An interview with textiles designer Deryn Relph

On some level, design should make you smile. Because it works really well, because it solves a particular problem, or sometimes, just because it's somehow happy... If Deryn Relph's work isn't happy design, I don't know what is... What’s the most important thing to know about you?

I’m very down to earth, friendly, loyal and trustworthy – definitely not a design diva!

Deryn Relph Buttonbox design development

Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Deryn Relph.

A really good day starts early, the sun is shining and I’ll switch the music up in my studio and knit away without any holes or ladders! I might need to make up some cushions, or have a couple of hours of trying out different things, but generally everything goes to plan and the day is really productive!

A really bad day is one spent in front of the computer doing admin, emails, accounts. A very necessary part of running your own business but one that I still struggle with.

The reality is definitely a mixture of the two!

Deryn Relph cushions

What inspires your ideas?

I’m inspired by a variety of things – most often it’s a natural from or structure, a colourful image or photograph, an interesting texture, a memory – something just sparks an idea. There’s a definite retro-influence too. I grew up in the 70’s, so happy childhood memories of certain colours and patterns also play a part!

Deryn Relph Buttonbox round cushion

Describe the process you go though to turn your ideas into products.

I’m always collecting inspiring things, photos and images. When a common theme or colour begins to emerge I start to put together a mood board. I begin to develop pattern ideas in a sketchbook. I finalise a colour palette fairly early on in the process so that I can source yarns. As a range of patterns evolve I’ll start sampling on my knitting machine, putting colours together in different combinations and patterns. I always end up with far more ideas than it’s practical to use, so have to edit down – which I find the hardest part!

For some products it’s the piece of furniture or lampshade that dictates the final process – it’s shape might mean that one technique is more suitable than another for example. For my cushions, I have four shapes, and will put together knitted pieces dyed velvets and bobbles in the mixmatch style that has become my signature. The pieces work together because they are linked by colour.

Deryn Relph Lampshade

What advice would you give to an aspiring textile designer?

Follow your heart, but be prepared for hard work and disappointment too! You need determination and motivation but dreams can come true so never give up. Don’t be blinkered and think just about textiles – visit all sorts of exhibitions, keep up with contemporary design, and remember your skills are transferable too! Let your individual style evolve, but be adaptable and versatile.

Deryn Relph Renee 2 chair

Which three items could you not live without?

A cup, kettle and some clothes!

Deryn Relph Retro Rainbow cushions core

What are you most proud of?

I’m incredibly proud of my family. We’ve had a very traumatic few years recently and everyone has helped each other through it, and still managed amazing individual achievements.

Deryn Relph Retro Rainbow Cushions

What’s next for you?

I’m exhibiting at BCTF in April, and running a workshop at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I’ll continue with my freelance work, and have a potential collaboration with Clothkits too, but I’ve promised myself a period of time after Spring to develop new products and designs as well as have a major clear out and reorganisation of my studio. I’ll be exhibiting during London Design Festival too.

Deryn Relph Winnie Chair

And, finally, what’s your favourite colour?!

Do I have to choose just one?! It changes depending on my mood, but I think it would have to be purple – although I’m having a bit of a turquoise & teal phase at the moment.