Monday, 17 January 2011

Interview with the lovely abigail*ryan

I recently spoke to designer duo Abigail Percy and Ryan Bell of abigail*ryan. Scottish born jeweller Abigail recently moved to Northern Island to be live with Ryan Bell, a photographer and we catch a glimpse into their lives, find out about their passions and their creative drive...

When and why did you decide to be a designer?

It wasn't really a specific decision that either Ryan or I made - we have always been creative people, and so, it just seemed like the natural path to pursue Art and Design training when it came time to go to Uni. I studied Silversmithing and Jewellery, Ryan studied Fine Art Photography - but we both enjoy working in different disciplines!

What are your main creative influences?

Abigail: For me, it's mainly Nature - plants, flowers, natural silhouettes - and pattern design.

Ryan: Everything inspires or influences me because I am mostly an ideas person... I have an idea and I want to make it! That spurs me on creatively...making something that doesn't exist yet!

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Everywhere! Combinations of colours, materials, spotted when we're out and about... design problems that occur during our every day life spark ideas on a daily basis... things we would like to have in our home, solutions we want to find and lovely things we want to make!

Who is your favourite designer? What aspect of their work do you most admire?

Abigail: Mina Perhonen. I love that every aspect of their business is designed and considered, right down to their amazing custom shop displays. I admire that he works in many design disciplines - from textiles and clothing to furniture, accessories and interiors.

Ryan: Martin Margiela and Hussein Chalayan because they are both so witty and intelligent within their work.

What aspect of your work gives you the most pleasure?

Abigail: For me it's a toss up between doing the drawings that start our textiles off and seeing the finished product and styling it!

Ryan: I love it when our products are ready for sale and people start to buy them - the feeling of people wanting something you have made, and carefully considered at every stage, is a really great!

Where are you most creative?

Because we are ideas people, we are always thinking about our work and can be inspired by everything and anything we happen across - so, we are creative everywhere!

What is your workspace/studio like?

Currently rather unfinished and cramped! I (Abigail) have just moved my workshop from Glasgow to Belfast, so we are combining all three businesses (our jewellery studio, and Ryan's handbags as well as our homewares) so we are still working out our new space, which is at home.

As our studio is such a multi-functional space we need to be much more tidy and organised than either of our personalities would normally be - so it's going to be a challenge!

How do you describe your style?

Although we design for us, and quite intuitively, we don't try to limit ourselves with having a particular customer in mind, but the more work we produce the more we feel our whole collection is quite 'Yummy Mummy'! I think it's the combination of bright appealing colours which would look great in a family home, combined with fresh florals and natural prints which bring to mind fresh faced, wholesome living (with a strong focus of natural materials and ethical sourcing)... so, the 'Yummy Mummy' description is meant in the very best of ways!

What are you currently working on?

We are currently planning many new additional ranges for abigail*ryan - a range of printed stationery, a collection of ceramics are also in the works as well as some short run limited editions of household gift items! And, of course, some new pattern designs for tea-towels and cushions...

When you first started out, what was the best advice you received?

Abigail: I've never received any good advice to be honest which has impacted my businesses. I tend to go with my gut instincts and forge ahead in the direction I feel most drawn to. I don't want to follow other people's paths, rather, feel my way as I go along, making the best decisions for my work, my life, and how that will impact us as a whole. I really like to trust my o

wn instincts.

Ryan: Although I have never received any good advice particularly, I have had a massive amount of support from my parents. Just being able to talk through ideas, almost obsessively, at any point, is hugely helpful and has always really helped me at the starting out stage.

What advice do you have for other designers starting out?

Abigail: Take how much you think it will cost to start out and double it! Then double that... ;)

Ryan: Be as objective as possible. Just because you have taken the time to make or design something doesn't mean it's worthy of being sold. One false move can sully a whole collection - you need to be at the top of your game in all respects, be incredibly critical of your work (design AND manufacture/finish) as it's the only way to produce something you're genuinely proud of.

How do you achieve a work/life balance?

Abigail: We don't! It's almost impossible to... even when we're not working, we're thinking about work. Because we work from home, our work also becomes our life - we can't walk away from the office...

Ryan: It's totally down to your personality, because we are ideas people - we can never switch off!

What are you other passions?

Abigail: Cooking, planting our garden and trying to grow our own fruit and veg (and herbs for Ryan's soap!), trying to find perfect dresses...

Ryan: Baking, and I am currently obsessed with how

to cut patterns for clothes, decorate cakes like a professional, make my own soap, keep chickens and learn to be a Bee-Keeper. In addition, the ubiquitous films, music and games.

What is your favourite food?

Abigail: Japanese!

Ryan: GOOD Cake!

What is your greatest weakness?

Abigail: Wanting to please people all of the time.

Ryan: Cake.

Trousers or skirts?

Abigail: Skirts/Dresses! I don't own any trousers.

Ryan: Um... on me? Trousers: I'm not sure I have the legs for skirts! ;)

abigail*ryan Rhododendron Tea Towels now 20% Off in our January Sale. Ginkgo Cushions now available online.

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