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Emma Pearson, Mabel and Bird, interview

Meet the Maker: Mabel and Bird

by Camilla

The magnificent monochrome textiles of Mabel and Bird can often spotted in Folksy best-sellers list, their black and white palette and graphic prints occasionally interrupted by pops of pink and gold. Emma Pearson, the woman behind the brand, screen prints all her work by hand and describes herself as “devoted to handmade”. We talked to Emma about her inspirations, and why she thinks it’s so important to support independent makers across the UK…

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a textiles designer/printer from Oxfordshire. When I’m not making or creating, you can find me in the kitchen cooking or on my little allotment growing what I cook.

How would you best describe Mabel and Bird? 
Mabel and Bird is a collection of screen-printed textiles. I print my designs from hand-cut paper stencils in black ink with pops of pink and grey throughout the collection.

mabel and bird, screen printed pin cushion, cloud cushion, monochrome

Mabel and Bird is Emma Pearson’s brand of screen-printed textiles

Have you always been creative?
I have. I feel so lucky to be living a creative life. Being creative means you never stop learning and it spills into everything you do.

We love your graphic monochrome prints. What is it that draws you to black and white?
Colour scares me a little. Black and white is clean and uncomplicated. It makes me happy.

Would you ever change your colour palette?
I definitely want to develop my brand more. I am working on new products using gold which I am really excited about, but black and white will always be my constant.

screen printed keys

The monochrome palette of Emma’s Mabel and Bird collection is scattered with pops of vivid pink

How did you discover screen printing?
I started lino printing at school and knew printing was for me. I explored all forms of print over the years before deciding to do my degree at the The London College of Printing, which is where I learnt to screen print. I like the flat quality of a print and the neatness/sharpness. I was always stuck in the middle of being a fine artist and a commercial designer. Screen printing allows me to fulfil both. My drop cloths can be like pieces of art that sometimes delight me. The happy accidents.

What’s the best bit of designing and making process?
I love taking a little doodle and turning it into print. The first print of something new is so exciting, because until you’ve printed it you can never really be sure how its going to work.

Emma Pearson, Pin cushion

Emma describes the best bit of the creative process as “taking a little doodle and turning it into print”

Where do your ideas come from?
I am inspired sometimes by the smallest of things. I get obsessed with an idea, explore all its potential, then move on to a new idea. I spent one year drawing nothing but buildings.

Are there any artist or designers you particularly admire?
My favourite artists are Gary Hulme and Antony Gormley. When I lived in London, Gary Hulme had a solo show at the Whitechapel gallery – I went five times! I just love his use of colour and scale.  There are so many talented people out there. I recently bought some beautiful origami stars from the lovely Esther of Origami-Est.

mabel and bird, star badge

Where do you do your screen printing and sewing?
My printing table is in the garage. It’s totally uninspiring but it is functional and I don’t need to worry about getting ink everywhere – I just get stuff done as there are no distractions. My work room is a simple white room where I draw and sew. I always make sure I tidy it at the end of the day so I can start the next day organised and uncluttered.

What’s your most treasured possession?
Possibly my chair. I use it for my product shots and take it to every market. I took it off the top of the beginnings of a bonfire at my sister-in-law’s house. She obviously thought I was mad, but that was over 10 years ago. It’s perfectly un-perfect.

Mabel and Bird

Emma’s treasured chair, salvaged from a bonfire, has made it way into many a photoshoot

You have described yourself as “being devoted to handmade” Do you think handmade is valued enough in the UK?
We have become a disposable society. Holding a value to anything is easily forgotten when you already know it’s not going to last long. I think 80 per cent of what I buy is locally produced, old, found or handmade. I try to support as many online independent sellers as I can too.

What does the future hold for Mabel and Bird?
I’m really happy with how Mabel and Bird has grown recently, so the future is to keep printing and keep growing.

See more of Emma’s work in her Folksy shop, Mabel and Bird >>

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