The Maker Interview. PHYSICAL RHYTHM...the loom sets the pace for Eleanor Pritchard

As the Indian-summer turns tail and October's weather stakes it's claim it seems apposite that our sixth Maker Interview is with the extraordinarily talented textile designer Eleanor Pritchard.  Her blankets and cushions are the essential antidote to the seasonal change. And, to help keep you warm, we are offering you 20% OFF on all our TEXTILES until 11th Oct. Enter the code KEEPWARM when you checkout.
We asked Eleanor 10 questions. 

The Out Takes
1 NEEDS: the calming physical rhythm of weaving
2 WORKS: with a pin-board of flotsam and jetsam, stamps and postcards
3 WANTS: to design seating for London Transport
4 DREAMS: of a time travelling magic ticket (to hear Fela Kuti in Lagos 1973)
5 TREASURES: a glass of milk (see below)

detail, 405 Line weave

detail, 405 Line weave

Colour order; yarn on the shelves in Eleanor's studio

Colour order; yarn on the shelves in Eleanor's studio

Flotsam & Jetsam, studio pin-board

Flotsam & Jetsam, studio pin-board

So Long As Nothing Changes 1  (2011), Kai Samuels-Davis

So Long As Nothing Changes 1 (2011), Kai Samuels-Davis

Q1. Could you describe your studio?
We have a bright sunny studio in Deptford with great views out to Canary Wharf one side and Greenwich the other. The studio is very much a working space – so we have a big loom, and a number of different winding and stitching machines, as well as lots of yarn for sampling. The Cockpit Arts building is full of interesting designers and makers and there is a great community of like-minded folk here which makes for a lovely creative atmosphere.

Q2. What is your background…when did you begin designing and weaving?
From early childhood I always loved making things – we were the kind of family that always had the glue and scissors out… but it was not until my late twenties that I trained in weave at Chelsea. I loved my time at Art College – and it was there that I really got to grips with both the technical side of weaving, and also the process of developing a design or collection. Throughout my time at college I always knew that I wanted to set up my own studio, and as soon as I graduated I bought a loom and got cracking. It’s take a few years to build a real viable business, but I love the challenges of running my own show.

Q3. What does a typical day look like for you?
I generally get to the studio quite early – to have a quiet hour or so before anyone else gets in. Then there’s usually lots of hustle and bustle during the day with packing orders, blanket stitching and labelling and so on. A bit too much of my time is spent on the computer now, but I am still very hands-on when it comes to sampling and designing. And of course there’s always time for mugs of tea.

Q4. What things inspire or motivate you when your working?  
I love the physical rhythms of weaving – winding warps, threading the loom and so on. Each process sets its own pace, and I find these quite repetitive tasks really meditative and calming. And I love developing new designs – playing with colour and pattern. There is still something magical for me about the transformation of yarn into cloth – the end result seems so much more than the sum of its parts.

Q5. How do you arrive at a new pattern? - what is your design process? - how do you work?
We always have a pin-board in the studio with lots of flotsam and jetsam – postcards, photos, sketches, yarn samples, stamps, matchbooks and so on -  whatever catches my eye. When I am designing a new collection I usually start with quick sketches before moving on to sampling on the loom. We do all the sampling in the studio – usually trying out lots of variations of colour and pattern before we reach a design that we take forward to production. Once the design is done, we work with three different mills in the UK for our production – we weave the blankets in Carmarthanshire and Lancashire and the upholstery fabric on the Isle of Bute. 

Q6. What is the holy-grail / end-of-the-rainbow type project or commission or piece that you’d most love to work on?
I would love a commission to design seating for London Transport. I like the idea of bringing good, interesting design into people’s everyday lives. Enid Mark, Paul Nash and Marianne Straub all worked on early fabrics for London Transport and I would love to add to this legacy! 

Q7. If you weren’t doing this…what would you do?
I am sure I would still want to be working with my hands and feeling I was creating something. I think I would love working in a bakery or maybe a plant nursery. 

Q8. How do you switch ‘off’ and unwind…?
I am not sure you ever really switch off from this kind of work – but I do love running. 

Q9. If you were given a ticket to anywhere, where would you go?
I have a trip planned for Japan next spring which I am really excited about – but if I had a real magic ticket I would go to hear Fela Kuti playing at the Shrine in Lagos in 1973! 

Q10. What is your most treasured possession?
It is a little painting of a glass of milk by an American painter called Kai Samuels-Davies. The colours are really soft and muted – like a tiny detail from a seventeenth century Dutch interior.