Eleanor on Hitch Mylius Sofa in Rowridge fabric. Photographs by Kangan Arora, courtesy Eleanor Pritchard
Eleanor Pritchard is at the forefront of contemporary woven Textile Design, with interior brands such as Heals and Margaret Howell procuring her home wares. Eleanor’s exquisitely woven textiles pay homage to the bold, graphic patterns of mid century design, with striking geometric lines and a beautifully considered colour palette. With her patterns woven in traditional mills in rural Wales and the Scotland Isles, Eleanor’s blankets and cushions are a true example of Great British design – her love of strong colour and striking geometrics are brought together to create a comforting and sophisticated collection of contemporary interior textiles.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Eleanor Pritchard in her South-East London studio. Eleanor’s workspace is a hub of creativity; there are samples and visual inspirations pinned on one wall, a yarn collection of every shade and tone on another, and a loom by the window for sampling her designs. With its location on the top floor, her studio provides an impressive view over Greenwich Observatory. As she shows me around, Eleanor tells me about her design influences, a lucky break early in her career and the projects she has lined up for the future.
Eleanor Pritchard Easterly blanket
Eleanor Pritchard: How did you come to be a Woven Textiles Designer?
I started off with a degree in History, and then went on to work in publishing, but it really wasn’t for me, so I began an evening class in Textiles. This led me to going back to study, graduating from Textile Design at Chelsea College of Arts as a mature student specialising in Woven Textiles. I decided after my degree that I wanted to be in my own studio making my own designs, but what pushed me forward so quickly was gaining a place with Texprint. They invite you to show your work at Indigo, part of the Premiere Vision Trade Show in Paris. It was there I met the couture designers for Christian Lacroix, and they commissioned a few pieces for coats for their catwalk show. I jumped straight in – I moved into Cockpit Arts Studio, where I am now, bought a loom and began weaving!
Eleanor Pritchard: What is it about the process of weaving that you enjoy?
It’s a very slow process – planning and making the warp (for those non-weavers among you, the warp is the set of lengthwise yarns that are held in tension on the loom, to which weft yarns are threaded over-and-under), winding it on and threading the yarns. It can be two days before you start weaving so it sort of sets its own pace. I think that’s really good. You can’t rush it. I really love pattern and with woven fabrics, the pattern and the structure are one and the same – you’re not applying a pattern onto an existing surface, but rather you see how the pattern is physically held together.
Eleanor Pritchard: How do you begin designing a new piece for the collection?
Whenever I’m doing something new, I always keep in mind how it sits with the rest of the collection. When I’m starting a new design, I’ll put a mood board together first, full of various inspirations. I look at patterns all the time and often patterns within architecture. It might be something like a block of flats for instance, the way the windows and balconies repeat or form a rhythm. It’s quite an eclectic mood board consisting of lots of photos. There might be some other bits on there like stamps, matchboxes or little pieces of found repeat pattern. Colour plays a huge part in designing the patterns for the fabric. I really love working with colour and I’ve got more confident with this as I go on. It’s pleasing that those strong colours that appeal to me also appeal to others.
Eleanor Pritchard: Do you find tradition to be important in your work?
Oh yes, definitely! I am really interested in the idea that there’s influence to be gained from things that have come before. It’s amazing to go to look at the fabrics in the V&A. I sometimes feel I’ve got the same eyes as someone centuries ago – I was in Rome last year looking at historic mosaic patterns and I find it really interesting how ancient art can look so contemporary. The human eye for spotting pattern hasn’t changed at all!
Eleanor Pritchard: Can you explain where the mid century influences in your work originated from?
I think this was something quite subliminal from when I was younger, as I’ve grown up with mid century design. My Grandparents and Great Grandfather were architects. I would spend a month every other summer staying with my grandmother in her beautiful house in Holland Park. It was full of mid century furniture! Having bought and furnished the house in the 1950s, it had this bright green carpet, lots of Ercol and Artek furniture and cork flooring throughout. I think all this soaked in from a young age. I like the confidence and sense of optimism in mid century design, the feeling that design could really improve people’s day-to-day lives, an idealism that appeals to me.
Eleanor Pritchard: Do you have a particular favourite mid century designer, and do you own any pieces of mid century design?
I would say Eric Ravilious’ work. Particularly wonderful are the Alphabet designs he did for Wedgewood ceramics. I love the combination of the typography and the solid coloured stripe with the delicacy of the drawings. I’ve inherited a few bits and pieces from my grandmother – the designs are quite pared back, nothing’s overblown and they still feel right in our home today. A personal favourite is our Heal’s daybed sofa, with its teak frame. It was originally upholstered in the most wonderful colour combination of charcoal and mustard – two colours that I often use in my own work.
Eleanor Pritchard Aerial upholstery samples
Eleanor Pritchard: Can you tell us more about your collaboration with mid century restoration brand Pelikan?
Pelikan have such a good eye for how to use fabrics and they work with amazing upholsterers. They restore and use original mid century pieces of furniture, upholstering them with my fabrics. They’ve used the patterns cleverly, giving a lot of consideration as to where they will be on each piece of furniture. It’s been really pleasing to me to see the finished product.
Eleanor Pritchard 405 Line and Signal blankets
Eleanor Pritchard: Out of all your designs, do you have a favourite pattern or product?
It changes all the time, but I have to say I’m really fond of the Signal pattern. It’s quite dynamic in the way that the spacing of the lines of the pattern change and I think it’s lovely from whichever angle you look at it – you can always see something different.
Eleanor Pritchard: What’s next in the pipeline for Eleanor Pritchard?
This year I’m really excited about experimenting with mixing fibres – wool and linen. I’ve been working exclusively in wool for years now, so it will be interesting to see how the two fibres react with each other. This will bring a different feel and handle to the collection, but the fabrics will still be very much within the same pattern aesthetic. I’m also working on a range of seating called Cebl with furniture manufacturer Hitch Mylius [who, by the way dear readers, were founded in 1971 to fill a gap in the market for well crafted Modern British furniture] at the moment. In the next couple of months, we’ll be introducing a small, exclusive range of upholstered pieces in various colour ways.
Eleanor Pritchard Sandstone Optic blanket
Find out about Eleanor Pritchard’s work here
Visit Texprint, the design show that launched Eleanor’s work.