Homegirl London pays homage to Lush Designs. After meeting in the 80s on a Fine Art Paintings and Printmaking degree course, Marie Rodgers (right in picture) and Maria Livings (left in picture) have been the best of friends ever since. They’ve had a few interesting business ventures which led them to become Lush Designs, the company known for their colourful, doodle-style illustrations depicting magical scenes of animals frolicking in enchanting forests and bright, bold vegetables. They make an adorable range of home accessories; lampshades, cushions, clocks, tableware, aprons, napkins, oven gloves, tea towels, fabrics and greeting cards, plus some fashion accessories; bags and scarves. I caught up with Marie and Maria to ask a few questions …
Q: How did you meet?
A: We met at Art School where we were both studying Fine Art, painting and printmaking. Marie was a blonde Irish dolly with a pink spotty dress, covered in paint and I was a lass from the Pennines, dressed in a hairy black sweater with eyebrows to match. Marie’s rendition of ‘Lord of the Dance’ in a student pub sing-song is legendary, however, our folk-dancing in the studio with accompanying whoops didn’t go down well and complaints were made.
Lush Designs Tableware
Lush Designs Kitchen Accessories
Q: What made you decide to go into business together?
A: We didn’t so much decide to go into business, rather the business evolved from our creative collaborations. Lush Designs is a print-based homewares company now, but we have been ‘Jugnost’ a performance art group, ‘Rodgers and Livings, Artists to the Stars,’ then ‘Lushlobes,’ makers of slightly ridiculous costume jewellery. Our latest evolution shows a return to the narrative ideas, drawing and colour that we love, expressed in print. The name Lush Designs comes from our former identity as Lushlobes.
Q: How do you divide your roles within the business?
A: Marie’s teenage Saturday job at a bookies equipped her with the money-juggling skills she needed to look after a small business and my youthful enterprises included painting portraits of my Dad’s friend’s dogs for pocket money. Marie looks after the distribution, the money and runs the studio. I make the artworks, deal with the technical side of printing and work in the shop. We both do the drawings and work on ideas together.
Q: What was your first lucky business break for Lush Designs?
A: We’ve been in business a long time and it’s been a very gradual ascent up the slippery slope to success! I think we’re lucky to have met each other and been such great friends for so long. We’re also lucky that the inspiration has never dried up. We were very fortunate this Summer in that the Olympic Equestrian events took place in Greenwich Park very near our Greenwich shop. We met every horse-loving person in the universe and most of them bought one of our Dressage-themed products.
Q: Where do you draw your design inspiration from?
A: I think inspiration flows when you make visual images yourself and look at the world and what’s happening in it, one idea leads to another and the process of researching an initial idea soon shoots off in all sorts of directions. We look at books and Google images of course, but I was looking at my daughters’ photos on my computer the other day and she’d taken a photo of an amazing piece of 18th-century glasswork that looked like a sea creature made from spun sugar, amazing! Ideas often pop into our heads when we’re running, cycling or walking the dog. The trick is to catch them and tie them down before they float away.
Lush Designs Home Accessories
Q: What’s your fascination using animals and foliage in your designs?
A: Plant forms are incredibly beautiful; it’s little wonder that they’re often used in printed textiles and decoration. Animals too are quite a traditional subject in an illustrative print, so we’re not really doing anything new there. It’s important to look at the real thing though, we’re not interested in producing identikit motifs, they’re there to tell a story and they must retain their animal qualities. We also love buildings and even people; our new Bee Garden design has beekeepers and hives as well as swarms of bees and psychedelic plants. Our interest in bees is a result of observing them in the garden. Our new Civet Design bone china coffee cups and plates celebrate that most curious creature, the palm civet, from whose poo digested coffee beans are extracted and made into (apparently) delicious coffee.
Lush Designs Bee Garden Cushions
Q: What’s coming up for the rest of 2013?
A: In 2013 we’re opening another pop-up shop in Columbia Road. We’ll be there for six months and we’re really looking forward to retailing on one of the coolest streets in London. We’re working with pottery in Stoke on Trent who will be making some lovely lamp-bases; it’s great to be designing in 3D for a change. We’re also hoping to expand our bedding and textiles ranges, having found wonderful UK manufacturers we’d be mad not to.
To find out more about Lush Designs take a look at their website Lush Lampshades. You can also visit their shop based at 8 College Approach, Greenwich, London SE10 or the pop-up shop mentioned above. Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of Lush Designs, special thanks to Marie Rodgers, Maria Livings and Patricia Gill.