In Conversation with…Tracy Kendall

Tracy Kendall Headshot1Whilst the work of designer Tracy Kendall is defined by it’s output as ‘wallpaper’, her hand screen-printed and richly embellished surfaces are far from your standard ‘paper.’ Each and every design within her collection is hand crafted, whether involving multi-layered screen-print repeats or stitched adornments. Imagery varies from design to design; you may find photographic representations of oversized cutlery, hundreds of buttons, newsprint cutouts or feathers. The latter appear again in other designs where actual feathers form a dense external layer that create sumptuous surface relief and invoke an irresistible urge to touch them. The same can be said of her pleated paper and sequin adorned ranges, all of which share in the same textile sensibilities. A dual-training background helps to explain the lineage of her designs; having originally trained in Fine Art print making in the late 1970’s Tracy later did an MA in Mixed Media Textiles and the Royal College of Art in the late 1990’s whilst working part-time in the very same institution. She set up her first official studio in London in 2003 and later moved to Margate on the South East coast where she still resides today, working with a small team on projects for the likes of the Radisson Hotel, the BBC,Worldwide and Chrisites to name but a few. I caught up with her at her converted garage studio to find out more about how she works.

Your work is defined as ‘wallpaper’ but there is a rich mix of materials involved within your portfolio as well as a huge array of processes – many of which could be described as ‘textile’ practices – how do you define your practice?

I always say I am a wallpaper designer/producer. I make a product in the same way a chair or a table is a product. I want a mirror or artwork on top of my wallpaper and furniture in front of it, I want it used and to be a part of the interior, not to take over the interior.

Where do the textile elements come from?

The textile elements come from 2 decades of working within a textile environment. Most wallpaper designers study textiles and predominantly printed textiles as this gives you a training in 4 way repeats which you need to design wallpaper successfully. I also grew up making clothes and being surrounded by fabrics as my sister worked in fashion.

Tracy Kendall StJohnsWood Project

Would you say that you like to challenge audience perceptions when it comes to interior finishes?

My Fine Art background influences my designing more than my textile background. The fine art side ‘invents’ and the textile side makes it work as a commercial repeatable product. I like to challenge myself rather than the audience as all fine artists do but then give that germ of an idea to the textile side and hopefully create a beautiful and useful product which has its own story and integrity. Then it goes to market and to see if clients like it and buy it.

Your work is very rich and often varied in terms of colour, shape, form and texture, where do you pull your inspiration from?

Inspiration comes from anywhere, from things I see, conversations I have, reading, watching movies or TV programmers, observation. Often designs are made up from lots of different sources often gathered over time and there then comes a sort of tipping point of information and I can then make new work from that. It’s not a science and again its more in tune with my fine art training than anything else.

Tracy Kendall-StJohnsWood-Project Pink

How significant is the client in the design process? Do you respond to their desires?

The client pays the bills so they are the focus of all the work. Having said that, when I’m designing for my collections they enter the equation after the designing and at the very start of the technical trials and production of the design. If I am designing for a client then of course they and their requirements are the main focus.

How has 2017 been? Any notable projects, products or developments within your practice?

We have moved home and studio in 2017 so the year has been full of change, all for the better but tiring and time consuming. I just completed working on Holiday House, a charity event which has been held for the 1st time in the UK but has been running for 10 years in the USA. 25 plus interior designers designed a different room in the house and I was asked to supply wallpaper for one of the rooms. It was great to see the wallpaper up – I normally never get to see my work installed – and within an amazing interior designed space. I’ve adapted several designs for clients spaces over the past year, the plates design was changed for a NY department store’s tableware floor and I then had to trial and use a new printer for that.

Christies London

How is next year looking? What’s in the pipeline or anything to look out for?

Next year is looking very promising. The studio should be completely finished in January and I will start giving small classes/teaching there. I have so many people asking me to teach again that I feel the time may be right for it. I am also doing tests on fabric to maybe launch a very limited fabric collection. It’s something I do for clients that know I can but I’m looking forward to seeing how people respond to the fabric and the designs. Otherwise it’s more of the same, we sample most weeks for different clients and different projects which can sometimes take a couple of weeks to come in as projects and sometimes a year so we will see what comes through.

See more from Tracy Kendall by visiting her website – here


About Jim Biddulph

Jim Biddulph is a freelance materials, colour and interior specialist with over a decade of experience working with architects and interior designers. Communicating ideas about design through creative copy has always been at the core of his work, something he has shared with Design Insider for a number of years.
View all posts by Jim Biddulph →