Blackpop - Derby’s innovative interior design company

Eames style swivel chair and foot stool - Blackpop at the Sir John Soane's Museum

Eames style swivel chair and foot stool - Blackpop at the Sir John Soane's Museum - Credit: Archant

Catherine Roth meets Maxine Hall and Paula Moss of Blackpop to find out about their Derby-based luxury design company.

Maxine Hall and Paula Moss Photo: James Balston

Maxine Hall and Paula Moss Photo: James Balston - Credit: Photography: James Balston

A design studio in Derby is bringing its statement interiors to the world market. Blackpop was founded by photographer and designer Maxine Hall in 2013, who was joined by artist Paula Moss. Between them they create wallpaper, fabrics, cushions, furniture and rugs for the luxury market.

Maxine says, ‘I have always had my own artistic vision. When I was thirteen I wallpapered my bedroom wall in newspaper. Later on, going into shops I would get bored with what was for sale – everything was the same. I wanted to offer something other people didn’t, so I started Blackpop.’

Maxine studied film and photography in the 1980s before working as an artist and surface designer, and in more recent years her creative processes have grown alongside the advances in digital technology. She says, ‘I was looking to find a surface to put my designs on but it was only six to seven years ago that manufacturing could cope with the complexities of my designs. They couldn’t be done using traditional printing but digital printing gave us the opportunity to place the designs onto something we could sell.’ This led to the manufacture of Blackpop’s first wallpaper, which was soon followed by velvet and silk fabrics, cushions, furniture, handmade silk- and wallpaper-wrapped lampshades, as well as the latest addition to the collection, rugs. With the exception of the rugs they are all printed and made in the UK.

Blackpop’s debut collection was inspired by Chatsworth House. ‘We reworked the designs from the classical and historical tapestry hangings and silk wallpapers in the rooms of Chatsworth House into designs for today, giving an opulence and faded grandeur. The designs are vintage inspired with an elegantly distressed look – contemporary with a twist. We call it punking up the past,’ Maxine smiles. This forms Blackpop’s signature style, and has proved a theme that they have carried through subsequent collections.

Blackpop Wallpaper - Birdland Faded

Blackpop Wallpaper - Birdland Faded - Credit: Archant

Blackpop launched its first collection at London Design Week and it immediately attracted the attention of interior designers, followed soon afterwards by Liberty London becoming a stockist of their products. ‘This gave us pride in our work and the confidence that we were on the right track to go forward with the vision we had,’ admits Maxine

Whilst remaining true to their style, their second collection was a departure from the first. When exhibiting at the annual Decorex design fair exhibition in London, Blackpop was approached by the National Portrait Gallery’s archive department who asked if Maxine and Paula would work with them to create some new products. From the outset Paula, Blackpop’s Studio Director, felt it was a project that was meant to be as she had been working as artist-in-residence with the archives services at the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock, designing wallpaper and fabric.

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Maxine and Paula spent time looking at the portraits but it wasn’t until they realised that the gallery’s collection of Tudor paintings had been digitally scanned that the idea of collaborating became a reality. The National Portrait Gallery had produced microscopic x-ray images of their paintings, including those of Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I, all of which inspired Blackpop’s second collection.

With a digital palette made up of high resolution photographs, Maxine set to work deconstructing the digital paintings before reconstructing them into a contemporary design by building up layers of images. The designs resemble a kaleidoscope of colour and Maxine cites influences from Kandinsky and Miró in this particular work. On closer viewing, images half hidden in a riot of colour can also be distinguished. The finished designs went on to adorn wallpaper and fabric, silk scarves and silk note books and, in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery, won the Best Licensed Product Award from the Association for Cultural Enterprise.

Duprez velvet salon sofa, Mary wallpaper and Henry velvet cushion - Blackpop designs created in response to the National Port...

Duprez velvet salon sofa, Mary wallpaper and Henry velvet cushion - Blackpop designs created in response to the National Portrait Gallery's world-reknowned Tudor paintings - Credit: Archant

Last autumn Blackpop released its latest collection, created in collaboration with the Sir John Soane’s Museum and Knots Rugs. There was so much material available that the first challenge was to decide which elements to work with and how to incorporate them into the designs. Maxine explains, ‘We chose a lot of Robert Adam’s drawings and designs, Canaletto’s paintings and Sir John Soane’s architectural drawings of the Bank of England. These were given to us in a digital format that became the palette for our collection.’ The designs also feature in a selection of rugs, all of which were hand-knotted in Nepal and India, incorporating no less than 150 knots per inch.

The melding of vintage with contemporary means Blackpop’s designs are equally at home in a modern house or a period property. Its products have also gone on to inspire others to be creative. Paula says, ‘A lady from Japan sent us a handmade book using her left-over Blackpop wallpaper. Another client wallpapered her dining room with our jazz inspired design before taking up jazz piano!’ Ensuring a personal service for all their clients is as much a part of the ethos of Blackpop as its products.

Inspiration is something that can come from the most unlikely places. ‘When Blackpop was first in our minds, we were thinking of moving to St Leonards-on-Sea. The house we were going to buy was a smugglers’ inn and we had pirates on our mind! Blackpop was a fictitious name we made up for a pirate. It seemed an appropriate name – pirates take things from different places and appropriate things,’ smiles Maxine. It is not dissimilar in a sense to Blackpop seeking its inspiration from the past.

In just five years Blackpop has established itself as a successful design company that exports its products all over the world. Many of Blackpop’s clients are interior designers so Maxine and Paula often do not know who their products are going to until they walk into a restaurant or bar or see images on social media. They are keen to ensure that Blackpop continues to deliver new designs. Paula is soon to begin work on a series of murals that will incorporate just one large image rather than the current pattern repetition.

Wallpaper on Stairs, Grand Reader Photo: James Balston Photography

Wallpaper on Stairs, Grand Reader Photo: James Balston Photography - Credit: Photography: James Balston

Maxine admits, ‘I would love to get into fashion and see our designs on the catwalk.’

‘As surface designers our designs can go anywhere with technology – the sky is the limit,’ adds Paula.

Blackpop’s award-winning designs have certainly come a long way since Maxine’s newspaper wall coverings. Yet despite their continuing success on the national and international stage, it is Derby that is home for Maxine and Paula and the place where Blackpop’s unique designs continue to be created.

For further details about Blackpop visit

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