With her second design collaboration for Fine Cell Work launching this week, we wanted to shine a light on the work of the London-based designer Neisha Crosland. Having designed patterns for fabrics and wallpapers, fashion accessories, homewares and book covers, she has translated her Caravan motif into a trio of hand embroidered cushions.
What's your signature style?
People say that my designs are well balanced and have a feeling of newness or freshness whilst still feeling familiar. I design geometric patterns, florals and even abstract but in all of these my interest lies predominately in the art of pattern in repeat and the rhythm and mood it creates. It is also important that my patterns have a sense of joy and dynamism.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Often out of the corner of my eye - a detail in a painting that I spot, the shape of a leaf or petal, an architectural detail or an antique textile, ice age markings on mammoth teeth, an auction catalogue...
How do your designs come to life?
They start as pen and pencil sketches on paper. Beginning as a series of doodles, I draw the outline of the design on to tracing paper and map out a repeat. I trace it onto paper and then start to block out colour with gouache / inks.
I am of the age of hand painting and don't use a computer - similar to the way one feels more articulate speaking in one's mother tongue, I feel that I have a much better handle of my pencil or paintbrush than of a keyboard and mouse.
In the pre-digital era, I would send my hand painted artworks to the printer or mill, however now manufacturers need digital files to work with, so once I have the artwork on paper it does get traced out digitally (although not by me).
The other important factor for me with hand painting over digital is that with hand painting I am working life-size, whereas on a computer screen it is all miniaturised - which in my mind does not give you a true sense of the scale or true feeling of the design.
What is the story behind the Caravan design featured in your latest Fine Cell Work cushions?
It's inspired by folk patterns and Romanian folk art decoration painted on barges and caravans. I showed it to Clare Cowburn Baker along with a few other options. As Fine Cell Work had just introduced products combining print and embroidery , we wanted to choose a design suitable for this technique. Caravan has a lot of curves and scallop shapes that would have become pixelated if reproduced in needlepoint, and the combination of print and embroidery suited the flat areas of the design. The unprinted areas also give the design depth, and the hand embroidery allows the stitcher to depict the fluidity of the curves as well as adding accent highlight.
How did your longstanding relationship with Fine Cell Work come about?
Gosh I can not remember I think it was an invitation to participate I had always admired the Fine Cell Work the organisation and the product the prisoners where producing .
Your previous designs for Fine Cell Work were needlepoint and Caravan is an embroidery design. How did these techniques inform your designs?
Many of my designs that I do with [the iconic US design house] Schumacher are woven using a technique called épinglé which has the same look as that of needlepoint. The pixelation in both adds a charm to the design. However not all designs work with this technique - one has to be discerning when choosing techniques to produce textiles (or any product!).
I have been collaborating with Chelsea Textiles for some time now on designs for hand embroidery that their dedicated team hand embroiders in India. They employ traditional embroidery techniques like crewel work, French knots and running stitch / kantha stitch that go back generations. They also make my designs more beautiful than I could imagine ! I love the idea of this collaborative efforts with people of different skills, and the same goes for the prisoners who work with Fine Cell Work.
And what did you feel when you saw your finished, hand stitched Fine Cell Work designs for the first time?
Discover Neisha Crosland's collection for Fine Cell Work, including her new Caravan Cushions, here.