In focus: Q&A with Cole & Son's Design Director, Carley Bean
Cole & Son is internationally acclaimed for its unique combination of heritage and innovation and we love nothing more than hearing about the inner workings of our most celebrated brands. To tell us more about Cole & Son, and the people behind the magic, we caught up with Carley Bean, Cole & Son’s Design Director.
How long have you worked for Cole & Son, and what’s your background?
I have almost 20 years experience working within the luxury interior furnishing industry, specifically with wallpaper, print and woven textiles. Having previously worked with other British heritage brands, I have now been with Cole & Son for 5 years. During that time, I have been able to develop my love for hand-rendering, mark making, drawing and painting, transforming this into some of the beautiful designs Cole & Son are so famous for.
We know that you and your team work in a really collaborative way to come up with designs, can you tell us a bit more about that?
Our process starts with research. It’s so important to experience things through one’s own eyes so the team takes lots of photographs, we might sketch out rough ideas, noting key areas of interest. Once we’re all together in the studio, we collate everyone’s ideas, pinning them up on our walls to create one giant mood board. We then look for synergies and themes in what has been collated, which allows us to start building the themes and areas we’d like to explore in the collection
Once we have the fundamentals of each design, we live with them up on the walls for a couple of weeks. Time allows you to see what’s working and what is not, which designs may be doing a similar thing and therefore not necessary, what’s missing or what ideas could be explored further. This normally gives a clear idea of the exact designs in a collection. We may lose one or two along the way, but the constant refinement and editing of the collection gives us the strongest end result. We can then begin hand-drawing and hand-painting every element to scale, a process which can take months but is so important for us to retain the artistic integrity of every design. Once we have the final designs, we then start colouring, following exactly the same process.
We know that part of your creative process is travel. Do you have a favourite trip that you’ve been on?
Our research trip to Seville in late 2018 was incredibly inspiring – within our first day there we already had around 30 different design ideas. I was very struck by the beauty and diversity of the Andalusian capital. Visually and culturally it has so much to offer; the value of art and history, and the colour and vibrancy of the city really reflects that of our own brand values – I was confident we could do it justice and turn it into a beautiful wallpaper collection.
When are you at your creative best? Do you have a particular method or routine that helps you to create?
In order to be creative, I need to be visually stimulated. This can be in a variety of ways, perhaps exploring a new city, getting lost within its bustling streets; spending time in nature; or visiting exhibitions or some of my favourite antiques markets to surround myself with a wealth of source material.
As a team we are our most creative when sharing ideas and brainstorming together; we all bounce off one another’s creativity and find that we’re able to develop new and exciting concepts. By collating everyone’s inspiration imagery and source material we’re able to immerse ourselves in design ideas, this energy always inspires wonderful creativity.
Do you have a favourite design or collection that you’ve worked on?
Hispalis from Seville is one of my favourites. Its tapestry-like design depicts the antique and mysterious land of Hispalis, the original Roman name for the city of Seville. The design is printed on a tactile, dry paper which emphasises the tapestry-like feel and adds to the aged depth of the design.
Frutto Proibitio is another of my favourite designs – I have one of the original colourways in my sitting room. I do love the Seafoam & Lemon colourway in our Fornasetti collection for a kitchen/diner or conservatory. It feels really fresh and contemporary with a nostalgic nod to the 50s.
What is it, in your opinion, that makes Cole & Son unique?
Our customers come back to Cole & Son time and again for something unique; our fearless use of colour and pattern always acknowledges our company’s heritage, defining trends and allowing people to elevate their interiors.
Throughout our 145-year history we have retained a pioneering spirit through each of the techniques selected to produce our products, with many modern-day methods, such as the use of mica, being developed by Cole & Son’s founder, John Perry back in the late 1800s. We regularly pay homage to our history through collections such as The Pearwood Collection by referring to our vast design archive which is a beautiful and inspiring chronicle of artistic styles and expressions from the last two centuries. As every design is hand-drawn and hand-painted in-house, we are living art and living history in everything that we produce.
And is there anything coming up that you’re particularly excited about? What’s next for Cole & Son?
We are currently working on some really exciting new collections which I know our customers will love. With each of these we are continuing to push technical boundaries through different print methods to produce exceptional and unexpected wallcoverings
There’s still a lot of feelings of nostalgia and sentiment for the past – a real love and appreciation for attention to detail and craftmanship, traditional production techniques and the raw beauty of hand-made pieces. We consider this with each new collection launch and continue to look into what fibres, textures, and print making techniques we can use to emulate the beautiful techniques and traditions of the past for today’s customer.
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