An interview with surface designer Kate Usher

Frustrated by a lack of classy and imaginative textiles and decoration for children's rooms, Kate Usher decided to design her own, graduating (with a first!) just one month before giving birth to her second child. I was keen to chat to this impressive lady. We talked finding inspiration in muddy puddles,  Pinterest mood boards and the future... Kate Usher

What’s the most important thing to know about you?

I am a surface pattern designer working across interiors and fashion, my specialty is bespoke wallpaper.

Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Kate Usher?

Good Day: Get up at 6.30am wash, dress, feed the children and get them out to school on time. Come back to a tidy house, and crack on with some new designs. Receive a couple of wallpaper orders from stockists in Germany or London. Feel really inspired by something on Pinterest and create a new mood board. Pop to post office to send out samples, then visit a client about a new commission. Pick kids up from school. Make dinner, put kids to bed and sit down to a hour or two of catching up with emails.

Bad day: Sleep in, dash around the house like a mad woman, be late for school, get no orders and have designers block!

Kate Usher Mr Meerkat

What inspires your ideas?

It can be anything from the way the light reflects in a muddy puddle to an ornate jewellery collection at the Louvre, basically everything! The creative part of my brain never switches off, which can be quite tiring actually - when I'm trying to get to sleep and my brain is still visualising patterns and colours!

Kate Usher Aeronaut

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

I usually begin with a mood board to define my ideas and inspirations, followed by lots of drawing, painting and collage, then lots of CAD work to polish off the design and make it into a repeating pattern. With my wallpaper patterns I then send a CAD file of the pattern repeat to my printing company who make them into rolls of wallpaper. Et voila!

Kate Usher Sharkbait

What advice would you give to an aspiring surface designer?

I would definitely advise that you get a couple of years experience as an in-house designer before you think about going it alone, if that's what you want to do. It can be very tough starting out on your own, with no guaranteed income. It's good to spend some time within a company learning how to make your designs as commercial as possible so that they sell. I did not follow any of this advice, but it would have made things easier!

Kate Usher electric image

Desert island design time; which three designed items could you not live without?

My Bamboo Wacom Tablet - obviously it would need to have my Mac attached to it too.

A wall print by Ruben Ireland - maybe I could hang it from a tree?!

My vintage Ercol elm dining table - I think it would look nice on a beach.

Kate Usher Bespoke

What are you most proud of?

Probably graduating with a first; a month before giving birth to my second baby - it was a fantastic surprise.

What’s next for you?

Hopefully more projects in the commercial and hospitality interiors sector. I'm also thinking of creating pattern collections for licence.

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

This is a tricky one being a colour trend consultant, as it changes regularly. But I'm always drawn to bright turquoise or teal tones.

Kate Usher Installation