60 Seconds with Isla Simpson
Isla studied textile design at Central Saint Martins and went on to design leather goods for clients including Aspinals of London, Anya Hindmarch & Whistles. In 2017, she set up her own studio designing embroidered table linens and home accessories. Last year, Isla launched her first online design course.
Q: Describe your style in 4 words.
A: Chintzy, Nostalgic, Cosy, Feminine, 90s. I know that’s five words!
Q: Tell us about your favourite project to date.
A: I just filmed and launched my first online design course, teaching people the art of table decoration design through digital drawing on the iPad. I’ve developed my own digital techniques, that respect the traditions of chintz design, but are so much faster.
Q: When and how did you discover Morris?
A: Bouncing on my parents’ Morris Golden Lily upholstered sofa from day dot!
Q: What is your favourite Morris & Co print and why?
A: I love Willow Bough, in the city, it brings the outside into the home, on such a pleasing scale. I want to use the blue colour way in my hallway.
Q: How do Morris & Co prints make you feel?
A: Cosy and familiar. I enjoy the timeless quality of them, they are such a good, long term investment, because I never tire of them.
Q: What’s your view on William Morris and the artistic movement he stood for?
A: William Morris’s brand was an aesthetic rebellion against the type of chintz patterns I like to design. But I think in this environmentally conscious age, if you are going to launch a product for the home, it must be exquisitely beautiful, and add real value to someone’s enjoyment of their home. And last a lifetime! That’s something he strove for and I seek to daily, in my designs.
Q: What’s the most creative way you’ve used Morris in a client’s home?
A: The downstairs loo at my parent’s home has had many Morris & Co wallpaper reincarnations over the years.
Q: What’s the secret to working with lots of pattern?
A: It’s like magical, mental gymnastics! I can’t begin to explain how….
Q: Is there anywhere you wouldn’t use Morris & Co papers or fabrics?
A: Never, it’s completely universal.
Q: What do you like to combine a Morris print with?
A: I like layering up multiple Morris prints; they all sit together beautifully. You only have to visit Emery Walker House, the Arts & Crafts house in Hammersmith, to see all those different Morris cushions, piled on various Morris loose covers to know it works.
Q: Do you stick to the rules of design - or are you a rebel?
A: I stick to what I truly love, you can rarely go wrong with that. I’ve had a classical training in printed textile design but I always challenge my designs to be a little unpredictable, I never want to get lazy.
Q: Where do you go for inspiration?
A: The homes of friends’ parents are a good source - it’s my dream that when they downsize, they offer you hand-me-down plates and soft furnishings. I like to call my style “a little bit Mum & Dad.”
Q: What’s your dream project?
A: I’m designing it right now, it's my first range of table linen designs.
Q: How would you incorporate Morris in that project?
Morris is ever present in my inspiration. I often think what a master of weaving multiple patterns together he was.
Q: What would you like to see from Morris next?
A: More Ben Pentreath 70s re-colours please…..it is the most inspiring collection ever.
Q: If you could customise a Morris & Co design, which would it be and what would you do?
A: Brer Rabbit! In the design, the rabbit recedes into the background, I’d like to see it pulled forward and embroidered.
Follow Isla on http://www.islasimpson.co.uk/ or @Isla_simpson
posted on 18 Jun 2021 by MORRIS & CO. in Interviews