Wallpaper design pioneer and queen of trompe l’oeil Deborah Bowness describes herself as an Artisigner. During the 1990s her inventive use of digital printing revolutionised the very notion of repeat pattern wallpaper designs. Her first wallpapers ‘Hooks and Frocks’ featured a photographic montage of hanging dresses, digitally printed life-sized onto drops of wallpaper enhanced by silkscreened colour and hand painted details. She’s about to launch her new range (all British made) at this year’s Tent, so we caught up with her…
Who or what inspired you to become a designer? I don’t remember ever thinking of doing anything else. From a young age, I think mum, dad and my teachers recognised that I had artist ability and that I enjoyed it. I was always given the freedom and encouraged to explore my creativity. I remember an early fascination with Clarice Cliff ceramics. I was intrigued by the handpainting on an industrial scale.
Where do you get your ideas from? I’m not good at producing ideas on demand. It stresses me out. The process has to happen naturally. I generally get my ideas when I am out and about and when I’m least expecting it. Ideas come from the objects of everyday life and the unexpected, images and objects apparently out of context.
What’s your studio like? It’s a big, empty, white, light, bright and airy space. There are three huge windows at the front which frame an amazing view of the sea, (The English Channel). The basement, however, is dark and slightly damp. I think the sea is trying to claim it. It’s crammed full with all the stuff I have collected after years of trawling charity shops and car boot sales.
What are you most proud of? I feel proud of not giving up or compromising and being able to survive by doing what I want to be doing.
Which other designers do you admire? Any designer who challenges my preconceived notions. The way Fornasetti used image is admirable.
What’s your favorite piece of design? It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific thing. I like design that is simple beautiful and clever. I like Uten.Silo designed by Dorothee Becker in1969.
What’s your home like? It’s a three bedroom bungalow in the countryside with a wonderful view across a valley. It has a real fire, no TV and a fish pond in the garden. Because it is rented, I’ve never felt like I can really make it my own, so it is not a true expression of myself which I feel home should be.
Aside from wallpaper design I’m pretty good at… dancing.
What makes you smile? Blue sky. The Alabama 3. Wine. Swimming outdoors. Good food. My sister. Steve. A bargain. Waking up and realising I’m on holiday or I don’t need to get up for anything.