An interview with textile designer Claire Vine

As official blogger for Pulse, I am getting to meet all sorts of shiny new people - one of them is Claire Vine, the lady behind Elsy & Vine, who will be in Pulse's Launchpad section from Sunday 10th - Tuesday 12th June. I talked to her about long walks, magazines and the importance of a title. Elsy & Vine chair cushions


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

I’m multi faceted! I’m a mother, wife, housekeeper, teacher, designer, maker...

Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of the Claire Vine.

A good day starts in a slightly manic manner; a flurry of gathering PE kits, lunch boxes, lost ties... followed by a good walk with Lola to clear my head, read emails, make phone calls and plan the day ahead. On a good day I get to spend time fiddling in my sketchbook, (my favourite thing), followed by knitting samples on the knitting machine (and of course they all come off perfectly!), followed by a bit of stock piling! Dinner with husband and teenagers and another walk to finish the day. And on a really good day, I manage to keep my head out of the fridge!!

A bad day is too much rain and not enough time to do any of the things I want to do. Lola and I go a bit stir crazy without our big walkies and it's very hard to keep my head out the fridge!

Elsy & Vine blue heart cushion

What inspires your ideas?

So so many things; a snippet of conversation, a flash of an image on the television, a magazine scrap. I like to keep up to date with future trend predictions although for the most part each collection evolves from a title. I love magazines, online and printed, and very often a seed is planted from an image or article. My mother hides her magazines, I’m not sure why, but she gets a bit cross when she finds sections missing from her magazine pages!

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

I have realised all my collections or pieces have titles which I very often use as a starting point - words and titles float around my head. I’ll start collecting images, found items, visit a couple of inspiring shops, visit the kids section in the library or book shop and start building a mood board.

Sometimes I’ll have an idea kicking around my head for a couple of years. At the moment I’m desperately trying to remove the moustaches from my head! Sometimes I have an idea but no title, this generally causes a bit of chaos in my mind and until the title comes to me, I’m unable to develop the work!

Once I’ve got the start of a mood board I’ll start developing ideas in my sketch book which I’ll translate to my knitting machine. The relationship between my sketchbook and knitting machine is a close one, it can take days of sampling and playing before I get something right, sometimes it becomes a bit too intense and I have to move away and start working on something else. Invariable, when this happens I’ll have one of those 3 o'clock in the morning flashes of inspiration and be raring to get back to it.

Once I’ve developed a product or collection, i’ll let it sit on my desk for a few weeks. It gives me a chance to see it from a distance, to let it settle. Then if needs be I’ll go back to it and give it a tweek.

Elsy & Vine Pile of cushions

What advice would you give to an aspiring textile designer?

It's all in the planning. Work out exactly what you want; do you want to sell wholesale to shops or direct to public, or both? Spend a year visiting every event you can and decide which would suit your product, attend as many free business and networking seminars as possible, spend a little on subscription fees if necessary and join the mailing lists for organizations such as Cockpit Arts, Arts Council England, CraftCentral; these all offer business advice and networking sessions. Arts Council have a jobs and events email that goes out every week which is always very useful. Sit down and work out your finances. Unfortunately the boring bits tend to take over at the beginning, but you soon start gathering knowledge and contacts and the business side of things becomes easier to understand and manage.

My biggest bit of advice is stick with it and be true to yourself. Don’t get distracted by what others are doing, your individuality will take you a long way.

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

My wedding ring; I commissioned a gorgeous large flat off centred domed affair about 5mm thick made of pink resin encased in silver with a gold heart floating in a bubble in the middle with mine and my husbands initial. Very kitsch but FABULOUS! By Helen Noakes; a lovely lady based in Salisbury.

My Julia Pott  canvas shopper, and Nicky Snow canvas shopper, I swap between the two every few days, I’ve given up the search for the perfect bag; I realised I had them right there all along!

And on a rainy day I like to wear one of my Sarah Green original perspex necklaces.

Elsy & Vine Theatre Royal

What are you most proud of? 

My proudest moment was opening my BA results letter. I can never explain the feeling I had seeing my First with Honours. I cried hysterically! I had endured 4 years as a lone parent and full time student, it was heavy going but the most amazing experience ever. My tutor told me later that I had been awarded the highest mark she had ever given!

What’s next for you? 

To be honest I’m taking it a bit more slowly of late. I recently had a small sculptural exhibiton at the Theatre Royal Winchester and it was lovely (if I do say so myself!) lots of clouds suspended from the glass ceiling, wooden swallows swooping, and giant knitted trees. I plan to push this side of my work further. I’m also a member of a recently formed collaborative group 5am (, we have been asked to contribute toward a National Trust exhibition at Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire and have various other events lined up over the next 12 months.

I am also at Pulse in June (stand LP40, 10-12 June, Earls Court)

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

It swings between pink, turquoise or orange! Impossible to pinpoint an exact favourite!