Liberty Asks: Abigail Ryan
Belfast based Abigail Percy and Ryan Bell make beautiful botanical printed homewares, which combine Abigail’s pen and ink illustrations with Ryan’s eye for colour and graphic design. Their unique designs were discovered at our Best of British Design Open Call. Amidst the chaos of London Design Festival they took some time out to answer a few questions for us…
How did the brand begin?
“Ryan and I were both working as designers in our own right (myself as a jeweller, and Ryan as an accessories designer) when we met online on a business forum in 2008… I was living in Glasgow, and Ryan in Belfast, so we began a long distance romance!
When visiting with each other for weeks on end, we would work together in our home studios, and it quickly became apparent how well we gelled in a work environment and creative ideas started flowing. We knew we wanted to collaborate, and, as we both loved homewares and textiles (I had always designed patterns to accompany my jewellery work and Ryan already worked with textiles when creating his bespoke handbags) abigail*ryan homewares was born!”
Where do you source your imagery and what inspires you?
“We actually generate all our own imagery! I spend a lot of time photographing plants and flowers (from many angles) and also collect seeds and leaves to press and keep. I then work from my photo’s (or from life) to create pen and ink illustrations. It’s painstaking work, with some of the drawings taking several days, but we just love the results and the unique voice it provides our collection! Ryan is the graphics whiz on our team, so he then sets about scanning and compiling the drawings and we turn them in to our pattern designs for digitally printing onto cotton.
The natural world, is, of course, a huge inspiration to us – not only as it gives us our subject matter, but also when planning colour stories. Colour is such a huge inspiration to us, we constantly reference fashion and interiors for ideas and never know where our next combination may come from!”
What is great about British Design?
“We genuinely believe it has an individual voice in the design world- you can spot British design a mile off, and its eclectic, vibrant and unique look and feel is a breath of fresh air amongst the sea of ‘everything else’.
Also, by supporting British design, you are supporting your local economy, and this is as much a political choice as a lifestyle one. We feel very strongly about sourcing as many of our materials and services in the UK as possible, and, as we like to say ‘Buying British is the fairest of Fair-Trade’!”
What do you love about Liberty?
“Can we say everything?
I’ve been visiting Liberty since I was a teenager and, honestly, it’s one of the most inspiring shopping emporiums I have ever visited. The way each and every section of the store feels like a small boutique is so very special, and the way the work of individual designers and makers is championed with the same enthusiasm as world-renowned brands is fantastic. By championing British design talent, and in opening its doors for the Best of British Open Call, Liberty has truly created a new level of aspiration for designers. Giving them a chance to pitch their work and gain an ‘in’ to speak to buyers is an invaluable experience. Within the UK, that is a very special and unique opportunity, and one that continues to set Liberty apart from any other store.”
What’s next for abigail*ryan?
“Our next big project is the release of our Heirloom range. We are designing and hand producing one-off and limited edition quilts and floor cushions, using traditional patch-work techniques updated with our own ideas on composition and colour. We want to create pieces that will be handed down within families for generations, so these will be very special gifts, perfect for births, marriages and special birthdays.
We are using our own exclusive cottons, printed in a smaller scale to our usual line, and combining them with beautiful, locally milled Irish linen – which is just so special to work with and wears beautifully with age.
On top of that, we are also scheming a new wallpaper line – but that will be a little down the track! In addition, we will be releasing at least one new pattern design before Christmas…”