The Idealist

Modern Hero: Cornish fabric designer Helen Baker

Today’s Modern Hero is Helen Baker who has just launched a collection of fabrics and soft furnishings inspired by her upbringing in Cornwall. Her modern range is designed to complement the palette of a modern family home and stays away from clichéd nautical designs. More importantly, they are gender neutral, designed and printed in the UK using eco-friendly inks on natural cotton. And they look great.

Helen Baker at the launch of her collection

IDEALIST: What’s the inspiration behind your collection? 

Helen My collection is titled ‘You can take the girl out of Cornwall…’ which is essentially me in a nutshell. I lived in Cornwall on and off for 25 years but our family moved to Wiltshire in 2015 when my husband changed jobs. Whilst renovating our new house I was looking for fabrics and home furnishings that would suit us as a family but were still stylish. Frustrated with not finding what I was looking for, I started researching how fabrics are designed, then taught myself digital illustration, took some online courses in surface pattern design and read as many design books as I could get my hands on. After many hours of learning, practising and refining, I sent some files off to be printed onto fabric and was really pleased with the results. I loved the process of creating a design but wanted to push myself to create a whole collection. They say to start with what you know, so I did. Life in Cornwall, but contemporary Cornwall of today, a long way from anchors, nautical knots and compasses that have became clichéd nautical designs. So many people have connections and happy memories of the coast and I wanted to inject a bit of this into homes wherever you may live.

IDEALIST: Your work is purposely gender neutral — how did that come about?

Helen I’m the only female in a house with my husband and two sons (aged nine and seven years) so I wanted designs that weren’t floral, feminine or fussy. Modern families today often live in open plan spaces that need fabrics and furnishings that work for everyone who shares that space. I believe that my natural inspired designs are accessible to all ages and I’ve used a gender neutral colour palette with colours inspired by Cornish life.

IDEALIST: Where are your products made?

Helen All of my products are printed and made in the UK. Like many consumers, I like to know where a product has been made and I was keen to do the same with my range.

IDEALIST: Did you always want to be a designer?

Helen I have always loved making things and grew up in a creative family. I was a primary school teacher for nearly ten years but left when my two children were young. I started a small sewing business making and selling gift items but soon came to realise I enjoyed the designing side more than the making.

 

So many people have connections and happy memories of the coast and I wanted to inject this into homes wherever you live

IDEALIST: You were born in Cornwall and live near Bath — how do you take inspiration from your surroundings?

Helen I get inspiration from my surroundings wherever they may be and have my phone on hand to take photos. I am drawn to silhouette design and constantly look for different shapes found in nature and think how they could be used within a pattern.

IDEALIST: Where can readers buy your products?

Helen Cushions, lampshades and fabric by the metre ( and samples) can be bought from my website www.helenbaker.com which just launched and I’m starting to approach stockists too.

IDEALIST: You have a strong belief in protecting the environment. How is that reflected in your work?

Helen This is important to me and I am really pleased to be working with a printing manufacturer who use eco-friendly inks on 100% natural cotton fabrics.

IDEALIST: What’s next for you?
Helen I’m working on my next collection inspired by British gardens which will still fit my values of being family, friendly, gender neutral and eco-friendly.

IDEALIST: We love the Parenting Colours Pantone style print. How did that come about?

Helen I love using colour within our home but when Pantone released their Spring colour trends this year with colour names such as Kale and Pink Yarrow I thought it would be fun to rename them with colours parents could relate too. I initially made the poster just for our house but have gone on to sell several copies as so many people connect with it.

IDEALIST: Who are your design heroes?

Helen I’ve always loved bold and simple Scandinavian design that suits everyday family living so Marimekko are one of my biggest design heroes. Their ethos is to bring colour, pattern and happy memories into everyday living and I aspire to achieve these same goals. I also love the work of Orla Kiely who is a great believer in trusting your instincts alongside creating patterns that are uplifting and bring pleasure to others.

IDEALIST: What tips would you give to new parents looking to furnish their first kid’s bedroom?

Helen My advice would be to leave stimulating bright colours for toys, accessories and art and keep walls neutral. It’s also far easier to move pictures and furniture than it is to paint a whole room. Talk with your child to find out what they like and then add elements of their personality and interests within the room. This could be through some objects/toys displayed on a shelf and/or posters or wall art but be mindful that their tastes might change and anything too ‘themed’ can be a bit overboard. Ultimately don’t forget that a kid’s room should be fun, so release your inner child and get creative.

 

  • Ellie lives in a village outside Oxford and works in fashion in London. She loves the vintage look, traditional English afternoon tea, prosecco and hiking in the Lake District.

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