Lou Rota is a London-based designer/maker whose ceramics and furniture are characterised by quirky combinations of bugs, birds and flowers. Much of her work focuses on the transformation of existing products – she hunts down tired vintage and unwanted salvage and transforms them into things of beauty, whether it’s faded bone china or a battered French chair. Her work is sold in Liberty and Caravan in London, Fleux in Paris and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong. She has also designed an exclusive collection for Anthropologie.
Describe your studio/workspace. I have a bijou wood and glass studio at the bottom of my garden. It’s white, light and surrounded by greenery, which makes it a very peaceful place to work. On fine days I throw the doors open and have meetings on the deck outside.
What’s on your desk right now? A mug of fennel tea, a couple of profiteroles left over from my daughter’s birthday cake, a sheep skull which is in line to be drawn and a very long ‘to do’ list.
Before you begin a new design, you must… Do a lot of thinking. The thought process always takes more time than the actual doing/making I find.
Who inspires your work? Paul Smith. His little added extras and unexpected detail – one buttonhole stitched in a colour different to all the rest, say, or a cuff lined with floral fabric on an otherwise plain shirt – are what mark his clothes out and make them special. These are the inspiration for the surprise elements in my work – a bug at the bottom of a mug; a rosebud on the underside of a plate. I would also like to think that my work has a similarly quirky British feel to his.
You know a design is a success when… it’s a bestseller! My Nature Table plates are apparently flying out the doors of Anthropologie’s London stores, which is great news. I also get a thrill when I flick through magazines and see my work in context, in someone’s home.
The thing about being an independent designer/maker is… It’s my passion and what I do best, but the business side of things takes up as much, if not more of my time. I often dream of finding a like-minded soul who would take care of that side of things.
Why did you set up Homeworks? Working from home on your own can sometimes be a lonely business, so we set up Homeworks – a group of like-minded designer makers, who all live locally – to provide support, swap ideas and information, share our expertise and arrange sales and events, like our Christmas Bazaar. Together we can create a unique shopping environment, which supports local business, encourages people to buy things made with thought and care, and provides a platform for newer designer/makers to sell their work. We’d like to do for gifts, clothing and homewares what farmers’ markets have done for food.
Aside from product design, I am pretty good at… cooking, especially with spices. I have the most pedantic spice drawer in London! I particularly love the North Africa meets Eastern Mediterranean recipes from the Moro cookbooks.
In another life, you would be… In a previous life I was a television producer, so you could say this is my second life! However, I think if I were to go on to a third it would have to be an entomologist, since I am fascinated by insects and find them extremely beautiful.
Describe the perfect weekend. Being with family and friends in a big glass-fronted house right on the beach – Camber Sands is a particular favourite – cooking and eating outside. And with no emails, bleeping mobiles, kids’ homework or music practice to use up precious time.
Any claims to fame? I’m delighted to be able to say that Mary Portas is a big fan of my work and regularly buys it as presents for her clients.
What can’t you live without? Tea and champagne.
Which blogs do you read? A bit of banter with Mrs Booth – engagingly written, sells beautifully simple products for children and eco Christmas cards. Park Life – there’s an incredibly strong sense of community in the Queens Park/Kensal Rise area where I live which I value enormously, and this blog is written by Juliet of Mr & Mrs Smith fame. And Homeworks, too, of course.
What invention would change your life? A nifty little gadget that allowed me to stop the world every so often so that I could catch up.
Go to Homeworks Christmas Bazaar and pick up fab homeware bits, such as the lampshades (above) by Janey Whitehorn.