In issue 5, from November 2015, we met Gina Lawson.
Soft furnishing and interiors designer Gina Lawson, of Gina Lillycrop Designs, launched her business back in 2004 as a way to feed the “fire that gently simmers beneath” her skin. Beautiful curtains, blinds, pelmets and co-ordinating furnishings, her talents also flourish in her own range of lampshades, cushions, rugs and textile pictures. Our Wigtownshire caught up with Gina to find out more.
Where do you work from?
I have a first floor barn conversion studio on my farm near Barrachan, Wigtown. It is purpose built to form a light airy space for a gallery and showroom of my work, with a giant work table and toddlers play area.
How did you become an artist?
Making things and problem solving is in my blood. I was bought up by my dad, who made everything from scratch and taught me to use tools and sew in order that I could be self sufficient. It was my love of making my own home furnishings that led me to retrain as a soft furnishing designer in order to start a business in Ayr, where I could work from home, to give my son some stability. However, it was when I met my husband that my rug designs really started….as I had to relocate and start my business again from his farm in Wigtown. It was during the relocation that I realised there were certain difficulties to moving to beautiful Wigtownshire. Firstly the smaller population (and possible clients) in this rural part of the country and secondly, most of the local population were also very talented artists, designers and makers and were self sufficient in the art of sewing, so I needed to do something a wee bit different. It was this same rural location that was the catalyst in my first rug designs.
Have you always wanted to be an artist?
No! I had originally qualified as an NNEB Nursery Nurse at the age of 18 and had worked as an emergency relief nanny/nursery nurse around the country. At the age of 21, I entered the world of entertainment and was very fortunate to land the lead female role in Scotland’s Meatloaf tribute band, which I have been with on and off with for the last 20 years. I now have my own band ‘Electric Velvet’ (a locally based covers band), which I enjoy as much as my designing. My business is my dream job.
Who has been your inspiration?
I am fortunate to come from very creative and practical parents but my godmother was a huge source of inspiration to me growing up. As an artist, dancer, costume and set designer, you could say she’s an artist in every sense of the word. I very much wanted to be everything she was.
Ideas for your creations?
I design my range of home furnishings, from my remote farm studio, where most of my inspiration comes from the surrounding countryside, its wildlife, farm animals, and Scotland’s own rich textile heritage. Sometimes the fabric itself dictates how a design will work due to the way it hangs or folds.
And is there a consistent style or theme?
All my work, no matter what style I have been asked to create, has a clean linear feel to it. It’s the perfectionist in me that likes flawless invisible seams and a less-is-more appearance to it. Whether I’m making curtains for a small country cottage, a roman blind for a modern town house or giant swags for an exquisite stately home, those qualities run through every theme/style.
Do you comfortably live off designing?
My work is subsidised by my singing, vocal coaching, and my collaborations with other artists
Is there a favourite or go to creation?
I love creating lampshades, either plain drum shades with beautiful fabric, or a feature soft fabric shade that can stand alone as a piece of art.
How do you balance your home life and time to create?
Oh goodness, work/life balance – I think it’s safe to say it’s juggling and the balls are made up of an 18-month-old, who goes everywhere with me and a 16-year-old, who is studying for his Highers and requires the obligatory nagging. I’m a farmer’s wife, singer and vocal coach, so work fits into every waking minute around that – starting at 7.30am and usually finishing about 11. There is always time for laughter, tea and friends, but it’s about prioritising what’s important. Customers work comes before house work, but family comes before customers, and it’s about whoever’s need is greater. No journey is wasted and I try and manage at least two things at a time. I’m just glad one of your questions wasn’t do you ever blow a fuse and, if so, how often?
So how do you know when a piece is finished?
With curtains and blinds, it’s finished when they’re hanging at my client’s window and their room feels completed. With my own range of products, it’s when my husband says ‘Ah you’ve done alright there’.
Do you ever suffer from a creative block?
My friends and I have what’s known as the January wall. It’s the start of the year when you reflect on what worked last year and what you’re going to design/make this year to produce a new product for potential customers. I overcome this by going to my favourite fabric shop and wandering the waterfalls of fabrics until something jumps out at me. By the time I leave, I’ve bought enough fabric for all ten ideas in my head then when I get home I get designer’s blank as I don’t know where to start as I want to make it all now, but experimenting can take many days and sometimes not work at all, but that’s okay too.
Aspiring artists – any advice?
Exceeding your client’s expectations is something I always aspire to do. Go that further mile, because word of mouth is your greatest promotional tool. A happy client may earn you one new customer, but one unhappy client can lose you many.
So tell us your plans for the future?
I am currently mid collaboration with ‘Heartfelt by Liz’ on a large order of Giant, felt book covers for a publishing company in London. Last year we completed the order for Prince Charles’s book The Highgrove Florilegium. This year we has been commissioned again for a new, but currently undisclosed author. I also invested in a new piece of equipment earlier this year and I’m in the process of turning my own drawings into embroidered art that I can use in my soft furnishings.
Wigtownshire as an artistic base?
As a place for an artist to be based I couldn’t think of anywhere more beautiful or inspiring and most people now have access to the internet so we can see to the world, but you can’t beat the touch taste and smell of seeing things in the flesh, so in that respect I would love to see the world coming to Wigtownshire for holidays or tours rather than rushing up the M74, if not then we need a way of showcasing Wigtownshire to the rest of the world.