What’s your background?
After graduating in Weaving from Chelsea College of Arts, I worked as an assistant to Sid Bryan [founder of fashion knitwear brand Sibling]. Some pieces needed to be made for a fashion show and Sid asked me if I could hand crochet. I said ‘Yes!’ (even though I couldn’t) and had to phone my mum and ask her to teach me. After that, I was thrown in at the deep end, crocheting couture dresses for London Fashion Week.
Can you tell us about your early designs?
I always knew I was more interested in interiors than fashion and, after my time at Sibling, I set up a textile collective with four friends from university. We decided to show at a London trade fair, for which I made giant knitted floor pouffes and upholstered vintage steamer chairs. I was also working for the jewellery designer Solange Azagury-Partridge at the time and, as she knew that I made things with my hands, she commissioned me to make a crochet hanging piece for her house, inspired by a knotted macramé sculpture. She was so pleased with the design that I realised I could use it as the basis for something more functional. My brother then suggested that I try applying the technique to lampshades.
How do you make one of your bespoke lampshades?
Everything is made to order and we don’t keep any stock in the studio. At the beginning of the design process I sketch out a piece and then work with my in-house team to translate the crochet pattern onto paper. The lampshades have a frame at the widest point, but the rest is just mathematics. We crochet yarn in an exponential curve so that it has a nice shape when it hangs. This means that prototyping can take up to a year, as it requires trial and error to ensure that the pendant won’t look misshapen over time. It can take up to 60 hours to make one shade as each is crafted by hand with birch ply hooks and one continuous thread.
What inspires you?
From my office window I can see a big meadow that’s part of the marshlands in east London. The plane trees change every day, which is a huge source of inspiration. I’m also fascinated by Japanese simplicity and the idea of negative and positive space: it often informs the shapes and silhouettes that I design.
What are you working on?
I’ve just completed pieces for the new Greenwich Peninsula development, which involved crafting lampshades from bamboo paper yarn. It’s a difficult fibre to work with as it has no elasticity, but it’s been such a lovely project to work on. I’m also designing some new collection pieces as clients have been asking for pendants that can hang low over a table. The creative juices are flowing!
What are your future plans?
I think textiles are life enhancing and I’m driven by the way that they can change the atmosphere in both interiors and exteriors. Because of this, I’d love to take part in more spatial design work. It’s great to contribute to projects that make large spaces feel warm, cosy and relaxing.
See more of Naomi’s striking designs at naomipaul.co.uk.