For our Tracey Neuls bedroom interior, we wanted to make it a little more cosy for the winter months. Graham and Karen from Stitch by Stitch, thank you so much for styling our room interior with this gorgeous product of yours.
This quilt we are lying on is soft and beautiful but seems more special than most. It is so detailed, how long does it take to produce?
Our production times are long because there is so much hand work involved in them.
Most of our products are hand spun, hand woven and hand stitched, so for example, just the ‘kantha’ top stitching in our quilts takes around a month to complete!
It’s a wonderful journey from start to finish and stands the test of time. Did you discover this type of production by chance when travelling in India or did you set out wanting to source and produce something more ethical?
Graham: I was invited some years ago to work on a project with SEWA (the Self-Employed Women's Association) - many of their nearly 2 million members are hand embroiderers. I was the creative director and designer of a fashion event that promoted their work on garments and showed it in a contemporary context. This gave me the idea and inspiration to launch a collection of home textiles back in Europe. Karen joined me in the company to help with the sales and marketing of which she had many years experience.
You also produce amazing rugs and we have one in the shop too. Please tell us more about this part of your collection and the processes involved.
These rugs are made by an amazing group of weavers who are members of an NGO in Nepal working to develop traditional artisan textiles for the wider international market. They are a development of traditional Rhadi, a heavy felted wool cloth that has multiple uses traditionally. They are woven in strips on a nomadic back-strap loom, which are stitched together by hand, then boiled to create a woven felt piece.
We were being a bit cautious about including the rug because of course it will be walked on. However, that’s what rugs are for and you have been very encouraging about this rug’s material qualities…?
The rugs are extremely robust! The yarn is hand spun from the wool of hardy mountain sheep, who obviously survive out in all weathers, and its natural dust, dirt and damp-repellent properties are carried through into the product. You can even machine wash them as they have already been through a very hot wash.
Can you describe an interesting place you slept on those travels that has stayed in your mind?
Graham: Oh yes! One in particular that I will never forget! When I worked on my first project we went out into the remote Kutch desert to work with a cluster of women. We worked in the courtyard of the home of the lady responsible for this group and at night we slept on the roof of her house, under the stars in a traditional charpoy bed. It was amazing, although we were woken in the middle of the night by the call to prayer at the mosque next door!
You are two friends who met when studying Textile Design at Winchester School of Art. Did you share a similar aesthetic or inspiration?
We have always shared an appreciation for the hand made and for traditional textile crafts, art and design, although we each studied slightly different aspects of textile design - knitting for fashion and constructed textiles for interiors.
Who or what inspires you now?
Graham: I have always been inspired by folk art, traditional crafts, the irregular, the hand made, the slight of hand.
Karen: My current obsession is with ceramics and baskets! I also take a lot of inspiration from modern architecture and interior spaces.
What advice would you give to a student studying Textile Design?
Stick with it! It has been said that people with a textile training are the most versatile of designers, it is such a varied subject. Our contemporaries are working in such a variety of creative fields now. I would say: don’t put up any barriers and follow all opportunities!
What is your most popular item that you sell?
How would you describe your own home style and what is your favourite room in your house and why?
Graham: My home style is very personal, eclectic and a bit over-full! There are many items that are brought home from travels and from styling photo shoots. My favourite room is my kitchen, as my other great love is food and cooking. I’m just getting into fermenting!
Karen: My style is contemporary and classic European mixed with a bit of High Street and global elements! My favourite room is my living room which has great proportions, tall ceilings and Victorian architectural details. It's a big family space where we can all find a place to relax. I have some classic furniture pieces by Hay, Swedese and a British-made sofa from Hitch Mylius, combined with textiles from Stitch by Stitch and a much-loved pillow from Kuwait made in the traditional bedouin Sadu weaving technique, and I'm gradually building up a modest collection of art, including a large print called "Great India" by artist Natasha Kumar. My son also fills it with his Lego creations!
You have a great portfolio of projects that you continue to work on, ranging between styling photo shoots, art directing, advertising campaigns, as well as Stitch by Stitch, what projects are you working on at the moment?
We are both mainly focussed on Stitch by Stitch because we have made a commitment to develop it as much as possible and really make a difference to the lives of our producers by giving them regular work.
Graham: I have just been invited to curate a collection of interior products from a selection of textile graduates and at the same time I continue my work in trend forecasting and photo styling.
Stitch by Stitch has an amazing synergy between something handcrafted and contemporary. Is there anything you would like Stitch by Stitch to create that you haven't so far?
We are currently developing a very simple, hand woven cashmere blanket woven by a co-operative of deprived women in Afghanistan. The product is simple, allowing the beauty of the hand weaving and the quality of the cashmere to really shine.
Graham wears Jimmy Grey Reflective and Karen is wearing Molly Ribena
Bed design by Matthew Hilton by De La Espada.
"We have had a lot of fun in our East London shop, pushing the boundaries of retail, treating it like a gallery and hosting thought-provoking Artist Collaborations and creating our most recent Mise en Scene Shoe Bar. We've had a blast and thought leaving you on a funny note would make perfect sense. We look forward to serving you at our other Two Locations in London and of course Online.
Thanks for all your support, laughs and damn good fun - onwards and upwards!"
This year, the Viral ACBF will be a new online experience bringing you a lot of good surprises! We're really happy to be sharing the web live access with over 100 artists! For art lovers and curious spirits, you'll be able to find paintings, sculptures, photography & print edition, ceramics, collages, drawings and all sorts of weird and amazing artworks and of course SHOES.