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Meet the Maker – Helen Round

This week we’re super excited to be  chatting with Helen Round, a British textile designer and print maker, who’s beautiful and classic designs are inspired by the flora and fauna of the countryside and coastline in her native Cornwall.

Nestled amongst her stunning  range of hand printed homewares, bags & pouches and even haberdashery, she makes her own lampshades from the highest quality linen printed using traditional screen printing techniques. Take a look at her products at www.helenround.com and find out where she gets her inspiration, what her days look like and her tips for lampshade makers.

Hi there!

How are you today and what’s on your workbench?

The workbench is always a hive of activity. We try to start and finish one project, clear up and move onto the next….. but that isn’t always possible! Today, I am working on our new reusable sandwich wraps. With our hand printed linen on one side and a washable waterproof fabric on the other, I need to cut, pin and then sew these all together. We have just received a big order for sandwich wraps, so will probably be working on them all day! I also need to cut and print more of the linen soap bags and then I’ll be sewing bamboo face wipes as our new ECO collection is proving really popular.

How do you start the design process and where do you get your inspiration?

I spend a lot of time thinking about the design of a product before I do anything else. I imagine how I might use the product; when, where and how. Then I think about how I will make it – this is usually the time I get out my sketchbook and start drawing. Once I have a rough sketch, I make a fabric prototype. In the case of the reusable sandwich wrap, I made up a few and the whole family tested them, trying them out with different food products, sandwiches, fruit and even sushi. We then do multiple wash test both in the machine and by hand.

With every product I design, there are usually a few tweaks to be made once the original prototype has been tested and then we will test again. I have a small team of product testers who love to sample and try new products and always give great feedback. Once this has all happened, the new product is ready to go!

The inspiration for my drawings comes from my daily life. I am lucky to live in such a beautiful part of Cornwall and my hand printed designs are all inspired by this wonderful landscape. In terms of product design, I love to make functional things that are useful, beautifully made and will last. What’s your favourite material to work with?

I love working with linen. We use pure linen fabric which is dyed to our specification.  We chose to use linen because of its sustainable qualities, because it is long lasting and, as I found out recently is repellent to moths (such a relief as at least one half of my wardrobe is linen!). Linen is a natural fibre that is harvested from the flax plant. It requires no pesticides when growing and no extra watering apart from that which is gets from rainfall.

When did you start making lampshades?

Lampshades were one of the first products to join our collection alongside our linen cushions and that was about 8 years ago! Over the years, we have added different sizes to our offering and are often asked to make bespoke designs for our customers.

What’s your favourite part of the lampshade making process?

I love printing the fabric for the shades. We use traditional screen printing techniques to transfer the design to the linen so no two shades are exactly the same – they are each a little work of art.

Any tips for new lampshade makers in business?

Practice, practice, practice! For me, the finish is extremely important. Getting a neat seam, a perfect edge and the grain of the fabric straight are all really important. Customers notice details like this and it is really imperative that your shades are beautifully made and finished.

When are you at your most productive?

In terms of ‘doing’, I am productive throughout the day, but my best thinking time is in the early hours of the morning. I wake up around 6am and allow myself time to just think and really let my thoughts wander. Sometimes I might go for a walk, but more often than not, I will sit outside in the garden or by a window and that’s when I usually get the best ideas.

And your favourite sustenance when your working?

I try to keep busy because I love to snack! If I have a quiet moment, I am more likely to nibble….so, I keep a little pot of dried fruit and nuts for these moments! Right now, I’m loving small dried figs which are perfect to satiate a craving for something sweet.

Could you let us take a peek at your workspace?

With pleasure…

Where would you like to be in 10 years time?

I can’t ever imagine myself doing anything other than being creative. I have always loved making and as my business grows, my role changes, but I think I will always be a designer maker. I am really keen to continue to develop products that have provenance; are locally produced by artisans who love what they do; are made in small batch production with care; and have exceptional attention to detail.

What have you learned that’s been invaluable to your creative process?

Wherever possible, do what you love and trust your instinct. I now work with a small team of makers who are all highly skilled and we all love what we do. We are proud that all of our manufacturing is done in house here in Cornwall by a small team of highly experienced makers. Hand-printing of the products takes place in the studio, too. Our apprenticeship programme has given young people the opportunity to work in a creative and sustainable business that puts the environment and people first. Cornwall is a county with high levels of unemployment, particularly among young people and so it’s great to be able to offer this opportunity. We strive for zero waste and to create functional, enduring products that are part of a sustainable economy.

See Helen’s beautifully printed products at www.helenround.com or follow her on facebook.

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