A Sneak Peek at Contemporary Textile Designer Helen Round
In our latest ‘Behind the Design’ interview we’re taking a closer look at Helen Round. A textile designer-maker living and working in Cornwall, England. Helen gives us a unique insight into her growing business. Taking us behind the scenes of the company, the products, and the craft process.
Tell us a little about your company, Helen Round.
We are a small Cornish company who handprint onto linen to make a range of beautiful homewares and accessories. My designs are inspired by the wonderful countryside which I live in and love. I have a background in fine Art Textiles and Printmaking. I have always loved fabrics and made things right from a very young age. After my two children started school, I returned to work as a teacher, working in adult and community education. After 10 years of teaching, and my children growing up, I decided to use my creative energies and start my own business. My passion was to make things that were both beautiful and practical from linen.
What is your role in the business?
Like many small business owners, I do a bit of everything. When starting the business, I used to make all the products myself, but as the business has grown and developed, I have employed a small local team to help me. I still do all the designing and the hand printing myself, something I love. I enjoy researching new product ideas and fabric colours, spend some of my week on marketing projects, catching up with our stockists and working on new designs.
Day to Day at Helen Round.
Is there anyone else in the Helen Round team?
We now have two people working with us on a full time basis and a number of part timers. There’s Hayley who started off as an apprentice and she is in charge of ensuring we have all the stock we need and she oversees the sewing side of the business. Megan, who has recently joined us, is our new apprentice and Hayley is carefully teaching her how each product is made. Amy is our lampshade maker, Ronnie and Layla, who both live in the village, are very clever machinists who help with sewing product. Together we pack the orders, answer the telephone and help to ensure the smooth day to day running of the business.
What is a typical day like at your business?
I am lucky enough to have my workplace in the garden of our home. With my studio perched at the top of the garden, bursting with plants and flowers, we have fabulous views across fields and down to the water. I start work at about 8am, after climbing a dozen or so steps through the garden, often stopping to pull out a few weeds on the way!
What inspires which product lines you create?
My Cornish-inspired designs combine traditional screen printing and hand-making techniques to create a fresh contemporary collection of high quality products which sit well in both a modern and country setting. The inspiration for these designs comes from the wonderful area in which I live and work, surrounded by open fields and views down to the river.
Tell us about your design style.
I love the natural qualities of linen fabric and in both my drawn designs and product designs I seek to balance beauty with practicality.
What is your personal favourite product in your collection?
The first product I ever designed and made was the full length linen apron, which has a clever cross over at the back, alleviating the need for troublesome ties. I wanted something to wear in the kitchen that would cover me well, even round the sides!
What are the most popular products in your current range?
Our linen bread bags have proved extremely popular. I think the rise in home baking of bread has led people to understand the need for a practical storage solution for their loaves. Made of linen, the bread bags allow the bread to breathe, they also make lovely serving baskets. And, unlike other bread storage solutions, you avoid the mould that often occurs with the likes of a bread bin.
Our table linen; napkins and placemats are a new product, introduced last September, they have certainly proved very popular with both retail and trade customers alike.
What new products do you have planned for the future?
We have two lovely new linen colours and a new collection which we are currently working on. We will launch this during our visit to Top Drawer in September.
What is it like seeing your products in shops?
The first piece of press I received was from Country Homes & Interiors Magazine, a stylist had spotted my work on my website and featured my products in an article. It was a very proud moment. Friends often ring and tell me they have seen my products in shops, often when visiting places further afield or on holiday.
Manufacturing & Production.
What can you tell us about how you make Helen Round products?
We are passionate about excellent quality and all of the products we produce are printed, by hand, using traditional screen printing techniques, here in the Cornish studio. This process starts with the design, which is then transferred to a silk screen using a photographic exposure method. From there, I test the print and use special water based inks to transfer the image to the linen cloth. A heat process is then applied to fix the design. Once printed, each piece is checked for quality and passed to the makers who sew each product. After this, comes the packaging and then the product is ready for sale.
Do your products feature any special materials?
We use Baltic linen sourced from a small family business, a bit like ours. The business has been Eco-Certified by Oliver Heath as a brand that has outstanding environmental impact.
What would you like to do next with the business?
A new collection will launch at Top Drawer in September along with two exciting new products. We are looking forward to meeting existing stockists and introducing our brand to new businesses.
Where do you dream of seeing Helen Round products next?
We love working with small independent businesses who provide quality and variety and on our high streets. We are always keen to develop new relationships with other chains and retail outlets.
Thank you Helen!
Find Out More
Now you’ve read the interview, why not take a look at the designs on the Helen Round website.