We are complete fans of Kate Marsden’s illustrations – we of course have her Croydon fabric wallets to hold our oyster cards, and a print of her Fairfield Halls design hangs in pride of place on our wall. Her textiles have a 50s/60s vibe (the best era for fabrics as far as we’re concerned) and feature a lot of modernist/brutalist architecture (our favourite period). Throw in our number 1 colour, yellow, and it’s almost as if she’s designing especially for us. So we thought it was about time to catch up with the lady herself, for a chat.
Croydonist: Firstly, tell us a bit about your background and connection to Croydon?
Kate: I’ve lived in South London since the late 1990s – we started off in Clapham and worked our way further out to Wallington (via Tooting). So all of my connections with Croydon are relatively recent – except of course for the regular trips to IKEA!
I’ve been self employed for the past 3 years, and it’s really been in that time that I’ve grown to know and become really quite fond of Croydon. It definitely has the overall feel and optimism of a place that’s “on the up” and I’m excited to see this happening.
Croydonist: What is it about brutalist and modernist architecture that inspires you to depict buildings in your designs?
Kate: Buildings are just one of those things I’ve always liked to draw. I did a short painting course at Chelsea College of Art back when I was still working full time in the City, and one of our tasks was to go out and paint the buildings around the college. Most people came back with images of Tate Britain and the college itself and I was the only one to choose the mid-century office blocks on the other side of the river!
Following this I went on to paint the Park Hill Flats in Sheffield and one thing led to another. I soon realised that I preferred to depict the buildings which aren’t always as loved, and I wanted to show people that concrete can be really beautiful. These buildings have become more fashionable now, but they certainly weren’t when I started out!
Croydonist: How do you usually create your work?
Kate: Everything starts out with a simple pen and ink drawing – usually taken from a photograph. I tend to work over a number of layers of layout paper until I come up with something I’m happy with before scanning and manipulating the image on the computer. For the most part I draw for the purpose of making patterns, however I’ve been doing more stand alone illustration work recently as well.
Croydonist: Do you have a favourite piece, and if so, why?
Kate: My favourites are usually the things I’ve been working on most recently. I’ve just finished a house portrait commission which is a triptych, and I think all three images look great and work really well together. My favourite fabric design at the moment is a polka dot design from my new collection (so no buildings in that one at all). I also did a painting of the National Theatre a couple of years ago which I’m still rather fond of.
Croydonist: Do you see yourself as a designer or an artist?
Kate: This is a really tricky one! At art college I studied a design subject so technically I’m a designer… I’ve been called both though on numerous occasions – textile designer, pattern designer, artist, illustrator, teacher, blogger, you name it!
Croydonist: What’s been your quirkiest commission?
Kate: Not sure about quirky, but I’ve had some really fun commissions – a big batch of shrink plastic brooches with my Fairfield Halls illustration on (I burnt my hands a few times), a piece of my fabric turned into a bedspread (for a flat in the building which is featured in the pattern), house illustrations, stationery, re-coloured versions of my existing designs or just sets of matching cushions and lampshades.
Croydonist: What products have been made from your fabrics? We’re thinking a 50s style Croydon landmark dress would be fantastic you see…
Kate: Mostly home furnishings but I’ve seen some wonderful quilts and quilted accessories. One which really stands out is a beautiful quilted tote bag one of my customers made. She came along to one of my Photowalks in West London last summer and brought it with her so I got to photograph it (in a matching laundrette!) and that was pretty exciting.
I’ve not seen any dresses yet, but I know of a couple of people who have bought fabrics for that purpose – I agree a Croydon one would be brilliant. Maybe I should add that to my long list of things to make for myself!
Croydonist: Do you have any more Croydon based designs in the pipeline?
Kate: I have some other designs in mind, plus re-coloured and altered versions of the images I’ve already been working with. I’ve also been drawing trams…
Croydonist: What are your plans for Made by Mrs M this year?
I’m going to be teaching a lot more workshops this year – lampshade making, sewing etc.
I have a workshop planned at Art Rebellion in Coulsdon on Sunday 28 May – it’s a full day event where people will get to design and paint their own fabrics and then make a lampshade with them. You can find out more information and book here.
Croydonist: Well you’ve certainly got a busy calendar. We hope to pop by to say hello at one of those events. The lampshade workshop sounds particularly tempting…
All images courtesy of Kate Marsden.
This post was written by and originally published on the Croydonist, an ever growing collection of the best bits of the borough. Visit their website for more news and stories about Croydon.