to enlist the help of a professional!

It’s not easy! – I’ve learnt patience and perseverance!

8. If someone was considering producing their own line, what advice would you give them?

You’ll need lots of determination and hard work. It’s very rewarding at times, but can be soul destroying and isolating too – a real roller coaster! Joining a creative network or having a studio space with other creative people can be really beneficial.

You’ll also need courage, real belief in what you do, an element of risk taking and commitment. In the first few years you are likely to need another source of income, say from teaching, freelancing or a part-time job, but if you stick at it, it’s definitely worth it!