Tamasyn Gambell is a talented print textile designer. She first came to my attention when I noticed and blogged about her beautifully upholstered Mid-century chairs, a collaboration with Forest London.
I used to own a vintage Ercol day bed and was frustrated by the lack of fabric choice that would complement this classic piece. When I saw her fabric, I was ‘gutted’ to have ebayed off my sofa. I have written about how to update the Ercol previously here. How interesting it is for me to discover that Tamasyn has also collaborated with Ercol.
It was a privilege to be granted access to Cockpit Arts to interview her in her studio. Tamasyn is an amazing achiever. She was lovely and friendly to interview. I admire her for her bold determination and resilience. You will see what I mean when you read this interview:
1. Congratulations on previously winning the Cockpit NADFAS award. Are you able to tell me about this award ?
The award entitles you to an annual scholarship at Cockpit Arts. It is an incubator scheme to help launch your new business. For one year, you get free studio space, financial and business support as well as promotion and public relations.
Thereafter, the rental continues to provide the above package.
2. Do tell me how your work and career path has taken shape.
After doing my BA ( Bachelor of Arts degree), my work focusing on interiors was quite raw and experimental. I felt the need to develop it further, so I went straight on to an MA (Master of arts) course at the Royal College. There, I worked with fashion students in knitwear and did prints for their collections.
Although my work was still quite experimental, it was more refined. I felt it needed to be applied within a couture world as it would be too expensive for the high street. That prompted my instant decision to get on the Eurostar to go live in Paris. I managed to rent an apartment with a friend. I was 24 years old then and quite ambitious. I felt the only way to achieve what I wanted was to get out there.
I went into a cafe and ripped out the sections under ‘Couture’ from the phone book. I rang all the numbers that were on that sheet. I managed to get a placement at Sonia Rykiel where I did some prints for them. This was really exciting, I promoted myself and got my foot in the door.
Times were very unpredictable, as no one had money to employ someone full time and there weren’t necessarily the positions I was looking for.
I did some freelance work for Louis Vuitton. I made a series of hand drawn line flower prints for their Spring Summer clothes collection. It was great to be let behind the scenes, to work with the designers and trend team. It was exciting but quite ‘cut throat’ and I found the aggression quite hard. It was very competitive. It was very much like the film ‘The Devil wears Prada.’ Luckily I was fluent in French, so found it easy to make friends.
3. Did you find the experience in Paris financially rewarding?
Although the experience in Paris was fantastic, it was difficult financially. It was tough trying to make a living from the different freelance projects. I got to a point I felt I really needed a permanent job.
So when I was offered the Women’s wear print design position in H&M Sweden, I took it! However, I felt it was quite misleading. They said just come work for women’s wear but I didn’t realise they had fragmented the team. I was put in the ‘maternity’ section which wasn’t really what my work was about. The fabrics were different in quality to what I had previously worked with and I felt pushed into doing things that I wouldn’t really do. It was tough and in all lasted 6 months. I had to leave because it wasn’t working for either of us.
It was good in a way, as I have learned that the commercially driven world for the high street wasn’t for me. It was too fast going for one to consider anything.
4. Now that you are more established with your brand, would you collaborate with a high street giant?
It would have to be done in the right way. I have learned whilst working in the high street sector that there was a lot of ‘smoke and mirrors’. I would like to oversee and have more control, like going out to see the factories rather than just handing over my prints. The quantities produced are so vast, practices would have to be ethical.
5. Your brand encompasses Eco luxury, what does this mean?
When I started my business there was a lot of so called ‘green’ products but they were not aesthetically appealing. Hemp that was lumpy, raw and rough. There were lots of Hippy looking products with unsophisticated sludgy colours. I believe things are quite different now.
The whole premise of my business was to produce ethically sound products that were both beautiful yet timeless. Nowadays, I am more focused on using UK made products such as the Irish linen for my cushion range.
6. Tell me about your collaboration with Forest London.
Eva Coppens (owner of Forest London) used to work as my PR intern. We have been good friends since then. She launched Forest in April of this year and she asked me to collaborate with her in the promotion of her Mid-century Scandinavian furniture collection. I saw this as a really exciting opportunity, as I have always loved that aesthetic. I felt upholstered chairs with my fabric could be really interesting.
7. You have done cushions, interior lamp shades and reupholstering. What’s next?
Bed linen and wallpaper is something that I’m interested in. Also, lots of people have been enquiring about fabric by the metre. It’s really nice to be able to give the fabric to someone to make something new.
8. What influences you?
I love architecture, such as in London with its fusion of old and new ( an old brick building set against the Shard). I love going to museums and galleries. The V&A arts library has an amazing archive of old magazines which I go to look at for inspiration. Other influences include tribal textiles and the rich colours of antique carpets my father used to collect.
8 Was your family upbringing conventional?
My mum moved to England from Paris when she was in her early 20s after meeting my father. My father grew up in England but his father died when he was very young and so he got put in a children’s home. When he left, he saved up all the money he made as a newspaper boy and went travelling round the world for years, working his way around Europe. He had some amazing stories and they have inspired me to go travelling without fear, such as moving to France or Sweden.
I never really had the sort of traditional parents who were risk averse. My mom always said it was better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t. To learn from your mistakes.
My French family were anarchists. My grandfather on my French side was a Communist, he was imprisoned in a concentration camp but this never stopped him having an amazing spirit. He was always so optimistic about things.
9. Do you get creative block?
Yes, particularly when you have to run your own business alongside creating. Your mind takes on different roles and if you are concentrating particularly on the financial side for a week, then it can take time to jump back onto the design side.
I hope everyone enjoyed this interview. What I find inspirational about Tamasyn is her lack of fear in trying new things and to push boundaries. Equally, she shows humility by admitting when there was a stage in her career that wasn’t going as planned. Wishing everyone a good week and sorry for the delay in posting.