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Meet designer and Decorex collaborator Ellen Merchant

This year, the UK's celebration of interior design, Decorex, will feature an unmissable collaboration with talented designer and printmaker, Ellen Merchant, for the 2024 event creative.

Drawing from an early love of pattern and print, Ellen creates hand-drawn, uplifting interior textiles with a decorative aesthetic that pays homage to the British Arts and Crafts movement. Ellen's creative prints are designed and produced in England and exude traditional hand techniques, which she has demonstrated as part of Decorex's Making Spaces for the past two years.

Ellen describes her journey as a British textile designer and decorative artist, as well as her exciting collaboration with this year's Decorex.

Photo: Decorex

How did you discover your passion and talent for designing?
'I've always loved drawing and painting, even as a small child, I wanted to be an artist. I was particularly drawn to anything decorative and was very excited and inspired by houses and interiors. I started printmaking at art school and found that all of my artwork naturally lends itself to pattern, and designing repeats came quite naturally to me. When I began to print my patterns on fabric and wallpaper, it was like all of my interests had aligned and something clicked into place!'

Tell us about your career journey.
'I grew up in Dorset but moved to London as soon as I finished school to study a foundation in art and design at Central Saint Martins and then a BA in Illustration at Camberwell College of Art, where I developed my own style and fell in love with printing. I then got a job designing prints for women's fashion, where I worked for a couple of years. I knew that I wanted to run my own business and work under my own name. I also wanted to move away from fast-paced design and create textiles with real purpose and longevity. I left my job to attend the Royal College of Art in 2019 to study an MA in Textiles. COVID rudely interrupted the two-year course and closed the college's print facilities, at which point I decided to take a sabbatical to set up my own studio instead of continuing the course online. My (now) husband learned how to upholster furniture, and I printed textiles. The business gradually grew from the floor of our studio flat to our own studio over two years. This year we relocated from London to East Sussex and have set up our workshop in a barn conversion in Winchelsea, near Rye. We are also excited to soon be opening a shop on the high street to sell textiles, homeware, and vintage furniture.'

Do you have a favourite colourway or print, and why?
'Whatever I'm currently working on is usually my favourite, but it does change all the time! My Nomad print in the Jamboree colourway was the first design I released, so I am particularly fond of it.'

Can you talk us through the process of creating a new design?
'I always start with lots of drawings. I have hundreds of sketches for print ideas lying around! A lot of my designs start out as linocuts so that I can play around with the colours and compositions quite easily on a small scale. I love the unpredictability and texture that comes with hand printing, so a lot of my process is about creating and maintaining that in production. I do lots of colour experimentation and print on different surfaces to see how it works as both a fabric and a wallpaper.'

What is your favourite part of the process?
'My favourite part is when I'm trialling colours and compositions in my studio. After spending days drawing and agonizing over the shapes and forms, it's really fun to see it transform into a repeating pattern and come to life with colour.'

You have featured in Decorex Making Spaces for the past two years – why did you take part, and how did it benefit you?
'I have loved being a part of Decorex for the past few years. I met so many amazing fellow exhibitors, as well as visitors to the show. It's been invaluable to have the opportunity to demonstrate my work and process in person. Like many other makers, I spend so much of my time working alone, so Decorex is a fantastic opportunity to get out of the studio, meet people, and be inspired by everyone else's work.'

What are you most looking forward to at Decorex?
'I love seeing what everyone else has been up to! I will also be launching my new collection, so I can't wait to show it and see what everyone thinks of the new designs.'

Decorex will be held 6-9 October at Olympia Events, London.

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