5 MINUTES WITH… textile designer Margo Selby
Pushing the boundaries of conventional weaving, Margo’s eponymous textile design company produces carefully crafted, colourful and contemporary upholstery fabrics, carpets, rugs and accessories
HOW DID YOUR TEXTILE COMPANY BEGIN?
My grandmother taught me how to crochet and cross-stitch as a child. To my delight, when I went to art college, I discovered I could specialise in textiles – I experimented with knitting, screen printing, embroidery, and then, finally, weaving. I immediately took to it and the mathematical, controlled technique of interlacing the vertical and horizontal lines. I was invited to exhibit my work in Paris and Hong Kong and, soon after graduating, interior design and fashion companies began to show an interest in using my fabrics. Up until then, everything I’d made was handwoven, so I started looking for mills that would produce my designs on a larger, commercial scale. I set up my business in 2003, when I was 26. Before this, I worked as a freelance designer and spent time in Indian and British weaving mills, where I found the most incredible and inspiring craftspeople, whose skills had been handed down through the generations, sometimes for hundreds of years.
WHERE DO YOU TAKE YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?
When people consider weaving, they often think of traditional linen textiles and muted palettes. Although these are beautiful, I wanted to mix it up a bit by bringing surface texture, colour and curves to my fabrics. I love graphic design – it plays a big part in my process, so looking at the work of other graphic designers is key. I also find inspiration in global textiles. I travelled around Indonesia, Thailand, India and South America when I was younger, where I was able to see plenty of handmade, indigenous textiles that were often very eclectic and colourful, much like my own work. I think, too, that architecture can inspire weaving: both involve different components coming together using straight lines and mathematics.
YOU COMBINE HANDWEAVING WITH INDUSTRIAL METHODS. HOW DOES THIS INFLUENCE YOUR DESIGNS?
Woven fabrics are traditionally designed on graph paper, but I use a graphic design package to do the same thing, building my creations pixel by pixel. It gives me a freedom I don’t have with graph paper: I can flip the pattern, change the repeat or turn it inside out. The handweaving process (although very slow in comparison) is just as important, though. I can create carefully considered designs that you can’t achieve by pressing a button on an industrial loom. I’ve made a conscious decision to keep handweaving integral to my business. I make a lot of handwoven bespoke artwork, which is then loosely applied to my commercial designs, too.
CAN YOU GIVE US A SNAPSHOT OF YOUR OWN HOME?
My partner and I have just bought a bungalow in Whitstable, and I’m working with an architect to come up with a plan to modify and extend it – there’s a lot of work to be done! I need to think about how to curate my own designs, along with other items that are personal to me and inspire me. My partner is a rug designer, so between us we’ve got a lot of rugs and textiles.
We both love ceramics, too, so the challenge we face is how best to enjoy these pieces without feeling overwhelmed by them.
I’m hoping for big open spaces with smaller, focused areas for our work and the things that make us happy.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Margo with her handloom in her studio; handwoven framed artwork, £1,950, Yerba fabric (draped over chair), £120/m, Arundel kelim rug, from £195; Rosario towels, from £14 each; Assembly fabric, £190/m; all margoselby.com