I began my career in 1975, after doing a year’s fashion foundation course at Salford Polytechnic. I understudied master craftsmen working in surface pattern in an independent Manchester based design studio which had close connections to the studios in Europe. Within a year or so I was thrown into the exciting world of design, creating varied and prolific portfolios for bedlinen and soft furnishings for almost every brand and retail group in the UK as well as many internationally. Between 1975 and 1992 the studio designed most of the main collections of bedlinen for M&S, House of Fraser, BHS, Debenhams and many more, alongside soft furnishings for brands such as Rectella, Edinburgh Weavers and Crowson. Highlights included working in the mills in South Africa and Zimbabwe, time spent in the Parisian studios and others in Italy and Germany. I worked with Dorma, and
Mary Quant on her bedlinen collection, and attended international interior shows and exhibitions during the champagne era of the 80s and early 90s. I moved to the North East in 1978 to work for Lonrho
Textiles, Cramlington, Northumberland – a mill which employed about 2,000 people and owned a network of more than 400 retail outlets, Brentfords and Accord concessions. Before the mill closed in the late 1990s, I was employed by the company as buyer and producer of the Accord concessions, working on a collection in 1996 for Grattans with my favourite designer, Zandra Rhodes.
Between 1995 and 2003, I had close connections to the mills in Pakistan where I lived and worked for more than two years, training designers and creating collections for international markets. On returning to the UK, and realising that the key trend was for neutral colours and woven texture
in design, rather than colour and printed pattern, I decided to sidestep the industry and took a short interior design course. For six years I worked in Fenwick, Newcastle and then Dickinsons, Hexham as Interior Designer. When the trend for lots of pattern and colour returned and the desire to create and paint again became too strong to resist, I set up Diane Marsland.
What do you love most about what you do? I love the whole creative process of designing, especially the research, planning the layouts and experimenting with the colours and techniques. I also love product development and the styling of the product or room decoration scheme. Quite often there are challenges such as technical, marketing or cost restrictions which always make the job more interesting to me and reminds me that designing is an ongoing and ever changing learning process.
What inspires you? There are many things which inspire me – too many to list, but the key inspirations are travel, fashion and flowers and photographing everything from urban and coastal views to architectural and textures. I also use artists who paint flowers as references such as the Dutch Floral painters and in particular the French botanical artist, Redoute. When travelling I am keen to collect anything relating to ethnic art and I love creating new ethnic style designs from Indian to Oriental, African and North American. I also follow fashion for colour and inspiration for my mood and trend boards.
What makes Diane Marsland different? I must be the only designer in the North East (or UK) who can design a room, create and hand paint the artwork for wallpaper and textiles with integrating wall art and then measure up for the styling and development of the finished product. Perhaps due to my 35 year successful career as a textile designer, producer, buyer and decorator, I struggle to define my title or role, and therefore enjoy the ‘tongue in cheek’ description of myself as a ‘Plumber with a Paintbrush’. All of my projects are approached not only with passion but with practicality as well – style with substance. My mission statement is ‘To create beautiful handcrafted floral or decorative art for most interior concepts, treating each piece as a special part of a room decoration scheme.’ This can be as simple as one painting or wall hanging which will integrate with the existing scheme, or a more complicated project which can include designing the paper and fabric, having the fabrics printed and made up into drapes, cushions and so on, ultimately creating a beautiful room which will have style and longevity whilst reflecting the client’s taste and customised to their specifications. I aim to offer a service where art meets design.
What are you most proud of? I’m most proud of my achievements over the last one and half years,
and setting my own business up a year ago. My partner gave me the opportunity to take a year out but unfortunately he was made redundant and what should have been a pleasant time painting and building up collections ended up being a time of financial restrictions and firefighting. Determined to work around this and put a few things on the backburner, I built up a portfolio of designs and art, studied
digital design at college, and created my own website, online shop and blog (which was rather daunting as two years ago I had never owned a computer and had no idea how to work one). It is only recently that I have been able to reap the benefits from this hard work – I have sold 90 percent of my art and products from the Summer and Christmas 2011 collections, and have even broken into the unknown territory of
the art world as I have paintings currently in the Biscuit Factory and Haslams of Hallgate in Hexham. I also donated proceeds from the sale of my Passionstar wallhanging to the Lifespan charity. I owe a lot to my partner and his ongoing support, otherwise I know that I would have had to bury my dreams completely.
What are you currently working from I have a lot of opportunities in the pipeline at the moment. I’m
creating a design manual with workshops covering traditional surface pattern training and disciplines. I own a substantial collection of original dress designs from a Manchester mill, which were given to me many years ago. I am also working with a research expert at the university there and looking at what the possibilities are for an archive collection. I would also love to design a room around these designs. I’m working on a wallpaper collection for a company in the UK which I hope to start by the end of February. I have a new theme for the Spring which is under wraps at the moment but will
continue the evolution of my style and passion for flowers with a touch of the surreal. I’m developing wall art and products including cushions, tabletops and perhaps a totally new but related product in
collaboration with another artist.
Is there such a thing as an average working day?
If you had asked me this question six months ago I would have said yes, and that would have been every day either sitting by the computer or at the drawing board. If for 2012, I achieve at least 50 percent of my ‘work in progress’ then I shall be like most self-employed sole traders, where there is no average working day. I am excited by the prospect, but realise that a few projects will have to be relegated to second division until I can either employ other designers or focus on just one job.
Where do you hope to see your business going in the future?
I would like the education side of the business to grow. The design manual and workshops will hopefully act as a foundation for my long term goal and that is to have a working design studio and training academy in the North East, perhaps employing school leavers as apprentices in a way similar to my own training. The academy would work to preserve traditional hand painting techniques, and
combine these techniques with digital discipline (a way of working which does not exist at the moment). I would also like to build up both my brands: the ‘One Day’ occasion brand of affordable art and products and the DMCOLLECTION of classics. Personally, I would like to continue on the bespoke side offering a unique service of art and design for domestic environments and also working closely with interior designers on special contracts like hotels.
How would you spend your perfect weekend in the North East?
I enjoy walking and I love anywhere with water, especially the coast. I love an Autumn walk at Allen Banks, Crag Lough on the Roman Wall. I love anywhere at Kielder which is on my doorstep, also but perhaps the winner has to be a walk from Beadnell to Newton because I not only adore the sea but there is a pub at the end of the walk. Then the weekend would be complete with a barbecue or picnic on the beach.
Other than designing what makes you happy?
Anything related to the other senses. I am probably most passionate about perfume. I adore the perfumes created in the late 1800s to 1920s by Guerlain, Piguet or the recently rediscovered House of Grossmith in London. I have to wear perfume every day so I can imagine that every day is special. I am not the best cook but I am a pretty good guest as I enjoy most different types of cuisines, especially
Indian, Thai and Arabic. From growing up with Northern Soul at Wigan Casino, Punk, The Smiths to Charles Aznavour and anything in between, I thrive on an eclectic selection of music; the mood dictates the genre, therefore anything goes.