Meet designer Clarissa Hulse

Meet leading light of the British textile world Clarissa Hulse who talks neon trends and anti-minimalism, and tells us why Big Brother couldn’t handle her vibrant designs. Clarissa Hulse has designed a stunning range of furniture, textiles and soft furnishings and ACHICA has a gorgeous promotion with Clarissa Hulse cushions this week too. Read on to find out which cushion designs are featured...

What inspired you study Fashion & Textiles at Brighton Art College and to become a designer?

I fell in love with textiles when I was 12 and on a French exchange trip. My exchange partner had a silk painting craft kit and once I’d had a go painting a silk scarf I was hooked. At that age I didn’t know what a textile designer was, but I fell in love with textiles there and then.

So how did you get into designing your own collection of home accessories, wallpapers and fabrics?

Although I started in fashion working for companies such as French Connection, I wanted to move into interiors. In fashion, everything changes quickly in and out, but in homewares I found there’s more room to develop my own style rather than changing my look every five minutes.

How did you get to set up your own business?

It was by accident! When I left college I got my own print studio in Holborn where I could print my own fabric, which I shared with some other crafters who were making jewellery and ceramics. They had an open weekend where we could sell to the public directly so I made some scarves. They sold out immediately and then Barneys in New York placed an order. Liberty's saw the scarves and it snowballed. Without meaning to I had my own business making hand-printed scarves!

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

The only regret I have is that I didn’t work with anyone when I left college to gain some business experience. I didn’t file my work in archives as I went along or anything like that. It would have shaved off five years of the time it’s taken me to get where I am now!

You were born in Prague and have lived in Thailand, Spain, Italy and Greece. How has this influenced your work?

We moved every few years when I was growing up as my father was a diplomat. In every home we had, my Greek mother had a real eye for design and sourced a lot of textiles from local markets. This influenced me.

What inspires you in your work?

I love antique Japanese textiles for their exquisite design, artist Mark Rothko for his colours and Andy Goldsworthy as his work is beautiful and clever. But my biggest inspiration comes from nature and the seasons, particularly autumn. Every day the same tree can look different. When I was growing up, my mother was a keen gardener and taught me the names of plant species. I look in awe at how nature can beat any designer hands down.

So would you say you’re a country girl?

The irony is that I’m not a country girl at all. I’ve always grown up in cities. I think the contrast of going to the country makes me more visually aware of it. You have to have dark to see the light! My parents live in rural Greece and I go there four times a year and am always discovering new plant species to use in my designs.

What is your favourite personal design?

My Burnet design, with its sunset colour palette of orange and red. I think it works on everything - upholstered furniture, bedlinen etc. It’s a design that came about naturally – I think the more you have to engineer a design, the less successful it is.

What has been the most exciting project you’ve worked on?

I had a lovely commission to do a commemorative scarf for Liberty's 125th year anniversary. I’ve had quite a few private commissions such as designing a range of cushions, lampshades and throws for the W Hotels chain in the US too.

I was also commissioned to do the bedlinen for Big Brother 2009. We kitted the place out my Klimt bedlinen range and created a whole range of neon pink cushions. But at the last minute it all had to be pulled – the Big Brother camera couldn’t handle the colours!

What makes a house a home?

I really love homes with a dark interior backdrop, as it makes colours in furnishings show up beautifully. I’m definitely anti-minimalist. I’m in a luxurious position of having access to lots of lovely textiles so I’m super relaxed about design in my home around my children, Leo and Angelica - I don’t mind if things get spilled!

What trend should we look out for in the coming months?

Neon finishes will be popular for accessories and feature walls. Neon pink, neon yellow, neon green – these colour liven up the home.

What three products could you not live without?

*I’m obsessed with good-quality bedding – I always spend my money on mattresses, pillows, duvets and bedlinen.

*My Nespresso machine, but I drink far too much coffee.

*L'Occitane’s Almond body lotion - its smells like a delicious piece of marzipan!

What’s the secret to successful designing?

*Persistence – keep at it no matter what knocks you get.

*Find a style of your own and really develop it.

*Keep tearsheets for inspiration. Everytime I see something - no matter how obscure – I pull it out and keep it. Unfortunately, I’m a bit disorganised and have to go through about 1,000 different bits of paper to find the thing I was looking for, but at least it’s there and helps!

Get ready to find out which homewares will be in the Clarissa Hulse promotion - it starts at 8am on Wed 10th Nov and ends at 8am on Fri 12th Nov.

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Emily Peck, Editor

View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor