During this year’s London Design Festival, we are hosting an array of creative businesses and independents at The Makers’ Market, the first pop-up of its kind at The Royal Exchange, which will be hosted on our grand mezzanine area from Monday 20 – Friday 24 September. In a series of Q&As, we get to know the makers behind the brands.
Tell us about your brand – what do you make and how did you get started?
Established in 2013 as one of the UK’s most daring and groundbreaking interiors brands, Blackpop continues to create exceptional fabric and wallpaper collections, designed to transform the spaces they adorn. Coming from a background of photography and reprographics (I began using Photoshop 1 back in the late 1980s!) I have always been intrigued by the possibilities and potentials of using and mixing different creative mediums for my digital palette.
How big is your team and where are you based?
We are a small dedicated team of six. Blackpop’s showroom and studio can be found in the beautiful and quirky historic market town of Wirksworth, nestled in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales, where all our collections can be seen under one roof. Being a small team allows us total quality control and the freedom to explore, innovate and experiment – to be a bit more self-indulgent if you like.
Describe the style of your creations in three words:
Unique, edgy, timeless.
Can you explain a little bit about your craft and what makes it so special?
I guess you could say I’m a ‘surface pattern designer’ – here at Blackpop, we are all about the unique, so we fully appreciate the need for bespoke designs, colour matching, tweaking and rescaling. Our design process is more photographic than graphic and that gives us the edge. Our designs almost always carry a cultural narrative – ‘punking up the rich tapestry of the past’ is our design DNA.
Blackpop’s designs are heavily layered and complex. Most other brands’ fabric and wallpaper designs have plain backgrounds and recognisable motifs, whereas Blackpop designs tend to be abstract – we deconstruct recognisable motifs and artwork. For example, when we were invited to work with the National Portrait Gallery’s collection, I didn’t want to create a pattern of heads; instead I drew Kandinsky-like shapes and digitally filled them with details from the paintings. I worked similarly with some of the wonderful collections (architects’ drawings, Robert Adam designs and Canaletto paintings) from the Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Who or what are your biggest inspirations when creating?
We are inspired by lots of things – artists, musicians, architects, designers – creatives who have left their mark on the world, who dare to be themselves. We love everything from Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen to Jackson Pollock and Thelonious Monk; the way they take from history or nature and twist and turn it into something else. We might mix a bit of Jackson Pollock-esque drips with a bit of classical faded grandeur from houses like Chatsworth and Kedleston Hall – both of which we are lucky enough to live near. When I started out, I imagined I was designing fabrics and wallpapers for Jimi Hendrix!
What can visitors expect when they come to visit your stall at The Royal Exchange Makers’ Market?
Visitors will see a selection of our products taken from across all our collections – these will include velvet scatter cushions, wallpaper and fabric drops, silk fringed shades, beautiful silk squares and maybe a piece of upholstered furniture if we have room!
What advice would you give someone looking to explore your particular craft further?
Don’t follow trends – follow your instincts. Dare to be different and, oh yes – be prepared to work long hours! It’s a really competitive market, so you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd, plus it will be a real help if you are digitally savvy.
Why do you think it is so important to keep the art of digital printing going?
Printed and patterned fabrics and wallcoverings have been around for such a long time and while they may have gone out of fashion in the recent past, they are now well and truly back! Independent labels like Blackpop have played a strong part in the revival of colour and pattern in our homes and commercial interiors. We work hard to keep our initial mantra, which was to offer the world something different, something special. I was getting so fed up with the lack of choice, buying similar things in all those similar shops. We are also very proud to be made in England. Our velvets are British and our printers are local to us and are one of only a few remaining in the mill towns where the industrial revolution started.
Do you have a favourite piece you have created?
I have a few actually, but one in particular would be ‘Mary’ that I designed in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery. At the time we were given total access to a series of digital files of their historically renowned ‘Tudor Portrait Collection’, which I then proceeded to deconstruct. Luckily the curators loved the designs, even when you could barely distinguish a hand or an eye or a detail of clothing; they even went and wallpapered the cafe in Mary!
If you could learn any other craft, what would it be and why?
I’d love to be able to play electric guitar and have the talent to perform in public! Like Jimi or Patti, or even Sister Rosetta Tharpe – the godmother of rock and roll – who we named one of our designs after.
Blackpop will be in residence at The Makers’ Market at The Royal Exchange, taking place on the mezzanine level from Monday 20 – Friday 24 September 2021, 10.30am – 6pm
Read more about The Makers’ Market and the exhibitors taking part here