De­signer Naomi Paul takes in­spi­ra­tion from the Ja­panese prac­tice of pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive space to pro­duce her math­e­mat­i­cal cro­chet lamp­shades


De­signer Naomi Paul ex­plains the com­plex process be­hind her spec­tac­u­lar lamp­shades

What’s your back­ground? A !er 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. A !er 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, a !er 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 #oor pou $es 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 cra !ed 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 cra !ing lamp­shades from bam­boo pa­per yarn. It’s a di "cult $bre 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 %ow­ing!

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.

‘I think tex­tiles are life en­hanc­ing and I’m driven by the way that they can change the at­mos­phere.’

BE­LOW Naomi starts each lamp­shade with an elab­o­rate frame­work, around which she weaves the cro­chet yarn. One shade can take up to 60 hours to make.

ABOVE Naomi adds the fin­ish­ing touches to a shade. LEFT, RIGHT & BE­LOW Coloured wax cot­ton and metal fix­tures are used to craft Naomi’s eye-catch­ing de­signs.

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