Monday, 12 November 2012

What Delilah Did - Interview with Sophie Simpson

Sophie Simpson, a "perpetual dreamer and purveyor of extraordinary things", so she describes herself, is the creative behind the cross stitch label, What Delilah Did.  We had a bit of a chat with her this week to find out all about her and what inspires her designs.

When and why did you decide to be a designer?
Designing and making things is just something I have always done, so it was in the back of my mind from a very early age that I wanted to be a designer of something – it was just a case of deciding what. I tried my hand at lots of different crafts but it wasn’t until I rediscovered hand embroidery about six years ago that I knew I had found my niche. It is the perfect combination of creativity and control, which is perfect for me since I am an absolute control freak! I have been hooked ever since.

What are you main creative influences?
I am very strongly influenced by traditional design and antiques – nothing fancy, just humble country-style craftsmanship. Natural materials, muted colours, handmade things. So many products are mass produced these days that I really appreciate individual, timeless, well made things that people have taken time and care to create. I love the idea of using a traditional craft in a modern way, but still as something that can be an heirloom. It is a joy to do but it also looks beautiful. I try to base my work on this idea.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I am inspired by nature and magic and stories of old. Probably my favourite thing to do is to visit old buildings. I am literally obsessed with the National Trust! I could happily spend days doing nothing but wandering around beautiful old houses imagining I was born centuries ago…they are an endless inspiration to me. I also love period dramas and Tim Burton films, both of which never fail to make me want to start stitching. Museums are good too – basically anything old inspires me. It is a constant source of irritation to me that I was born in the wrong century.

Who is your favourite designer?  What aspect of their work do you most admire?
I’m not sure I can pick just one. For quite some time I have been deeply in love with Julianna Swaney’s illustrations – her motifs and inspirations are very similar to mine, and if I had the ability to make paint do as it was told then I would make beautiful images like hers. Another of my obsessions is Herriot Grace, a father and daughter team who sell the most incredible wooden kitchenware . If I had more pennies I would buy everything they make – it is immaculately crafted and beautifully presented.

What aspect of your work gives you the most pleasure?
The thing I love the most is the actual embroidery – the calm repetition of stitching a design and watching the image evolve as you stitch – the moment you start to see a picture in the seemingly random crosses. I also love meeting and speaking to my customers. It humbles me to think not only did somebody part with their hard earned money to buy something that I made, but that they then took time out of their day to write to me and let me know how much they liked it – that never fails to make my day.

Where are you most creative?
I am most creative at home. I am a compulsive nester and most of my products are meant for interiors, so home is the perfect setting to create them in.

What is your workspace/studio like? 
I work from home and my tiny flat resembles nothing more than a miniature factory much of the time. That said, I am also a neat freak and feel the most productive when everything is calm and clear, so it can be a bit of a juggling act. I like to be surrounded by my work; that way I can live with things and get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t.

How do you describe your style?
My style an amalgamation of the antique and the modern. Timeless, simple, elegant.

What are you currently working on?
I have a new range of bag kits in the pipeline and plan to expand my pattern range after that. I am also putting the finishing touches to my first book which will be published next year.

When you first started out, what was the best advice you received?
Just keep going. There are days when everything goes wrong and I always have a list as long as my arm of things that should have been done yesterday, but you just have to keep ploughing through it. It can be really difficult sometimes, but when you look back and see how far you have come and know it is all your own work it is absolutely worth it.

What advice do you have for other designers starting out?
Make sure you really love what you do because you will be living and breathing it twenty four seven. And be determined.

How do you achieve a work/life balance?
Um, I don’t! This is my most pressing goal. Because I live on my own and genuinely love what I do it is all too easy to find myself still working on a design or updating my website or packing up orders at 3am. I have decided to impose an 8pm work curfew in the hope that I can put a stop to this...starting next week.

What are you other passions?
I can’t live without music, and now that I am too busy to search for new things myself my little sister has taken up the baton and gives me excellent recommendations every time I see her. I also adore films and have an enduring love for period architecture.

What is your favourite food?
Spaghetti Bolognese, anything from Wagamama, or my lemon drizzle cake.

What is your greatest weakness?
Ryan Gosling. And anything related to Harry Potter – confronted by either I am entirely lost to them.

Trousers or skirts?
Neither! It’s all about the dresses. I wish it was trousers because it would be much more practical, but I look silly in anything but dresses so that is my daily uniform.

A selection of Sophie's Cross Stitch Kits are now available online and start at £22.  They make fabulous gifts for creatives and crafters this Christmas.

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