Q+A AN INSPIRING JOURNEY THROUGH DESIGN AND DIGITAL INNOVATION
Based in the Peak District, UK, British Brand Blackpop has built luxury designer brand with a worldwide client base.
Utilising Digital Print technology, which frees the creative from the constraints of mass manufacture, Maxine Hall, and her team offer a sumptuous collection.
Inspired by British History, each pattern is infused with elements of the past, to create capsules of time.
How and where did you begin your Design Journey?
My design journey started way back in the 80’s at Westminster University studying Photography Film & Video - it was there that I was introduced to Photoshop 1 and the floppy disc! Wow that was so exciting, the possibilities…
My career path has been fuelled by the technological revolution, first I went into reprographics in the early 90’s to learn how to colour manage and print the professional way I think they called it Desk Top Publishing!
Then I went freelance and became an illustrator [digital] designing pages and covers for books and magazines. Later on I started lecturing in Photography and Fine art - up until about 8 years ago when I saw that a friend of mine had put her designs onto wallpaper and fabric. This excited me as much as when I visioned the possibilities of Photoshop etc so I created some designs, loving the transformative nature of surface pattern and had samples out put I was so excited by the outcome I gave up my lecturing post and took a midlife plunge!
Inspired by History and time, your collections infuse luxury. Tell us more?
Well Blackpop’s first collection ’The Vintage Inspired’ came from visits to near by Chatsworth House in Derbyshire where the glamour, playfulness and luxury of the British aristocracy must have left it’s mark on me - their ability to champion the best in craft and artistry. Since the two further collections have been inspired by two other Iconic collectors of history the National Portrait Gallery and the Sir John Soane’s Museum.
I can’t help but include a touch of the lux and classics when working with a digital pallet that’s full of it. However when I deconstruct for instance a Tudor Portrait of Elizabeth 1st when I reconstruct it it’s reconstructed with a good pinch of my rebel self! Blackpop has a reputation for punking up the past.
As a strong British Brand, you source using British manufacturing wherever possible. Is that difficult?
It’s not difficult in its self, we like working with and supporting local businesses and being able to meet the manufacturers and makers to see the process through. The only downside for our customers is that this puts our prices up and it’s this as much as anything that puts Blackpop into the luxury bracket. Ideally we would like to offer our products to a wider audience. The other costing implications are that when we design under licence with the NPG and Soane’s a percentage of all our sales goes directly back to them.
Does British Design still carry a premium Worldwide?
Yes defiantly it does, we have a wonderful creative history, for forward thinking, risk taking design - embedded right into the great British DNA. The world still want’s what we have on offer, originality….experimentation and class - according to our export accounts!
Digital Print technology offers incredible opportunities, how does it help your business?
Without digital print technology Blackpop would not have been born!
As mentioned before I’d been waiting in the wings for many years for digital print technology to come on line, Blackpop’s designs are so tonally complex that screen printing would not have sufficed. As a designer and forward thinker I have to be aware of the new surfaces and opportunities on the horizon, such as the development of 3D Printing, in the past it would be the design that enhanced the surface but as we move forward with surface possibilities the opportunities and choices grow and this means we have to design according to the surface.
Either way technology has allowed designers the freedom to create without barriers.
Based outside of London, has this been an obstacle? Is there a North / South divide?
As we all know the internet provides a spaceless, timeless, shopping arcade for the world, so, no I don’t think where we are based affects business. We had a showroom in London for a while, but on the whole clients are happy to be sent samples rather that get on the tube and make the journey!
We always have a presence at the London Design festival and we have an area in Liberty of London where they showcase Blackpop products. So no I don’t really think it does make a difference.
Who was your Inspiration, or, and mentor?
I admire Vivienne Westwood’s journey to date - I can identify and take inspiration from the way she used historical classics and references, and in her melting pot, combined different textures and patterns – Not forgetting to add a pinch of the new, like a safety pin, here and there.
What advise would you give to the next generation Textile Designers?
Don’t leave the elders too far behind in your creative wake!
What’s next for Blackpop?
Well we have just had a few incredible hand knotted rugs woven in Nepal so we are currently organising some lifestyle photoshoots. This traditional industry having to change in line with their clients, in the past the weavers would work on far fewer designs weaving 100’s of meters of the same design, where as now they are producing on the whole limited edition designs, this means having to constantly learn the new and often complex digital designs.
We are also researching other surfaces to print on for walls and floors so watch this space!
Where can our readers buy your Homeware and Fashion products?
Their first port of call would be Blackpop’s website from there samples can be ordered other than that we have a stockist list on the website if one would prefer to browse the pattern books and as mentioned Liberty would be a good place to see cushions and furniture and fabric drops.
We are always happy to answer questions when people get in touch.