Helena from POMPOM Design was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about their contemporary needlepoint company. Founded in 2011, POMPOM Design, is a London based partnership comprised of Helena, an award winning artist and Dan, a textile designer and educator. Together they have created a company that not only offers wonderful modern designs to the novice and the experienced needlepointers but also supplies finishing and stitching services. They are eco minded and design savvy and I think you’ll really enjoy reading Helena’s thoughtful responses to my questions!
Jenny: When were you first introduced to needlepoint / tapestry?
Helena: As a very small child I had a tapestry kit box in my room with Penelope written on it. I have clear memories of looking at the box, the picture of the kit and trying to pronounce Penelope as I was going off to sleep! Also when I was a bit older I was given some small kits as gifts, and remember both my mother and grandmother stitching kits – so thinking about it needlepoint/tapestry has been part of my life since very early on, which I really hadn’t realised until you asked.
After quite a gap of 20 years I started making needlepoint/tapestries of my paintings (as I am an artist too) and from there moved to setting up POMPOM Design.
Jenny: What was your career before founding POMPOM Design in 2011 and how did that lead up to you starting your own needlepoint design company?
Helena: Before starting POMPOM Design, my career was as an artist and academic. I studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL in London, and my studio practice has always involved pattern, surface, texture, space and a love of shapes and forms. I started designing and making my own needlepoint projects about 12 years ago, mainly making needlepoint versions of my paintings.
I was Course Leader for an undergraduate Fine Art Programme for 6 years, which involved me commuting up and down the country every few days. In 2010 I had a child, and although I loved my university job and teaching, in 2012 I decided to leave academia for a while to concentrate on my creative life and being with my daughter by working from my studio and home.
In the last few years I realised that I really wanted to stitch needlepoint projects which were also exceptional as textile designs: beautiful, contemporary, chic, highest quality, enjoyable to make, and that would just look great on my sofa. I also realised that if I wanted to stitch kits like this, and to have beautiful hand-crafted items in my home, there was a really good chance there were lots of people like me, and that we could share our ideas and passions for textiles and interiors through making our kits more widely available.
Jenny: Do you plan to sell to the trade or attend wholesale trade shows or are you just going straight to the consumer? Are needlepoint / tapestry shops prevalent in London or hard to come by?
Helena: I am quite flexible about how we sell our kits – direct, retail etc. However the majority of our kits are posted by us direct to our customers which is really great. It is so rewarding for us to be able to communicate directly with our customers and to know that people all over the world are buying and enjoying our kits.
Jenny: Do you do all the design work or does your partner Dan design as well. Do you both stitch?
Helena: Dan is primarily the designer. He trained as a textile designer and is a design expert. He has an amazing natural feel for balance, rhythm, repeat, composition and surface pattern. I am much better as the ‘critical voice’!
I am interested in research, trends, colours, the wider design context and modern and contemporary interiors. I set briefs, offer ideas and reference points. I also like to suggest tweaks, colourways and generally interfere. As a method of co-designing it works pretty well!
As I love stitching I am the main stitcher along with some other professional needleworkers I co-opt in now and again.
Jenny: How has British culture / history influenced your kits?
Helena: We are committed to making our kits as British as possible in their production. Britain has a significant textile manufacturing history, from cottage industries to major producers. We believe that by supporting UK based companies to print and source our yarn and canvases we can continue and build on this tradition. Also by using UK companies we can also ensure we only use highest quality materials for our kits.
From a design perspective I would say we are influenced by European design aesthetics, and Modernism, but with a British flavour.
Jenny: I see that your canvases are printed. Do you do this yourself? It seems a popular process, to print or hand silk screen canvases in the UK. I hand paint mine, we call it stitch painted, but am extremely intrigued by the silk screen process. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?
Helena: We have our kits printed by a small independent printer based in the UK. Although Dan is an accomplished screen printer, and a print workshop would be possible for us to set up, we have a lovely printer who uses digital printing processes. Through this we are able to ensure 100% accuracy of the print from our original and also to use eco-friendly water-based inks for the prints.
Jenny: What are your companies goals, hopes, dreams?
Helena: Ooh we have lots…
We both love being part of POMPOM Design and its potential. Our aim is to offer the highest quality kits;
a really engaging creative experience for the stitcher;
and a timeless, exceptionally hard wearing and long lasting design for the home.
Our goals are to support British companies and industry;
further develop our eco credentials wherever possible;
We hope to continually offer new and exciting designs;
develop our bespoke services;
and to be open to new opportunities and partnerships.
We are inspired by all the designers and makers who contribute to and have changed the way we live in our homes. The home surrounds us, we fill it with things we use, look at and enjoy every day. Bringing new designs into the fabric of people’s homes is a real privilege. Offering a fulfilling creative experience with innovative design is our goal. Where we can take this further is the dream…
Thanks for the delightful chat Helena. What a fantastic company you have created! For those outside the UK you can purchase their fabulous designs here.