design blog

  • Interior Insider: Abigail Brown

    Nov 01, 2011

    With birds being this season's hottest trend, it was no surprise that our radar homed in on designer Abigail Brown’s wonderful hand crafted menagerie at this year’s Origin Craft Fair in London. And since we clapped eyes on her fabric creations, we've been desperate to ask her all about them.

    The Surface Decoration and Printed Textiles graduate has worked as a designer and illustrator of children's books, children's wear, stationery and greeting cards, and produced work for the advertising industry - all whilst continually exploring ideas in fabrics for herself, and it is that fabric work that has caught the attention, and imagination of the design world.

    We caught up with Abigail to ask her where it all started…

    Long tailed tit

    Where did your interest in birds originate and what attracted you to making them into artworks?
    I'd been making a lot of drawings of birds, enjoying the form and creating my own style of representing the feathers. I made a range of clay birds and tried one in papier-mâché. Around that time I was making little animals in fabric, plush toys created from my character drawings. Then a friend asked if I could make a fabric birds for an antique cage she had. I really enjoyed making that first little bird and when I investigated further with the idea I found it appealed to many other people too, so the whole thing just grew from there.

    Blue tit

    What is your design process?
    I start by sourcing images of the chosen bird from different angles so I can understand the form and its markings and colour. From there I create drawings which result in a paper template which is used to build the basic body shape. Once stuffed and with the wire insert, I build all the layers of fabric on top, and finally add the tiny hand stitched details.

    Which piece is your favourite?
    I am very fond of the flamingo, which isn't as true a representation as my other species of birds have been. The colours in its wings and tail are so striking.
    But generally when I create a new piece, if it's worked out well, then it's my new favourite.


    Any plans to branch out even further (you've already got The Weirdlets, butterfly brooches and the Foxens)?
    I'm currently enjoying concentrating on birds because there is so much colour and variety. I am constantly discovering new species and there's still a long list I wish to recreate.

    To work in the same way with animals creates issues: I won't get the bright colours, their forms are so much more complex meaning they will take much longer to complete and would be very costly.

    When I have time to experiment with other ideas in fabric I develop my creature characters. These are fanciful and allow me to bring in colour and play with the form to make it simpler. So yes, occasionally I do move away from birds but there are no plans for any permanent move!

    Group of birds

    Can you tell us what your home is like?
    I live with my boyfriend in a rented flat. It was intended to be a commercial property: open plan, mezzanine level, floor to ceiling windows at the front opening onto the street. It was a huge white box when we moved in, with amazing light which was the appeal. We'd both intended on picking a property with history and interesting features but when we found this one we couldn't say no.

    Downstairs is a big open living space with a separate toilet and shower room and the whole of the upper level is our bedroom. The lower space is very colourful, bright, bold patterned cushions on the sofa, a mix of prints, illustrations and photos on the wall, some beautiful pieces of old furniture: a tall wooden locker and an E.Gomme side board. My boyfriend loves to buy plants and the stairway is like a jungle with overgrown plants lining the path.

    Upstairs is calmer: a muted palette, white, wood, some black and some subtle hints of colour. I'm quite a girly girl so there are more feminine touches upstairs: some of my favourite dresses on display, necklaces hung from hooks on the wall. Our current project is creating a family photo wall with some real treasures from the family photo collections. We also have a huge fancy dress box which


    What do you like about the space you've created?
    It feels very personal, comfortable and homely but it also feels quite playful as well.

    What are the most important things a home should provide?
    It should be a respite from the stresses and strains that can exist outside of it. We should be able to control the things that go on in our own home and it's very important to my boyfriend and I that our home makes us happy, keeps us calm and is somewhere we are proud to welcome people into.

    Abigail’s birds start at £65 for a little swan and go up to £1242 for her large blue peacock design, but as every item is unique, don’t expect your favourite to be around forever! Discover more of Abigail's intricate and beautiful work for yourself on her website.

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