Everyday we see images of beautiful interiors, showcasing an abundant range of home wares, but rarely do we know how these things are made. There are many aspects of a product’s design and production that brands like to keep confidential – whether it be to maintain the anonymity of their supplier (after all the retail industry is very competitive), hide the production process for fear of other brands copying their design, or, unfortunately, not wanting their trade practices to be known.
I’m going out on a limb here because I’m about to share one of our design and production processes… This is the side of Sage and Clare that I am most in love with and it seems a shame not to include you in this!
To go back 6 months ago, I landed in Delhi with Jemma ‘Sage’ for the beginning of a 3 month designing and sourcing trip that took us from India to Turkey and Morocco. There was plenty of nervous energy and excitement about this trip, as my goal was to design and produce a range of artisanal home wares as well as source handmade and vintage treasures that we had become known for.
This may not seem like a particularly difficult goal to reach, but coming from a law background originally, with no design experience whatsoever, I had to wonder whether this was just a crazy pipe dream. Plus we planned to wholesale this collection and sell it online so the pressure was on! Thankfully my sister Jemma does know a thing or two, being a textile designer, and we’re twins; only she could make sense of what I mean when I say “I want a bedlinen design that looks like semicircle confetti”. Ha ha!
The next thing to consider was our unwavering support and love for all things handmade. Trust me, we travelled to many suppliers and viewed plenty of off-the-shelf samples that got us excited about the potential for our own designs. But if they’re churned out on machinery, we would walk away. At times it was tempting to let our brand’s principles falter but to see an artisan producing our products is worth so much more than the programming of a machine to us.
One of the processes we’re most excited about in our new collection is the use of block printing. I could tell a hundred people that our bedlinen is block printed by hand and they just stare back blankly. So today, I really want to show you what that actually means! If you know nothing about this ancient process, it will blow your mind. Promise.
So the first place we started was the design. Call us crazy but we actually landed in India with no clear ideas of the collection. Instead we used the we time spent travelling on atmospheric trains from Delhi to Jodhpur or Udaipur to Jaipur to brainstorm and start to form some ideas. Of course, this meant plenty of peering eyes and sometimes a suggestion thrown in from the locals on our carriage! There were so many sources of inspiration on the streets of Rajasthan, whether it be Holi festival or the patterns at play in the architecture, that we were rarely short of ideas.
Eventually we decided on these two bedlinen designs – thankfully I had Jemma to put these into a form that made any kind of sense!
The next thing to consider was colours! And at Sage and Clare you know how obsessed we are with colour! We scoured through our Pantone book and settled on the final shades. Now the crazy part – our artisans and masters of colour mixed the dyes by hand! Can you believe this? Using their finely tuned eye, they mixed a bit of this and a bit of that until they got a colour so close to perfection we just stood there gobsmacked.
Now on to the carving of the blocks! I could swear we took some pics of our master block maker at work but I can’t find them anywhere so you’ll have to use your imagination here… Our master block maker has worked in this discipline for his entire life and to watch him at work is just astounding. We gave him a print out of our pattern and he worked out the pattern repeat and what each block should look like. Then he gets on to carving this out of wood by hand with a series of worn looking tools. An intricate block can take days to create!
Next is the fun part – sampling! We usually spend days with our block printers sampling and discussing how we envisage our designs coming to life. When I say “discuss”, it is more like a series of charades games as our Hindi is limited and our artisans don’t speak English!! Must take Hindi lessons before our next time!
The cross design and semicircle design we chose were a departure from traditional block printing styles and so there was some resistance to begin with. For instance, the semicircle confetti side of our quilt cover was to be printed at the whim of the block printer rather than following a specific pattern repeat. Or, our cross design required measurements between each large cross to ensure even spacing. Of course, after days of trouble-shooting and “discussing” we agreed on final samples! Hooray!
With samples finalised, we let the production begin… We dream of a time where production goes smoothly without errors but rarely does this happen! Buuuutttt we got there in the end and it all seems worth it now.
What do you think? Pretty cool huh?! View and shop our new collection here! xx