Sunday, July 28, 2013

Show & Tell - an interview with Imogen Tunnicliffe, homewares & textiles designer




Super lovely Imogen Tunnicliffe is the Senior Designer for NZ homeware and accessories brand Citta, responsible not only for product and pattern design but for the overall art direction of Citta's themed seasonal collections. Let's nose around her home and office, shall we?

Tell us about your background... how did you come to be a homeware designer?  
I’ve loved drawing and arty things since I was tiny, so it was an easy choice when it came to University, and I went to Elam at Auckland University and majored in printmaking.
For me print was a natural progression from drawing and I also loved accessibility of it – as in, because you can produce editions, people are able to own a bit of affordable, real art!   I guess this is what I like about designing for homeware too – you can create beautiful patterns and objects for everyday items.  People can afford to buy them and enjoy them in their homes daily.

How did I get into textile/homeware design? It was one of those lucky things really – right place at the right time sort of thing. Citta needed an artist to do some illustrations and designs.  I had just come back from New York and was trying to make a crust as an exhibiting artist, as well as doing a bit of freelance illustration and trying to sell some hand printed cards - no easy feat! Needless to say I needed some extra work. I had always wanted to work in the textile design industry, and love homeware, so it was the prefect opportunity.

I started out a couple of days a week and remember my first project was designing hand painted tin fairies for Christmas decorations – that was nearly 10 years ago!! Back then it was pretty much just me – now, we have 5 full time designers and one part timer and the design department has become an integral part of the company and our brand.  

On her inspiration board, on her desk

What's your favourite part of the homeware design process? 

I honestly actually really like most parts of the process.  Lucky aren’t I!! I love the beginning of the process – researching the new destination we are off to and learning about a new culture  – especially if I get to go there! I love beginning doodling in my workbook and coming up with ideas for new patterns and products. Seeing ideas transform from a 2D image in your workbook or on your computer into a tangible product is hugely satisfying.

The photoshoot is great fun too. Working with talented stylists, photographers, designers and the marketing team to realise our story and collection through photos and different media.

Imogen at work. 


















What's on your personal Wishlist at the mo? 
Bitossi rimini blue miniature (they are limited edition but still very affordable), a beautiful table lamp – there is one at Douglas and Bec I have my eye on, a Juliette Hogan sequin dress, copper leather brogues, a hand woven metallic gold black and natural wall tapestry from nativeline.com, the Sola ceramics from our new Greece collection, an Amaya Gutierrez adjustable ‘Perchero’ coat rack, and a weed eater!! Not much really…


Imogen's bedroom. That tapestry is awesome!

Fellow lover of vintage

What's your favourite piece of work/project you've done so far?
Personally – the body of work I created and printed for an exhibition in New Zealand whilst living in New York. I had just arrived and it was a real challenge, but I had such a sense of achievement afterwards – and the prints weren’t bad either…

Workwise – the Citta design Tokyo & Mexico collections – completely different aesthetics but I was similarly inspired by their popular culture, use of colour, traditional hand crafts and the people – needless to say the outcomes were worlds apart however.

Designs  – the Zoo duvet design, the Meguro design from the Tokyo collection, and the Eye Spy design from the New York collection. All of these designs are narrative in style, which I love.  I have always loved illustration, and designs that tell a story, and for me they are a great combination of both. I also like the fact that they appealed to adults and children alike. And potentially something I’m working on for our new winter collection, Copenhagen…!

Two of Imogen's fave patterns - Meguro and Zoo

Imogen's inspiration for The Heath pattern was London's Hampstead Heath
 - the perfect spot for a bike ride on a summer's day


What are you looking forward to?  

Spending time with my family who have just arrived from London to live for a while.  Seeing all my bare trees and flowers coming to life again after the cold-(ish) winter.  I can see all the buds forming already – it’s very exciting!  (Geeky I know…)  Going to see the new movie about Liberace, Behind the Candelabra.  Putting in some French doors that will open out onto our lawn.  And summer. I love summer – everything makes sense and seems better for me in the warmer months.

Light-filled lounge; snapshots from Rose's room



What do you love to do in your spare time? 

In an ideal world with lots of spare time I would be: Gardening, reading a whole book (such a rarity these days!), pottering about with my daughter Rose, going for a bite and a movie, perusing second hand shops, creating some of my own work, writing and illustrating a children’s book, doing up our house.

Sweet little things in the kitchen

I LOVE a good recommendation –  tell us about something(s) that we should know about:

Song – Laura Mvula, Green Garden – great song and video.
Book – For children, Eric Carle’s Animals Animals, pub. 1989 – an illustrated collection of poems about the animals – it’s beautiful.
Restaurant - The Basque Kitchen – delicious tapas restaurant in Newmarket – great before or after the movies... and lovely Spanish beers.
Website – Petite Kitchen
Destination – The Cotswolds in England. And while your there, pop into The Swan Inn at Swinbrook, for a delicious pub lunch.
Illustrator – Saul Steinberg. Wonderfully clever illustrations and satire.


These two are part of the coming Summer collection - me wanty


You've just come back from Copenhagen – the city that will inspire the new CITTA collection - give us some words that represent the direction you're going to be taking...

Tivoli, mermaids, story book, snow and frozen sea, wood, folklore, harlequin, black & bone, playful, geometric patterns, well crafted, soft pink, Kelly green, misty blue, forests, earthenware, copper foiling, woodland animals, houses, patterned carpets, rabbits, cobbled streets, beards, patterned socks, magical, quality, patchwork, felt, clean lines, modernist, ships, spring flowers, bicycles.. a winter wonderland.


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