We fell for Thorody’s designs after spotting their Olé cushion in the Blackheath Span house we featured in MidCentury 08. Thorody design and hand screen-print beautiful fabric and wallpapers in a style they describe as “early modernism infused with a hint of South East London”. We spoke to the duo behind Thorody – Vicky Putler and Theo Sykes – to find out more about their inspirations and discover the philosophy behind their designs.
Photographs courtesy of Thorody
Thorody: Could you tell us about the background to Thorody?
We both started out as painters, working in teaching and other freelance art and design activities. We really wanted to be more in control of our work situation and were casting around for a way to use our art and design skills to create our own studio and be in charge of what we did.
We have both always been interested in abstract design and, as painters, were interested in the surfaces of our work as well as the materials and processes involved, interior printed textiles seemed liked a logical extension, especially the thought of repeating a design over large expanses of material and how the designs worked in three dimensions. In fact at the start we were only doing fabric by the metre in long lengths, not cushions.
Thorody is the result. It is constantly developing and evolving (very slowly) into the thing we want it to be. As a business model we had the Omega Workshop and Hull Traders in mind.
Thorody: What inspires your work?
We use the description “early modernism infused with South East London”. We love the period of early modernism as a whole – ideas crossing over from art, music, literature, philosophy architecture, interior design and fashion. The textiles and surface design from that period are wonderful – the Omega Workshop, Curwen Pattern Papers, Sonia Delaunay, Anni Albers, Enid Marx …I could go on and on! It was a very exciting period. We are not just interested in the aesthetics of the period but also the ideas and ways of working.
The South East London element is in the titles: Sounds Around is a legendary Brockley knick-knack shop, Brockley Cross is a roundabout/junction on Brockley Road. We have been using a studio in Bermondsey and, in a more general way, we find the shapes and forms of the city, the grids and lines, the abstracted higgledy piggledy London cityscape find their way into our designs, the juxtaposition of the old architecture and the new, the machine made and the hand made and the cultural mix.
We are in the process of relocating to Ramsgate and are looking forward to finding out how living by the sea impacts on our designs!
Hoof cushion by Thorody
Thorody: Do you have a favourite designer from the mid-century period?
We love post-war architecture like the US Case Study Homes built between 1945 and 1966, and it’s wonderful to see new architects working with the same ethos today. Our big favourite in textiles is Shirley Craven. There’s a particular design of hers we’re always on the look out for, called Five and which surprisingly was a big influence on us. We like to get pieces that are the full width of the fabric with both selvedges, which are harder to find.
Thorody: How do you approach a new design?
We have certain stylistic ticks, things we do with lines. and we try to find new and interesting ways to push them. We have so many ideas that we have to control ourselves a bit! There is no set way of working exactly. Sometimes one of us will work on an idea and when ready pass it over to the other one, and go on back and forth until we feel we’ve got something. Sometimes an idea just falls out onto the paper complete. Then we have to scale them and put them into repeat and sample them and think about colours. It’s quite a long process, and then we have to live with a design for a while before putting it into production.
Working on a new design is always exciting; it’s what it’s all about for us, really. When a thought coalesces and gets onto the paper and starts to show promise, it’s marvellous.
Tile by Thorody
Thorody: What’s your favourite design, and why?
We both love Tile because of the way the horizontal and vertical lines create the shape. We’ve several designs in process at the moment that have stemmed from Tile, and the possibilities seem endless. We also love Sounds Around, which is one of the first designs we did, it has a lot going on for the eye. We like to relate the line we use to the yarn of the fabric it is printed on. This is the thinnest line we have used and looks like stitching. I love the way the pattern works by rotating the unit.
Thorody: Tell us a little about the material and processes in your work.
All our fabrics, including the rolls, are printed by hand using water-based pigments and all sewing takes place in the South East. We use very high quality linen sourced from the UK and Belgium for our products.
Flax is no longer grown commercially in the UK but some weaving mills are still here and two of our linens are woven in Lancashire from European flax. The best linen in the world is produced in Northern France and Belgium and the flax for our two Belgian linens is grown within 20 miles of the mill where it is processed and woven – all in the most environmentally responsible way.
For us there is a difference between linen from a traceable flax and linen bought from a company in the UK that has been woven in the Far East from untraceable flax, produced using unsustainable methods. Sourcing our linens and knowing the mills where they come from has been very important to us. It was wonderful to visit the Belgian mill and be able to see every stage of the process with the fields of flax all about the area. We do not pay lip service to the issues of sustainability and the environment – we try really hard to the walk the walk too. We want people to understand the difference.
We produce all-over designs, which are printed by hand in length. This is a technically difficult and expensive print to produce. We enjoy the challenge!
We make our cushions in a wrap around style, which means the print is continuous around the cushion and uses the full width of the fabric. We think this makes them much nicer.
Thorody: What’s next for you?
We have new designs in the pipeline, which will launch in SS16 and Vicky has been making smocks in Thorody print linen-union for fun. Our relocation to Ramsgate is very exciting, because there is quite a design scene in the Margate-Ramsgate-Whitstable area. Many designers have been there for years and now there are people like us, desperately needing more space for our growing business, relocating from London. Our main priority is to settle into our new home and build a new studio, one with enough space to grow.
MidCentury readers can claim an exclusive 20% off all cushions in the Thorody range – visit thorody.com, choose your cushion/s and enter coupon code MIDC15 at the checkout.
See more of Thorody’s work (and use your discount!) here
Take a look at Thorody’s cushion in the stunning Span townhouse we featured in MidCentury 08
See our interview with mid-century inspired textile designer Eleanor Pritchard