I have worked with friend and neighbour Fiona McBryde for many years, since she asked me to come up with some brandmark ideas for her new venture into making and selling soap. From that very first brief, we worked very well together. I have never known so much creative freedom in a design job.
Fiona in the Soap Folk Soapery, and the pattern I designed for 'Calendula'
A pattern brief from Fiona remains one of my favourite things to work on. She gives me the key ingredients of the soap she is making; all Soil Association accredited and of the best quality. I find images of the plants involved and then have the fun of drawing elements into a repeat pattern. It is basically the exact same process that I use to begin a fabric design, though usually I have to use the internet to source my reference material, rather than photos I have taken myself.
Designing 'Rose Geranium'
Drawings for the 'Lemon & Bergamot' soap
Some of the designs come really easily, perhaps because drawing mainly floral/botanical patterns is basically my favourite thing to do. It also helps to be doing it for a friend. I can't tell you how much I enjoy opening up the email reply from Fiona and reading her excited reaction.
Occasionally patterns require more back and forth, as we try and hit the right feeling. The 'Spiced Apple' design took a few attempts, but we were aiming for a slightly younger feel against some of the other designs we already have. Colour, too, is always trial and error, especially as the range of soaps and other products grows, and we therefore need colours that compliment each other under one brand.
Some of the original Soap Folk designs
The Spiced Apple design in an early colourway
New lavender pillows; combining Soap Folk patterns with my fabric love!
I should also mention the soaps themselves... they make wonderful gifts, and so deserve their Soil Association accreditation, which is very hard to gain. You won't see it on other soaps that call themselves 'natural'. It is also hard to find a truly handmade, artisanal product these days. Fiona's Soapery is within walking distance of where I live, and I can tell you, the smell is amazing and it is very handmade.
Everyone has their favourite variant – mine is Calendula for what it does to my skin, but Rose Geranium for its pattern and scent. Even when sold without patterned wraps, as a collection of off-cuts (see the Soap Folk website for 'All Kinds Soap') they are exciting to receive; a perk of the job means I get mine free and personally delivered.
But most of all I enjoy the local nature of this collaboration. We used to discuss designs at the school gates. Now we have to catch each other on the village lanes. I am sure our shared love of where we live has something to do with why my design and Fiona's company combine so well together. Long may it continue.
Some images courtesy of Soap Folk, photographed by Studio Article