Monday, 18 June 2012

Gods and Other Animals

In February my little brother got engaged to his lovely beau, Emma, and I went out to purchase a congratulations pressie for them. Now, bearing in mind they had just purchased and moved into their first home together as well (I know – two life changing events in one week!), I wanted to find them a gift which was unique (read: not your average champagne flutes), special and ‘homey’. Discounting Next and bemoaning the fact that Habitat closed its doors before Xmas I ventured into Manchester’s Northern Quarter and I came across Gods and Other Animals by Lorna Lucas tucked at the back of Ryan Vintage (48-50 Oldham Street). Ticking all the boxes delineating my gift buying parameters, I was literally spoilt for choice: cushions, prints, cards, individual fabric pieces, printed fabric in frames, furniture and bags. WOW. Prolific doesn’t even begin to cover this talented designer. Needless to say I picked up her business card and hounded her for a chat. Emma and Dave got engaged in February so it just shows how busy she is that I am now posting this in June.

When we had synchronised diaries we finally say down at the end of May. Well, I say ‘chat’ but it was more a show and tell on a grand scale. Breaking off conversation so she could dash off into her ‘shop’ in Ryan’s, Lorna brought back armloads of her creations for me to see. Talking ten to the dozen and effervescing with pride for her work, Lorna took me on a blink and you’ll miss it tour of her potted history: born in Wilmslow, lived in Italy, loved France, was a chef, is very academic, speaks Italian, got a 1st from Manchester Metropolitan in 3D Design, has had Gods for 6 years, been designing ‘forever’. Then we got into the detail of her prolific work,

 “When I am in the creative process I start thinking about a design then I draw it until I am happy with it. At the moment I really love swallows. Then I hand print each design onto whatever piece of fabric I have chosen. If the end article is going to be a cushion it will be hand stuffed and hand stitched.”

Everything is a one off. Everything. Talk about the ideal gift – no danger that you will see the same cushion haunting you on the sofas and chairs of friends and family. No, Lorna’s goods are truly original.  And if that isn’t unique enough, she also does bespoke commissions.

Lorna is obsessed by animals (which is obvious – her prints are all of animals) and her business card is a picture of her as a young’un with a deer at Belle Vue Zoo. So where did her company name come from? Now me being a bit of a swot I thought it was literary based and started researching Gerald Durrel’s book ‘My Family and Other Animals’ before I met Lorna and envisaged us chatting about themes, characters and imagery in the book. Lorna laughed her head off at my suggestion,

“No! It really is simpler than that! The name is purely based in my love of animals, especially dogs.”

The juxtaposition of animals in a household setting is oddly workable and more creative than your average offering from Next Home. Indeed her strapline is “Fearless Ideas for Original Interiors.” So why  soft  furnishings?

“I am a massive collector of fabrics – I have a wealth of great suppliers and a household full of vintage rolls. Plus I can design the cushions any size I want and utilise smaller cherished pieces on smaller cushions so they still get their glory.”

I could’ve sat and talked to Lorna all afternoon; she is fascinating. Already growing her customer base by selling her beautifully designed pieces in London and Manchester, she also has interior design shops contacting her on a regular basis to apply to stock her work. My advice? I would get your hands on her stuff sooner rather than later. I just commissioned her to produce a bespoke cushion for the still gift-less Dave and Emma. With Lorna’s original designs and beautifully sourced material, another few months until the cushion arrives doesn’t bother me one bit: it will be worth the wait and something that Dave and Emma can cherish forever.