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The Alternative Blog

Designer Lily Mullen, the winner of the Alternative Flooring and British Wool competition whose passion for process, playful approach to pattern and natural ability with colour impressed the judges. Photography © Sarah McLean

Lily Mullen the winner of The Bradford Textiles Society Competition sponsored by Alternative Flooring and British Wool tells us the inspiring story behind creating her design and what this award means to her.

Tell us about yourself

I live in Edinburgh and for the past three years I have been studying Printed Textiles at Leeds Arts University.

The current situation and lack of access to the traditional print making tools has pushed me to use digital tools. This has allowed me to develop my skills and I now really enjoy creating digital prints.

In Edinburgh I find inspiration from hidden Modernist architecture. My inspirations are Ray Eames, Anni and Joseph Albers and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Lily’s design visualisation.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your entry?

My entry was inspired by my desire to bring joy to the interior setting through playful and bold design. My inspiration comes from patterns that occur in the manmade world, looking to Modernist architecture specifically for this design. Crafted pattern represents what’s at the core of my practice; pattern, process and colour. Pattern is part and parcel of our everyday life – from the ornate to the mundane – it is my passion. This entry seeks to share and celebrate it. The concept behind this design was to invite consumers to embrace colour and pattern in their home setting.

Why did you choose British wool?

With my entry being screen printed, a focus on process is central to my practice. I have such respect for the process behind of how things are made. I was very drawn in when I started learning about the wool fibre and the processes it goes through to become a finished product.

This category really plays into my passion to design for interiors. The idea to design a carpet/rug is very exciting. I love how the tactile nature of the end product and texture comes into my design process and how the chosen colours bring someone’s home to life.

The winning carpet called Albers by Lily Mullen. Photography @ Ben Robertson

What did you like about working with Alternative Flooring?

The chance to work with an award-winning company that has collaborated with designers I admire was an exciting prospect. Alternative Flooring embraces both pattern and colour with open arms. Behind everything I create is a love colour and pattern and a desire to share that with people, something I feel Alternative Flooring excels at.

What do you like most about working with British wool?

I have learnt, the UK has more breeds of sheep than any other country in the world! In order to produce a beautiful rug, there are many processes the wool needs to go through once it leaves the farm. Wool is such a valuable and versatile product.

Choosing to work with British Wool supports small businesses in our rural areas, the farmers, who are the custodians of our countryside and look after our landscape and the animals that roam on it. It also means choosing and supporting an environmental fibre that does not need to be shipped here from abroad and supporting all the many companies that are part of the supply chain in processing wool, from farmers to shearers, wool graders, wool washer, carders, spinners and carpet manufacturers. All based here in UK.

Ultimately, my work is informed by a fundamental belief that a product should be as equally beautiful as it is functional. Hence working with British Wool has been really exciting the fibre is not just the best fibre for flooring products for its natural bulk but also sustainable, ethical and 100% natural.

Lily with design development and inspiration boards. Photography © Sarah McLean

Did you enjoy creating a design for a specific surface?

As a designer who up until this point has primarily worked with fabric or digitally, the chance to work in a completely different medium on a large scale was exciting. A new consideration for me was the textural element of wool, ensuring I created an ergonomic design. The texture and feel of a rug or carpet are equally as important as it’s aesthetic.

Why do you think pattern carpet/rugs are popular again?

I think now more than ever people want some colour in their lives. Brands such as Alternative Flooring give people the confidence to play with pattern in their homes. Designer collaborations across a range of disciplines from oil painters to digital artists is opening the concept of pattern in the home to more people which from my perspective can only be a good thing.

Close-up of Albers carpet design by Lily Mullen. © Ben Robertson

Describe your interior style in three words?

Bold, balanced and colourful.

How did it feel to win the award?

I was both surprised and delighted! Designing for interiors spaces is what I love. Being given the opportunity to see one of my designs realised on a larger scale item such as rug is so exciting! Winning this competition and having a company such as Alternative Flooring and British Wool recognise and produce one of my designs, felt very affirming. It really gave me a confidence boost to continue doing what I love.

What’s next for you?

I have recently graduated from my textile design course and I am back home continuing to grow my portfolio – .

I have spent time growing my online presence and sharing my work with people all over the globe via Instagram –, this has led to opportunities to collaborate with companies and designers as far afield as Australia. I have also been developing an exciting range of interior and lifestyle products, which I’m looking forward to launching soon. Alongside this I have begun to establish a brand for myself as a young designer.

Above all, I am looking forward to my local Printworks opening again so I can get back to doing what I love doing and create some bespoke screen-printed goods for my store.  Encouraged by my success here I have digitally entered multiple other competitions that have arisen as a result of lockdown.  When things have returned to the new normal, I will be seeking new opportunities to work collaboratively with design studios to help gain valuable experience.

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