Monday, 23 July 2012

A chat with Thornback and Peel

Deck chairs, hankies, wallpaper, and cushions - there's almost nothing that Juliet Thornback and Delia Peel aren't itching to adorn with a curious, quirky print. 

Since 2007 they've been doing exactly that and under the name of Thornback & Peel they've quickly become known for their sketch-like motifs and unexpected take on home furnishings. We sat down with the ladies for a cup of tea and a chit-chat about everything from how they got started to their favourite food.

How did Thornback and Peel come to be?
We [Juliet Thornback and Delia Peel] met in 2004 and recognised a mutual taste for the surreal that bordered on grotesque. Our first collaboration was a collection of evening bags printed with brains, pulled teeth, and beetles. Delia had studied textiles at Goldsmiths and was working as a set designer at the Royal Court; Juliet was working as a florist. In 2006 we joined Cockpit Arts and a year later we established Thornback & Peel – a brand focusing on products for the home and inevitably reining in the grotesque a little.

Where do you find inspiration?
From everything and anything! Classically though it would be: Victoriana, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, Mr. McGregor’s garden, our own gardens, and 17th century microscope imagery.

Who is your favourite designer and what aspect of their work do you most admire?
Juliet: Eric Ravilious; the designer of my coronation mug. He is a ceramicist, artist and textile designer and did all the designs for Wedgwood. My husband gave it to me and it is more of an ornament; I can’t bear to use it in case something happens to it.

Delia: At the moment, the late designer, illustrator and commentator Olle Eksell.

What aspect of your work gives you the most pleasure?
Lifting up the screen and seeing the first print of a new design.

Where are you most creative?
All of our designs are collaborative so we start of the creative process by clearing our desks and making a cup of tea. We are looking forward to moving our office into the new shop on Rugby Street where we’ll have room to spread out.

What is your workspace like?
It is no longer chaos thanks to our amazing studio manager Emma – now there is a place for everything. We’ve been in this studio within Cockpit [Arts] for three years now, and we feel pretty established in the space – it has worked as an incubator for us; both creatively and commercially,

How do you describe your style?
A celebration of the traditional quirkiness of British humour and design.

What are you currently working on?
We’re just beginning to sample some beautiful rabbit coasters and placemats, and we now sell fabric and wallpaper by the metre, which is an exciting addition to our product range. We’re also in the design process for the opening of our shop in Rugby St (off Lamb’s Conduit St).

What was the best advice you received when you first started out?
Try to stick to your plan.

What advice do you have for other designers starting out?
Get as much work experience as you can afford to do.

How do you achieve a work/life balance?
Er, it’s a juggle, but there is a structure under the chaos…somewhere.

What are you other passions?
Our families.

What is your favourite food?
Juliet:  fish and chips.
Delia:  roast chicken.

What is your greatest weakness?
Delia:  impatience.
Juliet:  hesitation.

Thornback & Peel's Artichoke Apron, Tea Towel and Hankies are available Exclusively at Roost Living.

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