Homegirl London pays homage to William Watson West. Having lived most of his life in the countryside, it’s no wonder William’s debut range for the Graduate Collection is called ‘Rural Renaissance.’ His contemporary designs give a nod to the past to deliver beautiful brightly coloured mugs and cushions featuring flora and fauna. He loves nothing better than painting a landscape in the Yorkshire Dales and a bit of bird spotting. He’s currently living in London to get his ceramics and cushions off the ground. I caught up with William to ask a few questions …
Q: Tell me about your design background.
A: I’ve always had a love of art and design in general, but it was only when I started my Art Foundation year at Leeds College of Art and Design that I discovered textile design. It was at Leeds that I realised I could combine both my fine art work and my more illustrative work, under one umbrella. When I specialised in Printed Textiles at Edinburgh College of Art, I started to develop the skills involved in creating patterns and repeats; I grew to love the process of turning original drawings and ideas into finished products which is largely what textile design is about. I was able to balance this with my love of painting; the observations of landscape, flora and fauna gained from this fed into my applied design work. The course at Edinburgh had a strong emphasis on the importance of drawing and I think this was one of the reasons why I found it especially fulfilling. The city itself also fitted me perfectly with the countryside easily accessible, allowing me to draw from the countryside as my key inspiration.
Q: Describe your design style.
A: I would describe my style as contemporary English textile design with an edgy echo of the traditional. I aim to create beautiful designs that will both add depth to modern urban dwellings or sharpen up the more traditional country home.
Q: Where does your interest in landscapes, flora and fauna come from?
A: Having lived in the countryside nearly my whole life I have always been surrounded by the great outdoors. My parents are keen gardeners and have always encouraged an interest in nature, from the geography of the landscape to the formation of a Wren’s nest. I think it was inevitable that growing up in this way imbued me with a love and understanding of nature. I find the weather, the ever-changing colours and the shapes and formation of plants a constant source of inspiration.
Some of William’s Designs
Q: What’s your favourite flower and why?
A: It probably sounds rather clichéd, but my favourite flower is the wild rose. They are often found in amongst wild hedgerows and I find the simple beauty of the flower juxtaposed against the jagged and spiky leaves and shoots enchanting. Together with the twisting stems of the plant, the flowers are wonderful to draw and help to create beautiful designs. The White Rose also just happens to be the flower of Yorkshire!
Q: Your work features birds, what’s your favourite bird and why?
A: I can spend hours watching garden birds. I find their differing behaviours fascinating. I love the Goldfinch for its bright colours and I have included one in various designs in the past. I find the British birds of prey, such as the Buzzard, most beautiful but I tend not to include them in my designs because the smaller birds work better in terms of scale.
Q: Tell me more about your landscape paintings.
A: I would have to say that the Yorkshire Dales are my favourite spot for painting, probably largely because I have a direct connection having grown up there, but also because it is a really beautiful spot. People say that you must go to the south of France to experience the beauty of light for painting, but together with the patterns and shapes of the hills and rural fields, I find the changing light and colours in the Yorkshire landscape just as beautiful and inspiring. Another favourite place for painting is the Lake District. I go on a yearly trip to Grasmere with friends and through my paintings I have tried to translate the emotional connections I develop with the landscape onto paper.
Abstract Yorkshire Landscape by William Watson West
Q: Which person has inspired you the most in your career and why?
A: A key inspiration for me is the artist Mark Hearld. I have been familiar with his work for many years having seen some of his early exhibitions and now seeing him as a successful print maker, illustrator and designer. As well as having a love for his work in general I admire him for the way that he’s applied his work onto fabric, ceramics, and many other media and how he is now well known and recognised as one of Yorkshire’s best artistic talents at the moment. He has really boosted the art and design industry in York, where he’s based and is proving that you can maintain an artistic and individual charm at the same time as being successful commercially, something that so many artists struggle to do.
Q: Tell me about your Rural Renaissance range for the Graduate Collection.
A: My Rural Renaissance range for Graduate Collection was the first new collection I came up with having graduated from Edinburgh College of Art. It was a progression from my degree show collection and I feel that this range is more contemporary and fresh. I used fresh colours and patterns that have a traditional echo but are distinctly modern. The imagery used in my designs is the underlying constant, with brambles and birds creating a satisfying and versatile pattern that has applied well to cushions and ceramics. Again, I feel that these designs work equally as well in traditional and contemporary settings, making them ideal for many a home.
Rural Renaissance Cushion Collection
Rural Renaissance Mug Collection
Q: What other new ventures are you working on?
A: At the moment I’m based in London where I’m finding more experience in the design industry with a view to experiencing all levels from shop floor to design studio. I see this experience as invaluable for pushing my own business further in the future. I’m also hoping to have another exhibition of my paintings this year and launch a second design collection later in the year.
You can find out more about William at Watson West, you can buy the Rural Renaissance range from the Graduate Collection at Graduate Collection. Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of the Graduate Collection, special thanks to William Watson West and Sophia Cottier.