I feel pretty honoured to have been approached by Samantha Williamson of Handcrafted by Code. As an absolutely fresh out of uni graduate, she is challenging traditional ideas of what a designer maker is by combining computer coding with embroidery. How? Read on to find out…
Please tell me a little about yourself! The usual – where do you live, what are your hobbies, where’s the best place you’ve ever visited, anything else you want to share about yourself?!
Hi! I am a designer maker for soft furnishings and interiors, I specialise in hand and digital embroidery and I have recently finished University where I studied Textile Crafts in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. I have now moved back home to Bedfordshire in the south east of England, I love living in this area as I am so close to London and there are so many interesting and amazing places to visit in relation to textiles, craft and design. I am currently planning a trip to Chelsea Harbour, as I have never been before so I can’t wait to have a look around and get a good nosy at the interior design centre! The best place I have ever visited is quite a tricky question to answer! There are so many places in the world I would still love to visit, travelling is an exciting aspiration of mine, but I haven’t been to a great deal of places yet. Last year I visited Amsterdam which I found to be a beautiful city with amazing architecture and surroundings. I also really enjoyed visiting Turkey, I found the textiles and the traditional values within their craft making particularly beautiful. My hobbies include spending time in the great outdoors, walking my cocker spaniel, researching online and in books for inspiration and I really enjoy reading design and lifestyle blogs. Also, cooking! I love my food!
Now, talk to me about Handcrafted by Code 🙂 When did you decide to set up your own business?
Handcrafted By Code is my final major collection of soft furnishings and upholstery design and a continual project that I would like to carry on developing now I have finished my degree. The collection consists of a range of 10 cushion designs and an upholstered chair, which have initially been drawn, developed into designs and translated into embroidery using a combination of hand and digital techniques. The majority of my designs are firstly embroidered using an industrial digital embroidery machine and are then hand stitched over the top using natural worsted wool to create a textural quality to the surface. My aim for this project is to retain the value within handcrafted design, while at the same time, embracing new digital technologies. I am able to achieve this by using hybrid craft, the act of combining the traditional with the new. I always knew I wanted to set up my own business, I have always loved craft, embroidery and making so to be able to build up my own brand and identity is important to me and something I am striving to do.
As a brand-new graduate, how do you feel about stepping into the world of design and working for yourself? Do you have a mentor or organisation that you can go to for advice?
Right now, it feels very overwhelming, nerve-racking but extremely exciting all at the same time. I can’t wait to get designing a new set of cushion designs and I am already on the lookout for another piece of furniture I can upholster and add to the collection! I am currently working with a soft furnishing designer in east London to gain experience and knowledge in all the different areas of a freelance business. This is an important step to take before diving in to the deep end! Working 1-1 with a designer is probably the best experience you can get!
I really love the pieces you have designed so far! To me, they look very space-inspired (it that just me or intentional?) When you started your degree, did you have any idea of the direction you would take?
Thank you! I had no idea whatsoever what direction I would take in terms of design and aesthetic, although I think I knew I would end up specialising in embroidery, just because I love the craft so much and the tactile quality it creates. My designs are not intentional at all, in fact the design process ensures that I don’t really know what the final design is going to look like until the very end. This is what I find so interesting about my chosen concept and process.
Where do you find yourself looking for inspiration? Blogs, magazines, other designer-makers?
I am online a lot browsing Pinterest for colour ways and interior design ideas. I get a lot of my inspiration from just talking to people and when you are at University you are lucky in that you are able to have group tutorials and chats with fellow course mates which can sometimes just spark up an idea. Again, I love reading blogs and getting out and about to just keep creative. Drawing is an important factor for inspiration. Having said that, drawing is always the hardest part of a project for myself. My work is more concept based rather than beginning with a drawing.
Could you talk me through the process of designing and creating your work? Is it incredibly time-consuming?
My process is quite time consuming, depending on the design and the techniques I choose to use for a design. Both embroidery techniques take a long time to complete, the digital machine sometimes breaks and hand stitch is a very time consuming process. The designs start with a simple set of instructions I come up with off the top of my head, a random group of people are then asked to draw whatever comes to mind while reading the instructions, resulting in a collection of drawings, similar but not the same because they are all hand drawn. The same instructions are then translated into code and put into a computer, which results in an entirely different design. So I end up with two different interpretations of the same drawing, one hand crafted and one digitally drawn. These designs are then combined and translated into embroidery to complete the finished design. Some of my designs are entirely digital and others have a combination of techniques.
What are your hopes for the future, personally & for your business?
At the moment I work part time alongside working with a designer in London so I am gaining design experience while saving money at the same time. I can then start thinking about investing in a studio space, embroidery equipment and materials. I hope that within the next year to a year and a half, I’ll have a fairly large collection of products made up so I can start my business running. I have made this my focus for the next few years, I am in the early stages and I’m sure it will not be a smooth journey along the way but I know it will be worth it. Oh, you will see a new collection of furnishing designs finalised within the next few months so make sure to keep an eye out!
I love that on first glance you wouldn’t know from looking at Handcrafted by Code’s the fascinating process behind the pieces, don’t you? You can keep an eye on Samantha’s plans by following along on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.