Textile designer and weaver Heather Shields is known for her playful approach to colour and pattern. Here she talks to us about the joys of wool, adding textiles to an interior and a chance encounter with our Head of Design, Andy Guard.
What first drew you to the art of weaving?
Weaving was a complete revelation to me that I only discovered at Glasgow School of Art while studying textile design. At first, I was quite intimidated by the looms as they are huge, beautiful works of craftsmanship in their own right and at first glance look complex to use. However, I was soon fascinated by the weave workshop – the noise of the looms, the smell of the wood and the wool. Weaving offers me endless possibilities for experimentation with colour, fibre, yarn and structure and the technical constraints challenged and satisfied me in equal measures.
You are known for your bold palette, what inspires your colour choices?
It can be anything really – I love to travel and visit new places as unusual combinations of colour in everyday life seem to catch my eye. Modern Art and archives also inform my practice. My favourite exhibitions in recent years have been Georgia O’Keefe, Marlene Dumas and Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern and the Bauhaus exhibition at the Barbican.
What affect do colours have on you?
Colour in general has an overwhelmingly positive affect on my well-being – certain colours can make me feel euphoric, others calm and content. Often colour can trigger memories, so for me there’s an element of nostalgia too. I think that as we change through seasons; especially into winter when it’s dark and cold, I rely heavily on having colour around, both through my work in the studio and in my home.
How did you feel when Head of Design, Andy Guard, approached you to work on a collaboration?
My initial reaction was simply of sheer excitement and I was immediately overwhelmed with design possibilities! After meeting Andy at London Design Fair it was clear we shared similar values and it made perfect sense to capture this energy and collaborate. This shared vision only intensified after visiting Eastnor and meeting the rest of the dedicated team at Roger Oates who were immediately full of enthusiasm for the project. Although each company has its own distinct history and aesthetic, our shared focus on colour, quality and contemporary design made the process feel really organic.
Tell us about your design process.
My design process begins with a collection of photographs, objects and materials from which I build a theme. I develop these ideas using collage and drawing techniques with painted and found papers. From here I start to match colours and textures to suitable yarns. Wool is my favourite fibre to weave with as it is so versatile and has many amazing properties that make it suitable for both interiors and fashion purposes. After selecting a base colour palette that could work well with multiple highlight colours I start to plan my warp. Often combinations that look great on paper/screen or even on yarn wraps don’t always work well when woven together so the designs evolve again on the loom as I experiment. I usually create some CAD designs and peg plans from my initial drawings and collages but again, whilst weaving you get new ideas so the designs are constantly developing – this is what I enjoy most about the whole process as it is quite intuitive.
Of all the Roger Oates designs, why did you select Masai to reimagine?
Masai is bold yet sophisticated, the graphic quality and strong lines really appealed to me and each colour way gave a distinctly different feel to the space it inhabited. The pattern works in perfect harmony with the weave structures to create a beautifully raised texture that gives the design substance
What elements did you take from the original Masai and how did you come to the final design?
Capturing the linear elements and creating the same flow as Masai was important – with strong bands of pattern made from simple shapes and different line qualities. I began with playful sketches in black ink to identify the lines and shapes that I could rework into a new design. With regards to colour I picked out some key yarn wrap shades from the existing Roger Oates archive – some neutrals, darks rich colours and vibrant highlights so that I could ensure my design sat well within the current collection. Furthermore, whilst on the train journey to Eastnor I passed several beautiful railway stations with the original facades still intact and this got me thinking about the brilliantly graphic quality of the British Railway posters from the 1950’s. When I got home I started searching through online poster archives and took inspiration from these to form new colour combinations.
How do you feel when you saw the final design as upholstered furniture?
I was thrilled, the benches will make an incredible statement piece!
What special qualities does wool have that you enjoy?
Working with wool has so many benefits, not only is it soft and warm to the touch but it is also breathable and durable. Additionally, in a world that is facing a crisis in relation to micro plastics, wool is completely natural and biodegradable so will eventually breakdown at the end of its life cycle. Every piece I make is designed to last so I hope that generations will pass them on through friends and family. For this project I used a beautifully soft and bulky lambswool.
How can the addition of wool products enhance an interior?
Wool products enhance and improve an interior space in many ways both practical and aesthetic. Wool structures are excellent at absorbing sound so are highly effective for public or corporate spaces as well as the home. The rich textures and feel of wool are also an antidote to harsh and clinical living, improving comfort and well-being.
Do you have any tips on how to add textiles into an interior?
Investing in some key textile pieces is one of the easiest and most versatile ways to introduce colour to a space that can also be adapted and updated regularly. Whether it be a rug, blanket, cushions, or an upholstered piece – they can be used anywhere in the home and for a multitude of purposes. Blankets can be draped over the back of the sofa, over a bed, even hanging on the wall as a piece of art. No matter what kind of mood you want to create, textiles can add character, warmth and richness to a space.
The Heather Shields for Roger Oates Design collection is a creative partnership between Heather Shields and Andy Guard, Head of Design at Roger Oates.