Curious, creative and full of energy are the first words that spring to mind when I think of Georgia Bosson, the talented mastermind behind the fresh and colourful collection that bears her name. From her studio hidden in the depths of South Bermondsey, Georgia works her magic, mixing colour, pattern, texture, fabric and paint along with anything else that catches her eye.
Being a serial creative all her life, Georgia’s studio is a hub of creative inspiration. The work space is covered with sample prints and sketches along with delicate paintings and fabrics – a cacophony of creative activity from which emerges clean, fresh textiles and patterns.
I had the pleasure of spending a rainy morning drinking tea and chatting with Georgia about her work, her vision and what’s next in her design portfolio.
Tell us about Georgia Bosson Design
There are a lot of founding principles that I work by. I make stuff, but I’m an advocate for having less, not more, so I have to justify what I make. I want my products to have a long lifespan, so I only use linen and organic linen if possible. Linen is a strong fabric that lasts a long time and it also grows quickly and uses lass water to cultivate than cotton, so ultimately it’s also a more sustainable fabric to use.
I’m also very conscious about how my products are made. If I can make products and support a charity or the community in some way, all the better. All of my products are made in the UK and I try to use small businesses where I can. I know everyone who makes my work and I know that they produce a high quality of work. I trust them and that’s really important to me.
There are many ways to make the world a better place and I believe that if you can, then you should.
I am currently working with a couple of charities who do some production work for me. Most of my work is currently produced in Surrey by a charity called Making For Change. Making For Change is a programme set up in women’s prisons to get women back into work. It’s about giving these women skills and confidence for when they integrate back into society to help them not re-offend.
I also work with Fabric Works London which is the training, production and social enterprise arm of Stitches In Time, a charity working in textiles. Fabric Works is based in Limehouse Town Hall and supports local women, helping them to learn, create and gain support so that they are able to contribute to the local communities in East London. Many of the women are immigrants who initially don’t have very good language skills. Many have lived through traumatic experiences in their own countries and they bring with them amazing hand skills from their own cultures. There are some fantastic embroiders’ and I like to use their skills where I can. Commercially that can sometimes be difficult, but I’m looking at some limited edition collections where I can use their skills to create stunning one-off hand embroidered pieces.
So you don’t do all of the work yourself to produce your products, is that an issue for you?
I’ve often thought about this, does all of the embroidery and making need to be by my hand? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all my work. I’ve designed it, developed the ideas, drawn the sketches, worked with the colour and compositions and therefore I don’t think it does need to be my hand that executes the designs. It’s also about what’s commercially viable.
You are obviously inspired by a lot of different things. How does it all come together to create a piece of work?
There are so many things that inspire me. I do find that I always go back to the idea of negative space, it’s a theme that runs through my work and comes out in different ways. I will often draw something and then inverse it, turning it inside out to see the holes and spaces, the bits that you’re not meant to see. I find it really interesting to see the things that aren’t there. I came across some felt off-cuts from a factory which are effectively the negative space and by-product of making something else. It’s incredible stuff and I have it around the studio for inspiration. I have made some cushions with it, but I think there’s more I can do with it.
I’m surrounded my inspiration all the time. All of my work is done by hand and usually begins with a paintbrush or pen. It can be very time-consuming and I have sketch books filled with drawings. I then let things sit together around my work desk or on the wall. I change things around with some pieces staying for weeks at a time while others make briefer appearances. I like to see how different forms and colours might work together or influence each other. Sometimes an accident can turn into something interesting, or a new idea will come out of it for another piece of work. It’s all quite organic and instinctive.
A lot of the drawings end up being cut up and repositioned, or moved around so that they read differently when placed back together. I use the computer to scan the drawings in and often there is a second round of cutting up and screen printing. I do a lot of designing on the print table, playing around with form and composition. The designs build and tighten up as I go along and they then usually settle and stop, revealing the final piece.
I don’t design to trends or seasons, but I do need to consider where the design will end up. I love working with fabric for its quality of movement which can change the way a pattern sits once it’s printed, but some patterns don’t work as well on fabric. I’m looking at producing some screen-printed wallpaper which is very different to designing for fabric. You need to consider the colour and scale of the pattern in a different way to fabric. A cushion can be very bold, whereas you live with wallpaper on a larger scale so you need to take this into consideration.
I’m not someone who sits still and I have lots of energy that can put my brain into overdrive! I’m often working on two things at once with each one feeding into the other. I can be working on one piece and that will give me an idea of something on another project that I’m working on. That’s how my brain works, it’s constantly bouncing around. I share a studio with someone quite the opposite which really works!
Have you always been creative?
Being creative is always what I’ve done. When I was little I always folded paper to make different shapes and every Christmas and birthday I would be given something creative. I would make peg dolls and toys, spend hours doing it. I also loved to make mud potions which isn’t too far from what I do now when I mix paints!
From the age of about 8 I went to an art class every Saturday morning. We would do everything from lino cuts to painting and etching. I was religious about going and even went during my GCSE exams. There was always encouragement at home too, my Dad’s an architect and so is my brother, so there is creativity in the family.
At school I was always in the art room. Every lunchtime, free period and afternoon after school I was there, it was where my life happened. My art teacher during GCSE didn’t think I would do very well (I ended up getting an A), but I realised that the reason why I didn’t really enjoy GCSE art was because it was so regimented. I didn’t like what they wanted me to do.
When I was deciding what to do at university I looked at English and History as it seemed like a ‘real’ option, but then realised that it would have been insane to turn my back on my creativity. I ended up doing an Arts Foundation and then found my way to textiles. I walked into the embroidery studio at Manchester University and thought YES PLEASE! The course was a new realm for me, it was a place where people were playing with interesting ‘stuff’. The tutors were always prodding and questioning us to push our ideas and materials further. Studio hours were 9am-4pm and we had to be there! We kept journals of all our work which I still have now. It was a great discipline that I still have today.
I’ve always loved fabric, there’s something quite unique about it. I love handling it, the feel of it, you can play with it and build with it. It’s just so versatile as a material. I have worked with other mediums, but I always come back to textiles. I particularly like manipulating fabric to create a 3D form from a 2D material. I like to work with this idea with the colour and layering that I use to create depth in my prints.
Your studio is still quite young, so how do you make it work financially?
I actually have a job two days a week working for the rug designer Helen Yardley. I’ve worked for Helen since university, starting out in manufacturing and am now the Studio Manager. It’s less a job than an eduction in business! I’ve learnt so much and was working there when the recession hit which was a really interesting time. I’m always learning and have been able to apply some of these lessons to my business. Her studio has been going for over 30 years now and I’m very lucky to have the experience of her knowledge.
Taking the knocks
Taking the knocks is part of the package, you can get knocked back a lot. At first the vast majority say no, but the few yeses keep you going. With the knock backs come questions, ‘Have I presented the right thing?’, ‘Could I have presented it in a better way?’. That’s why it’s so important to feel passionate about what you do, you have to have the self-belief and ability to evaluate the situation and to say, actually I’m right here.
You have to have the self-belief and ability to evaluate the situation and to say, actually, I’m right here.
What’s on the cards right now?
The big project right now is Landmark Locations, a collaborative with designer/illustrator Cecily Vessey which we launched on Kickstarter. We made our target with a few days to spare! Kickstarter is a great platform for makers as it gives people the opportunity to invest in your business and ideas which makes people feel good. It’s been a steep learning curve, but Kickstarter is a great platform that I would like to use again.
The idea of the project came about a year ago when I collaborated with Cecily on a Peckham skyline print as a part of a campaign to save the Peckham skyline view from a big tower block development. We did a live mural and had a campaign to go with it, selling prints to support the cause. We got a lot of positive feedback so decided it would be good to do it again, but on a larger scale. Landmark Locations was born!
We decided to do 12 prints, with each print being a place that has meaning for us and connections with other people. For example, my boyfriend’s granddad worked on the decommissioning of Battersea Power Station and Cecily’s dad rowed at Henley, so these form part of the series. It’s a celebration of the UK.
Cecily created the initial drawings and then I worked on the prints which are laid over the top. I spent a lot of time working to get the colours and textures right. The light in the UK is very grey-blue, so I wanted to incorporate these tones. We produced 100 limited edition prints of each design along with a calendar and some postcards. There was also the opportunity to commission us to make a one-off piece of a chosen location. All of the prints were screen printed by a local family run print workshop near London.
This is by far the biggest body of work that we have ever produced, either singly or together! A lot of the patterns are new and working them into Cecily’s finely detailed drawings was quite a challenge. The designs needed to feel balanced and work with Cecily’s drawings, but still feel like my work.
I have also recently started screen printing workshops as I thought this would be a fun way of introducing people to what I do. The workshops are over the course of a day and at the end you take home four napkins that you’ve screen printed yourself. It’s so great to see the joy on people’s faces when they lift the screen and see that they’ve printed something for themselves. It’s actually got me really excited about the process again.
What’s the best project you’ve worked on so far?
I’ve completed a commission with The White Company which was great. I like projects where there’s a brief, budget and I make a one-off piece. The first piece of work I did was an installation in one of their stores. Being The White Company, the piece had to be white, so this was an interesting challenge and very different to what I do every day. I was working with white-on-white textiles and had to really push myself to explore how to create a white-on-white piece with impact. Through playing around and experimenting, the piece developed a lot of layers and texture that was very successful.
We are talking about a second collaboration and if it goes ahead, it will be a permanent installation which will bring its own challenges. These projects give me the opportunity to play a bit more and to explore different mediums and techniques.
What does the future hold?
My biggest challenge is where to put my energy! I’ve spent the past year focusing on the business side and looking at where I want to be. I have taken a step back from the markets, they’ve been amazing in terms of getting my designs into the market and creating a network of people, but it’s time to change and move in a different direction. The smaller products are good to bounce ideas around and I like how they allow people to connect with my work, but I would ideally like to do more interior work, fabric printing and larger projects. It will be a slow move, but it’s one that I’m really excited about.
The ultimate goal is to become a design studio with a product line. The majority of the work will sit in the design studio, working on commissions with architects, interior designers, brands and other companies and individuals. The product line will be a secondary support to this, allowing people to connect and buy my work, but it would be a very concise and carefully crafted collection of beautiful objects and not about volume. Projects wouldn’t necessarily just be fabric based, I love the opportunity to try new things and The White Company project was great as it gave me that opportunity.
So with the rain clearing and feeling inspired myself, I left Georgia to continue her day designing and planning her next big project. With so much energy and talent, I’m sure that we will be seeing a lot more of Georgia Bosson in the years to come. In the meantime, with Christmas coming there’s a heap of gift inspiration at Georgia Bosson!
Images: Georgia Bosson & Creative Glutton