Introducing the fabulous Elizabeth Ockford: Creative designer and maker behind the new beautiful wallpapers at The French Bedroom Company.
When did you launch EO and what inspired you to start your business?
I launched EO Ltd. in October 2019. I had spent my career designing for large successful businesses, and my designs always sold well, but I never felt the drive to have my own name above the door until around 2017. At the time, yet again, I was designing for someone else- and I finally realised that I wanted to be able to design and sell exactly what I liked, to be able to use colour and pattern freely, and to be able to ( hopefully) inspire people to refresh their interiors with the sort of good energy that I love to imbue.
How would you describe your wallpaper designs?
They all have character, and often a gentle sense of humour. I mean, who can’t smile at a wall of Lobsters?
But generally, there is a truth to the mark-making and drawing/painting that comes from my insistence that the designs are all drawn up in traditional methods before we move to Cad design.
I am a colour addict, and so they are always colourful. The ones created for The FBC have a softness to the colouration- that gives a dreamy and calm feel to them- but still, there is much positivity in the colours.
I don’t want to challenge people with my designs, or be particularly trendy- I just want to help people create interiors that they love.
Why do you love wallpaper so much?
Oh, that goes way back… When I first started work at Osborne and Little way back in the 90’s, the studio was situated above the factory floor where -the wallpaper was manufactured. I learnt about design from Antony Little but also learnt SO much from working directly with the printers on the machines. The delight of seeing a design you have created rolling off the end of a print machine has never left me, nor has the pleasure of working with a manufacturer to create the best results possible.
And wallpaper is such a good way to create a mood in a room. You can have plain or semi-plain curtains in which you invest - but change the wallpaper every two or three years - the cost is a fraction of new drapes, but the dramatic change that can be created is amazing.
Any tips for someone planning their next room redecoration?
Choose one thing that MUST be in the room, and then design around it.
That might be an amazing new bed, a pair of bedside tables or a luxurious throw for instance. That one thing will give you colours and shapes and styles as guides for what else to put together.
If you then choose a great wallpaper to go with it, that may contain some small areas of additional colours that you can then pick out with accessories such as cushions and lampshades etc.
Create a mood board to think it over - cut ideas out of magazines or take screenshots from the net- and gradually you will arrive at a set of choices- even the greatest designers can’t choose it all at once- so don’t expect yourself to be able to.
Do you have any hobbies that inspire your creativity at work?
Watching TV and movies- I get a feel for colour, eras or design styles.
I used to get inspired very much by visiting art galleries and exhibitions in London, and shops… there's a fabulous Paul Smith shop at the back of Bond Street for instance that always had wacky furniture and accessories - I used to love going in there.
But in the last year I’ve been forced to look at things closer to home for inspiration, and from that has grown the Garden- gardening is one of my hobbies, and painting flowers I guess is one also.
Do you plan your designs in your head first, or do you just sit and paint?
I get teased at work because I start each morning with “err I’ve been thinking overnight and …” My head can conjure up designs continuously, and I’ve got very good over the years at putting ideas down on paper that I’ve seen in my mind’s eye.
But similarly, painting is such tremendous fun, and what often works best are things that happen by accident- either an unexpected mark or a colour - it’s best not to be too rigid about what you are expecting the final piece to look like- then it flows more from your heart and stomach than from your head- and is all the better for it.
Do you have any tips for people wanting to draw for their mindfulness or moments of calm?
Do it whilst also listening to some favourite music, so that your brain is invited to float over / above what you are drawing. It stops the experience from being too intense and helps you to flow more.
Don’t start with a clean, blank piece of paper, that’s just too much stress!! Close your eyes and make a mark. A random mark. Rub it out.
Now the paper is no longer virgin, perfect, and you will be more relaxed working on it.
Don’t measure your drawing against anyone else’s - its brilliance is in its authenticity to you.
Draw using pencils that are 2B or softer. Try even using graphite pencils that can be washed with water. Or be brave and get mucky with some charcoal, smudging the marks and working into them with a rubber.
Look online there are some brilliant videos now that will help you to work out where to start.
Quick fire round:
Pencils, watercolour or oils?
Birds or bees?
Birds- so many characters and colours
Lobster or crab?
Gotta be Lobster (but actually I don’t like eating either!)
Flower bed or seabed?
What is your all-time favourite flower and why?
Easy- a Tulip. They are so great, especially when they are nearing their end and they fully open and tip over the side of a vase. Or in the garden when there’s a big drift of them all lifting their heads to the sunshine.
One of the best books I’ve read too- Tulip Fever.
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