In conversation with Kate Wakeham…
How we met?
Annie: I met Kate in 2000 at the NEC Spring Fair. We were both in the world of publishing, designing greetings cards, wrapping paper and other gift stationery. We happily propped each other up with countless cups of coffee and bars of chocolate whilst standing for hours on end at the shows. Our paths then took us off in different directions for a few years until just recently, when I happened to come across Kate’s instagram account, and her gorgeous textiles and prints. Instantly Anna and I saw a wonderful opportunity to collaborate together. We feel that Kate’s work really connects with AB Design and Interiors’ ethos. A super play of colour combinations, texture and pattern.
Kate: My first fabric collection – Resort – is a series of five patterns, inspired by sand dunes, the 70’s, the play of snaking shadows, and hazy evening sun.
I have produced a set of pouch bags, in three sizes, hand made by a textile collective in Edinburgh.
The small size, the ‘30ml bag’, is perfectly flight sized, so ideal for travel, but equally, a friend took one look and said it would be her perfect go-to summer clutch. There is a ‘midi’ size and a larger ‘weekend’ one too.
I’m really excited to see how people will use theirs.
What was the trigger that got you into art?
Kate: My parents had a graphic designer friend who would give me her old font books whenever she got new ones. I remember spending hours, aged 8 or 9, with a pencil and a pad of tracing paper copying out letters from the most elaborate fonts and studying all the different shapes they made. And making endless trips to the local photocopy shop to enlarge alphabets.
What inspires you?
Kate: I find myself hunting out repeats or simple things that would work well on loop. It’s a kind of daydream/meditative thing I think! Colour and shapes and shadows are often where I start.
What about the creative process excites you the most?
Kate: Print. On both fabric and paper. The feel of letterpress indentation on paper or lifting a screen to see what’s been pushed onto fabric. It’s like magic! And all so tactile.
I am also starting to look at combining digital and screen print on fabric. Having been reluctant to embrace digital print, I can now see that mixing the versatility of it, with the colours and finishes of screen printing, can lead to some exciting results.
I love seeing how a piece of fabric can be utterly transformed once it’s on something. I’m slightly obsessed with making lampshades for this very reason – they’re multiplying around the house!
Are there any artists who have influenced you over the years?
Kate: Coming from a background in children’s publishing, I’m particularly fond of Tove Jansson and David McKee – both use colour and pattern so stylishly to tell their magical stories.
I love the way Celia Birtwell plays with scale and mixes prints on the same garments.
My current design crushes are Mina Perhonen and Laura Slater.
How have you developed your style as an artist?
Kate: I am a graphic designer by trade but have always had a passion for pattern and textiles. Having used my skills to address other peoples design queries for years, I am at last relishing the opportunity to answer some of my own.
I used to think I needed to make my work more detailed for it to be ‘finished’, but it’s the process of finding the perfect balance between playful graphic forms and a sometimes unexpectedly sophisticated colour palette that I’m loving at the moment.
Finally is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
Kate: A charcoal black pencil and a pot of black ink.