Colour Chemistry – Artist Sophie Smallhorn creates a Begg & Co system of colour for London Craft Week
Hailing originally from Hertfordshire, British artist Sophie Smallhorn graduated from the University of Brighton in 1994 with a BA in Furniture – specialising in wood, metal, plastics and ceramics. Her dynamic approach to the use of colour and raw materials saw her career take off to a flying start, with exhibitions around the world and collaborations with institutions such as Somerset House, the London Underground and the Olympic committee, who commissioned her to create the magnificent fabric colour-wrap for the 2012 Olympic stadium in London. Alongside her private practice, Sophie is no stranger to working closely with luxury fashion brands, which made her the perfect partner to create site-specific installations for Begg & Co.
We met up with Sophie to ask how she generated the show-stopping wall of colour for London Craft Week using scarves from our collection. The installation launches in the windows of Trunk Clothiers in Marylebone from 9 – 13 May 2018.
The brief was to generate something that would really ‘pack a punch’. We wanted a bold statement that could communicate what we do without the need for words. What were your main sources of inspiration for the work?
I’d visited the Begg & Co mill in Ayrshire a couple of times and found the building itself quite fascinating. The shape I ended up utilising was a reference to the arched windows I’d seen during my time there. I know that brands go to extraordinary lengths to create displays that stand out and set them apart from their competitors, so I wanted to produce something that would tell the story of Begg & Co, as well as enabling people to see the full extent of the range. It’s been said that when you appreciate a colour it’s actually the saturation that you’re drawn to, so when I started to familiarise myself with the collection I was astounded at how well the cashmere yarn holds the depth of colour. Once I’d decided on the shape, I travelled back to the mill to start developing colour groups and choosing graphic patterns that I thought could work, being careful to balance all the textures and weights.
The piece you’re installing for London Craft Week was originally part of the Begg & Co exhibition you launched at Pitti Uomo in Florence earlier this year. You created a wall of 250 coloured scarf ‘tiles’ that were uniform in shape and attached in identically proportioned rows. Such a large spectrum of colour looked incredible en masse – it was reminiscent of how irresistible jars of sweets used to look during childhood. How have you honed your work to make colour the main focus?
For me, colour has endless possibilities and I never tire of its potential. My sculptural pieces take it merely as a vehicle to hold colour, and similarly, this project was still about creating a system to tell a colour story. Whether paint, wool, scarves or glass, it’s the colour that excites me – my approach to the work is the same regardless of the medium. For Begg & Co, I wanted to design something that would have a life beyond its initial application, with the capacity to be revised and reworked easily. It worked beautifully on a larger scale in Florence at Pitti Uomo, and will retain that appeal as a more compact window display at Trunk Clothiers. The collection is constantly evolving season by season, so there is always a story to be told, and because this is a modular installation, it can be reused, changed and adapted to suit.
Your mum was a textile designer, so you’ve grown up around texture and colour. Are there any particular shades you’re drawn to?
I’m definitely happiest and most comfortable with reds, and even though I work with colour every day I still find myself wearing lots of navy and black. All the walls in my house are white, which means I can be brave in my work, but it doesn’t translate into a boldness with colour in my personal style. The way I work with colour is entirely intuitive, so I guess I might suggest or encourage people who are nervous about introducing colour to think of it in the same way. Since working with the collection, I was bowled over by the softness of Begg & Co products, and now I’m hooked. Once you’ve felt cashmere like that, there’s really no going back!
For more information on events during London Craft Week, click here