Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Mount Haven Hotel, Marazion, Cornwall

Those who have followed my blog for a while have seen my large wall panel screen-prints develop, starting with the Chrysanthemum panel grown from a little plug plant in May 2012 (here), and the pen and ink sketch that inspired the panel and colours noted in November 2013 (here).

Earlier this year I had a wonderful commission to screen-print three of these panels for the Mount Haven Hotel, Marazion in Cornwall. The hotel has been recently taken over by the St. Aubyn Estates who wanted to introduce a new evolutionary design and colour scheme that would fit with the hotels long established reputation for comfort and relaxation. I met Lord and Lady St. Levan when they saw my stand at Cornwall Design Fair last year and they later visited my North Devon studio to see more of my work and select the designs, colours and fabric. The hotel is due to re-open on June 1st with the three panels framed and sited in the bar area of the hotel in front of a vast window overlooking St. Michaels Mount and the Cornish coast. Here I am in front of the finished Fern, Chrysanthemum and Beech panels before they headed off earlier this month.

It's lovely to think that my work will be on show in such an amazing hotel and seen by so many people! Some of the panel print developments are documented on my Instagram photos (here) and of course if you would like one of your own, the panels are available to commission either via my new web-site (here) or by contacting me directly through the contact link.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Marketing my way through 2017

Like many craftspeople I've had what's sometimes called a 'Portfolio career,' i.e. I've taken on part-time teaching, run workshops, licensed and sold my designs and illustrations to supplement my earnings as a craftsperson/maker. This year I decided to give my business a bit of an overhaul and improve the things I'm not very good at e.g. marketing, sales, branding, number crunching! and joined the Design Trust's 111 club in order to Dream, Plan, Do and the emphasis is very much on the do!

As a 21st business birthday present, I decided to have some 1-2-1 sessions with Patricia Van den Akker who runs the Design Trust in the UK. As a result, I've worked hard and made some progress, I have a new website and shop (, I have a clearer understanding of what my brand is (or will be), I know what motivates me and what I'm most passionate about, but I'm finding it difficult to fit it all in, and create new work and do all the fairs and cope with all the other things life has a habit of throwing at you!

This is why my blog and drawing have taken a back seat as behind this silent exterior I'm working harder than ever. (I've also realised that I find marketing my work really difficult as my work is very much a part of who I am, and my creative self esteem is, even after 21 years in business, still easily dented).

Of the many things I've achieved this year so far, the creative highlight was printing my own lengths of fabric. The Ivy Block I designed in 2014, as a block and screen repeat, but then sent it off to a manufacturer who printed it on a digital printer. You might wonder what the difference is between a commercially/digitally printed length of fabric and a studio-printed length of fabric? In the end the difference is far beyond the look of the print, or it's commercial viability, it's the level of satisfaction of doing something you were trained for which in my case was thirty five years ago at Camberwell Art College, and although the big fabric manufacturers dominate the textile industry, I believe there is still a place however small, for fabric that's printed on an Arts and Crafts scale.

Here are the first images of the Ivy Block design being sampled and printed in my studio. I'll be exhibiting these fabrics at West Dean Arts and Crafts Festival from 2nd-4th June and at The Contemporary Crafts Festival, Bovey Tracey 9th - 11th June. Well worth a visit if you can make either of them, and I'd love to talk you through the print process if you do.

First colour sampling...

Blue Ivy detail...

Imagine such a colourful woodland!...

Printing the first length, for my living room - Arts & Crafts inspired colours...

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful"
William Morris

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Colour Stories 2017

My year so far has been mainly in the print studio developing colour stories selected from a few of the many hundreds of colours I've documented over the past 5 years (hurray!!!). I feel so excited about the latest development in this journey that's gone from flora/fauna, to colour, to sketch, and now lastly to print. A body of work informed by the colours I've collected and noted from the North Devon landscape, my garden, other peoples gardens! Every colour reminding me of times past, people I've loved and days out and about with our lovely dogs.

Here are the first two colour stories...

The first colour story is from my daily walk with Luna. Brambles, ferns and perturbed pheasants as I scramble through the banks looking for her!

Once I had decided on the colours, they were then developed and recorded as Reactive Dye recipes so that I will be able to re-produce the colours over and over. This takes time, carefully adjusting the dyes and colour balance, allowing for the underlying grey tone of the natural linen, until I'm completely happy with the colour and feel its the best that can be achieved.

The second colour story is from the sand dunes. Club Rush, Marram Grass and Magpie feathers, all from the extensive dune systems in North Devon. Subtle, sandy, coastal. Working from the principle that the colours from the landscape will be as harmonious and uplifting to look at and live with inside as they are out. 

I may mix and match these colours i.e. not only work with them in their individual colour stories, but the really important thing is - that the colours above are now translated into dye recipes and therefore onto my textiles!!

I'm recently using Instagram to show more of my print and product developments, find me  @sampickard_textiles

Friday, 14 October 2016

Screen Printing in the studio Fern collection

Drawing isn't work for me, even though it is of course an important part of my work, it's also how I unwind and relax. Rather than pick up a book in the evening or watch TV, over the past ten years years often I've preferred to draw. It gives me a huge input of inspiration, as well as original imagery to use in my designs...

...or that's until this year, when my days have been so full on and labour intensive I haven't had any spare energy or even inclination, and drawing in the evening has been squeezed out! (I have at times wondered if I will ever draw again, but let's not head off down that train of thought!).

It's not all doom and gloom however as some of those sparks of an idea I've had whilst drawing have filtered into new textile designs. In particular a new Fern panel, as well as Fern cushions and napkins have hit the print table. They were a great success when I exhibited them last week at 'Handmade at Kew' and I thought I'd share some images here...(as I'm not drawing!)

Super size ferns drying on the print table..

With Luna! (she was not overly keen to pose, but she does give a sense of scale!).
Ivy fabric in the background...

With a fellow panel...

Two by two napkins drying on the rack...
Folded Fern napkins with Beech and a few Rabbits, not unlike the woods here in North Devon...
All now available from my website shop! 

I've just joined the 111 club set up by Patricia Van den Akker of the Design Trust. In 2017, I intend to take time, along with one hundred and ten other creatives (internationally), to properly reflect on and make informed choices about running my business in 2017! and thereby (hopefully) make more time for the things that matter most.

If it's of interest to you there may be a few places left  - find out more about it here ...

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Monterey Cone journey's around the world with Åry

It has been a very exciting Autumn for my Monterey Cone, which has headed off in various re- designed forms, from its home here on the edge of Exmoor in North Devon, on a journey, not only to regions of the British Isles, but to the far corners of the world as well. Who knows it may well eventually find its way to Monterey!

Firstly this year I was asked by the Swedish company Åry to design a new tray collection. They liked my Monterey Cone cushion, but wanted me to design something exclusively for them. I scaled down the cone, added some pine needles, then introduced a change of scale by including some branches and cones of the Larch. Thinking that a few rare Heath Fritillary butterflies may well have visited my cone in the Heddon valley, I added these in as well.

It's not possible to print metallics onto these beautiful birch wood trays, so I decided to recreate a metallic feel to the design, keeping the look of the copper/bronze tones of the printed cushion. Getting the exact colour balance was painstakingly slow, printing many sample colours in order to achieve exactly the right tones.

When you're working on a project like this, it can seem a long time before you see the product, or even share any images. The final trays and table mats were launched this Autumn by Åry at Formex in Stockholm, then Maison et Objet in Paris and are even better that I'd hoped. I was so pleased and delighted to see them when Åry sent me a photo from their stand a few weeks ago. Now that I have some samples of my own, I thought I'd write about them...

Table mats and coasters...

Moorland co-ordinates (!) with my new hand printed Beech napkins...

I'm reminded of the fact that I drew the Monterey cone after I found it on the ground after a storm in the Heddon Valley on Exmoor, and it has brought so much inspiration to me as well as others.

...and if that wasn't enough, the Monterey Cone cushion is exclusively part of the National Trust's Artisan and Craft Autumn collection, in some of the larger shops and available online here!

I'm exhibiting at Handmade at Kew, in the world famous Royal Botanical Gardens, from 6th - 9th October. I have a few Private View invites left for the evening of the 5th October, if you would like to come, please email me with your postal address and I'll be happy to send one to you (while still available)!

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Colour from the season - Hard Fern green

As a self-employed designer/maker,  I'm pretty disciplined on the whole. I rise early, walk Luna and start work by 9am. I usually work until 6pm, but sometimes later. I also often work on Saturday and if I'm running a screen-printing or Photoshop workshop, I work all weekend. The plus side is of course that I love my work and as long as I don't beat myself up for not getting something done, in the main, no-one else does either.

These attractive little ferns, which grow everywhere here in North Devon are called Hard Ferns or Blechnum spicant (slightly strange name so called because of their leathery form (?)). I've made time to sketch a few of them, to feature in a new wall panel along with a couple of other ferns, which I hope to put on screen and print at a super-sized scale next week.

I generally design what I would love to live with myself. As Oscar Wilde so aptly said -
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken"...

In case you wonder what soft ferns look like? I'm attaching a photo of a Soft Shield Fern (Polystichum setiferum) below...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Old House New Home - amazing blind!

It's been a year full of new challenges..!

In February, I had a very interesting phone call from the television company, Amazing Productions. They were working on a fab new home makeover show called 'Old House, New Home' for Channel 4, currently showing in the UK (here), and asked if George Clarke, architect and presenter, could help me print something in my studio as a surprise present to the homeowner, Emily. 

Here's George in my studio!!! 

After working out what might be feasible in the time frame, we decided that I would design a blind that George and I would screen-print. The design was to be inspired by fragments of an old 1950's wallpaper that had been in Emily's bathroom. The wallpaper would have to go during the renovation and my new design would be an updated contemporary reference to it. 

I only had a very short time span for this, but enjoyed the whole project immensely -
Here's a few extra images; printing with George; from my sketchpad; and of the blind on the print table...

Always amazing...printing!

happy printers...

The two options on the colourway were fuschia pink and silver along with a green and grey which matched the floor tiles and walls in the bathroom.  Here's the pink in my sketchbook, but after sampling, the silver was selected...

Raw linen, chartreuse, charcoal grey and silver...

upside down on my print table...

and of course the final made-up blind in Emily's house..! 

Special thanks to the fantastic production team at Amazing Productions!
It was really lovely to meet George, also Emily, and the blind was beautifully sewn up by Julia at Finishing Touches' in South Molton.


We are running a new Photoshop to Screen-Printing short course in my studio in September, also a "Photoshop for Textiles" short course at West Dean College this Autumn. More Autumn Screen printing and Photoshop for Textiles workshop dates to be finalised soon...

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Colour from the season - Black Lace Elder - black

As an alternative to "a drawing a day" (which frankly for me is unachievable for one reason or another much of the time), you might like my motivational phrase to myself at the moment - "one leaf at a time."

So yesterday, in order to keep my colour notebook going, (which primarily of course I keep as my own colour and image resource, and inspiration), I decided to draw something simple, just an outline drawing. If all I can manage to sketch is a leaf, then find a leaf that I feel inclined to draw and enjoy drawing it!

Here are the wonderful colours I noted in this Black Lace Elder leaf. An intricate dark red purple leaf, the underside is a very French grey green with deep pink veins throughout. It's woody branches are a pale dry brown and the flowers themselves will be a foam of Champagne pink.

Not quite in flower in my garden - here's the outline pen and ink drawing, alongside it's gorgeous colours..!

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Screen Printing in the studio - Gorse

Gorse, in all it's yellow spiky splendour, is out in full bloom on the heath and lanes around Exmoor right now. It flowers all year round of course, but has it's real moment of madness in April and May. What I love most about Gorse is the mixed messages of sweet coconut fragrance from the pea flowers, alongside it's dangerously resilient thorns, and I've tried to capture something of this in my design.

This print for a wall panel has taken over a year from initial drawings and concept, to finally getting onto screen and printed. Maybe the best things in life do sometimes take a bit longer to reach fruition?

Here's the first panel being printed in my studio last week...

Very very dark green..!


I'll be exhibiting the Gorse at these Fairs in 2016:

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Spring Cushions for the National Trust

As fresh as February's temperatures, slate grey and white screen-printed onto unbleached linen, my new Spring cushions have sprung into the National Trust shops and online, featuring some of my favourite flora from my seasonal notebooks.

Exclusive to the National Trust's Artisan and Craft collection, you can claim one (or two) of these limited edition lovelies in their online shop here...

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Forty Season Scarves cont...

When I noticed the Jay at the side of the road in 2012 on our way back from Cornwall (here) I would never have guessed that his colours would be the start of a new scarf collection but I've always found that as long as I take the first step, there's always the probability it will lead to the next.

I'm very pleased that they've been such a success, not least because I so enjoy printing them. At last I've had a chance to print a few to go on sale in my online shop (here). Every one is an individual having its own unique character, pattern and colour balance (just like people really!). The scarf you'll see in the image on the shop is the scarf you can uniquely own.

Printing in the studio with Luna on the alert and a Swallow scarf...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Colour from the Season - Monterey Pine Needle green

Inevitably seasons pass and everything gets a little older. Even the Monterey Pine in the Heddon Valley was looking the worse for wear when I visited it last week after weeks of wind and rain. It seemed to be leaning over even more than usual. I went after the storms especially to gather a few of its needles for a new design I'm working on. Even after the tail end of Storm Frank (?!) I had to scramble around the banks to find a few small branches as it doesn't give up its cones, or it would seem, its needles very readily.

Challenging on the eyes to distinguish between the background and foreground needles, I had to really concentrate, not unlike drawing the Monterey Cone! (here).

Rich earthy colours of the needles...

A sight for sore eyes on a grey January day. The Hunter's Inn with Monterey Pine (behind the right chimney).

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Posy - Gorse, Heather (and a few travel essentials)

Happy New Year!

Christmas was a last minute rush, but yesterday, I had time to get on with some sketching! Walking in the Heddon Valley it was uplifting to see the Gorse glowing with new flowers and buds. I'm sketching a few more of its prickly stems as I have a plan for it. It's colours are on a previous notebook page (here), but instead here's a posy of Gorse and Heather on a wet and windy New Years Eve!

My Christmas presents this year included a few travel kit essentials!

A Schmincke Aquarell waterpan set! (Boxing day fun)...

Paint, Gorse and new super duper specs...

A3, A4, A5 and yes A6 Moleskines with the lovely Loona Doona...

Last but not least - new pocket secateurs - (I couldn't have picked the Gorse without them!)

Roll on 2016!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Colour from the season - Spray Chrysanthemum orange

There's nothing like a Chrysanthemum bloom to re-ignite my motivation to draw however tired I'm feeling!

These spray Chrysanthemums are locally grown and infinitely more appealing to draw than the equivalent supermarket variety. Long stemmed, unpretentiously ragged growth and rich shades of burnt orange. Their warm colours are a welcome foil to a grey Winter's day, and I have every intention of finding the time to draw all six stems, here's the first...

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Colour from the Season - Butternut Squash Yellow

When you need to relax you want colours that are calm and natural, such as the combination of yellow and tan shadings in this Butternut Squash. After an intensive few weeks of workshops and screen-printing, I was completely shattered on Sunday, therefore painting this Butternut Squash was a perfect way to unwind...

It's skin was almost exactly the colour of Naples yellow acrylic paint from Windsor and Newton, (which might be useful info for anyone else thinking of painting one).

...from my seasonal colour sample notebook.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Screen Printing - Bronze Fawn cushions and Villa San Michele, Capri.

I'm feeling revitalised after a short holiday in the Campania area of Italy visiting the ancient sites of Pompei and Ercolano. I also peered into the crater of Monte Vesuvio, and walked the narrow streets of old Napoli (all lived up to my expectations).

Straight back to printing rows of my favourite Bronze Fawn cushions. There's something very contemplative as well as addictive about repetition, maybe this is why I opted for a career as a textile designer. Repeat pattern and form even at it's most simple is of endless interest and inspiration.

Here's what's involved to make a Bronze Fawn cushion.

Plaid background - Natural linen is screen-printed with a Black Reactive (Procion) print paste.

The cushion pieces (above) are then steamed to fix the dye before first a cold, then a hot wash until the excess dye is removed. They are then re-pinned to the print table and the Fawn is printed with a textile adhesive (below). The shrinkage/movement of the fabric during washing is allowed for in the original plaid print, but exact registration is impossible, therefore each Fawn is an individual..!

The adhesive is allowed to air dry and a sheet of textile foil is cut to cover the adhesive print. This is then heat pressed for 30 seconds (I have an industrial sized press that I use for this), and the foil peeled off.

Two by two...

The above are soon to be made up, in the meantime, here's one that I prepared earlier. Every one is wonderfully unique and available in my shop priced £59.00 (here).

The Villa San Michele on the Isle of Capri was particularly inspiring. Former home of the Swedish Doctor, Philosopher and animal lover Axel Munthe. It's a house of pattern, order, beauty and extreme calm. Now preserved in its original state as a museum, it's a tranquil and unhurried oasis amidst the claustrophobic bustle of Capri.

Here's a few details from the Villa (from a textile designer's perspective)...

Dining room vista...

Indigo, Pewter, Alabaster and Umber colour...

Rabbits detail...

Nice jugs...

Kitchen vista...

Every one different! Copper and blue view...

Bedroom vista...

Lastly, (before I bore you with my holiday snaps!) - the Sphinx vista...

“What you keep to yourself you lose, what you give away, you keep forever.” 
― Axel Munthe