Question time: Neisha Crosland

“Pattern is Neisha Crosland”, so said Homes & Gardens recently when awarding her ‘Surface Designer of the Year’ at their 2013 Designer Awards. We caught up with Neisha to find out more about her inspiration, her design process, and how to use pattern on the floor…

Neisha Crosland

Q: How did you get your career start?

A: Anthony Little picked up on my Royal college of Art show and commissioned a collection based on its Italian medieval theme.  It was printed velvet collection with layers of pigment finished off with metallic pigment which I distressed by putting in the washing machine on a hot wash.  At Osborne and Little we turned it into a smart chintzed collection of wallpapers and fabrics with lots of metallic, called Romagna.


Q: What’s your proudest career achievement?

A: I started my own business designing scarves after Osborne and Little. I remember the first time I saw a lady wearing one of my own scarves, it was in the supermarket and I followed her around the aisles like a groupie.  It was thrilling, but I was too embarrassed to go up to her.  I was not particularly proud about following her but I was so proud that somebody had bought one of my scarves.  This made me far more proud than any early press article.

 Zebra Gold by Neisha Crosland for The Rug Company

Q: Who inspires you?

A: Great painters.  Goya, Van Gough, Picasso, Malevich…


Q: What are you passionate about?

A: My work obviously but also I love food and wine and culture.


Q: Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?

A: The artist Popova and Matisse.


Q: Do you have a first rug memory?

A: Rolling down a hill at school wrapped in one like a sausage roll!

Cobra by Neisha Crosland for The Rug Company

Q: What is your design process?

A: As with any creative person absorbing what takes your fancy around you is second nature.  Design is all about putting order into chaos.  The next is processing it, editing this visual data and making it into something.  Just like a biologist who collects specimens and then classifies them into species or a musician arranging notes to make music.  I collect motifs and arrange them into patterns which then grow out of themselves to procreate.

I start by sketching in black on white then reducing the drawing down to the basic elements.  A pattern relies upon three characteristics: a unit, repetition and a coherent system of organisation.  So I work on the principle of stripping the design back to the bare essentials.  Balance and proportion are of primary importance, like all good things I guess.

I work on a grid as I have to work within the limitations of the downward and sideways repeat.  I like to work in real life scale and stick print outs of the design life size along the wall or on the floor depending on whether it is a rug or a fabric.  Just relying on a computer screen is fine if designing a dolls house.

All this is done in black and white at this point.  I do not want to be distracted by colour because I want to focus on getting the structure balance and proportion of a design correct, i.e. the bones of the design…just as an architect would when designing a building.

But it is funny as even though I start working in blacks and greys mapping out the design I always have ideas in the back of my mind of the first colourway I want to try, this is usually what I call the master colour and is usually my favourite. I only consider the artwork as the blueprint for the manufacturer.  The manufacturing is what makes it comes alive.  It is important to have a very good relationship with the manufacturer – they are the translator of a designer’s ideas.

Hedgehog Sea by Neisha Crosland for The Rug Company

Q: How do your colour combinations evolve?

A: I enjoy attaching a series of moods to a design, the masculine and the feminine, the bright etc.  But like a person, the colour must suit the design and bring the best out in the design.  I always try to push an idea to its limit; sometimes I try to put hideous colours together or most unlikely colours together as it often brings an exciting fresh idea.  The pin boards in my studio have anything from sweet wrappers to post cards from exhibitions to ribbons or dead flowers all waiting to be absorbed into a new colourway.


Q: What is the inspiration for the Zebra and Hedgehog rugs?

A: Zebra in fact started life on a velvet devore scarf in 1996.  I have always enjoyed playing around with arranging and rearranging of spokes into patterns, it all started when I did a star design inspired from the back of a Nanban lacquer Christian shrine, since then I have been playing around with spokes.  Zebra was designed at a time when I was very inspired by the wonderfully architectonic structures of the Russian Avante Garde Painters of the early 20th Century, with their colliding, clashing dynamic plane and angles and the wonderful photos by Horst of Patterns in Nature.  Zebra is organic, it grows out of itself like a fern I am sure Horst’s photos have something to answer for here.

Hedgehog came after the Zebra but still from the spoke family, spokes arranged on a hill and valley wave that gives a sense of undulation or a bottle brush.


Q: How important is the craftsmanship of the rugs to you?

A: Personally I find myself more and more drawn to products, fine art, textiles that really hold the obvious evidence of a human hand.  I kind of crave it more than ever as we become more and more digitalised.


Q: You are about pattern.  What makes a print translate successfully into a rug?

A: While wallpaper grows upwards trying to defy gravity, a rug needs to feel grounded and not feel like it will jump up at you. It needs to look good from four sides. It must not be boring but it cannot distract your attention so much that you keep your eyes downward too much on entering a room. It has the job of holding a room together and this room might have a lot going on in it.  And it still needs to manage to hold its own even if parts of the pattern are covered by the furniture standing on it!

The designs need to withstand pixilation so need to be a bit chunkier.  It can rely upon the beauty of being very fine and must use the properties of the yarn and the texture of the weave to bring it to life.  It must use the effects of different lengths of yarn and shiny yarn.  Playing all these elements off against each other to create a richness.Texture, depth, lustre/matt, scale etc are the tools to making a carpet have soul.

One – the tufty aspect of a hand knotted rug gives the design a new dimension of richness whereas a design that is printed sits very flatly on the cloth.

Two – the possibilities of also introducing different heights of a pile is another way of bringing in depth to a design that print does not allow for.

Three – the matt and shiny options in wool and silk give a nice way of playing off contrasting texture. So all this was, if you like, new tools to bring a design alive.

The challenge for me was that the fact that when it is applied with a grid format it creates a pixilation effect even when you have large amounts of knots per square inch.  So for example if you want a clean curve that is not jagged it is hard to achieve. The design needs to be suitable to adapt to fit any dimensions. I find that designs work well quite large scale but once the scale is sorted it must not be magnified to fit a larger dimension rug but rather just the design repeats itself to fit the dimension.

And I believe rugs need to be large in dimension otherwise it will look cheap and like a bathmat.

Diagonal Bead Green by Neisha Crosland for The Rug Company

Q: What does the word ‘quality’ mean to you?

A: To never bore of it.  Lasting beauty. So good that it endures wear and tear.


Q: Which of your rugs are you most pleased with?

A: Tudor Rose Silk, I love the way that the pixilation really does suit the design.  Normally you would want to give the lines a smooth finish but in this case it helps to take it back to the original tapestry that inspired the design in the first place.

Zebra as it takes on a very different look to the cut velvet fabric that this design comes in as well, it feels a bit like an exotic animal pelt.  It is a more animal friendly version of those scary hunting trophy/pelt/skin rugs where the head is attached.  The low / high pile works so well and the contrast of the shiny silk and matt wool pile gives it a wonderful richness.  It creates a sort of magical fluidity when the light plays tricks on your eyes making the pattern appear and disappear.  It really works well when worn in a bit and walked on, when the pile gets knocked squashed about a bit.  I love it when pattern grows out of itself and I feel this achieves this.


Q: How important are rugs in an interior?

A: Very important, it pulls a room together, helps the acoustic and makes a room cosy.

View the full Neisha Crosland rug collection.

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